Splatoon 3 doesn’t need to justify its existence
In a move otherwise unusual for the company, Nintendo’s planned release of Splatoon 3 marks the second game in the franchise on one console. While core fans of the series are excited for new content, more casual or curious Nintendo fans are confused about the game’s existence. With the recent Splatfest demo behind us and the game’s release a mere week away, I definitely think that this is a game worthy of being on the Nintendo Switch.
People who don’t actively engage with the Splatoon community may not see the big fuss about releasing a new game — after all, it looks so similar to Splatoon 2! These concerns are not unheard of, as Nintendo tends to reserve sequels for new hardware that shows off a new gimmick. The company didn’t even release a new game after Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, instead opting to add 48 new tracks to the game in the form of the Booster Course Pass DLC.
However, new gimmicks aside, Splatoon 3‘s release is right in line with the expected time period between games. Systems have an average life cycle of around half a decade, and Splatoon 3 will release over five years after its predecessor. In contrast, Splatoon 2 was released a mere two years after its predecessor on the Wii U. While some could argue that it was due to the Wii U’s poor sales numbers, there’s no telling whether the team behind the game simply wanted to create something new and implement new ideas.
One of the cool kids
The idea of multiple games within the same franchise on one console is not at all unheard of in the video games industry, even if it’s not a practice that Nintendo is unaccustomed to engaging in.
There’s been a new Call of Duty game every year since 2005, and while I won’t pretend that each game brings with it a new standard for high-quality storytelling and multiplayer mechanics, it’s a trend that’s accepted. A new Assassin’s Creed was released every year from 2009 to 2018 as well, and that’s not to mention sports games like FIFA being released every year without fail, even if there are no changes outside of an updated roster. Regarding Assassin’s Creed, it ended up leading to franchise fatigue, and the developers broke their annual streak. However, five years between Splatoon games won’t cause nearly as much burnout as other annual franchises have.
I played the Splatoon 3 Splatfest World Premiere demo for around 9 of the 12 hours that it was available, and as someone who loved Splatoon 2 immensely, the quality of life changes were immediately apparent. Spawn camping is no more with the new landing system, and players can coordinate to cover as much ground as possible by landing in separate zones on the map. When all four members of a team are splatted, a “WIPEOUT!” notification appears, signaling to the other team that they need to push forward to claim turf.
There’s also the improved lobby system, making it easier than ever to connect with friends, as well as improved mobility through the Squid Roll and Squid Surge. Knowing when to move out of harm’s way is also more intuitive, with off-screen deaths indicated on the side of the screen showing not only where someone else got splatted, but which team they were on.
It’s not rare that a game would get an overhaul with more content long after its release — it happened with Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s Welcome amiibo update, after all. But trying to cram all of the new features the developers wanted to implement into an older game may have been more trouble than building a new game with updated assets. Sometimes developers have a different vision for their art than we do, and that’s okay! Constructive criticism is necessary and always fine, but at the end of the day, we don’t know what happened behind the scenes for developers to make the decisions they did.
The night is still young
As much as Nintendo Switch fans are hungry for the elusive Nintendo Switch 2, Nintendo is adamant that the console currently on offer will continue to receive support for years to come. The company has no plans for new hardware, even with declining sales compared to previous fiscal years.
I’ve heard quite a few complaints about no new modes being added in Splatoon 3, completely ignoring the new tabletop card game being introduced: Tableturf Battle. This card game includes a pretty cool collection aspect that many collect-a-thon fans like myself will enjoy, and puts a new twist on Turf War. Speaking of Turf War, Tricolor Battles, Festival Shells, and Conch Shells completely change the Splatfest experience.
While no new mode akin to Salmon Run was announced, it was expanded and given new bosses, a new frenzy mode in the form of King Salmonids, and the Big Run mode that brings Salmon Run to regular Splatoon stages. To say that “nothing new” was added to the game is not only disingenuous but puts unhealthy pressure on developers to produce products exponentially increasing in size as opposed to satisfying improvements incrementally over time.
Balance is key
I’ve already spoken about the fact that sequels don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time, so long as the game is fun. For anyone who’s completely satisfied with the content offered in Splatoon 2, there’s nothing stopping you from sticking with that experience. Sometimes adding too much content doesn’t go over well, as can be seen in fan reception of games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star.
Nintendo is already reluctant to engage with or create new IP, given how much veteran employees have over what gets made. Consider Miyamoto’s initial reaction to Splatoon, which he believed had “no appeal.” The fact that it’s on its third game is in and of itself a miracle, and I believe that allowing younger teams to experiment with new IP is crucial in breathing new life into the company.
I know that Splatoon is usually seen almost exclusively as an online multiplayer game, but each game has had an extensive single-player mode with tons of lore and exposition. In the case of Splatoon 2, there was a second single-player campaign that served as the introduction of Octolings into Inkling society.
The developers mentioned in the Splatoon 3 Direct that Splatoon 3’s single-player campaign serves as the conclusion to the story told over the past two games, which suggests to me that they want to start anew with whatever the fourth game’s story will be. I respect their reasons and wishes to end the saga on the Switch, so we can fully immerse ourselves in whatever the next game has to offer on the sequel to the Nintendo Switch.
Give it a chance
If I made a list of the changes in this game compared to the previous title, I’d have an entire laundry list, and I think it’s a shame that it’s so underappreciated. Sure, the visual aspects aren’t vastly different from Splatoon 2, but if you compare the third game to the first game’s graphics, you can see that the franchise has come a really long way.
The new changes to the Splatfests made them some of the most fun I’ve had since I got my first Nintendo Switch, and the sheer level of improvement compared to my experience going back to Splatoon 2 cannot be understated. If you’re a fan, I’d say it’s more than enough — and if we’re being honest, people who weren’t fans probably weren’t going to buy Splatoon 2 or Splatoon 3 anyway.