Year In Games: A Fond Look At The General Brilliance Of Splatoon 3 – With One Caveat

As we move toward the end of the year and the 12th Annual New York Game Awards in January, our writers will review some of the game we missed.

By Isaac Espinosa

Swim through ink, run across the battlefield, and mark up as much turf as possible for the third time! Splatoon 3, released on the Nintendo Switch on September 9th, is the third installment in the series that initially debuted on the Wii U. Much like the two prior titles, Splatoon 3 has an intense focus on online multiplayer, and a story-driven single player campaign. Both provide for a fun and memorable experience. So, does Splatoon 3 provide enough exciting new elements to live up to the greatness of Splatoon 2? Let’s find out!

First, let’s talk about Splatoon 3’s story mode. In the Splatoon series, the campaign has always been on an epic scale that was well worth the ride. And 3 is no exception. As the new Agent 3 on the block, you’re recruited by Cap’n Cuttlefish, who needs your help to save Splatsville from an incoming threat. Not only has The Great Zapfish, the power source for all of Splatsville’s electricity, been kidnapped again, there’s also a Fuzzy Ooze spreading all over the place. After going through some levels that’ll teach you the basics of the game’s mechanics, you run into – DJ Octavio?

After fighting the leader of the Octarians, who was the main antagonist of the prior two Splatoon titles, and learning that he wasn’t actually responsible for any of this, you, Octavio, and Cap’n Cuttlefish all fall into a large crater. The fall knocks you unconscious, and soon after waking up, you learn that you’ve entered a strange land called Alterna. The seemingly abandoned utopia is now the base for Agents 1 and 2, their new Captain Agent, and more of the Fuzzy Ooze that’s spread all across Alterna. Together, you must explore Alterna, investigate all of its mysteries, and locate Cap’n Cuttlefish as soon as possible. 

It’s easy to forget just how vast Splatoon’s story modes can be. Aside from the tale being a marvelous adventure filled with well-executed pacing and tension, it’s also extremely enjoyable from a gameplay perspective. Alterna is littered with bits of hidden lore about the world of Splatoon, and every level within its depths helps you learn more about the game, from basic concepts like preserving your Ink to its insane variety of weapons.

Splatsville has a plethora of different equipment to choose from that will prepare you for battle. Your kit in Splatoon consists of your signature weapon, which comes in a set with a sub weapon and a powerful special weapon that can be used after filling up a meter. I’ve been sticking to the Heavy Splatling, a minigun that comes with a Sprinkler sub weapon, and the WaveBreaker, which causes damage to any enemy team member that gets too close. You also have your choice of gear: hats, shirts, and shoes.  You’ll need to pick out some clothes that will give you some extra stats for when you’re playing in a match. These stats include bonuses, such as swimming faster in your ink, respawning more quickly than usual, and being able to dodge more easily.

It’s important to pick a load out that will best help you accomplish a specific role, which may depend on what your weapon is designed for. The Heavy Splatling, for example, requires that I use a loadout of equipment that will best help me conserve the most of my Ink, since that allows me to be a defensive powerhouse. This variety of options is merely a taste of what Splatoon 3 has to offer. And we haven’t even gotten to the battles yet!

There are many different modes in Splatoon 3, each with their own objectives and mechanics. Turf War is the most basic and the one that’s open to all players from the beginning. Assembling a team of four, you have to fight an enemy team of four other players and ink up as much of the turf as possible. It’s simple, but also tremendously entertaining, and very competitive. Depending on your team’s composition and weapon types, you’ll need to make sure you can execute your role quickly. That could mean taking mid from the start and maintaining control, or applying pressure from the sides and inking the enemy base. And that’s just one mode.

Salmon Run is another fascinating mode in which you again team up with four people to fight against hordes of Salmonids (pesky creatures that want to protect their Golden Eggs). You must battle them while also hoarding their eggs for yourself, in order to meet a quota. With the mighty boss Salmonids, like the Stinger or the FlyFish, Salmon Run can become a slaughterhouse where you’re just trying to survive. But it’s an increasingly exciting rush that’s best played with a group of friends. 

Splatoon 3 does have one glaring flaw, and I found it even though since it was my first ever Splatoon game. I didn’t feel entirely qualified to critique it. So I sought out my wonderful online friend Keiko Kawayui, who has not only played the Splatoon series since the Wii U, but is also very knowledgeable about the game’s ways of play. She had this to say about the game’s shortcomings: “While yes, it’s nice that every weapon is in the game, there’s no variants to kits. Like there’s only one rapid blaster that is JUST a rapid blaster, not counting the pro because it has different stats. Some weapons in 1 and 2 had several kits.” She went on to say that “in 2, not only did we have the Luna Blaster (which had splat bomb and baller), we had the Luna Blaster Neo which had an ink mine and suction bomb launcher. And the Kensa Luna Blaster which had fizzy bomb and inkstorm.” For Keiko, Splatoon 3’s lack of kit variety is the most disappointing part of the game. It is possible that future updates will solve this problem, though, so all is not lost. 

Despite this gripe, Splatoon 3 was for me a phenomenal experience all around, whether maneuvering through the game’s story mode or hopping on with my friends to claim some victories together. And since I’ve been able to improve so much since I first played, the game has brought me – someone who’s naturally competitive – an immense amount of satisfaction. While it isn’t a masterpiece, Splatoon 3 is still an experience I’d recommend for anyone.

Bronx native Isaac Espinosa is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. Alongside being named the Circle’s first assistant mentor, Isaac also published his first story in The Verge. You can also follow Keiko Kawayui on her Twitter handle, @KeikoKawayui.

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