Back in 2015 during my later elementary school years, shooter games were still seen as the cool new thing. I recall being embarrassed at my lack of experience with the Call of Duty and Halo franchises like other kids were – even though it’s perfectly reasonable for 5th graders to hold off from M-rated games. Nevertheless, I continued to enjoy the many platformers available on the Wii U until one day, I caught wind of an upcoming title that was being praised as revolutionary. Nintendo was making a shooter game??
It came out right before my birthday, which meant I got to play a game at launch for once and it was a blast. Splatoon: an entirely new Nintendo IP, sporting these colorful squid kids who were able to introduce me to the shooter genre without all the mature theming that had seemingly become inseparable from it. It stood out in more ways than looks, really mixing up the classic shooting gameplay by giving the player tools to manipulate the battlefield by covering it with their team’s ink, allowing them to climb up walls, forge paths, and slow down opponents.
Over a dozen limited-time events known as “Splatfests” were also held, giving players the opportunity to choose between two different teams and battle it out to earn special rewards. I still remember the first ever Splatfest, Dogs vs. Cats. I chose dogs, which of course won, and would continue this winning streak years later in Splatoon 2 during their “final” Splatfest, Chaos vs. Order. PeaceRibbon had something to say about edgy kids and the ideal type of society, but I just know that Chaos (in games) is cool, baby! With me on their side, team Chaos easily took the victory as Splatoon 2 entered the rearview mirror. There was something special about this final ‘fest, though – it was announced that the winning team would impact the future of the series. We therefore anticipated a chaos-themed Splatoon game sometime in the future, probably on Nintendo’s next system.
To our surprise, less than a year later, one of Nintendo’s in-house development teams finished up Animal Crossing: New Horizons and jumped straight into developing Splatoon 3 (yes, the same team that works on Splatoon makes Animal Crossing). We would become aware of this after Nintendo announced the game in a February 2021 Nintendo Direct, with the game finally releasing this past September… which means that I’m late. Nevertheless, I’d like to play the college student card to absolve myself and will act as though I am delivering on time. Let’s get into it.
As alluded to previously, Splatoon 3 takes place in a chaos-themed environment, known as the Splatlands, with a very hot and dry desert climate. While this is shown off in the tutorial and early in the campaign, for the vast majority of the time you’re playing it’s honestly going to look pretty similar to how things have in the past – save for single player, but we’ll get to that later. The main hub this time around is known as Splatsville, the city of Chaos. It’s bigger and grander than past hubs, but once again it doesn’t really live up to its name like I thought it would. It’s certainly still cool, just don’t expect it to be as crazy as those edgy teens were hoping after the last Splatfest. …Wait, wasn’t I still a teen then?
Since I have so much to say about the single player in this game, I’m choosing to tackle the multiplayer first. It’s definitely still that classic Splatoon gameplay many have come to know and love.
A quick recap for those unfamiliar: two teams of 4 are pitted against each other in matches that last about 3-5 minutes depending on the mode you’re playing. You have the choice between a variety of weapons that come as kits that include a sub-weapon (mostly different types of bombs) and a super ability (giant missiles, anybody?) tailored to fit a certain playstyle. Oh, and instead of bullets, these weapons shoot ink! The series’ signature mode, Turf War, gives players the objective to cover (ink) more ground with their color ink before the time hits 0. You can hinder the enemy team by “splatting” your opponents who just kind of explode with ink, and get sent back to spawn. To avoid getting splatted and maneuver the map, press ZL when standing on your own ink to submerge in it. You’ll be faster, hard to see, and can climb up walls, but won’t be able to shoot while in this state.
Different competitive options do begin unlocking once you’ve reached level 10 that feature more typical gameplay for the genre, like zone control or payload modes. There’s still a lot of inking going on, just sheer coverage isn’t the main objective.
Taking a look at this game’s additions, though, new weapons such as the Tri-Stringer (a bow) and the Splatana (a hybrid melee weapon) make their debut and actually fit the chaos theme well. There are some new moves you can pull off while swimming in ink, such as the squid roll which allows you to make quick turnarounds and angled jumps by pressing B and snapping the control stick the opposite direction. I found this to be incredibly fun and it felt like a movement option Splatoon was always meant to have.
The only new mode is Tri-Color Turf War, which takes place during the latter half of a Splatfest. Players are now split into teams of 3, and corresponding matches take part in the form of 2v4v2 Turf Wars, with the team of 4 spawning in the middle. I’ll admit, I haven’t had a chance to play this new kind of Splatfest yet – but from what I’ve heard the matches at least seem pretty balanced.
The fan-favorite PvE mode Salmon Run, in which you battle waves of “salmonids” to harvest golden eggs for the mysteriously shady company Grizzco has thankfully stuck around. Offering some new bosses and even an occasional extra wave where players are tasked at taking down a King Salmonid that gives special rewards. While this gamemode hasn’t been substantially altered from its first appearance in Splatoon 2, it’s still more fun than it’s ever been, so I’m more than satisfied. If you haven’t played this before, I strongly recommend you give it a try not only because of how fun it is but also the sweet rewards you get to spend on gear. Mr. Grizz sure does pay well…
What I’m most happy about though are the myriad of tweaks and adjustments to keep things interesting and actually, FINALLY, bringing over features that have been staples of live service games for the past 15 years. Yes, unlike Splatoon 2, you can actually queue up into a game with your friends. If you weren’t aware, the last entry in the series required you to join a friend’s lobby… AFTER they were already in a match. Even then, you couldn’t choose which team to play on, so one game you might be fighting with your friend and the next working hard to make them lose. This was far from ideal and it’s honestly baffling that Nintendo was unable to include such basic features in 2017.
Thankfully those days are behind us and things are only looking brighter as many other improvements were made, such as…
– You’re able to practice in unique training grounds with other players while in a queue.
– Friends will even show up as ghosts in the lobby, giving you updates on their latest activity and allowing you to join them if they are online.
– You can start a queue at any time by pressing L when in the lobby.
– You can easily view a long history of matches you’ve played and their details.
This is closer to the kind of online experience fans have been starved of for years and it’s great to see Nintendo bringing things more up to snuff. It’s certainly not perfect – voice chat is still exclusive to the NSO app (although for some that might be seen as an upside) and there’s a bit of lag that sometimes causes opponents to seemingly die a half-second late or so. I can’t say the lag is game-breaking or anything, but for more competitive players it might be a bigger annoyance.
Additionally, I’ve also been kicked out of way too many queues thanks to “communication errors” that I know weren’t because of my connection, but I have hope those will be minimized in the future.
As with past games, the Inklings (and Octolings) have many different clothing pieces to choose from. These come with different types of perks and abilities that change the flow of gameplay and costs in-game currency – no microtransactions here! Splatoon 3 being developed in a post-Fortnite world means that there is a type of (free) battle pass in the game, this time known as a “catalog”. In the form of an additional XP bar, it serves mostly to hand out bonus rewards to players, especially the new cosmetics and items such as titles and Tableturf card packs (more on those later). I also should mention there are some exclusive outfits locked behind amiibo figures, but since you can reroll abilities and increase the amount of slots on any piece of gear, they don’t really provide any type of advantage.
…Oh, yeah, about the campaign!
Here we are. It’s finally time to talk about the campaign and I am excited! Both the original Splatoon and its sequel had relatively short campaigns, around 5 hours. I’m happy to say this one’s a decent bit longer – it took me probably around 10 hours, although I did grab all the collectibles. As always, you’ll be working through mostly technical, linear challenges that are designed incredibly well and almost always fun. There aren’t any special collectibles hidden inside these stages, which is fine by me because I really got sick of scouring every corner of the level in the last game. They are instead hidden on the overworld, and aren’t overly difficult to find, especially since your buddy Smallfry occasionally sniffs them out for you.
Yeah, you’ve got a cute lil’ pet with you throughout the whole campaign who actually functions as a secondary weapon and is perhaps my favorite thing to come out of the franchise so far. If I don’t have his amiibo by Christmas, it’s going to be because of a shortage.
Smallfry is just one aspect of what makes this campaign great, though. There’s a genuinely interesting story, and the entire adventure is packed with lore drops that make me look at the world of Splatoon in a completely different manner. Still, you shouldn’t expect frequent, high-quality cutscenes throughout as this is a primarily multiplayer game after all. It ends in a bang that was way more epic than I expected it to be and admittedly makes the earlier parts of the game seem weak in comparison.
If there’s one big gripe I have, it’s the effects of what is presumably an accommodation to demands of modern western culture’s view of gender. When referencing the captain in story mode (who is supposed to be the player from the first game) everyone absolutely refuses to use anything besides “they” when referring to them even after you specify whether the captain was a boy or girl inkling, which is how they will appear in-game. This is off-putting and makes the dialogue sound a lot stranger than it needs to be whenever the captain is involved. Sigh.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this adventure more than any past ones (including Octo Expansion) and highly recommend playing it through if you get this game.
Last but not least, I need to talk about tableturf battles. It’s a good minigame for when you get bored of shooting things constantly! You have 20 turns to play cards against an opponent with the goal of owning the most spaces at the end, fitting pieces in Tetris-style. I’m sure there’s a better comparison, but the only one I can think of is scrabble if the number of tiles you placed was your score. There’s a bit more strategy than that; you can build up a special gauge that allows you to play cards on the opponent’s turf, but I’ll let the tutorial tell you the details. Just know that there’s many cards to collect (like, over a hundred) and it’s a fun game for those that like puzzles and strategy.
We’re coming to the end of the review, and that means that it’s time for me to take a look at how this game connects to faith, particularly with the backstory explained in the campaign. I do have to warn for some spoilers here – not for the end of the game but in relation to the teaser I shared above. If you’d like to avoid ‘em, skip to the scoring section.
Alright, if you’re still reading, you’re ready for a bit of spoilers. Don’t get upset at me.
Alterna viewed through a lens of faith
We learn through the Alterna logs that humanity caused their own downfall when blessed with a time of prosperity. War broke out and led them to the brink of extinction – save a small group that found shelter in a deep crater and fed off sea life. A new society was born that appointed scientists as leaders and their population began to recover. The youth that would replace the first generation of scientists expressed a deep desire to see the surface that their elders had once known – and did not heed their warnings. Long story short, a failed escape attempt caused a catastrophic event that would truly end humanity once and for all.
This is a clear example of ambition taken too far. By failing to control their desire to obtain something that, although good and beautiful, was not yet ready to be enjoyed, the young leaders of Alterna put an end to their flourishing society. The writers certainly had a good idea of the weaknesses of humanity because this sure is one of them. Throughout history, on both big and small scales, we’ve seen the negative impacts this has had on people. From Germany’s conquest during WW2 to already successful athletes abusing steroids in hopes of obtaining unrealistic records, it’s clear that minds set on achieving goals whatever the cost are ultimately self-detrimental and stained by sin. Through prayer and perseverance, we as Christians are called by Christ to control our impulses – to submit to a death of self rather than a death of our soul.
Splatoon 3 is an incredibly creative and well-designed game, both gameplay and lore-wise. It makes for a great introduction into the shooter genre and contains little objectionable content. The online capabilities have been greatly expanded over Splatoon 2 but could still use some minor improvements. If you enjoyed either of the past two games or are intrigued by the series, it just might be worth picking up.
Story: 5/5 (It’s not huge or anything, but good for what it sets out to be)
Gameplay: 4/5 (Gameplay is extremely balanced, quick-paced, and fun, but there are frequent, albeit mostly minor, connectivity issues.)
Graphics: 5/5 (Looks great for a Nintendo Switch game that runs so smoothly!)
Violence: While players are shooting at each other, shots only consist of ink and there is little violence, even of the slapstick kind. While you do essentially hunt and kill enemies in the story and Salmon Run modes, they are all big cartoony monsters and explode in ink when defeated. There is an instance in the story mode where a squid character is seen shriveled up and dried out and thought to be killed, and a “bad ending” in which you see the world overrun with ooze.
Sex/Nudity: Most of the clothes available to characters in the game are quite modest, but there are some outliers. Most prominently, the female characters that provide the in-game news wear clothes that show a good bit of stomach and the torn clothes worn to the player in the do the same. However, characters remain cartoony and pretty basic.
Magic/Occult: Some of the available titles for players to customize their Splashtags which include phrases/words such as “deity of destruction” and “demon”. There is also Halloween-themed gear such as a witch’s hat, and if they bring back all gear from Splatoon 2 in updates, there will be Devil horns as well.
Online connectivity: In the multiplayer portion of the game, you might see some inappropriate usernames. Also, players can post doodles that will be visible in the plaza (but can be turned off).
Finally, some characters in the story mode are praised as “heroes” for trying to steal treasure for the poor despite their questionable methods and intent to keep some for themselves.