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Splatoon 3 Review


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793824106_Splatoon3boxart.thumb.jpg.39b6a9a49c5d4714742c3d68f884e8b8.jpgIt's incredible to see how far an IP that was brand new in 2015 has come. Even with the Nintendo brand backing it, it's not easy for a new IP to take hold to this extent, especially with the unique blend of online shooter and cartoonish charm that Splatoon has. But playing the game makes it clear why it's so popular now, and just how it came out of Nintendo. Sure it's an online multiplayer game, but it's also beginner-friendly, stylish, and just plain fun in every moment, win or lose. It's that abiding fun-first philosophy that has kept Nintendo going for decades and made Splatoon such a hit. So how do they keep it going with the third installment? By polishing up small aspects and adding a few new features to make Splatoon 3 the most frantic, engaging, and fun it can possibly be.
 
The story mode here has a lot more in common with Splatoon 2's DLC, the Octo Expansion, than it does with the previous story modes. Levels are generally centered around one kind of challenge, such as only using a specific type of special ability or making it to the goal with only one tank of ink, no refills. There are still a few of the more generic "just make to the goal" kinds of levels, but overall Splatoon 3's story mode offers far more variety in challenges, and you may even pick up some helpful tips that apply to multiplayer mode as you learn the ins and outs of specials and weapons. As for the story itself, you're once again assisting Captain Cuttlefish, though this time it's because of a mysterious fuzzy ooze that turns anything it touches hairy. It's not a deep, elaborate narrative but it's a fun time, especially with Agents 1 and 2 getting involved again.
 
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As for the multiplayer side of the game, the basics are the same: the main mode is Turf War, a 4v4 match that emphasizes inking the ground rather than taking out opponents (though that certainly helps give you free rein to ink). All four Ranked Battle modes return but they're now called Anarchy Battles, and they come in two flavors. Open mode lets you jump into a match even with friends and rewards (or subtracts) a small amount of rank points. In Series mode though you have to queue solo, and by paying an "entrance fee" of ranked points you'll play a series of matches. Win five and you'll earn a ton of ranked points, but lose a total of three and the series ends. The good news is you'll still earn some ranked points based on your wins and your individual performance, so it's not exactly the gamble that it seems, it's just a slightly higher stakes version of Anarchy Battles. And those battle modes (Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz) remain just as intense and exciting as ever.
 
Splatoon 3 also adds a few new maps alongside returning ones, and there are naturally some new weapons and gear to try out, including a new bow-type weapon and a katana-type weapon, but overall the core experience is unchanged, including some of the more annoying quirks like two-hour map rotations that can see you playing on the same map seemingly over and over. If you already enjoy the Splatoon formula though this should be good news. The maps do feel a little too homogenized, with pretty similar narrow layouts that don't show as much inventive design as past games, but that also ensures the action stays pretty centralized and frantic. Online matches still nicely skirt a line between slightly goofy and intense competitive action (maybe a little more on the competitive side during Anarchy Battles), and the fast-paced action still oozes charm and light-hearted fun, like a summer camp water gun fight. It's fast-paced, matches are pretty short at just three minutes, and the whole vibe of the game just feels like the experience is meant to be joyous (though we all still have the occasional salty moments while playing online). Your online experience will differ depending on your connection, but overall mine has been okay, one or two dropped connections aside.
 
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The majority of changes in Splatoon 3 seem to come from little additions or improvements. Salmon Run, the co-op mode introduced in Splatoon 2, is now available 24/7 instead of in semi-random shifts, which is great news since the mode is a blast (and extremely challenging when you get to the higher levels). There are new bosses to fight as well as a new superboss called a King Salmonid that shows up occasionally to make your job even more challenging. It's a fun fight but it'd be nice if he appeared a little more frequently, since sometimes it feels like you have to grind just to get him to show up.
 
The lobby between matches (both normal and Salmon Run) now allows you to run around and practice a little before the next match starts, which can be a nice way of loosening up for the battle. There are two new abilities that you can use in any mode: the Squid Roll allows you to rapidly turn and dodge enemy attacks while the Squid Surge lets you leap up vertical walls, after a short charge time. Both add some valuable new maneuverability techniques, though their usefulness can be situational. There are also new ways to spend all the cash you'll accumulate: you can decorate a locker with items and stickers, and players online will be able to see your locker in their lobby. It's strictly cosmetic but it's nice to have something else to spend money on, especially after a few months when you've locked in your favorite weapons and clothes.
 
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Finally there's Tableturf Battles, a card-based minigame that translates the Turf War experience into a two-player card game. At the moment you can only play the CPU but there are plans to add a PVP option here in the future. Essentially you play cards to claim turf, and you can't "ink over" turf that has already been claimed. Whoever has the most turf in the end wins. It's not a bad diversion and again it's something else to collect in-game, though if you're not usually the type to get hooked on card-based minigames I doubt this one will change your mind. It's cute but lacks the energy or engagement of an actual Turf War match.
 
On the presentation side of things, it's also a variety of small improvements and polishing. Between the excellent art direction that previous games established and some new little touches like fresh hairstyles, locker decorations and a new plaza, Splatoon 3 looks fantastic. The ink is still satisfyingly globby and viscous, the clothes are stylish, and the weapons are inventive. Most importantly, the frame rate is buttery smooth and never impedes the action. And of course there are already some great songs to enjoy, including the Splatfest audio from the three new hosts (and yes, that means 3-team Splatfests, such as the one happening this weekend!). Splatoon has always been a game that is dripping in style, and Splatoon 3 is no different.
 
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Splatoon 3 isn't exactly a leap (or squid jump) to a new level for the series. There are improvements for sure, not least of which is just making the game more convenient to play, whether that's through 24/7 Salmon Run, partying up with friends, or the split Anarchy battles that provide more options even with the usual limited map rotation system. But for the most part this is the Splatoon we know and love with a fresh coat of ink, and for millions of squids/kids, that'll be enough to dive back into the fray and start splatting away with their favorite weapons. So if you're already a Splatoon fan and are itching to get back out there to compete in Splatfests and collect golden eggs in Salmon Run, you'll love Splatoon 3 for being a nicely polished take on a familiar formula.
 
Rating: 9 out of 10 Booyahs
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8 minutes ago, DLurkster said:

When I eventually get this game, I'll give tableturf battle a go. Not usually a fan of card based gameplay but I can be surprise and tho it looked Tetris like from the review above it doesn't seem so. (another game not particular fond of either)

 

Yeah, I'm not really into card games either, but Tableturf Battle is a TON of fun (I'm currently lvl 22)! I didn't expect to like it this much and I kind of wish it was a real card game. You know?... it could work if card packs came with their own pieces (shapes) for each card and a starter set came with stages (on poster paper). ...Or you could just use graph paper and colored pencils/markers/crayons, etc. Though, in that case you could probably just print out your own cards while your at it. :P 

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23 minutes ago, alienboyva said:

 

Yeah, I'm not really into card games either, but Tableturf Battle is a TON of fun (I'm currently lvl 22)! I didn't expect to like it this much and I kind of wish it was a real card game. You know?... it could work if card packs came with their own pieces (shapes) for each card and a starter set came with stages (on poster paper). ...Or you could just use graph paper and colored pencils/markers/crayons, etc. Though, in that case you could probably just print out your own cards while your at it. :P 

 

It could work as an AR game with physical cards that you scan with a phone, or they could just go full Yu-gi-oh and have crazy holographic battles with fancy tech.

 

  

48 minutes ago, DLurkster said:

When I eventually get this game, I'll give tableturf battle a go. Not usually a fan of card based gameplay but I can be surprise and tho it looked Tetris like from the review above it doesn't seem so. (another game not particular fond of either)

 

Yeah it's not quite Tetris. You are trying to fill up squares as efficiently as possible, but a big factor in Tableturf Battles is denying the other player access to squares. So it still has a Splatoon spirit even though it's a different format.

Edited by Eliwood8
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1 hour ago, alienboyva said:

 

Yeah, I'm not really into card games either, but Tableturf Battle is a TON of fun (I'm currently lvl 22)! I didn't expect to like it this much and I kind of wish it was a real card game. You know?... it could work if card packs came with their own pieces (shapes) for each card and a starter set came with stages (on poster paper). ...Or you could just use graph paper and colored pencils/markers/crayons, etc. Though, in that case you could probably just print out your own cards while your at it. :P 

Huh, didn't know there was levels for Tableturf battles....interesting.

1 hour ago, Eliwood8 said:

Yeah it's not quite Tetris. You are trying to fill up squares as efficiently as possible, but a big factor in Tableturf Battles is denying the other player access to squares. So it still has a Splatoon spirit even though it's a different format.

Ah good to know, thanks.

 

Oddly enough I look forward to playing tableturf battle with other players. Maybe it might be up by the time I get Splatoon 3.

 

Also, it seems at least here CPU's are not a drag but everybody would appreciate actual player.

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