Splatoon 3 is a relatively recent game, having been released for the Nintendo Switch on September 9, 2022. As the third game in the series, it found immediate success, selling over 10 million copies within the first few months.
Splatoon 3’s story mode, or Alterna, sparks interest mainly from Nintendo changing up the story instead of offering another a cookie cutter plot. The previous two games had a fairly similar story of events: the player is introduced to The Squidbeak Splatoon, and is tasked with rescuing the Great Zapfish, a creature which the main city relies on to supply power (even though no signs of a power shortage are seen before the story mode is completed). Both games also had similar level progression and upgrade systems, and even shared similar locations.
Splatoon 3 changes up the script, introducing the player to a brand-new location called Alterna, where you don’t need to beat every level to beat the game, and progression is made by spending power eggs to remove harmful goo that’s in the player’s way. The story offers a lot more freedom to the player’s experience, since you not only can choose which levels you want to beat, but within most levels are given a weapon selection akin to Splatoon 2’s DLC which can help determine the difficulty of said level. Even beyond that, there is an upgrade tree available to the player, so that they can choose which upgrades they want at their given position. It is rather annoying to find the collectibles needed to upgrade though.
The primary gameplay for most people will come from the online game modes. There are five main game modes that can be played, as well as two side game modes. Players can join in 4v4 battles of Turf War, Rainmaker, Splat Zones, Tower Control, and Clam Blitz; or they can choose to fend off waves of Salmonids with a team of four or play the 1v1 Tableturf virtual card game. The first six modes involve the player using their weapon to ink their surroundings and complete the respective objective with their team. Inking the floors and walls are invaluable in this game, as it allows for much faster movement and safety in your own color. The cover game mode is Turf War, where the goal is to ink more of the stage in your team’s color than the other team in three minutes. You can splat enemy players to gain the advantage whilst they must respawn. The 1v1 Tableturf, although a different game, follows a similar goal of covering the stage.
The functionality of online Splatoon games has been questionable for years, particular regarding its communication errors. Often players will be waiting for a match or in the middle of a game and will find that a teammate or themselves are disconnected for seemingly no reason. It’s not super frequent with a decent internet connection, but it’s noticeable enough that the series has gained a reputation for this problem. One of Nintendo’s motions in Splatoon 3 is that if a player disconnects within the first minute of a 4v4 game, the game will end without a win or a loss, which depending on your perspective, is a good or bad change. On one hand, every game is more likely to be a fair 4v4 match, while on the other hand you don’t get to play the game. I’ve found them to be bittersweet, especially if someone disconnects as soon as the match starts, where all competitiveness fades completely, and players can enjoy a few seconds of silly interaction before the game ends.
Outside of the gameplay itself, players can use in-game currency to purchase gear, which has modifiers that are meant to add to your strategy or playstyle online. These modifiers are fairly difficult to get the exact ones you want, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing, but some of the modifiers can make such little impact on the game that it’s unnecessary.
The player can also purchase a large assortment of weapons, each with their own sub-weapons and special weapons. Unlike the previous games, they are purchased with specialized tickets instead of currency. These tickets are gained by either leveling up or using a new weapon for a certain amount of time. I do like this method, as it encourages players to try different weapons to gain wider experience while being rewarded with more options. However, with an increasing selection of weapons every few months, it can get annoying to get them all.
A new feature is that players have a customizable locker, which can be filled with stickers, items, gear, or weapons to your heart’s content. This feature adds absolutely nothing to your online gameplay, but it’s really enjoyable having something to customize however you want, and even see other player’s lockers for ideas or admiration. However, you got to spend your funds wisely, cause the items for your locker can get pretty expensive.
Overall, I think Splatoon 3 is a solid game, and I’ve got a couple hundred hours of entertainment out of it. The options of what to play and how to play it is really nice, and I do have a desire to climb up the ranks of the online games. I mean the game won Best Multiplayer Game of 2022 for a reason, right? I definitely recommend the game to anyone looking for a playful and unique online experience.
Written by Noah Heggie, Lethbridge College
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