Splatoon was one of the Nintendo Wii U‘s original break out hits, creating an online community around its vibrant colors and game play. Yet on that console, the game never really hits its true potential – with Nintendo’s struggling console failing to highlight the game to a wider audience. Good thing then that the company has seen sense decided to come back around for a second crack at the whip. This weekend Nintendo Switch users got to try out Splatoon 2 in the first of the games Global Testfire’s. Was it worth the effort?
Splatoon, first released in 2015 on Wii U, was a fantastic game that was unfortunately stuck upon a sinking ship. Nintendo likely realizes this fact and has given the series a second chance on a potentially new system with the Switch. Splatoon 2 is due out some time this summer, but Nintendo held an open beta to give players a small sampling. After roughly 4 hours of play with 4 different weapons and two stages, here are some general impressions of how Splatoon 2 is shaping up.
Right off the bat, I found the motion controls significantly more jarring in this entry. The bulkier Wii U Gamepad actually benefited motion controllers because larger movements didn’t represent as large movements in-game, so precision wasn’t as hard to achieve. On the more compact control schemes, both handheld and with the Joy-con grip, tiny movements very quickly threw the reticle out of whack. Motion controls in handheld mode especially aren’t feasible because moving the grips involves moving the screen, altering my viewing angle and often getting me killed. I quickly turned off motion controls after the tutorial and had a much better experience for it.
Additionally regarding controls, Splatoon 2 makes a really great argument for a Pro Controller. It’s important to note that I don’t own a Pro Controller, but every other control scheme felt inadequate and not suited for longer play sessions. The Joy-con grip specifically felt extremely cramped for my hands and too slow to react, no matter how high I jacked up the sensitivity. Playing in handheld mode was less restrictive and while the game retains high fidelity on the handheld screen, I could only play for so long before cramping up.
When it came to content, Splatoon 2 really shinned, despite some poor design choices. The weapons had a fair sense of balance that promoted smart, tactical thinking and the maps had a playful level of creativity which kept them fresh for longer than expected. The Testfire did start to get repetitive at times, even with play sessions being capped at an hour, but the fact that it’s a beta excuses that issue. If the full release retains any sense of customization that the original did, I’m confident repetition won’t be an issue.
The new Splat Dualies were by and far my favorite weapon; the fast paced movement they provided kept the action quick and hectic. My only major complaint about gameplay stems from the fast traveling, a cornerstone mechanic from the original Splatoon. On Wii U, the second screen had a map with your teammates’ location shown in real-time. A quick tap activated the fast travel and you’re right in the action. On Switch, the map has to be pulled up on the same screen and each teammate’s location is mapped to a direction on the D-pad. Fast travelling requires pushing about three buttons and most of the time I had little understanding of where I was travelling to because of how jumbled the map was on a smaller screen.
Another large pain, which may simply be a limitation of the beta, was the inability to change my load out in-game or even in the pregame lobby. Instead, to mess with things like sensitivity and weapons, I had to back all the way out to a selection screen outside the lobby. I experimented less because the outcome was rarely worth the time or my spot in the lobby. Again, hopefully this is only prevalent in the beta, but I remember having a similar concern with the original release of Splatoon, so there is still a distinct possibility of this shortfall making it to the full game.
Touching quickly on the online experience, the Global Testfire was my first online-multiplayer experience on the Switch, as I imagine it was for a lot (if not all) players, and I’m happy to report that the online held up well, even at some typically busier times of day. Getting into matches took almost no time at all, but waiting for a lobby to fill up again after a match could take significantly longer. It wasn’t light speed, or even comparable to games on other console’s, but it also wasn’t egregiously bad. For Nintendo’s first outing for online games on the Switch, I was impressed.
I thought the Global Testfire was a great introduction to a Switch title Nintendo will likely lean on and support for a while. The gameplay could use a little tightening up overall, but currently the core experience is just as polished and fun as the original. I’m not yet sold on the game entirely though; the Testfire was simply more of the same game from 2015 and I’m not sure I’m ready for more Splatoon. Thankfully, we haven’t seen much more from this title so Nintendo still has time to show what exactly is unique about this sequel. I’m ready to wowed, but I’m not there yet.