Since its debut in 2015, the Splatoon series has delivered unique and colorful gameplay based on sparse launch content and underwhelming time restrictions for specific modes. While post-launch content greatly bolstered both games up to this point, I’ve always been disappointed in how little was initially offered. Now in its third entry, the series may feel a little less fresh, but Splatoon 3 fixes the series’ long-standing launch content issues while retaining all the fun that made the series such a hit.
Putting on your custom Inkling’s fancy shoes again feels great; splattering brightly colored ink on him looks, feels, and sounds satisfyingly messy, especially when he’s splattering an enemy. Few games match the fluid and intuitive mobility that Splatoon offers you while submerged and navigating a map. While Splatoon 3 offers more modes than ever before, those core gameplay principles hold true no matter which one you play.
Splatoon’s competitive multiplayer, where two opposing teams battle to cover the map (and each other) in their colored ink, is the destination for most, and that’s where the added content feels the most impactful. While the maps sadly still work on a timed rotation, the pool they are drawn from is much deeper than previous releases; Turf War’s 12 maps, consisting of old and new stages, almost equal the release total of the first two games combined.
Splatoon 3 also carries over the weapons from the previous games while introducing fun additions to the arsenal, like a helpful multi-target bow with rounds that explode when fully loaded and the Splatana, which makes you feel like an ink-shooting ninja. Meanwhile, Splatoon 3 gives high-skill players new tools in the form of Squid Surge, a new burst for scaling walls, and Squid Roll, a protected jump that lets you spin on a dime while swimming. Squid Surge is less valuable unless you’re scaling a tall wall, but Squid Roll, with its ability to chain multiple moves together in quick succession, can alter the outcome of almost any encounter if used effectively.
Like previous games, the frenetic pace of these three-minute matches makes them ideal for short play sessions and also appealing to those who fall into the “just one more game” mentality. The final minute, where the music cranks up and everyone tries to cover as much ground as possible (literally), is still an adrenaline rush in the race to splatter more ink than the opposing team. That excitement is amplified in the revamped Splatfests, which now include three different teams. Most of the experience remains unchanged, but the new Tricolor Turf Wars, where the first-place team of four players must defend the center position against two squads of two, shakes things up. These intense matches require new strategies for everyone involved, as groups converge from opposite sides of the map.
While the series is rightfully known for its competitive multiplayer, the other two main modes are also worthwhile components. Splatoon 3’s Salmon Run evolves the exciting wave-based cooperative PvE multiplayer experience by adding more bosses (all of which require unique strategies to defeat) and the ability to throw the eggs you retrieve from them into the goal basket. Working together to defeat minions and retrieve enough eggs from fallen bosses to advance to the next round never fails to be exciting. However, the biggest advantage of this mode is that Splatoon 2’s arbitrary time restrictions have been gone in favor of the mode receiving the same 24/7 availability as the other mainstays.
This iteration also continues the series’ tradition of providing fun single-player missions that take advantage of the franchise’s various mechanics. Splatoon 3’s single-player Hero Mode is a great way to familiarize yourself with the game’s controls, strategies, and weapons, but it’s much more than just a glamorous tutorial. The story is inconsequential, but thanks to several fast-paced introduced gimmicks and puzzles involving your new partner, Smallfry, the Hero Mode levels present largely satisfying explorations of how the developers can expand the core game in surprising and exciting ways. exciting.
I loved missions like one where I was riding on rails while taking part in a fast-paced shooting gallery or one where I was navigating through a maze full of enemies with a big twist at the end. While I loved most of my time spent in Hero Mode, there are a few flaws, with some missions providing more frustration than fun, and others coming too close to the missions I played in Splatoon 2. The boss battles, which were Among my favorite parts of previous games, they offer a mixed bag, albeit mostly underwhelming. However, the ones that do punch are among the best the series has ever featured.
Splatoon 3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it need to. Instead, it improves almost every element of the franchise in sometimes small but significant ways. With a strong set of content available at launch and at least two years of free and premium content on the horizon, Splatoon 3 is simultaneously the best entry in the series to date and its most promising.