So You Want To Beat The Kensa .52…

If you’ve played Splatoon 2 recently (especially in higher-level ranked modes), you’ve probably noticed that matches have been filling with a tacky-yet-powerful shooter, a weapon that Nintendo can’t seem to figure out how to balance: The Kensa .52 Gal. The weapons has been kicking around the game for three years now, but it’s gotten a steady stream of buffs ever since it was introduced, and the last few finally pushed it past its competition and turned it into an unstoppable, ever-present force, a weapon that excels both offensively and defensively and is darn now impossible to move once it stakes out a position. Even after the Splatoon developers finally realized their mistake and tried to rein in the Kensa .52, the weapon laughed off its weak painting nerf and special point increase and continued its reign of terror across Inkopolis, claiming any and all territory as its own.

If Nintendo won’t fix its weapon, then it’s up to us to figure out how to work around the weapon and find a way to neutralize its powers. So how do we beat a Kensa .52 Gal?

Why Is the Kensa .52 Gal So Good?

A wise man once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” so let’s start with the first part of that statement. What makes the Kensa .52 so powerful?

  • Slaying Power: Each shot from the .52 Gal has a base damage of 52 (huh, I wonder where the name came from), making the weapon a) a two-shot kill and b) one of the most-effective slaying weapons in the game. It ranks only behind its larger cousin the .96 Gal in terms of per-shot damage among shooters, and is outranked only by classic one-shot kill weapons (chargers, rollers, blasters) and a couple of sloshers.
  • Range & Efficiency: Of course, the Tri-Slosher also does 52 damage per shot and doesn’t suffer from falloff issues (i.e., the Tri-Slosher does 52 damage no matter how it hits, while .52 shots weaken to a minimum of 30 damage after they reach the maximum edge of their range). So why is the .52 preferred over our favorite green bucket of death? It’s because the .52 gives you more opportunities for slaying: It has a slight range advantage over the Tri-Slosher, and is way more efficient per shot (a full ink tank gives you 76 shots with a .52, but only 16 with a Tri-Slosher). The Tri-Slosher may be easier to aim, but the .52 lets you take more shots from farther away. This also means you’ve got more shots to chip in with painting and map control as well.
  • Main Power Up Buff: Of course, extra range and awesome power doesn’t help a whole lot if your shot don’t go where they tell them to. The .52 Gal is incredibly inaccurate, quickly going from a 2% to a 25% chance of being off-target (a number that jumps to 40% the moment you jump while firing). However, this weakness is partially mitigated by the Main Power Up gear perk, which can increase “shot accuracy when firing while jumping by up to 50%,” and can improve “accuracy while on the ground by up to 25%.” Naturally, if you look at the .52 builds of competitive players, most of them count at least two sub slots of MPU among their gear in order to counter the weapon’s biggest disadvantage.

So the .52 Gal features exceptional power, solid ink efficiency, decent range, and a shortcoming that can be covered by gear perks. This explains why the .52 is so popular…except that there are three variants of the weapon, so why is the Kensa .52 Gal everywhere while the vanilla and deco .52 variants barely appear in Top 500 matches at all? The issue is that while the weapon provides the offense, the Kensa kit provides the defense:

  • The Kensa .52’s Splash Wall puts an impenetrable barrier between the .52 and the opposition for up to seven seconds, and while you can attack the wall to shorten its lifetime, the .52’s two-shot power means that if your weapon can’t chew through the wall fast enough, it’s essentially impossible to challenge the .52 when it’s deployed.
  • The Kensa .52’s Booyah Bomb is a classic crowd-control attack that can be deployed at nearly any range and presents anyone within a fair radius of its landing point with a simple choice: Move or die. This special gives the Kensa .52 an option for dealing with nearly any weapon, as it can be tossed at a far-off sniping point to dislodge a pesky backline weapon, or simply thrown at a user’s feet to push back a Sploosh-o-matic or Splattershot (the user also gains a significant shield that absorbs damage as they float in the air while the bomb is charging, although some weapons get significant damage multipliers against it). Using the special also refills the user’s ink tank, which means a Kensa .52 can throw out another Splash Wall the moment they launch the bomb and hit the ground.

With this kit, the Kensa .52 Gal is able to take and hold whatever ground they please without fear, using the weapon’s offensive power to punish anyone who dares test them. Neither of the other .52 kits can match its ability to move from unstoppable force to immovable object in an instant.

So What Can We Do About It?

To take on a Kensa .52 Gal, we have to adopt the same mindset of an NFL defense taking on Tom Brady: We have to find a way to move them off their spot in the pocket without getting torched by all their weapons. So how do we do it?

  • Superior Range: The .52 Gal may be a two-hit kill, but it can’t kill what it can’t reach. There are plenty of weapons (from the Tetra Dualies to the E-Liter 4K) that outrange the .52, allowing you to safely challenge it without fear of getting splatted (or at the very least forcing the .52 to use its Booyah Bomb to go after you).
  • Object Shredder: Of course, pinning down a .52 with superior range and forcing them to sit behind a Splash Wall all day may not be enough—we may need to dislodge them from a key area and push them back. The most direct way to the Kensa .52 is through their Splash Wall, and Object Shredder will help you take it down faster through its 125% damage boost. (The gear perk also grants a small damage bonus against the Booyah Bomb’s armor as well.) Combined with superior range, we can keep the Kensa .52 from feeling too secure in any location.
  • Autobombs: Another possibility is to force a ‘move or die’ decision onto the Kensa .52 from a safe distance by launching our sub weapon over and behind the Splash Wall. Bombs of any sort can be used for this purpose, but Auto Bombs protect against the possibility of an errant throw by hunting down their target before exploding, so these are your best choice for the task if you’re unsure about your aim.
  • Torpedos: Torpedos feature the same auto-targeting functionality as Autobombs, but they lack one-hit kill power of the Autobombs and can be shot down before impact. Still, they can be a potential option to distract an opponent and potentially convince them to move.
  • Toxic Mist: Could the least effective sub weapon in Splatoon 2 actually come in handy here? Believe it or not, it can: Toxic Mist reduces the movement speed and drains the ink tank of anyone within its radius, and its radius is surprisingly large: Even when smashed against a Splash Wall, the effect will beyond and behind it and force the .52 user to move back. (The weapon may have the ink efficiency to sustain the mist for a short while, but since a Splash Wall requires 60% of the Kensa .52’s ink tank to throw, staying in the mist means they won’t have another wall handy when their current one fails.)
  • Tenta Missiles: This is probably the best counter to the Kensa .52, so much so that missiles are the main reason a number of weapons (such as N-Zap ’89) are seeing a fair bit of use in the current meta. Tenta Missiles can deal with the entire Kensa .52 kit: They can be launched from anywhere on the map, they travel over the Splash Wall to strike targets behind it, they have enough power to take down anyone who doesn’t move to avoid them, and they can even take down an armored Booyah Bomb user if they hesitate in the face of a missile strike. If you’re looking for a foolproof way to go after a Kensa .52, Tenta Missiles are a great choice.
  • Booyah Bomb: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The initial Booyah Bomb throw can be blocked by a Splash Wall, but the resulting explosion will go right through it, forcing the .52 to at least temporarily abandon its position.
  • Ink Storm: The Ink Storm is a slow-killing special, but it can be set off from a safe distance,it can completely ignore the Splash Wall, and it will knock out any opponents that dare to sit in the storm for too long. You won’t get many KOs with this special, but you will get people moving.
  • Stingray: Stingrays have infinite range and laugh at walls of any sort, so using on against a Kensa .52 will force it to abandon its position, although it can be hard to track opponents when firing the ray and it’s not a terribly fast kill against someone using a Booyah Bomb.
  • Ultra Stamp: The Ultra Stamp can easily smash its way through a Splash Wall and Booyah Bomb armor, and while the .52 has more than enough mobility to flank the weapon and attack the user, the weapons can still serve as an opening salvo, breaking through the line and allowing teammates to follow up.

In other weapons, through careful planning and the right kit, we can give ourselves several options to approaching and moving a Kensa .52 user.

What Weapons Are Best To Use?

Now let’s consider the “know thyself” portion of Sun Tzu’s quote. Any weapon that provides one or two of the above options can be somewhat effective against the Kensa .52 Gal, but there are a couple of choices that give use the most tools and the best chance for success:

  • Jet Squelcher: This weapon might be the perfect counter to the Kensa .52 Gal. It outranges the main weapon by a wide margin, it can apply pressure over the top with its Tenta Missiles (which they absolutely farm at 180 points), and even Toxic Mist provides some utility by helping to push the Kensa .52 back. This weapon also complements the Kensa .52 Gal as a teammate, so it’s an excellent when you’re stuck in a Turf War or Ranked solo queue lobby. Also consider: Custom Jet Squelcher.
  • N-Zap ’89: Not confident in your aim at long distances? The orange zapper might be right up your alley. You’ve still got Autobombs to force opponents to move, you’ve got Tent Missiles at a reasonable 190 points to charge, and it’s only slightly under-ranged when taking on the .52 head-to-head. This has been my go-to weapon for missile spam in ranked battles, and the .52 has to account for your entire kit. Also consider: Kensa Splattershot, N-Zap ’83.
  • Kensa Splattershot Pro: Once upon a time, the Kensa Pro was the weapon dominating the meta and drawing all the complaints. In a head-to-head matchup, however, this weapon still presents a challenge for its .52 counterpart: It’s got Splat Bombs for poking, it’s got longer range and better accuracy, and it can match the .52 Booyah Bomb for Booyah Bomb (although at 210 points and mediocre paint output, you won’t have it as often). It may not be the weapon du jour, but it can still get the job done. Also consider: Splattershot Pro.
  • Custom Dualie Squelchers: The vanilla Dual Squelchers have Tenta Missiles available (and aren’t a terrible pick), but the CDS features good range, a workable bomb, and a special (Ink Storm) that can still provide pressure on a dug-in .52, even if it’s not on the level of Tenta Missiles. Also consider: Dualie Squelchers, Custom Splattershot Jr.
  • Sloshing Machine: How about a pick out of left field? The sloshing machine is kind of an awkward kit on balance (it has the same problem as the .52 Gal Deco in that it’s a frontline weapon with a backline special), but all the pieces are there: A useful sub in the Autobomb, a workable special in Stingray, and a weapon that not only outranges the .52, but features the sloshing machine that can go over the wall and still land hits on the other side. If you can find the room to use your special, this one has some .52-countering potential. Also consider: Tri-Slosher Nouveau, Dapple Dualies Nouveau.

The Kensa .52 Gal is a powerful weapon with a kit that complements it perfectly, and it’s earned its prominent place in the Splatoon 2 meta. It’s not invincible, however, and there are weapons with the ability to counter and mitigate the impact of the polka-dotted menace. With the right tools and the right gameplan, you have the chance to defy the meta, fight through the .52 Gal, and find victory.

Rising From The Ashes: A Defense Of The Tri-Slosher

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into ink battles…

I like to mess around with a lot of weapons in Splatoon 2, but if there’s one group of weapons that I simply cannot stand, it’s what I call “ZR-spam weapons,” or weapons where the player must quickly and continuously mash the ZR trigger to fire. This category contains four types of weapons:

  • Nozzlenoses (and kinda-sorta Squeezers, but Squeezers at least have an auto-fire mode)
  • Splat Brellas
  • Any and all Brushes
  • Any and all Sloshers (except the Explosher; their fire rate is so slow that I tend to group them with chargers and splatlings)

To me, these accursed weapons are repetitive motion injuries just waiting to happen, and thus they are pure evil.

Unfortunately, over the last year or so I’ve been working on what I call “The 100-Win Challenge,” where I attempt to earn 100 ink battle wins with every weapon in Splatoon 2. This quest put me on a direct collision course with these blasted ZR-spam weapons, and while I’ve mostly avoided them to up to this point, last month a fellow Discord member suggested that I finally bite the bullet (bucket?) and dive into the Slosher class, starting with the Tri-Slosher.

For players who’ve been slinging ink since the start of Splatoon 2, just the mere mention of the weapon will bring back a host of bad memories. When Splatoon 2 launched, the Tri-Slosher (despite officially being slightly nerfed from the original game) quickly established itself as the best close-range weapon in the game, sporting an unmatched combination of power, accuracy, painting power, and kit utility (Burst Bombs and Ink Armor were also strong in the early days of the game). The weapon quickly took over the competitive scene, and became the bane of every player who didn’t immediate swap to it.

The backlash to this movement was swift and fierce, and Nintendo reacted with a series of balance patches over the first two months to bring the Tri-Slosher back to earth:

  • The maximum amount of damage per slosh was cut from 62 to 52, putting it on par with the .52 Gal (a strong slaying weapon in its own right, but nowhere near as reliable as the infernal bucket).
  • The range of the weapon was reduced by 9%, bringing it down from slightly beyond the .52’s reach to slightly within it (at least according to this page; Inkipedia’s official range page shows a much bigger range number for the .52)
  • The number of points required to charge Ink Armor jumped 30 points (a massive amount by Splatoon standards) from a potentially-spammable 180 to an impossible-to-spam 210.

The changes succeeded in knocking the Tri-Slosher from its lofty perch, and while it’s settled into a nice niche in the meta, it’s not the do-it-all nightmare it was back in the day (ironically, that title currently belongs to the .52 Gal!) The community could rest easy knowing that the bucket beast had been slain.

Much like Jaws, however, the threat of the Tri-Slosher never truly want away. You see, Nintendo has a bit of a secret: While the rest of us weren’t watching, the Splatoon team started quietly buffing the bucket again, reversing many of the old nerfs and even adding a few new powers to its arsenal:

  • A movement speed nerf that was applied when the game launched was partially restored, and the weapon was re-classified as lightweight rather than middleweight (which increased the player’s running and swimming speed).
  • The maximum damage of the weapon was restored to its original 62.
  • The points needed to charge Ink Armor were cut to 190.
  • The max fire rate was increased to let players slosh faster, and the gaps between the hit boxes of the weapon’s three shots were reduced.

A new kit was also introduced in the form of the Tri-Slosher Nouveau, and while it hasn’t seen the widespread use in high-level play that the original Tri-Slosher did, it’s a very powerful set in its own right.

In other words, the Tri-Slosher is nearly as powerful as it was back in its glory days, and remains a great option in both a slaying and supporting role. If you’re looking for a short-range weapon that’s flexible enough to handle nearly any situation (and you aren’t afraid of carpal tunnel), the Tri-Slosher should be on your radar.

The Details

As a weapon, the Tri-Slosher is defined by several key attributes:

  • Phenomenal Cosmic Power!: Simply put, this thing can rack up splats like nobody’s business. The weapon flings three primary bursts of ink per shot (one forwards, and one on each side of the forward shot), and these shots are not only fairly wide, but they’re all capable of applying the weapon’s max damage. Damage falloff is only applied when the weapon has a height advantage (depending on how high above the opponent you are, the damage can drop to a minimum of 35 per shot), so as long as you’re on even footing with or below your target, you’ll apply 62 damage with every slosh. Additionally, unlike many shooters like the .52 Gal, jumping while shooting does not decrease the weapon’s accuracy, allowing you to make defensive maneuvers without sacrificing your slaying power. Put this all together (and don’t forget the Slosher’s signature trick of throwing ink over walls to splat unseen opponents), and you’ve got a dependable two-shot-kill weapon that’s easy to pick up and barely requires any accuracy at all (if you’re in the ballpark with your shot, the enemy is going down; hence the “no aim, no brain” mantra that a lot of players throw around regarding this weapon).
  • Itty Bitty Living Space: Most of this bucket’s early nerfs have been at least partially restored, but the one that wasn’t (the 9% range reduction) is a big one. This thing has an effective killing range of about six inches, and most players are going to approach you by not approaching you, and instead try to maintain proper social distance and lean on their superior range. Therefore, success with the Tri-Slosher will depend on how effectively you can close these gaps and neutralize your opponents.
  • A Zapper Clone?: I praised the N-Zap ’85 for its flexibility, but the Tri-Slosher can be just as handy in these same situations:
    • If you need to slay, the Tri-Slosher isn’t that far off from the N-Zap’s range, and it requires none of the accuracy! (The N-Zap has some serious shot RNG when jumping, while the Slosher has none.)
    • If you need map control, the Tri-Slosher’s wider three-shot design gives it solid painting power, and lets you retake an area relatively quickly.
    • If you need bombs, both Tri-Slosher kits have them available.
    • If you need Ink Armor to give your team some extra defensive bulk, the Tri-Slosher has that too!

If you’re worried about the chaotic mess that is ranked solo queue, the Tri-Slosher can be a safe choice to handle whatever comes your way.

  • There’s A Hole In My Bucket: Given its power and flexibility, it’s easy to a adopt a ‘they who sloshes fastest wins’ mindset with this weapon. However, at 6% of your ink tank per shot, you’ll find that you go through your tank a lot quicker than you expect, especially if you’re doing a lot of painting or leaning on your sub weapon. Besides the range issue, ink management will likely be your biggest concern with the Tri-Slosher, so depending on the role you’re trying to fill, you’ll want to either be more judicious with your shots or run enough efficiency perks to keep your tank as full as possible.

What all this means is that the Tri-Slosher can do just about anything you want it to, provided you a) get close enough to do it, and b) have enough ink left to do it when you get there. These can be significant caveats, but they’re not as hard to work around as you might think.

The Flavors

Your options for the Tri-Slosher are as follows:

  • Tri-Slosher (Burst Bomb/Ink Armor): This is the OG version that terrorized the ink battle scene back when the game launched, and even if we set aside the power of the main weapon for a moment, it’s not hard to see why this weapon was so powerful. Ink Armor was, is, and likely will always be a top-tier special in Splatoon 2, as it gives every living teammate a shield that can absorb 30 HP of cumulative damage and will completely block a single attack that exceeds that number (Splashdown, Baller, etc.). At 190 points, the Tri-Slosher can technically spam armor as fast as the .96 Gal can, although being closer to the action with a bucket means you’re likely going to get splatted more, and thus you’ll lose a lot more special charge and not activate as many armors over the course of a match. Burst Bombs have seen their share of nerfs since the game launched (most notably having their ink consumption boosted from 25% to 40% of your ink tank), but they’ve also gotten some slight damage and painting buffs since then, and they’ve got some solid synergy with the Tri-Slosher itself (as ThatSrb2Dude shows in his video above, a direct Burst Bomb hit plus a single slosh might be the fastest way to splat someone in the game).

This is the kit that sees a lot more use in competitive play, and with its base slaying power and Ink Armor assists, this thing will stack bodies like cordwood and regularly rack up double-digit splat counts eve in Turf Wars. However, I actually found this version to be the least powerful of the two versions, and is more comfortable serving in a supporting role than trying to take over a game. If you want real power, you’ll want to make it rain.

  • Tri-Slosher Nouveau (Splat Bomb/Ink Storm): When I started messing with the Tri-Slosher, I was 100% convinced that the nouveau kit would be the weaker of the two. I couldn’t have been more wrong: My splat counts were generally higher with the original bucket, but my win rate was much higher with the nouveau version. This thing ended up being the more aggressive of the two kits: Splat Bombs are generally considered the best sub weapon in the game thanks to their power and versatility, and Ink Storm (a raincloud of ink that deserves far more credit than it gets) suddenly gives you an option against opponents trying to beat you with their range. At 170 points, Ink Storm is quick to charge even in the most trying of circumstances, and serves as a great way to knock opponents off their spot and divert their attention long enough for you to move in for the kill. This weapon wasn’t just the more aggressive of the Tri-Sloshers—it would flat-out dominate matches and even entire lobbies at time, so much so that even a Slosher-hater like me had to respect its authority.

The original Tri-Slosher may fit better into the current competitive meta, but I’d argue that the Tri-Slosher Nouveau has more than enough juice to force its way into that conversation. These buckets have slightly different superpowers, but in the end you can’t go wrong with using either version.

The Gear

In putting together this guide, the thing that struck me the most was how different the gearset I eventually settled on while using the Tri-Slosher was from the sets used by high-level competitive players. The differences primarily stem from the role the player is trying to fill: In top-level competitive play, the Tri-Slosher is a slaying weapon first and foremost, whereas I (whose only top-level competitive experience is watching leagues/tournaments on Twitch) prioritize flexibility and tend to gravitate towards supporting roles. The choice you make about what type of player you want to be will in turn drive your gear ability choices.

(Surprisingly, despite the differences between my gear and the gear of the pros, we all seem to run roughly the same gear regardless of the Tri-Slosher version we’re using.)

If you choose to be a cold-blooded slayer, your goal is to be in your opponents’ faces as much as possible, pushing them back and eliminating them if possible. Any time you spend not engaging your enemies is ultimately time wasted, and while you accept that the constant combat will lead to a higher death count, you want to do everything in your power to a) shorten the time between the last battle and the next one, and b) ensure that the deck is stacked in your favor when a fight breaks out. So what abilities should you use?

  • Quick Respawn: This tends to be the ability that people stack the most on aggressive Tri-Slosher builds (although part of that is because so many favorable Tri-Slosher abilities are special non-stackable ones). Quick Respawn shortens the time it takes you to respawn after getting killed, and while it isn’t the super ability that it was in Splatoon (Splatoon 2 requires you to have not splatted an enemy between your previous death and your current death for it to take effect), it’s a good failsafe if you find yourself getting crushed repeatedly (two mains will cut off about a quarter of your respawn time, assuming Respawn Punisher isn’t in play). Tri-Sloshers, much like NFL cornerbacks, have to have short memories when they get beat, and Quick Respawn keeps you from paying too heavy a price for your loss.
  • Swim Speed Up: If there’s one thing both I and top players agree on, it’s that quick movement is key to effectively using a Tri-Slosher. Your window to either put an opponent in your killing range or get the heck out of theirs may be small, and Swim Speed Up helps let you get back to the battle or out of trouble a lot faster. This doesn’t seem to be stacked as much as Quick Respawn, but one main of SSU will make you about 6% faster, which sometimes can be all the difference.
  • Comeback: Comeback can be huge at the right moment, as it gives you the equivalent of one main ability of (deep breath) Ink Saver Main, Ink Saver Sub, Ink Recovery Up, Run Speed Up, Swin Speed Up, and Special Charge Up for 20 seconds after someone splats you! Nearly all of these abilities are super important to Tri-Sloshers (they make you faster, give you more shots or bombs, and help you spam your special), which means that when you get back to the fight, you can turn the tide of battle in a hurry.
  • Ninja Squid/Stealth Jump: We’ll talk about this more a bit later, but stealth can be a major part for a Tri-Slosher’s game (after all, it’s a lot easier to lure people into your killing range when they don’t realize you’re there!). Ninja Squid will make it harder for opponents to track your movements while you’re swimming, while Stealth Jump will hide your Super Jump landing point from far-away opponents and (hopefully) keep them from camping your jump. You’ll sacrifice a bit of speed with both perks, but this can be countered with additional Swim Speed Up or Quick Super Jump abilities.
  • Last-Ditch Effort: If your back is against the wall, Last-Ditch Effort will make you even more scary: If certain conditions are met (either it’s late in the game or you opponents are closing to knocking you out in a ranked game), you get the equivalent of 1.5 main abilities of Ink Saver Main, Ink Saver Sub, Ink Recovery Up, and Quick Respawn. (Just imagine for a moment how much power you obtain when LDE gets stacked on top of Comeback. You’re basically a super-squid for 20 seconds!) It’s a bit of a “save for a rainy day” perk, but when it rains, you pour on the pain.
  • “The Three Four Subs”: I subscribe to at least part of ThatSRB2Dude’s “5 Subs” theory, so including one sub ability apiece of Quick Super Jump, Bomb Defense Up DX, and Ink Resistance is useful regardless of what weapon you’re running. Top competitive players tend to include the fourth sub ability (Special Saver) in their builds to mitigate special loss from dying, especially if they have Ink Armor. (The last sub Ink Recovery Up shows up occasionally, but doesn’t seem to be quite as prevalent.)

If you’re more of a support player, your internal calculus changes slightly: You expect to use your weapon more (for painting), but you expect to die less (you’re not engaging the enemy as much because you’re not the primary slayer). In turn, you expect you have your special available more often, but you can’t rely on perks like Quick Respawn or Comeback to come into play very often. This led me to use the following abilities:

  • Swim Speed Up: Just like with the slayer set, movement remains a critical part of your game, but…
  • Ink Resistance: I found that having unhindered movement was really critical, as you’ll often find yourself pushing up against the limits of your map control. One sub of IR didn’t seem to do the trick, so I ended up going with three subs to maintain my swim speed even in adverse conditions. (This perk has some serious synergy with Ink Storm, allowing you move quickly through the rain’s aftermath despite its less-than-perfect coverage.)
  • Ink Saver Main: After about the millionth time I got caught right next to an enemy with zero ink, I started running this ability to try to be a sitting duck less often. The first three subs you add will each give you an extra slosh (note that four/five subs won’t give your four/five shots, but one main and one/two subs will), and with a weapon this powerful, having a few extra shots can sometimes make all the difference.
  • Ink Recovery Up: You don’t always have a lot of time to rest while you’re busy sloshing, so having some IRU on hand helps you recharge ink faster and make the most of your down time. I tended to roll with three subs/one main, but you could get away with less depending on your playstyle.
  • Special Charge Up: I tend to run at least one main of Special Charge Up with an Ink Armor weapon like the Tri-Slosher (it cuts the point threshold fro 190 to 175), and while it’s not strictly necessary on the Tri-Slosher Nouveau, cutting its 170 point threshold to 156 really lets you make it rain.
  • Special Saver: This is mostly for conserving your special gauge for Ink Armor. I used one main of this ability, but you could potentially cut this to one or two sub abilities. It’s not necessary at all for the Tri-Slosher Nouveau—the weapon recharges Ink Storm fast enough as it is, and there are more important things to use your ability slots for.
  • “The Zero Subs?”: I subscribe to at least part of ThatSRB2Dude’s “5 Subs” theory, but with the Tri-Slosher I ended up turning my personal “3 Subs” theory on its head, dumping Quick Super Jump and Bomb Defense Up DX entirely and rolling with full main abilities of Special Saver, Ink Recovery Up, and Ink Resistance. (For the Tri-Slosher Nouveau, I dumped the Special Saver for my usual three subs, although with better gear management you could dump the extra Ink Resistance sub for something else.) I was a bit nervous about the change, but the extra efficiency focus made the Tri-Slosher much more successful in the end, even in ranked matches.

In the end, the abilities you’ll need to be successful will depend on how you decide to use the weapon. If you’re not sure what the best playstyle is for you, try the weapon out with a basic slayer or support set, see what your personal pain points are, and adjust your gear as needed to address the problem. As the old saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, tri, tri again.”

The Playstyle

The awesome power of the Tri-Slosher gives you a lot of flexibility in dealing with any scenario, so the first rule of thumb with the weapon is “stay busy.” You may have a primary focus on slaying or supporting, but if you’ve got a free moment and a need, pitch in and make use of that flexibility, whether it be helping secure map control, jumping in to help a teammate in a fight, or even helping with the objective. Here are a few ideas that can help you find success:

  • Think like Jaws, or at least a carbon roller. Sharking isn’t the most well-liked tactic in the world and will draw angry taunts from your opponents when they find you, but it’s one of the most effective ways for a weapon like the Tri-Slosher to neutralize someone’s range advantage and take out opponents. While you’ll want to stay mindful of the big picture (a teammate may need help, the objective might need to be moved, etc.), if you’ve got the chance, find a good hiding spot and wait for opposing players to come into your house.
  • When stuck in a pitched battle, take some advice from House of Pain.

Jumping while attacking is an effective defensive maneuver with any weapon, but it’s especially useful with a Tri-Slosher because you don’t lose any shot accuracy while doing so. (The wall of ink you’re throwing out may further obscure your movement.) I find that jumping slightly closer or farther away when flinging ink can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing a 1v1 with a weapon whose range resembles yours.

  • When facing an opponent with superior range, use your entire kit to keep them off balance. While discretion may be the better part of valor, sometimes an opponent is holding a key defensive position and it falls to you to deal with them. If your can’t reach someone safely with your main weapon, keep the rest of your arsenal in mind. Bombs are great at pressuring weapons with longer charge times, and leading with Ink Storm forces your foe to move or die (and the ensuing chaos might get you close enough for a few sloshes). While Ink Armor is primarily a supportive special for your teammates, you can also call your own number and use the extra HP to rush your opponent and try to get them before they get you.
  • Be judicious with your sloshes. While more sloshing is generally better (it lets you claim turf and charge your special), try to keep a few sloshes handy for when the unexpected occurs. Even with all the ink efficiency perks I run, I still run out of ink far more times than I’d like to admit, and an empty bucket is usually a dead bucket. (On the flip side, the Tri-Slosher is also well equipped to handle surprises provided it has the ammunition: If an ambushing opponent gets too close and misses that first shot or two, you can quickly wheel around and squash them.)
  • Keep track of your opponents and try to anticipate their next move. Maintaining situational awareness is key no matter what weapon you’re using, but the Tri-Slosher’s mobility gives you a better chance to react to what you’re seeing, even if the opponent is already in position. The moment you get an inkling (or octoling?) of where an enemy is and where they’re going, try to beat them to the spot. Getting somewhere quickly enough will give you time to find a good hiding spot to ambush your foes, but even without the element of surprise, sometimes just knowing you’re around is enough to slow down an opponent and force them to think about their approach.

Despite its “no aim, no brain” reputation, it’s your mental game that will determine the success you find with the Tri-Slosher. Having a higher level of mechanical skill won’t automatically make you a better Tri-Slosher player—instead, it’s your decision-making skills that will make the difference as you decide when and how to engage the enemy team.

Okay, so the Tri-Slosher won’t solve every problem…but Ink Storm would at least give them some shade for a while.

The Conclusion

The Tri-Slosher put quite a scare in the Splatoon 2 crowd when the game launched, and it’s powers have mostly been restored since it was vanquished back in 2017. So why isn’t it a bigger part of the current meta, and why is the Tri-Slosher Nouveau relegated to the fringes of competitive play? Part of it is that the game has changed a fair bit since then: For example, the .52 Gal didn’t have a Kensa version back in the day, and neither Main Power Up (which improves .52 accuracy) nor the Booyah Bomb (which will clear out an area a lot faster than an Ink Storm) existed until late in 2018. The meta has gotten more range-focused and shooter-heavy over time, and while the original, almost-restored Tri-Slosher has still found a role on certain modes, it’s simply not the do-it-all behemoth it used to be.

However, these buckets remains a powerful force in the right hands, and I’d argue that the Tri-Slosher (and especially the Tri-Slosher Nouveau) deserve another look from the Splatoon community. With solid slaying and support abilities and strong kits, these weapons can kick tails, take names, and win games in any mode you put them in.

…Just be sure to put some money away in your health savings account before you start using them. You’ll want it for your hand surgery in a few years.

Should Splatoon 3 Include Voice Chat?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and especially don’t try to fix it by breaking something.

Back In March, I listed off all the things I both expected and wanted for the next iteration of the Splatoon series, discussing topics like lore, game modes, and special weapons. Despite the post’s length, however, there was one glaring omission from the list, a feature that many have asked for over the course of the game’s lifespan: Live voice chat during online matches. (It’s technically possible to voice chat through the game “in the most convoluted manner possible,” but the barriers to it are such that it’s just easier to use a third-party solution such as Discord.)

This omission (although not addressed in the post) was intentional: I don’t want voice chat in Splatoon. Period. End of story. I’m sure it could help with team coordination during a match, but I think the potential negatives far outweigh the the positives, and said positives can be obtained via other means. Here’s what I mean:

  • First, let’s state the obvious: The Internet can be a very toxic place. Civil discourse has never been a hallmark of our networks—when people are hidden behind computer screens and pseudonyms, they tend to be a bit more caustic and uncaring in their speech. I’ve discussed the inherent toxicity with voice chat before, and many online games are notorious for the levels to which tilted players can sink when abusing their voice and text channels to abuse other players. Splatoon has mostly been able to avoid that distinction precisely because players don’t have those channels, and are limited in what they can actually say to others in the game.

This isn’t to say Splatoon doesn’t have a toxicity problem—in fact, taunting and throwing in Splatoon appear to be on the rise recently, and I know several strong players who only play Salmon Run now because of this. These issues only strengthen the argument against things like voice chat: We know that players will behave badly in given the chance, so why give them that chance in the first place?

  • The Internet can be even more toxic for certain groups. As The Negus Corner points out in the video above, women, people of color, and other marginalized groups take a lot of abuse in online gaming compared to white males. Racism, sexism, an other discriminatory feelings bubble to the surface all too easily during a game, and having a direct line of communication to other players makes it a little too easy for this bile to be directed at someone.

While I’m admittedly not as familiar with other gaming communities, one thing I’ve been impressed with has been the diversity of the Splatoon player base, including competitive standouts and content creators like ThatSRB2Dude, Kyo, Mellana, Vicvillon, JayMoji, and Etce (just to name a few). My fear is that opening up voice chat in Splatoon will force them and others to put up with even more toxicity than they likely already do, and make the community less inclusive by driving potential players away. I really like what the community has built around this game, and I fear that opening more lines of communication puts that community and those within it at risk.

  • Nintendo’s target demographic isn’t know for maturity and self-restraint. Online games are full of experienced players who really should know better than to use certain words and lash out at other people, but Nintendo’s targeting of families and younger children with its software put the company in a much riskier position. Setting aside the dangers other people may pose to these kids for a moment, younger players may say things or use certain terms without understanding the weight and the implications behind those words, simply because they’ve never learned or thought much about them.
  • Third-party tools are really good and easy to use these days, so why try to compete with them? Today, if you want to voice chat with other folks, you have to rely on services like Mumble, Discord, or even Zoom or Google Meet in a pinch. The thing is…these tools work really well, offering QoS levels that Nintendo (given its spotty track record with online functionality) would be hard-pressed to match. It also means that dedicated players have to go out of their way to set up this infrastructure and (in theory) should know who they’re chatting with, avoiding the pitfalls that come with letting complete strangers communicate.

In short, we kinda-sorta already have the voice chat functionality we need, and the extra steps required for this help ensure that those who set up voice chat have considered the risks involved and though about what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. Built-in voice chat would just be kind of redundant.

  • Voice chat could push the game towards a more-narrow meta. There are almost 140 weapons available in Splatoon 2, but only a handful are considered viable in competitive play at any given time. Weapon selection is an easy target for those whose think you’re not pulling your weight (we see this sort of “switch from X hero to Y” complaint in Overwatch a lot), and it could cause players to think twice about selecting a weapon too far outside the meta (sure you might be good with it, and sure the mode might not actually competitive, but that won’t stop some idiot from yelling at you for the entire match because you picked the Undercover Brella). The ever-present threat of censure may lead players to take fewer chances and generally decrease strategic innovation, putting the game at risk of feeling stale and not as fun.

The bottom line is that I don’t want voice chat in Splatoon now or ever. Those who really want this feature can easily get it through other means, and adding such a thing into random matches opens up so many cans of worms that you could start a bait stand in the Boston harbor. I’d be okay with a few extra canned commands for Splatoon 3, but when it comes to voice chat, I’d rather crank up my stereo and listen to T.G. Sheppard than listen to my teammates whine.

There are so many things Nintendo can (and probably should) do to improve Splatoon 3. Let’s have them focus on those instead of shoehorning voice chat in where it isn’t needed.

That Gal Of Mine: A Defense of the .96 Gal

Al Davis once said that “speed kills,” but the truth is that speed can’t kill what it can’t reach.

I’ve played a lot of Splatoon 2 over the last few years, and if I’m known for anything in this game, it’s my bizarre brella shenanigans…but I have a secret: I’m secretly a .96 Gal main from way back in the glory days of Splatoon 1. While the weapon is no longer the powerhouse it was in the original game, it remains a force to be reckoned (especially with the steady stream of buffs it’s gotten over time), and I still count it among my most-used (and most-liked) weapons.

The thing that drew me to the weapon all those years ago was its surprising combination of power and range: It delivered the most damage per shot of any shooter in the game, while also out-ranging nearly every shooter in the game at the same time. Sure, the gun had it downsides, but it felt like they either a) didn’t matter in practice all that much, or b) could be easily worked around with the right gear and strategy. It was the perfect all-around weapon, and I couldn’t see why you would want to use anything else.

Naturally, “use anything else” is exactly what the majority of the Splatoon community does: According to sendou.ink’s tier lists, in top-tier gameplay the vanilla .96 is moderately used at best (the deco version is barely used at all), and tends to lag behind comparable weapons like the Kensa Splattershot Pro and even the Jet Squelcher. Despite a few high-profile boosters, the .96 Gal doesn’t seem to be top-of-mind the way these days the way that the N-Zap ’85 is. I’m here to argue that it should be, and that you should consider adding the weapon to your own Ink Battle toolkit.

The Details

There are only two kits available for the .96 Gal, but they all share the same two major advantages we mentioned earlier:

  • A range that stacks up well against not only shooter-class weapons, but many of the game’s weapons in general: The .96 has the 4th-best range among shooters (only the H-3 Nozzlenose and Jet Squelcher beat it with primary fire; the Squeezer’s tap shots also travel slightly farther) and the 18th-best range overall (those ahead of it are mostly chargers and splatlings, with a few sloshers and vertical-flicking Dynamo Rollers mixed in as well). These means that you can go up against the majority of weapons and come out ahead (and you’d be surprised how many players at lower levels of play will simply walk towards you while shooting short-range weapons, not realizing you’ll hit them long before they ever hit you).
  • The most per-shot power you’ll ever squeeze out of a shooter: At a maximum of 62 damage per shot, the weapon is a two-shot kill in nearly every situation. The damage can drop to minimum of 35 when falloff comes into play, but generally the only time you’ll see a three-shot kill is when you’re shooting from higher ground and arcing your shots at the gun’s maximum range.

There are also a couple of neutral elements that help make the case for the weapon:

  • Despite being a powerful gun that looks like it would have some heft to it, the .96 Gal is considered a middleweight weapon, which means that while you won’t get the speed boost of a lightweight weapon, it won’t slow you down like a heavyweight one either, giving you some decent mobility to work with.
  • When shooting, your shots ink a wide trail along the path between you and your target, allow you to paint your territory surprisingly well.

So basically you can hit shots from across the parking lot like you’re Steph Curry, it only take two of hit to fry your opponent, and you can traverse and paint the map with relative ease. How the heck do you balance a weapon like this? In Splatoon 2, the developers do it in three ways:

  • Ink Inefficiency: This beast eats ink faster than Garfield eats lasagna: Without any efficiency perks, the .96 will consume 2.5% of your ink tank per shot, giving you only 40 to work with at any given time. That’s 10 less than the Splattershot Pro, 22 less than the Jet Squelcher, and a whooping 85 less than the N-Zap ’85.
  • Shot RNG: Part of the reason the .96 paints so well is that it tends to scatter its shots a bit: Its initial accuracy of 96% gradually drops to 70% after just nine shots, and it immediately drops to 60% if you jump while shooting. This can lead to some frustrating moments where you’re shooting directly at an opponent, but your shots seem to be flying around and past them instead.
  • Slow Fire Rate: The .96 Gal’s fire rate of 5 shots per second lags behind its peers (both the Jet Squelcher and Splattershot Pro fire 7.5 shots per second) and way behind most shorter-ranged weapons (for example, the N-Zap and Splash-o-matic pump out 12 shots per second, and the Aerospray sets the pace at 15/sec). This means that going toe-to-toe with most weapons is a dicey proposition, because their lower-powered shots add up a lot faster than yours do.

As bad as these issues sound, however, none of them are deal-breakers, and in truth I would argue that none of them are really that much of a problem. Good awareness and positioning can effectively mitigate your middling accuracy and slow fire rate, and the proper gear perks can help sate the gun’s ink hunger. As long as you keep the .96’s limitations in mind, you’ll find it to be a flexible, capable weapon that can make an impact in nearly any situation.

The Flavors

Your options for the .96 Gal are as follows:

  • .96 Gal (Sprinkler/Ink Armor): As much as I loved Echolocator from the original Splatoon, it’s the Ink Armor that replaced it in Splatoon 2 that accounts for most of the usage the weapon sees in competitive play today. Ink Armor provides a temporary 30-HP shield to every teammate currently on the battlefield, and if you take more damage than that in a single hit, the armor simply shatters and leaves the armor undamaged (however, they may get knocked back if the blow is powerful enough. It’s a special that provides utility in any game mode, ranked or otherwise, and it’s one of the most-used specials in the current meta. (It’s not as useful in solo queue because it depends on your teammates to take advantage of the extra health, but on the flip side competitive teams will sometimes run comps with multiple Ink Armor weapons to get as many shields as possible.) With its solid painting abilities and reasonable 190-point cost, the .96 Gal offers folks an Ink Armor weapon that can do so more than just spam its special (the Splattershot Jr. may get armor faster, but you’re not winning many 1v1 battles with it).

The Sprinkler is my favorite sub weapon in Splatoon 2, and it allows you to ink an area without you actually having to be there. Not only does it greatly enhance the .96’s painting capacity, but it provides a perfect complement to your special, as its extra coverage helps you charge Ink Armors that much faster. (It will also attach to any surface, so you can also try to fling it onto high walls/obstacles or hard-to-reach surfaces to make it harder for the enemy to destroy.) The synergy and overall utility of this kit makes it the perfect support weapon for a team, providing great support for others while also being more than capable of doing work on its own.

  • .96 Gal Deco (Splash Wall/Splashdown): On the flip side of the vanilla .96’s strength and synergy, we have the the weakness and lack of synergy of the Deco variant, which likely accounts for why you rarely see it in competitive play. Splash Walls provide a temporary impenetrable barrier between you and your opponent, and while it’s a useful enough sub weapon on its own, it really doesn’t fit the playstyle of the .96. Splash Walls are best employed to enforce some social distancing during close combat, but if you’re using the .96 you’re goal is to keep opponents from getting that close in the first place. The wall will allow you to initiate fights and use the weapon more aggressively, and while the .96 is powerful and capable enough to be used this way, it’s far from ideal (if that’s you’re goal, you’re probably better off using a more-traditional slayer weapon).

Similarly, Splashdown allows you to punish opponents who get too close from any direction, so while it’s a potential “get out of jail free” card if you find yourself in a bad spot, your best bet is to avoid these situations entirely, especially since skilled players can easily cancel your Splashdown by shooting you out of the air. (In particular, beware of blasters: If you’ve already taken damage, their next shot just has to be in the same zip code as you to bring you down. The wide scope of a roller’s horizontal flick can also be a pain in this regard as well. Finally, be very careful if there are multiple enemies nearby—with so many people that can team up and shoot you down, you’re probably better off disengaging from the fight entirely.)The ease of countering Splashdown has made it one of the weakest specials in the game today, and while I enjoy using it to Super Jump to overextended teammates to see if I can catch opponents napping as they camp my landing spot, this is again part of an aggressive playstyle that is sub-optimal for the .96 Gal.

As different as the Undercover Brella and the .96 Gal are, it’s weird to think that their perceived competitive viability is based almost entirely on the sub and special (more specifically, Ink Armor is so powerful that it makes any weapon that has it worth considering). Still, even with a kit that fits as awkwardly as the .96 Gal Deco’s does, you can definitely squeeze some value out of the tools it gives you.

The Gear

Much like the Tenta Brella, your choice of gear abilities will be crucial to mitigating the weaknesses of your weapon:

  • Ink Saver Main: Ink management is a constant challenge with this weapon, so this is probably the most important perk to equip on a .96 Gal because it will help you get the most out of your ink tank (especially given that its inherent inaccuracy will likely mean you’ll waste a few shots when bringing down an opponent). One main of ISM adds an extra six shots to your arsenal, and two mains will bump that number up to 13, helping ensure that you’ve got enough shots on hand to take down an opponent when the need arises.
  • Ink Saver Sub: Both the Sprinkler and Splash Wall will eat 60% of your ink supply by default, so investing in this perk isn’t a bad idea either. One main of ISS will let you keep an extra 6.5% of your ink, which will give you an extra 2-3 shots after using your sub depending on the ISM you have equipped, which could turn out to be the difference between winning and losing a 1v1.
  • Ink Recovery Up: This is definitely a perk you’ll want to run together with ISM, but if you have to choose the two, ISM should be given priority, since a) in the heat of battle, you won’t have a chance to take advantage of IRU, and b) the advantages stack faster at lower levels than that of ISM, so you can get away with dedicating only one or two sub slots for ink recovery.
  • Main Power Up:

While it doesn’t get the attention that the Splattershot Pro does, Main Power Up will boost the damage of the .96 Gal’s shots as well, and the convention among competitive players is to run a fair bit of MPU on their builds (generally at least two main abilities, and occasionally one or two extra sub abilities as well). After running the numbers, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that running a ton of MPU on the weapon isn’t always a good idea:

  • The maximum amount that a .96 shot can be boosted to is 77.3 damage, which means your opponent will still have at least 22.7 health to account for after a single shot. That’s way too much damage to expect them to accumulate passively (for example, from touching your ink on the ground), so the only way this turns the .96 Gal into a one-shot kill is if someone else has already actively damaged them. (For example, an indirect bomb or Tenta Missile blast will deal 30 damage, and given that 2 mains of MPU brings the .96 Gal’s max damage to just over 70, this is likely where the 2-main minimum came from on the competitive scene.)
  • As I mentioned before, you really have to work to make the .96 take three shots to take out someone. In my experience, these instances are so rare that it’s not really worth addressing them, especially when the weapon has so many more pressing issues (such as ink efficiency).

With that in mind, I would say that using so much MPU on the .96 Gal is very situation-specific, and will depend heavily on both the game mode you’re playing and your team’s weapon composition. The key questions are:

  • Do you expect your opponents to be concentrated in a small area where they can be focused down by your team?
  • Do your teammates have suitable sub/special weapons that can be chained together with your .96 shots?

For example, if you’re playing Tower Control and have a teammate with Tenta Missiles or Inkjet, those 2 mains of MPU might be worth using to try and chain together enough damage to bring an opponent down. Without that kind of certainty (for example, if you’re playing Turf War or solo ranked matches), you’re probably better off skipping the MPU and focusing on things that are more in your control (like your ink efficiency).

  • Special Charge Up: This is specifically for the vanilla .96—you’ll want to get as many Ink Armors as possible, and at 170 points the .96 Deco charges its Splashdown pretty quickly without any help. One main of SCU lops 15 points off of the .96’s default Ink Armor cost of 190 (a number of top players add another sub ability on top of that, which cuts another 4 points off the total), so this is a must-run for vanilla .96 players.
  • Special Saver: Again, the importance of Ink Armor means that you want to minimize your special gauge losses in the event that you get splatted. These stack pretty well even at lower amounts (a single sub cuts your special loss from 50% to 41%, and a full main ability cuts this down to just below 30%), so you’ll definitely want to fit this onto your build somewhere. (For .96 Deco users, this is less important, but it’s still worth carving out a single sub ability slot for it.)
  • Special Power Up: SPU stacks really slowly compared to SCU and Special Saver, but given that it extends the duration of Ink Armor while also cutting down the time it takes to activate it, it’s definitely worth thinking about if you’ve got space available. In fact, it might be something you use in a platoon with MPU, swapping out one for the other depending on the situation (although I would only run a maximum of 1 main of SPU). The .96 Deco gets a slightly-expanded hitbox for its Splashdown, but it’s not really much of a buff, and it you’re still just as vulnerable to being blasted out of the air, so I wouldn’t bother with it there.
  • Run Speed Up: The .96 makes you super slow when firing, but RSU barely improves this even as higher stack levels. Instead, I would opt for…
  • Swim Speed Up: Extra mobility is never a bad thing in Splatoon 2, and since swimming through ink is the preferred method of travel, SSU provides far more benefit than a comparable amount of RSU. It’s not a must-pick, but it’s handy to have if you’ve got some space (two subs makes you roughly 5% faster, and a main ability by itself is close to an 8% boost).
  • “The Three Subs”: I subscribe to at least part of ThatSRB2Dude’s “5 Subs” theory, so including one sub ability apiece of Quick Super Jump, Bomb Defense Up DX, and Ink Resistance is useful regardless of what weapon you’re running.

In summary, I’d say start by deciding if MPU makes sense for what you’re doing, and then prioritize ink efficiency perks for the space you have remaining. Be sure to take special weapons perks into account if you’re running the vanilla .96 (especially Special Charge Up), and think about making space for “the three subs” or perhaps some Swim Speed Up.

The Playstyle

The .96 Gal is typically considered a midline weapon, but it’s flexible enough to perform nearly any role in a pinch: You can jump in and splat opponents with your power, you can use your range and painting power to maintain map control, you can use your kit to aid teammates either directly or indirectly, and you can even serve as a makeshift backline/beacon in the right circumstances. When using the weapon, here are a few key rules of thumb:

  • If you can’t move it, paint it. If you can, paint it anyway. This is good advice for any weapons, but it’s especially important for a vanilla .96, because your special should be in play as often as it can be, and if you don’t have it ready, you need to get it ready ASAP. This means that you should always be on the lookout for a place to ink, and if you can’t do it safely or expediently, make your Sprinkler do it for you. (The Sprinkler comes in very handy for this in ranked battles, when the team charges to the middle and leaves much of the spawn unpainted. Leaving a Sprinkler in an open spot every time you respawn helps charge your Ink Armor while letting you rush back to the front.) This is less important for the .96 Deco, but not by much, as maintaining map control and having your Splashdown ready when you need it are still crucial to having a successful match.
  • Keep the pass rush in front of you at all times. As a .96 Gal, your biggest advantage is your range, so you’ll want to keep opponent’s at arm’s length (and ideally a couple of arms’ length) to cover for your subpar accuracy and keep them from exploiting your slower fire rate. (This is why using the .52 Gal can be so frustrating: Its shorter range means the opponent is already in your face by the time you engage them, so if RNGesus isn’t on your side, you’re toast.) This means you’ll to keep you eyes peeled and locate your opponents as early as possible, so that you’ve got plenty of time to blast them before they can reach you. You’ll also want to make sure your path is well-painted before advancing, so that opponents who want to engage will have to take the time to blaze their own trail, buying you precious time to react.

I’ve been badmouthing the .96 Gal Deco for much of this piece, but the main advantage it provides is that it does allow to play a bit more aggressively while still being relatively safe. If an enemy gets too close, you can throw up a Splash Wall to block or redirect them (and if necessary, you can swim through the wall and make the opponent play Ring Around The Rosie to catch you). Splashdown can also be a useful defensive maneuver, as once you jump into the air, an opponent that’s too close either has to immediately back off or shoot up at an awkwardly-sharp angle to stop you. The baseline power of the .96, combined with the kit provided by the Deco variant, can let you frontline (at least in moderation) if the mood strikes you.

  • Above all, stay hyper-focused on your surroundings to keep your decision-making on point. This is true no matter what weapon you’re using, but it takes on extra importance with the .96 Gal because there isn’t really anything you can’t do, at least for a short time. More-specialized weapons have a lot of end nodes in their decision trees that simply say “GTFO”—for example, a charger shouldn’t try to go toe-to-toe with a Sploosh-o-matic, but that same splash should steer clear of the charger if they’re within line-of-sight with no clear/quick path to engage them. In contrast, the .96 Gal is viable in either scenario: You can pull out enough dance moves to land two shots on a sploosh at close range, and you can also step to a far-away charger much more easily than other shooters. That said, while the .96 gives you a lot of power to do “stuff,” you need to know what “stuff” is necessary or appropriate at any given moment—challenging the sploosh or charger simply may not be prudent given the current state of the game.

Therefore, you’ve got a lot of variables that you’ll need to process during the match: Who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s pushing, who’s got their special ready, who could use some extra firepower, what areas need painting, how and where are opponents approaching you, etc. Vanilla .96 players also need to decide when to use their Ink Armor: Do we need it to start a push, maintain a push, or repel a push? When do we try to confirm a kill, and when do we jump out and save our special for another day? For what seems like a heavy-handed, brute-force sort of weapon, there’s a surprising amount of thought that goes into playing it well.

The Conclusion

I consider the .96 Gal to be one of the best weapons in Splatoon 2, and that’s a hill I’ll gladly die on. I’ve lauded the N-Zap ’85 for its incredible flexibility, but the .96 Gal can do everything the N-Zap can while offering a few advantages that make it unique (the N-Zap is faster and paints a bit better, while the .96 is much better at confirming kills and controlling territory, and it also charges Ink Armor faster). It you’re looking to expand your weapon rotation for competitive battles, the .96 Gal is a great way to do so—its strengths can be exploited, its weaknesses can be mitigated, and it true potential can be unlocked by anyone willing to give it a shot.

Beyond The Meme: A Defense of the Tenta Brella

They say to go big or go home, and we’ve already been home for a year, so…

I’ve played a lot of Splatoon 2 over the last few years, and if I’m known for anything in this game, it’s my bizarre brella shenanigans, mostly involving the Undercover Brella family. However, there’s a supersized version of this weapon class, and in my ongoing quest to become at least semi-competent with every weapon the game has to offer, I’ve been forced to confront my many nemeses: Sloshers, brushes, nozzlenoses, scoped chargers, and the Tenta Brella, a cross between Reinhardt’s shield, Symmetra’s photon barrier, and Joe Biden’s shotgun.

What I’ve discovered during this journey is that you can get at least some utility out of just out any weapons (provided you can find a controller that isn’t drifting; forget about using chargers otherwise). While this has only earned most of the weapons in my doghouse my begrudging respect (okay okay, I suppose the Kensa Sloshing Machine can slay out and the E-liter can zap people from across the map), I actually enjoyed my time with the Tenta Brella, even if I needed a bunch of ice and ibuprofen for my aching trigger finger after every session. The weapon still remains a bit of a meme within the community (it’s comically big, comically slow, and really hard to play well), time, practice, and a steady stream of buffs have convinced people to take a chance with the big brella, and even made it a viable weapon choice in competitive play.

Still…it’s a giant freaking tent on a stick. Can we really take it seriously? I believe the answer is yes, and it starts with the right approach.

The Details

There are three different Tenta Brellas kits available, but all share the following characteristics:

  • A seven-pellet scattershot launch that has decent range and painting ability, but fires with such a wide spray that it’s really hard to confirm kills unless they’re at point-blank range or you have exceptional accuracy. A one-hit kill is possible, but a two-hit KO is more likely, and three or four shots might be needed if you can’t square up your opponent.
  • A massive shield that has lots of health (700 HP, 200 more than the regular Splat Brella) and takes up a lot of space, and inks a nice wide path forward when it detaches from the weapon.
  • A glacially-slow fire rate (35 frames, compared with 16 for other Brella types) and the ink efficiency of a early-2000s Hummer (11% of your ink tank per shot!),
  • As a heavyweight weapon, it reduces your run speed by 8.3% and your swim speed by 10%.

As we can see, unlike the N-Zap (which does everything moderately well), the Tenta Brella has a lot of peaks and valleys in its attributes, which means we can’t just toss it into any situation and expect it to perform well. Thus, getting the most out of this weapon boils down to three things: preparation, positioning, and playstyle.

STOP! …Hammer time. (Image from Squid Research Lab Tumblr)

The Flavors

The Tenta Brellas comes with three different kits:

  • Tenta Brella (Squid Beakon/Bubble Blower): The original, and probably the most balanced of the three kits. Bubble Blower gives you a solid option for initiating a push into an area (think a rush to the basket in Clam Blitz or a zone retake in Splat Zones), and the weapon actually does a decent job of popping the bubbles by itself. The most effective way to deploy your special is through the use of what Etce calls “The Tech”: Deploying your brella shield and then unleashing your bubbles from behind it, forcing the enemy to work around both to hold the area and take your down. The beacons help you hold an area once you get it by cutting down the travel time from spawn, a useful trick when you’re dealing with reduced movement speed.
  • Tenta Sorella Brella (Splash Wall/Curling Bomb Rush): I’m really not sure what the point of the Splash Wall is on this weapon. Why toss out something that’s going to eat 60% of your ink tank when you’re already going to have trouble managing your ink supply, especially when you’ve got a mobile wall attached to your main weapon? There’s probably a use for it, but I haven’t found it yet. I have found a use for the curling bombs, however, and they represent another effective method for pushing into an area and forcing opponents to keep their distance.
  • Tenta Camo Brella: This is the most offensive-minded of the three kits, and quite possibly the best of them if you know what you’re doing (which I definitely don’t—my hammer game is a bit too stiff to be effective). Ink mines provide a way to help hold ground and track opponents intent on invading your space, and the Ultra Stamp lets you go on a short-range rampage while also providing a long-range threat to weapons that outrange you (it’s all fun and games until you toss your stamp like an Olympian and fry a charger from a mile away).

In terms of the best modes for the weapons: I would say the Tenta Camo Brella is a good option for Rainmaker, where you can open up lanes for the Rainmaker with either your shield or your stamp, and track you opponent’s movements with Ink Mines. In contrast, the vanilla Tenta Brella is a solid Clam Blitz play, using your beakons to help with mobility and your bubbles to advance to the basket. Both the camo and vanilla versions are good choices for Splat Zones, with bubbles, mines, and beakons to get you to the zone and help you keep it.

Tower Control is a tougher sell for the Tenta Brella, since you don’t want to release your shield and leave yourself exposed while tower riding (maybe that’s where the Splash Wall could be useful?), but it might be useful for redirecting foes through sub-optimal routes with your shields and specials. Turf War can be tricky as well, since you’re encouraged to explore the map and your limited mobility will hurt your painting effectiveness.

In truth, the mode you run the Tenta Brella on probably matters less than the map: If you’ve got a map with a lot of tight spaces and long corridors (Camp Triggerfish, Port Mackerel, Moray Towers), you’ll have the advantage; if you’ve got a wide-open map with lots of ways around you (New Albacore Hotel, Snapper Canal, Shellendorf Institute), you may want to think twice.

The Gear

Choosing the right gear to mitigate the weaknesses of your weapon is key, and you’ve got plenty of holes to fill:

  • Ink Saver Main: This is incredibly important on a Tenta Brella—we’re not quite at a “Run Speed Up on a splatling” level, but we’re close. Without any ISM, that 11% per shot adds up quickly, and you’re limited to just 9 shots before your tank runs out. Using 2 mains of ISM brings your ink consumption back on par with that of a regular Splat Brella, and took 13 shots to empty the tank when I tested it (adding another two ISM sub abilities upped the shot count to 14). Ink is at a premium with this weapon, so saving as much as you can is critical.
  • Ink Recovery Up: This can be useful too, as having none means it takes a looooong time to recover enough ink to fire a single shot when your tank is empty. I think ISM is probably more important, but a few subs (or even a main) of ink recovery wouldn’t hurt.
  • Ink Save Sub: None of these weapons have spammable sub weapons (in fact, you’ll likely never use the Splash Wall at all), so ISS isn’t all that helpful.
  • Run Speed Up/Swim Speed Up: To bring a heavyweight weapon back on par with “normal” weapons like a Splattershot, you’ll need roughly two subs of Run Speed Up and 1 main ability of Swim Speed Up. However, while this will help you get around, I wouldn’t say that either are a necessity. Instead, for lack of a better term, what I found more important when using the weapons was “pocket mobility,” or the ability to maneuver around quickly in a tight space, such as around your brella shield as it’s moving forward. Thus (at least in Turf War), I found a more important ability to be…
  • Ink Resistance: Normally I subscribe to ThatSrb2Dude’s “5 subs” theory (or at least three of those subs), and only run one sub of ink resistance on my weapons. With the Tenta Brella, however, I found myself getting bogged down a lot in enemy ink, especially when trying to reclaim an area by myself. By adding the Bucket Hat shown above, I was able to regain my vertical mobility (i.e., the ability to jump normally and quickly while moving through enemy ink), which helped me hop around to cover turf and avoid enemy shots (especially when the shield has been launched or is in those pre-launch frames after a shot).
  • Special Charge Up/Special Saver: At 200 points, Bubble Blower and Ultra Stamp can take a while to charge, so it’s worth considering a sub or two of Special Charge Up to speed up that process. If you find that you’re dying a lot, Special Saver can help you keep some of the hard work you’ve done charging that special.
  • Sub Power Up: This is specific to the vanilla Tenta Brella, because it can make your beakons much faster for your teammates. Just one sub will speed up the jump by nearly 12%, so on maps that are a mile from their respective Splat Zones, this can be a clutch add for your team (assuming they actually use the beakons, of course).
  • Special Power Up: In theory this increases the stamp/bomb rush duration and makes your bubbles larger/more deadly, but the improvements are pretty minimal (1 main gets you 12% bigger bubbles and about 6 tenths of a second more bomb/hammer time), so it’s probably not worth it given all the other bases you need to cover.
  • Object Shredder: This is a common option for bubble blower weapons, but unlike the Heavy Splatling Deco or Custom E-Liter 4K, I don’t find Object Shredder to be that useful on the vanilla Tenta Brella. By itself, the weapon will usually pop its own bubbles with two shots, and Object Shredder only occasionally cuts that number down to one. With so many other things to worry about, I’d skip this one.
  • Main Power Up: I mean, every other weapon uses it, so why not this one? MPU adds extra HP to your brella shield (one main gives it nearly 90 extra HP), so this one may require some research on your part: If you think your Brella shield is going down too quickly, trying adding an MPU sub or two and see what happens.

In summary, I’d say prioritize ink efficiency and mobility, add a few single subs that are always useful (Quick Super Jump, Bomb Defense Up DX), and tune the rest of your slots around your weapons and your game.

The Playstyle

Unless you’re a umbrella savant on the level of Kayotaso or Gene Kelly, you’re not going to be doing a lot of slaying with this weapon. Tenta Brella are meant to support their teammates in any way possible using the totality of their kit. Playing this weapon like it’s the Tetra Dualies will likely put you in a bad situation where you’ll be too slow to react to your opponent’s actions, so it’s best to be measured and deliberate with your playstyle.

When it comes to using a Tenta Brella, there are two key rules of thumb to follow:

  • Be hyper-aware of your positioning. Brellas are only protected from one side, so you need to watch your backside as your taking a position (especially in solo queue matches, because no one else is going to do it for you). Long, tight corridors are your friend, as they limit how your opponents can approach you (and the obvious route is blocked by a giant tent), but in a more open area you should always be looking for cover to work around (a bumper, a corner, or some other obstacle).
  • Channel your inner pushy Bro-Country singer and always make the first move. With a weapon this slow, you don’t want to be the one reacting to your opponent’s decisions. Instead, you need to dictate the parameters of the engagement by being proactive, forcing your adversary to make decisions on your terms. If you take the first shot, by the time the opponent makes their countermove you’ll already have your shield up and ready for it, and when said shield inevitably launches forward, you can prep for the retaliatory advance because there are only so many ways around your tent. If you’re dealing with a charger or splatling, fire your first shot into cover and wait for the brella to deploy before stepping out into the open, forcing them to figure out a way around or through the tent to get you.

Getting a feel for the timing of the Tenta Brella is essential. It takes .75 seconds to open after a shot and 5.67 to regenerate after it launches, and with your slow fire rate you’re very vulnerable if it’s not around. Make sure you take these times into account when you initiate an encounter, so you don’t jump immediately into the fray and die before your brella has a chance to protect you. (Keep in mind, however, that network latency can throw this timing off, and sometimes leads to you getting shot through your shield.) If you’re stuck in a bad, brella-less spot and can’t retreat, make use of that “pocket mobility” and break your opponents’ ankles with dodges and jumps until your shield comes back.

While other Brellas are best with the shield attached (otherwise a Splat Brella turns into the world’s slowest curling bomb), you should expect to launch your shield at every opportunity, and base your approach to a situation around this. Since your barrier is only a barrier to your opponent, when they inevitably go around your shield you can simply swim underneath it, keeping a wall between you two as necessary. You can also play mind games with a shield: Just because it’s launched in a certain direction doesn’t mean you have to follow it—if you’ve got enough ink around you, you can take another route to flank and try to catch your opponent napping, or you can simply disengage and retreat to safer ground.

Keeping tabs on your teammates is extremely important as well, because let’s be honest: Everyone could use a a giant piece of camping equipment in front of them as they make a move. The big brella makes you the ultimate wingman, and if you see a teammate trying to do something and think you can help, get in there and lend a hand! This is especially true if your teammate has left themselves exposed via a panicked inkjet launch or an ill-advised super jump—a well-timed shield deployment could mean the difference between life and death. You can’t save them all the time, but you can save them some of the time, and sometimes that’s enough to make a difference.

Of course, there’s one potential downside you have to be aware of…

About that…any enemy bombs that hit your shield will explode on contact, and if you or any of your teammates on the wrong side of the shield when it happens, you’re toast. As with most things in life, please brella responsibly. 😉

The Conclusion

The Tenta Brella has a lot going for it, and if you can find a way to mitigate the downsides, you can get some serious value from it in nearly any context. While I will always and forever be an Undercover Brella partisan, I’ve come to respect what the Tenta Brella has to offer as a weapon, enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how best to use it. If you wish to walk the same path, hopefully some of this can assist you on your journey.

Now if only a Tenta Brella could protect me from Travis Denning’s latest single…

What Can We Expect For Splatoon 3? And What Do I Want Anyway?

“Knowing You,” Kenny Chesney, I’d rather talk about something that’s much more interesting.

Those who have followed the blog and/or my Twitter feed for a while know that I do two things in life: Listen to country music, and play Splatoon (often at the same time, which leads to some bizarre juxtapositions of sound and action; imagine racking up double-digit kills in an intense match while listening to “Last Cheater’s Waltz”). With over 2,300 hours and 4 X ranks in Splatoon 2, I’m probably more-qualified to discuss that game than I am to dissect anything Thanos has dropped in the last year, and so I was understandably hyped when Splatoon 3 appeared in last month’s Nintendo Direct.

I made some brief remarks about Splatoon 3 in that last post, but since I’m incapably of briefly doing anything (these song reviews seem to get longer every month…), I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the possibilities offered by Splatoon 3, and what we might expect from the game when it launches next year.

The Lore

To reflect the victory of Team Chaos in the “final” Splatoon 2 Splatfest, the focus of Splatoon 3 moves away from Inkopolis and over to the city of Splatsville and the harsh terrain of the surrounding Splatlands. There’s been a lot of excited speculation about the prospects of exploring a ruined civilization, but I think this is a bit misguided: Squid/octoling society is likely just as it was in Splatoon 2, with Inkopolis still standing and several fan-favorite maps from the first two games likely returning. (We’ll talk more about returning maps later, but if you think Moray Towers won’t be back next year, you’re crazier than I am.)

Instead, I’m most intrigued by the human angle of the story: We’re already canon in the game as an ancient race that went extinct due to “a climate apocalypse,” but that upside-down Eiffel Tower in the S3 reveal trailer suggests there might be a lot more to that story, and the developers are ready to tie this world a lot more closely with ours. So what does that mean for us?

  • It means the single-player environments are going to get a lot more recognizable. If the Eiffel Tower’s there, expect some more famous landmarks to be thrown in: The pyramids of Egypt? The Roman Coliseum? The Taj Mahal? Whether or not the campaign will be open-world or not, chances are we’ll be traipsing through more-familiar scenes. (They’d better include a Willie Nelson doppelgänger here, because you know he’ll still be alive twelve million years from now.)
  • It likely means the single-player levels will be a lot more “realistic,” for lack of a better term. The levels in Splatoon and Splatoon 2 were mostly floating-block sequences reminiscent of Mario Galaxy, but if this game is going to resemble the real world, then the levels are going to be more natural-looking, or at least have more platforms that obey the laws of physics (and fewer giant Game Boys floating in space).
  • I’m very curious to see how the designers expand on the human-extinction angle. Splatoon 2 has only been out since 2017, but a lot has happened since then, and if Nintendo wasn’t afraid to hide climate change in the background before, I wonder if they’ll broach subjects like the rise of authoritarianism and the possibility of a public health crisis in their Sunken Scrolls.
Image from Nintendo Life

I’m also intrigued by our new “little buddy” Salmonid that tags along with the protagonist through the first half of the trailer. Octolings went from enemy to playable character in Splatoon 2, but does this suggest a similar transition for Salmonids in Splatoon 3? While I doubt this (there’s just no obvious parallel to Inklings, unless “Salmonlings” become a thing), I wonder if there will a Mandalorian angle to the story: There could be something special about this Smallfry, and we must transport it across the desolate landscapes to its home far, far away. (The origins of Salmonids are completely undefined right now, so there’s a lot of world-building potential here.)

Much of this won’t translate to the multiplayer modes, but the single-player campaigns have been a surprising strength for the series (even if Splatoon 2‘s original campaign was the carbon copy of Splatoon‘s), so I’m looking forward to what this mode has to offer.

If the Undercover Brella doesn’t come back, I’m review-bombing this game on Metacritic.

The Gear

From a weapon standpoint, many of the existing classes were confirmed in the trailer (shooter, rollers, blasters, chargers, sloshers, splatlings – no dualies or brellas though, at least not yet), the headline was easily the introduction of the Splat Bow that can fire a trio of shots at an opponent. It’s hard to say how they weapon will behave without much gameplay, but the inking power of its shots in the trailer looked pretty minimal, so I’m guessing it will have a fairly long range to compensate, similar to a Splattershot Pro or H-3 Nozzlenose (or perhaps even charger-length?).

We saw a number of weapons get visual redesigns in the trailer (Splattershot, .96 Gal, Range Blaster, E-liter), but given how balanced the meta seems to be in competitive play right now, I doubt we’ll see a ton in terms of weapon stat changes (although the bow might shake things up a little). Just as with Splatoon 2, we’ll likely get a mixture of old favorites and new kits to play around with, and as much as I don’t like the game’s slow rollout of weapons (1-2 a week over many months), it seems to help maintain interest in the game over the long term, so I’m guessing we’ll see more of the same in Splatoon 3.

In terms of sub weapons…well, we don’t really see them at all in the trailer. In truth, I think there’s not a ton of room for improvement here: We have sprinklers, we have mines, we have bombs of every kind, we have sensors, we have walls, we have beacons big and small…outside of reimagining Toxic Mist, I think the sub weapons are in a good place.

The bigger question is the rest of the available gear (headgear, outfits, footwear). Games like this need a consistent stream of new content to keep players engaged, but with so much gear already available in Splatoon 2, I wonder if the franchise will run into a Pokémon problem: Every new game will have some shiny new gear to get peoples’ attention, but if every old shirt or kicks develops a dedicated group of fans that demand its inclusion, we’ll just end up with a bunch of gear that barely anyone uses that will eventual get cut and draw the usual ire on social media. Clothing items aren’t Pokémon, however, and Nintendo’s no stranger to absorbing slings and arrows online (hey, they ended up getting away with it in Pokémon Sword and Shield), so hopefully this won’t be a problem.

Something that would help cushion the blow of lost gear is the complete de-coupling of abilities from gear: Any ability should be able to appear as a main or sub ability on any clothing item (although there may be some that are locked to main-only or sub-only). We’ve already got this functionality through Annie’s gear shop on SplatNet, but it should be incorporated into the main game and made as easy as possible (perhaps you can choose your main ability when you buy something, and be able to change it as many times as you want for a fee?)

What about new abilities for gear? There’s definitely room for improvement on this front (Bomb Defense Up DX still seems like its trying too hard to justify its existence, and Main Power Up feels over-represented in the current meta), but I don’t think the developers have to go too crazy here. Maybe movement enhancers for the new ‘squid roll’ and ‘squid surge’ techniques? Honestly, I think we mostly get more of the same in Splatoon 3, and I’m fine with that.

Finally, we have the eternal question of special weapons: Do we wipe the slate clean like we did for Splatoon 2, or mix some new ideas with some old favorites? So far, Splatoon 3 seems to be doing the latter: A reworked Inkzooka has prominent placement in the trailer, and what looks to be a multi-Stingray can be seen as well (its origin is obscured, but I wonder if it’s the crab robot that appears later?). While I constantly raise the question of reviving Echolocator, I mostly haven’t missed the original specials from Splatoon, so I’m content to see how the game designers decide to mix things up this time around.

Image from Nintendo

Game Modes

I know people are predicting new game modes for Splatoon 3, but from the standpoint of the main multiplayer game, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get one. Splatoon 2 didn’t add Clam Blitz until late in 2017 (and we’ve all been complaining about it ever since), so my guess is that we stick with the five primary modes we’ve got right now: Turf War, Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz. (I know ThatSrb2Dude examined some of the unused modes from Splatoon 2, but neither of them look viable to me.) That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes to the existing modes: I feel like a lot of people complain about the volatility of Rainmaker matches, so maybe they do something to significantly slow your movement speed when you’re carrying the Rainmaker around. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Ranked mode added later in the game’s lifecycle.

Instead, what I’d like to see is some cross-pollination between the current modes:

  • For Ranked modes, I’d like to see some less-competitive options available for players who don’t want to stress about their ranking, perhaps along the lines of the For Fun/For Glory split in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I enjoy ranked battles, but I don’t enjoy how salty I get from extended losing streaks, so I think being able to play the game in a no-stakes, Turf War-like atmosphere would be much more fun.
  • For Turf War, I’m honestly ambivalent about the idea of making it a formal Ranked mode, but I’d like to see some League Battle functionality migrate to the mode—specifically, the ability to form teams with your friends rather than being randomly tossed in to play with or against them. Getting only one or two matches together with a friend after a hour of playing can be a bit demoralizing, and I’d like to see us get the ability to play as duo or quartets (and trios too! If they can do it for Salmon Run, they can do it here).

Speaking of Salmon Run: If not salmon hunting, then some kind of horde mode needs to be in Splatoon 3. Given the dedicated community that has built up around the mode, I’d not like to see this mode continue, I want the bizarre availability restrictions of the mode removed, so people can play it whenever they want rather than only at specific times. Set up a map/weapon rotation system similar to that in regular Ink Battles (but on a longer timeframe; perhaps a day or two), get out of the way, and let the salmon runners run! Also, instead of continuously resetting scores to Profreshional 400, I’d like to see another higher rank option in the mode for those that can reach 999, similar to X-rank in regular Ranked Mode, or at least give them a little badge or something that they can show off for being an elite salmon player.

Could we see a new mode along the lines of Salmon Run? It’s hard to say: Perhaps an escort-like mode where a Rainmaker-esque object through an winding course against a varying number of enemies? My imagination fails me at this point, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

(And yes, Splatfests are coming back. Not bringing them back would be madness.)

Finally…how about the game let us make our own game modes? Instead of shoehorning a game like Hide & Seek into a Ranked mode, give us granular controls for Private Battles that let us play the game the way we want to. Also, how about making a public option for health care Private Battles, so that these custom games could be opened up to the masses? In other words, I’m for anything that helps people play the game the way they want to.

Image from Fandom.com

Maps

My attempt at map predictions for Splatoon 2 turned out pretty badly, so I’m not going to even try anything like that here. Still, there are some obvious candidates for readmission to Splatoon 3: Moray Towers remains wildly popular, and Wahoo World has become the map for ranked tournament matches, so to not bring them back would be lunacy.

In terms of “retro” maps, the one map I’d like to see return from Splatoon is probably Flounder Heights. No other map features the sort of vertical setup that Flounder does (Moray Towers drops in elevation as you reach the middle, while Flounder rises), so it might lead to some exciting playstyles when tossed into the Splatoon 3 meta. Bluefin Depot is a possibility as well, although I hear complaints about Camp Triggerfish’s split setup, so maybe not.

A new Salmon run map is also likely, and my off-the-wall idea would be something in between Shellendorf Institute and the Lost Outpost: A multi-level structure that players would explore inside as the tide got lower. Regardless, expect there to be more options for this mode, regardless of what form it takes.

Other Additions

  • I was asking for “player rooms” all the way back in 2017, and I’m getting some strong vibes that they might actually be coming to Splatoon 3 (especially given the way apartment buildings tower over Splatsville). It’s yet another fun customization option that players have been begging for (and frankly, the more Animal Crossing features that end up in Splatoon, the better).
  • Player reporting needs to be available through the main game, and not exclusively through the smartphone app. There should be as few barriers as possible to reporting morons who use offensive usernames.
  • Speaking of player toxicity: I’ve noticed a sharp rise in taunting, griefing, and other toxic behavior in Splatoon 2, and I’d like to see Nintendo do more to try to combat it. Here’s a suggestion: Mute all the audio but the ambient music after you die, so you can just pull up the map and not see or hear someone squid-taunting you in your death cam.
  • Precedent says we’ll get another Inkling amiibo triplet with Splatoon 3‘s release, but what about another amiibo set? I’ve already argued for a Grizzco-themed set that gives us the uniform items (we’ve only got the hat now), and our new little buddy from the trailer would look perfect as a plastic figure, don’t you think?
  • If there’s one thing I think the game already gets right, it’s the ability to mix-and-match any character with any hairstyles. There’s no reason to lock a style behind a gender, and I’m hoping more games will follow Nintendo’s lead.

At this point, I’m out of both ideas and breath, but I’m still overflowing with hype for Splatoon 3. Any way you slice it, I think we’re in for a treat when the game releases in 2022, and I can’t wait to learn more about it in 2021.

My Thoughts On The February 2021 Nintendo Direct

2020 threw everyone for a loop (to put it mildly), and Nintendo was not immune to the chaos: As the coronavirus sent developers to their home offices, new game development slowed considerably, and after Animal Crossing: New Horizons surged to unforeseen heights as people looked for virtual escapism, most of Nintendo’s major releases (Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Pikmin 3 Deluxe) were ports of older games, and their presentations were limited to mini Directs and game-specific showcases. (Yes, we got Paper Mario: The Origami King, but the less said about that game, the better.) With the supply chain struggling and the coronavirus vaccine slow to roll out, it looked like we would get more of the same in 2021.

Instead, Nintendo spread the word on Tuesday that a full-blown Nintendo Direct would be dropping the very next game, teasing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate-specific content while promising to lay out the Switch’s release schedule for the first half of the year. The announcement was well-received, but the questions remained: Could Nintendo deliver the goods after all this time, and after all that’s happened?

After watching the Direct, the answer turned out to be an emphatic “yes.” The Big N brought big news on several of its major and not-so-major franchises (as well as some highly-anticipated third-party games), and overdelivered on their promise by discussing games as far out as 2022! After what felt like a bit of a content drought at the end of 2020, the company laid a number of intriguing cards on the table as they kicked off the new year.

My specific thoughts on the presentation are as follows:

  • Nintendo didn’t mess around with the Smash Bros. reveal, leading off its presentation with the announcement that Pyra and Mythra from Xenoblade Chronicles would be the next fighters to join the battle. The announcement wasn’t a huge surprise (XC hadn’t had much representation in the game besides Shulk, and people have been clamoring for Rex and Pyra to be included for a while), but Pyra and Mythra are still a solid addition to the game, and their unique movesets and ability to swap freely should make for some really strategic gameplay. I’m not a Smash player, but I’m all in for this addition.
  • I’m not sure what to make of the Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout reveal for Switch. The game exploded on the Internet late last summer, but it fell back to Earth quickly and ultimately got its lunch eaten by Among Us. I’m sure it’s a decent game and all, but it’s fading fast – will a summer launch on Switch be too little, too late?
  • With the 3DS officially dead, it seems the Switch has decided to pick up the mantle as the RPG console, and it showed here: We got clips of Legend Of Mana, Monster Hunter Rise, Miitopia, Project Triangle Strategy, Bravely Default II, SaGa Frontier, and even some RPG elements in No More Heroes III and Mario Golf: Super Rush! I’m super hyped for many of these games (especially Miitopia, my 2017 Game of the Year), and I’ll hopefully have more to say on BD2 and Triangle Strategy once I try out their demos.
  • Speaking of Mario Golf: I haven’t played this series since MG: Toadstool Tour way back in the day, but that game was a lot of fun, and Super Rush looks to be a huge improvement. In addition to the classic golfing action, Speed Golf looks to add some seriously frenetic action (especially if you’re playing with friends, and especially especially if they’ve got decent online play), and a story mode that builds off of the acclaimed single-player mode from past titles. Mario Tennis Aces was a bit of a mixed bag based on the reviews, but MG: PR shows off a lot of potential, and I’m excited to check it out this June.
  • At much as I enjoyed Miitopia, I did NOT see it coming to Switch in a million years, but I’m super happy that it did (and not just because it means 3DS ports are just as much a possibility as Wii U ports are). I’ll never say no to more character customization options, and while I have no idea how they’re going to shoehorn a horse companion into the game, I’m all for anything that offers more options and/or assistance in battle (maybe now I can crush those pesky ham sandwiches!) The price tag ($50) ma feel a bit steep, but there’s a lot more content than you might think in the base game alone (which already $40 on the 3DS anyway), and who knows what else they might add? In other words, I’m excited enough to think about double-dipping for an HD remake.
  • I liked the Mario items in Animal Crossing: New Leaf enough that I recreated Mario and Luigi’s caps in the custom design app, so I’m happy to see the official versions return in AC: New Horizons as well. The warp pipes are a cool feature, especially for an island as hard to get around on as mine (always have your ladder handy), and they add a whimsical touch to an otherwise standard natural scene (or maybe that’s just my island because it’s overgrown with trees). AC:NH has done an admirable job holding my attention for nearly a year, and updates like these help ensure it’s keep us occupied for a while longer.
  • I liked Octopath Traveler enough to put it on my best-game list of 2018, so you better believe I’m ready for Project Triangle Strategy, bizarre working title and all. This game appears to be more of a tactical RPG experience similar to Final Fantasy Tactics and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, with some intriguing additions involving terrain interactions (burn it! soak it! shock it!) and a decision-driven “conviction” system that basically determines your character’s alignment and affects what might happen to you and what options you have available as the game progresses. I love the way it looks, and I’m excited to find out how it plays.
  • So, about Knockout City…I had fun with Super Dodgeball Advance back in the day, but this one looks like a cross between SBA and Fortnite, with your team working to knock the stuffing out of your opponents with standard dodgeballs and a few other interesting items (you can throw your teammates too?). I’ve watched a few gameplay videos on YouTube and it looks to be a fast-paced, chaotic experience, so if I get some breathing space among all these RPGs, I might have to try this one out.
  • Going into the presentation, there was a lot of speculation over what Nintendo would do for The Legend Of Zelda‘s 35th anniversary. Unlike with Mario, however, the anniversary was never actually mentioned in the presentation, and the obvious game to show (Breath of the Wild 2) was nowhere to be found. Instead, we got an Age of Calamity Expansion Pass, a full remake of Skyward Sword (which looks great, but isn’t a game I’m interested in), and some special Joy-Cons. Nintendo isn’t one to let something like this pass by, however, so expect a full anniversary presentation later this year.
  • Pokémon didn’t show up here despite its own anniversary either, but The Pokémon Company likes to do their own thing anyway, so expect a larger presentation from that franchise in the not-so-distant future. Let’s hope those Diamond/Pearl remake rumors are true!
  • And then there was “the last announcement for today”…
Image from Nintendo

I’d heard some predictions that new Splatoon content might be announced, but I had my doubts about it. In hindsight, I probably should have seen this coming: Online multiplayer games in this vein (Overwatch, PUBG, Fortnite) seem to have a much faster development cycle than other genres, constantly adding new features/items/abilities/etc. to keep players engaged, so it make sense that Splatoon 3 would beat, say, Mario Kart 9 to market.

Nevertheless, Splatoon 3 is coming in 2022, and as someone who has sunk 2,000+ hours into Splatoon 2 and written entire blog posts dedicated to the Undercover Brella, I am 100% on board with this. The introduction of the “Splatlands” gives the developers a chance to dive deeper into the lore of the series (what’s left of humanity besides an upside-down Eiffel Tower?) and cater to the Chaos faction that won the final Splatfest, while also not leaving behind all of the other stuff that made the first two games great. The game features more character customization options, more weapon types, more maps, more movement options, more special weapons (the inkzooka is kinda-sorta back?), and the confusing ability to spawn from a flying espresso machine and launch into battle (I don’t feel like it adds much to the game tbh). While there’s no evidence of Brellas in the game just yet (no sign of dualies either…), most of the remaining weapon classes are back, with certain weapons getting a redesign to suit the chaotic vibe of the game (admittedly I’m more a fan of the classic .96 Gal look). With over a year before launch (I predict an early summer release similar to that of the other games), Nintendo has plenty of time to fill in the gaps on things like Salmon Run, so we’ll be hearing a lot more from this game in 2021 (and by extension, you’ll all have to put up with me endlessly gushing over it).

So what’s the final verdict? Honestly, this is probably my favorite Direct since I started watching them, and after spending the back half of 2020 wondering if this blog would stop focusing on gaming entirely, I think we’ll have plenty of gaming content going forward (assuming I can get my hands on some of these games). I get that people may have gripes about what was shown off (no BotW2, Xenoblade characters aren’t that exciting, non-RPG fans had to suffer through a lot of trailers), but for me this was a nearly perfect presentation, and I’m excited to try some of these games out (starting with the demos and likely Bravely Default II). Nintendo kicked 2021 off with a bang, and I hope they’re able to keep the momentum going as the world trudges slowly back to some semblance of normality.

Is Nintendo Trying To Tell Us Something?

In sports, teams that focus on their past often do so because they have nothing to celebrate in the future. Is that what Nintendo is facing right now?

2020 was already looking like the Year of DLC for the Big N, headlined by the second Fighters Pass in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra for Pokémon Sword/Shield, and the special events being rolled out all year long from Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Two other major announcements, however, caught me by surprise:

  • Splatoon 2, nearly a year after the “final” Splatfest, is bringing back the Ketchup vs. Mayo feud for a second grudge match in May. A special week-long demo event for the game has also been announced for April 29th.
  • Super Mario Maker 2, a game that has been mostly forgotten and hadn’t gotten a major update since last December, is receiving a huge update including the Super Mario Bros. 2 game mechanics, a World Builder (!) and all sorts of crazy new power-up items.

All of this is good news for Switch owners, but looking at the entire pile of news, I couldn’t shake one simple question: Why? Why was Nintendo dusting off titles it had seemingly written off months ago, slapping a fresh coat of paint on them, and trotting them back out in front of the public?

The short-term answer seems pretty straightforward: There’s gold in them thar hills, and Nintendo wants to grab as much of it as possible. With the coronavirus trapping us all indoors for the foreseeable future, the video game industry is seeing a surge in popularity, and the Switch led the way on the back of Animal Crossing’s success. With all these people hungry for content, Nintendo saw an opportunity to sell more people on prior releases like SMM2 and Splatoon 2, and used these updates and special events to draw in some eyeballs, drum up some hype, and bring in some more cash.

However, I wonder if there’s a concerning long-term message hidden amidst this hype. Nintendo likes to lay out its roadmap for 2020 early, but aside from Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, we still don’t know what coming for the rest of the year. Given everything that’s taken place so far this year…is it possible that nothing is coming?

“Nothing” feels like a bit of an overreaction: After all, you have to have one big title to sell for the holidays, right? …Except that COVID-19 has basically called every facet of pre-pandemic life into question, and Nintendo has already been affected by hardware shortages and developers contracting the virus. (We may have already seen the effects on this in Nintendo’s long-delayed, little-to-show Direct back in March.) Would it be a huge surprise if Nintendo had nothing new to show at E3 in a year when E3 itself has been canceled?

Nintendo generally gives us a lot of lead time for its biggest titles, and so far we’ve gotten very little information about future games. Here’s what we know:

  • A sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in some unspecified state of development. We got a trailer at the end of E3 last year, and have heard nothing since.
  • Metroid Prime 4 is…well, it exists (we think). We got a splash screen back at E3 in 2017, and then an announcement in early 2019 that development had been restarted from scratch, and then nothing. At this point, I’m starting to think the game will miss the Switch entirely.
  • Random ideas like a Super Mario 3D World remake or Mario Kart 9 have been rumored for a while, but we’ve gotten no hard evidence that they’re even in development.

So where does that leave us? The summer and fall are looking as lean as the final years of the Wii U, and while Breath of the Wild 2 seems like the obvious candidate for a late-year release, we don’t even have a release year yet, and Zelda games aren’t exactly known for their quick turnaround times.

There are other issues at play here:

  • How exactly do you top some of the titles that are already available? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will likely never be equaled, so Nintendo might as well milk the game for all it’s worth. Same with Super Mario Odyssey: 3D Mario games are not that common to begin with, and how do you beat an open-world romp across the planet? And then there’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the best entry in the AC series by a mile and a game that will be incredibly hard to follow in the future. Games of this caliber take time, and unless Nintendo has managed to keep something under its hat for a while, we’re not seeing anything like them anytime soon.
  • When the Switch launched, Nintendo has most of its major IPs locked, loaded, and ready to roll out for its own new console. Three years later, however, the quiver is looking a little empty. I mean, what franchises are left to move to the Switch? Pikmin? Star Fox? Paper Mario? Unless Nintendo has another new IP in development à la Astral Chain, it’s either going to have start repeating its greatest hits or revamping some of its long-lost titles (Earthbound anyone?).

(Speaking of Astral Chain: I still think that cramming all those releases into the back half of 2019 was a bad idea because it didn’t give franchises like Astral Chain or Super Mario Maker 2 the space and spotlight to thrive. With 2020 looking this barren, I’ll bet Nintendo would like to have a few of those decisions back to fill out its current year.)

Part of me thinks I’m wrong because part of me thinks I have to be wrong: The holiday season is so lucrative that missing out on it would be sheer lunacy. However, things may simply be out of Nintendo’s control at this point: Many summer events are already canceled over coronavirus concerns (and some fall events are starting to look shaky, especially with experts warning of a second wave of infections). The Big N has never been afraid to take all the time they need to make a game meet their quality standards, and if COVID-19 slows them down, they’ll take the time to catch up before releasing their work. If that means leaning on the Crown Tundra as their crown jewel for the Christmas rush…well, no series prints money like Pokémon does, and unlike the rough Wii U years, Nintendo seems to be in a strong financial position to weather the storm.

So if this ends up year winds up being Animal Crossing and nothing else for Nintendo, don’t be too surprised. Every other facet of our lives has been turned upside-down this year; it’s only natural that video game release schedules would be affected as well. And hey, maybe this announcements will revitalize the Splatoon community or finally help Mario Maker recapture the magic of the original game. At the end of the day, we can only play the games we have, and we games we have are all already pretty darn fun.

Singing In The Rain: A Defense of the Undercover Brella

USBs: Not just for spreading malware anymore.

Weapons in shooting games are generally offensive-minded (that’s why you use them, right?), but there are a rare few that also provide some defensive benefits, improving your safety while undermining that of your opponent. Overwatch‘s Reinhardt and his massive shield (which he can’t actually attack with) are perhaps the most-famous example, but Splatoon 2 provides a few options of its own with the its Brella weapon class, which was newly introduced for this game.

Splat Brellas provide a personal shield that can protect you from enemy fire and launch forward to ink a protected path, while Tenta Brellas are Reinhardt-sized nightmares that trade speed for power and frighteningly-good coverage. (Little-known fact: When Alan Jackson finished putting a hole in his wall, it was a Tenta Brella that provided the cover for him to drive a truck through it.) Like Reinhardt, however, you can’t shield and shoot at the same time (holding ZR makes the shield deploy and eventually shoot forward), forcing you to constantly spam the trigger to allow you to fight back. For someone as paranoid about repetitive motion injuries as I am, this was a total turn-off. If only there was a weapon that let me shoot and shield simultaneously without developing carpel tunnel or worrying about my shield departing at the worst possible moment.

Enter the Undercover Brella, which is best described as the inverse of the Tenta Brella⁠—it’s smaller, weaker, faster, and stays by your side until the bitter end (i.e., until a sharking paintbrush corners you).

Tenta Brella Splat Brella Undercover Brella
Shield Size Monstrous Personal Personal
Shield Strength Great (700 HP) Good (500 HP) Weak (200 HP)
Launches? Yes Yes No
Fuel Efficiency Hummer (10%/shot) Half-Ton (6.35%/shot) Hybrid (4%/shot)
Movement Speed Slow Moderate Fast
Fire Rate Really Slow Pretty Slow Kinda Slow
Range Above Average Below Average Slightly Below Average
X-Shot Kill X = 1-2 X = 2 X = 3-4

The rule of shooter games, of course, is if a weapon is super-good at one thing, people will exploit that strength and find ways to play around its weaknesses. Thus, the Tenta Brella (after a few serious buffs) is now a viable weapon at the top levels of play, while the Undercover Brella (which does a few things well but does nothing truly spectacular) is barely seen even in Turf Wars. If it wasn’t for the Ink Armor special of the Kensa Undercover Brella variant, you’d likely never see the weapon at all.

I, however, fell in love with the plucky-but-wimpy Undercover Brella, and have managed to get a ton of mileage out of it even at higher levels of ranked solo queue play. I spread the gospel of this thing almost as much as I preach about Midland, and I’m here today to convince you that this Brella deserves both a bit more respect and a bit more representation in ranked play.

So what does the Undercover Brella do well? Consider the clip, which highlights some of the weapon’s strengths:

  • The Undercover Brella is a great placeholder weapon: You find a place, and you hold it. With its less-than-stellar damage output and fire rate, you’re not going to win a ton of 1v1s battles. Still, your shield/shot combination gives you just enough health and firepower to make slayer-types think twice about challenging you head-on, and its light weight gives you the mobility to hop around and sidestep longer-range weapons (most longer-range weapons will try to keep their distance and avoid stepping to you). The result is a lot of drawn-out stalemates while the opposing team tries to figure out how to approach the weird guy that’s waving their umbrella around. Throw in sloping terrain or obstacles that discourage flanking and provide plenty of hiding places (such as the walls and bumpers in MakoMart above), and suddenly that Brella doesn’t seem so wimpy anymore.

In game modes centered around a fixed or slow-moving point (say, Splat Zones or Tower Control), time is money, and any second spent flailing around trying to move the Brella is a second that counts toward our objective. It’s a bit less effective in modes that require more-aggressive play like Rainmaker and Clam Blitz, but you can get some mileage out of being the first one through the door during a push.

  • The kits complement different ranked modes surprisingly well. There are three variants of the Undercover Brella: The basic vanilla kit (VUB), the Sorella version (USB), and the Kensa set (KUB). Let’s start with the kinda-sorta-meta kit first:
    • The Kensa Undercover Brella: Ink Armor is a useful special weapon in any mode, and while charging it isn’t the quickest thing in the world (at 200 points, it’s equivalent to running an N-Zap ’85), it’s not overly onerous either, and it’s the only Brella of any variety to support armor spam. Torpedos are a great sub weapon because they provide bomb support, solid paint coverage, and will also home in on nearby enemies, letting you flush out sharking opponents and force them to defend an attack from an awkward angle. This kit is more amenable to advancing and taking positions, so it’s the best option of the three for modes like Rainmaker or Clam Blitz.
    • The Undercover Sorella Brella: This thing is a beast in Splat Zones. Your default stalemate capabilities and solid painting coverage keep enemies from gaining a foothold on the zone and let you maintain map control, Splat Bombs are generally useful and let you attack from a safer distance, and at 180 points the thing absolutely farms Ballers, which a) gives you a get-out-of-jail-free option if you’re focused down, and b) as seen above, it gives you a quick and effective way to initiate back onto the zone if you lose it. On smaller maps with lots of cover (Moray Towers, MakoMart, Walleye Warehouse, and even Humpback Pump Track), this weapon is practically unmovable. It’s a great Splat Zones choice, and Baller gives you options in Rainmaker and Clam Blitz as well.
    • The Vanilla Undercover Brella: You never forgot your first Undercover Brella, but while this is my favorite Brella of the bunch, it’s also got the weakest set of the three: Ink Mines offer only limited control and visibility, and Splashdown remains a below-average special even after its recent buff (it’s just too easy for opponents to shoot you out of the air). It’s got very little push on its own, and doesn’t seem to defend as wide an area as the USB, which is why it doesn’t offer as much utility in Splat Zones. Tower Control, however, is a different story: You’re defending a dinky little piece of ground that moves along with you, so your mines are always in position to offer chip damage, and nothing says “Get off my plane tower” like Splashdown, especially if you’re super-jumping to a teammate. (Being able to farm Splashdowns at a mind-blowing 150 points doesn’t hurt either.) From there, you can use your mobility and the tower’s center pole to dance away from enemy shots (and occasionally step in front of the pole to avoid pressure from behind). The combination works far better on this mode than it has any right to, and it’s the only weapon/mode combination in which I’ve cracked the moderately-fabled 2300 barrier.

The true moral here is that good teammates are worth their weight in gold.

In other words, there’s a Undercover Brella for any occasion, even Turf War (it’s tolerable range and solid painting capability make it a solid option when you’ve got to cover ground in a hurry).

  • If you’re ever in a 2v1 or 3v1, you’ve got an ace in the hole: The Undercover Brella is actually a vampire. Nintendo has been buffing the heck out of this thing trying to get people to use it, and one of the coolest post-launch abilities it received was auto-regenerating its shield if you got a splat or assist. That means that if your position is good and your aim is true, you can step out into the open and tank a few shots, knowing that if you get the KO, you’ll get a fully-restored shield to work with again. While I wouldn’t call this a terribly aggressive weapon, it’s a middle best for a center of the fight rather than the edges, and it life-draining functionality allows you to take calculated risks when you have to. (Even better, the Main Power Up ability speeds up the shield regeneration process in general, so you Kensa Pro mains in the audience might already have a workable gearset for this thing!)

Of course, this weapons is not considered for a reason, and if you play it, you have to be very aware of its shortcomings:

  • All the vampiric power in the world won’t save you from a bad angle. You can stare down multiple enemies with a UB, but if you can’t see all the whites of their eyes in the same glance, you’re doomed. If you’re ever attacked from multiple angles, you need to swallow your pride and get the heck out of Dodge. This means that maps that are too open (The Reef), too big (New Albacore Hotel), or offer too many ways around you (Shellendorf Institute) are probably not ones you want to bring a Brella to.
  • Certain weapons are your Kryptonite, even in a 1v1. Do not, under any circumstances, try to go toe-to-toe with a paintbrush, and avoid challenging blasters unless you’re confident that they have horrendous aim (or you can get close enough to make them shoot past you). Short-range, high-damage weapons that benefit from a damage multiplier against shields (Sploosh-o-matics, anyone?) can also be a problem if they get too close, so try to keep them at a distance with your range.
  • UBs are great for holding an advantage, but not necessarily for gaining one. Stalemates are only good for whoever benefits the most from the status quo, so if you’re stuck keeping an opponent at bay deep in your own territory, you’re not helping much. Ballers and Ink Armor can assist with a push, but without follow-up from your teammates, you’ll likely just find yourself in one of those triple-teamed, bad-angle situations discussed above.
  • Above it all, remember that you’re a brawler, but not a slayer. UBs are a three-shot splat at best (which means four shots 75% of the time), and landing that many hits against a highly-mobile enemy like a dualie player is an exercise in frustration. That said, always be ready to be the third person into a scrap (this isn’t hockey, so there’s no game misconduct penalty for doing so) to help chip in against a distracted opponent.

Be ready for your teammates to silently judge your splat counts after every match.

Given all this, it’s safe to say that the Undercover Brella is not a jack-of-all-trades that the N-Zap is. (It’s more of an eight of clubs, truthfully.) However, I’d argue it’s also not the useless weapon the current meta would have you believe: It the right situation, Undercover Brella can be formidable, even downright scary at times, and players can find a surprising amount of success behind its canopy. Now get out there and help me change the meta for good!

Breadth Over Depth: A Defense Of The N-Zap ’85

Hey, it looks like my music post view numbers are growing again. Time to once again squash their momentum with another random gaming post that nobody will read!

If it wasn’t readily apparent from my Twitter account, I play a lot of Splatoon 2. While I’m not a true competitive player by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve had some decent luck surviving the Hunger Games facsimile that is the ranked mode solo queue, mostly by playing flexible support weapons that focus on the main objective. I wouldn’t say I have a true “main” weapon, but among my win totals there’s one particular ink-flinger that stands out:

Weapon Wins
N-Zap ’85 474
Undercover Brella 276
Hero Splatling Replica 184
Kensa Charger 181
Splattershot Jr. 179
Neo Sploosh-o-matic 164
.96 Gal 154

I switch weapons like Carrie Underwood switches wardrobes during an awards ceremony, but in Splatoon 2 I find myself drifting back to the N-Zap ’85 when the money is really on the line. It’s served me quite well in ink battles, which is why I was so surprised to hear renowned competitive Splatoon player ThatSrb2Dude be so down on the weapon in one of his videos from several months ago.

Dude’s argument essentially boils down to this: When comparing the Splattershot Jr. and the .96 Gal, it comes down to the role you aim to fill in a match.

  • The .96’s incredible combination of power and range gives it some solid slaying support in addition to its support abilities.
  • The Jr.’s unparalleled paint coverage and oversized ink tank make it the ultimate support weapon for map control, armor spam and bomb spam.

In comparison, the N-Zap ’85 is more of a “tweener” weapon: It has better accuracy and slaying power than the Jr. and is more efficient at map control and ink consumption than the .96 (plus it has bombs instead of sprinklers), but it doesn’t excel at any of these things (and in fact, at 200 points it’s also the slowest-charging armor weapon of the trio). It’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” sort of weapon, which is why Dude dismissed its potential in the competitive scene. As someone who’s had a lot of success with the N-Zap ’85, it was only natural to wonder: Did the critique have merit? Should we all be throwing our N-Zaps away and using different weapons instead?

Let’s consider both questions individually:

  • Does Dude’s critique hold water? It actually does, for the simple reason that he was careful to specifically define the parameters of his argument. Competitive Splatoon and ranked Splatoon are two very different animals, and Dude’s argument focused solely on the former category, where players use voice communication tools, plot their strategies for each map and mode beforehand, and work to fill a defined role during the match. Therefore, when choosing a weapon, you’re generally looking for something that best fits the role you intend to fill.

If you plan to be a pure support player who eschews slaying in favor of map control and bomb span, the Splattershot Jr. will be your weapon of choice because it’s the best tool for the job. Similarly, if you’re looking to play aggressively and chip in to help your slayers, no other weapons can fill that role like the .96 Gal can. While the N-Zap’s flexibility could let you fill either role credibly, it won’t fill either role optimally, which means you’d be better off doing one or the other and making sure your teammates can handle the role that you don’t. From a competitive standpoint, the N-Zap ’85 doesn’t make much sense to use.

That being said…

  • Should we be using the N-Zap ’85 at all? In fact, there is a role for the N-Zap ’85, and it can be found in the swirling mass of chaos we call ranked solo queue.

In competitive Splatoon, you’re safe to optimize a pure or aggressive support build because you know that someone else is around to do what you can’t. In ranked solo queue, however, there are no such guarantees: Teams are randomized, and players’ communication options are limited to ‘This Way!’ and ‘Booyah!’ At any match at any time, you could find yourself in any position and forced to play any role (as least for slayer and support weapons; backliners can be a bit more choosy with their positioning). With so much uncertainty, optimizing your build to fill a certain role can be dangerous, as none of your teammates may be willing and/or able to cover other tasks. (This is why I find the Splattershot Jr. so frustrating to play in ranked mode: If none of your teammates can hit a shot, the game devolves into me doing figure-eights around the middle of the map with three Splattershot Pros in hot pursuit, all the screaming “WHERE THE #$%& IS EVERYBODY?!?!”

In other words, in ranked solo queue, you’d better be prepared to fill darn near any role, and your weapon better give you the ability to actually pull it off. This is where the N-Zap ’85 shines:

  • If you need to slay, you’ve got the accuracy and range to make it work.
  • If you need map control, you’ve got the painting power and ink efficiency to make the entire map your color.
  • If you need bombs, you’ve got Splat Bombs to pitch in.
  • If you need Ink Armor to give your team some extra defensive bulk, you’ve got that too!

Being a jack of all trades is perfect for Splatoon’s ranked mode, because you’re likely going to have to fill every one of those trades multiple times in a single match. If you’re running the N-Zap ’85, you can be confident that your weapon will give you the power to do whatever you have to do to win.

The N-Zap ’85 may not be a top-tier competitive weapon when you’re trying to squeeze every last advantage out of your competitive squad, but it’s a great choice for a mode that’s as random and chaotic as Splatoon’s normal ranked mode. You can adapt to nearly any playstyle, you can plug any holes that your team comp lacks, and you can find value somewhere in your toolkit no matter what pieces are around you. If you’re trying to make headway in this crazy environment and break into the higher ranks of play, I’d say the N-Zap ’85 is a decent place to start.