I’m going to level with you. I didn’t really play a lot of the original Splatoon on the Wii U. I played a little bit of it and it was a solid title. I just didn’t have a Wii U anymore because I had to sell my launch unit to help get my car fixed. What can I say? Times were tough and at the time there were only a few games out for it anyway. We plan on picking up a Wii U and many of its games when we get our tax return. We miss playing classics like Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Game & Wario. Splatoon was going to be a same day purchase for us as well but after playing through the Global Testfire, I’ve decided against it. The fact that the Nintendo Switch is getting a sequel to its unique and strange team-based shooter was already a great announcement but with it coming out this summer and being this good, I went to Game Stop and pre-ordered it right after my first hour with the beta. This game is solid and despite it only being a beta, it had a nice layer of polish that gives me high expectations for its full release.
First thing’s first: Nintendo allowing everyone to download the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire weeks in advance was great. I know this isn’t a new practice in the industry but I’m happy Nintendo went with common sense. I shudder just thinking about everyone trying to download and play it the same day. It could have ruined the entire event, or at least the first day of it. It was quite the opposite though. Matches were smooth and I think the longest I had to wait for a match in my 5 hours with the Global Testfire was forty five seconds. Most of the time right after a match was finished, the matchmaking for the next round was pretty quick and loading within a few seconds. You had the option to back out without closing the entire game if you had to run to the bathroom or just dance for a minute to those sick squid tunes–or maybe both. The bathroom dance never looked so cool with squid jams playing while you ran to the other room.
The full release will obviously feature different multiplayer modes but the beta only had the 4 v 4 Turf War, which I think was for the best because it’s probably one of the reasons that matchmaking was so quick and smooth. No one had to pick maps or modes; all you had to do was keep playing and you’d quickly get tossed into a match. It’s also a pretty popular mode from the original game that a lot of people enjoyed playing. In this mode your goal is to simply paint the map. Obviously along the way you’re going to splat some players too. It’s a lot of fun having almost two objectives though because you go from painting the ground to running and gunning. It kept the experience feeling fast and fresh.
The graphics don’t really look too different. It looked a little sharper to me but that may have just been because my eyes were on our beautiful TV the whole time instead of popping my eyes down to the Wii U gamepad periodically. This is a double-edged sword though because as my Wife pointed out when she started playing, the map on the game pad was really nice. You can still pull the map up but it’s an extra step and you’re vulnerable while you press the button, wait, and check the map. It was much easier to just look down really quick while firing off paint and wrecking your enemies. It definitely didn’t ruin the experience but it is the first time that I found myself really missing the game pad and wishing the Nintendo Switch had dual screen functionality. Breath of the Wild didn’t really need it. Inventory management was nice on Wind Waker HD remake but it’s just as great with a Pro Controller.
It’s worth pointing out though that the joycon controllers felt fine. I disabled the gyroscope controls immediately though as I just find it to be a nuisance. I get really into shooters and tend to flail around in celebration or when my team is getting its tentacles kicked. I don’t mind gyroscope controls in Breath of the Wild or Ocarina of Time 3D but when running and gunning is the entire game, it just feels better sticking with buttons and joysticks. Other than that though it was just hard living without the map in my hands while playing. I know I didn’t play Splatoon a lot but in the few hours I did spend playing with family, I really liked that the map was just a glance away. I know many people are divided on the comfort level of the joycon controllers but I personally really like them. We’re going to invest in some Pro Controllers before Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 release but that’s just because the Pro Controller adds a level of comfort and ergonomics beyond what most controllers on the market offer. I also really dig the battery life on those. If you think you’re going to put a lot of time into Splatoon 2 though, it might not hurt to purchase a Pro Controller as well. That way whenever you take your Nintendo Switch on the go, you don’t have to worry about your joycon battery life when you’re a kid or a squid.
The Splatoon 2 Global Testfire ran extremely smooth. Loading times were quick. Matches ran fast. The gameplay is as addictive as ever. The only thing missing is the ability to purchase some “Squid Kid” jams on vinyl or at least the ability to stream them on Spotify and other streaming services. I’m serious–the music reminds me of Jet Grind Radio but without feeling repetitive. I had a lot of fun playing Splatoon and will definitely be buying it on launch day to review and enjoy. Feel free to comment with your 89 digit Nintendo codes so we can all be a kid or a squid together.