Lessons from Splatoon 2
Introducing my girlfriend to the 2017 game has shed a new light on Nintendo’s genius.
When I first picked up Splatoon 2 a year ago, I had two initial reactions. Firstly, I could not believe I spent sixty dollars on a game that was released three years prior. Secondly, I was so glad that I spent sixty dollars on this game released three years prior.
Right from the jump, there is a whole lot to love in Splatoon 2. The vibrant colors, the infectious background music, the funny characters and their lovable nautical puns: all of these aspects come together in a manner that is approachable for children but any adult can find magic in it. Better yet, the core gameplay loop is actually enjoyable, which I seldom expect in a shooter title made post-Titanfall 2. Matchmaking is a breeze, and regular Turf War matches only require about three minutes of your time (give or take a minute to load in).
Match time, without a doubt, is king when it comes to contemporary shooter games. This emphasis is all but inescapable since the rise of battle royale games, which boast the ability of letting the player join and finish a match way quicker than the typical multiplayer shooter experience.
The ability to jump from match to match in a few moments also means the player is not left raging over a loss for too long. In addition, the small time commitment means that a loss does not feel like a crushing blow. Nintendo successfully min-maxed the player’s dopamine when creating the multiplayer, an art seemingly lost on too many grueling competitive games.
Undoubtedly, there are things missing from Splatoon 2 that are mainstays in the shooter genre. Inviting friends to games is unintuitive, there is no integrated chat function to speak to teammates, and you can only change your gear once in between games (and are rushed in doing so). These problems are an annoyance in casual mode, but downright problematic in ranked or league play.
On the other hand, these things fit perfectly well into what Nintendo is aiming for with the Splatoon series. Customers that are new to shooters, such as my girlfriend, are unbothered by these missing features. It is perfectly normal for her to have to FaceTime or Zoom me while we play Splatoon, just as we would for any other game. Plenty of casual gamers would know none the better either, nor care.
While Splatoon 2’s unrefined aspects can hinder competitive play, the leveling structure and customization options give players plenty to look forward to. In watching my girlfriend play, she celebrates high kill games and tracks her highest score each game (2360p in Turf War, for those wondering). She has already passed me in leveling and is absolutely in love with the grind. She also partakes in a fair amount of ranked mode, which is still plenty approachable for newcomers in 2021. The customization options are like icing on the cake, as they give the player something concrete to work towards and improve your gameplay via stat boosts at the same time.
The final aspect of Splatoon that I thoroughly appreciate is the movement. Climbing up walls, super jumping, and coasting across the map in squid form gives the player a dynamic set of options for movement. In my opinion, it is a deeply underrated aspect of the game. Not to mention that it is very accessible, which cannot be said about advanced movement systems in many other games. My girlfriend quickly picked up aiming and moving simultaneously in Splatoon while she was not able to in Apex Legends, Call of Duty, or Halo. Granted, I am unsure whether to accredit that to Nintendo or my girlfriend, but one of the two is doing something right!
Admittedly, I still do not have a lot of playtime on Splatoon 2, as I was juggling a few other games throughout 2020. But putting my girlfriend onto it has given me a renewed vigor in trying it out, so I hope to get at least 100 hours in before Splatoon 3 drops. Hopefully the next game does more to improve the multiplayer experience, especially in regard to social play. Dare I even ask for split screen multiplayer? A longtime Nintendo consumer can only hope.