You would never have thought that back in 2015 when Nintendo released the first Splatoon game we would be sitting in 2022 playing the third game in the series. For the most part, the Splatoon series hasn’t really changed much over the past few years. You play as an Inkling that has two forms. You can walk around on your feet as a so-called kid form and transform into a squid to swim through ink created by shooting various weapons and using a range of skills at your disposal. That’s the core of a Splatoon game right there. However, outside of this, Splatoon is so much more than just your average third-person shooter. It uses its unique street personality and ink features to expand into an extremely stylish game and while Splatoon 3 doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, it still makes for a fun time.
There’s no denying the fact that while each Splatoon game has shipped with its own dedicated single-player campaign, the real selling point in these games is multiplayer. Sadly, I was unable to test the multiplayer modes during the review period. While there were sessions available to the media, I wasn’t able to get to them. Even so, a few hours of multiplayer in Splatoon 3 wouldn’t be enough to produce a real authentic opinion on the experience. Well, in my opinion anyway. So this review is based on everything in Splatoon 3 besides the multiplayer.
Splatoon 3 has the biggest and most fleshed-out campaign in the series and it has no doubt used the previous games and the expansion packs as influences for the experience. After a series of crazy events, Agent 3, who you play as in the campaign, arrives in a strange new land called Alterna. Alterna has been taken over by this strange new fuzzy ooze substance that has grown across the island. There are six islands in total and I progressed them as I completed stages, got my Smallfry companion to eat the fuzzy ooze by powering him up and tossing him at certain points of the ooze and moved throughout each area.
For the most part, there’s nothing much new here when it comes to Nintendo’s typical adventure mode approach but that is a good thing. You see, Splatoon 3 makes sure that each stage is not only an opportunity to challenge the player but also a great way to teach you how to use cool weapons while also learning the ins and outs of all the mechanics you might face in the multiplayer mode. While I want to say the single-player mode is a glorified tutorial, this is not the case. Instead, the game mode is packed with things to see and do a dedicated skill tree system, collectables and even epic boss fights. There’s no denying that it is a collection of assets pulled from multiplayer and even the end-game Salmon Run but the way it is presented is enjoyable.
Each stage is also brilliantly designed and this is as true to Nintendo’s master class level design as ever. At the start of most stages, I was given the opportunity to pick between a handful of weapons which are the core of the entire game. These weapons are available in the other modes too so using them in the campaign is a great way to learn them and master their unique playstyle. The first time I went into a level, I would also earn a substantial amount of Power Eggs which are used to power up my salmon companion named Smallfry so it could each away more fuzzy ooze and progress the campaign.
Choosing a weapon is half the fun because there are so many new and exciting ones in Splatoon 3. It would also depend on how I would approach the upcoming stage and fight off the enemies. Some stages weren’t as exciting as others. In fact, some last just a few seconds and relied on doing something specific or getting a specific shot at an enemy in order to kill them all at once. However, even these simple stages were also brilliantly designed and extremely satisfactory to complete. Other stages were the complete opposite and had me running around turning on switches, collecting keys and spraying my ink all over the place as I fought off all the armed fuzzy Octotroopers in the level.
Of course, the main idea here is to go into each stage, decide what gun or ability you want to use and go forth and try and complete it using the loadout. There are also armour sets to pick up in tougher levels but I never felt like any of the game’s stages were remotely relentless in the first place.
The real fun in the Splatoon 3 campaign is how these weapons and everything else I encountered felt so different from one another. I did play Splatoon 2 but it was so long ago that I completely forgot most of the loadouts in the game. So going into Splatoon 3, these weapons all felt incredible to use. There are even some awesome abilities like a slingshot arm skill and saw me shoot my arm into the distance only to pull myself towards it and land with a giant splash damaging nearby enemies. This skill is also known as a super ability and normally, outside of a stage designed to abuse the power, it would only be usable once you fill up your ability gauge.
But there really is a lot on offer here from stages specifically designed for bombs to stages where I had no weapons at all and instead had to survive an onslaught of enemies until the timer ran out.
Everything I did in Splatoon 3’s campaign also felt worthwhile. There is a skill tree called “Hero Gear” that let me unlock new perks for Agent 3. Things like decreasing the amount of ink Smallfry used when I tossed him and even marking enemies around me so I could spot them around walls. These abilities aren’t the most imaginative but they are enough to cater for what is on offer in the single-player mode alone.
I was also able to explore these islands of Alterna. Around the regions, there are items to collect that I could use to decorate my locker with and even cool-looking concept art and hidden logs that gave me some insight into the game’s lore and what the fuzzy ooze is. Given that Splatoon 3 is a multiplayer game first, the campaign is an impressive showcase of everything you can expect to see and experience when you dive into the online modes.
Speaking of the online modes, Splatoon 3 is packed with so many great ones. While I was unable to test them, I spent countless hours playing Turfwar in the original games and I am sure I will do the same in this one. Salmon Run is also one of my favourite modes. The mode is a four-player wave-based survival mode where players need to fend off deadly salmon as they try and paint the turf. In the campaign, I also got a good look at some of the salmon you face in this mode and I think it is going to offer countless hours of gameplay.
Splatoon 3 is bigger and better than the original games and I know it is going to please all the fans out there. The sheer amount of things to do and all the new weapons, mods and abilities combined with the clothing system will add countless ways to build your ideal Inkling. For those not touching the multiplayer mode, it might be a tough sell as the campaign, while being lengthy, doesn’t really match a dedicated single-player game. However, I would still recommend giving this a go because if I know one thing, the Splatoon multiplayer is unmatched and incredibly unique on its own.
This Splatoon 3 review is based on a code sent to us by Nintendo. The game launches on 9 September only on Nintendo Switch and starts at R1,095.
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 8/10
Splatoon 3 is Nintendo’s safest sequel. There’s nothing much new here on offer but the added weapons, modes, abilities and customization might be enough to make this your next buy. Just don’t expect anything to feel any different.
Looks great on the Switch
Easy to pick up
Still an online game at its core
Doesn’t do much ‘new’