Nintendo took a huge risk with Splatoon. It was a major experiment and complete risk for a variety of reasons and also the first new Nintendo IP since the release of Pikmin for the Nintendo GameCube. Before Splatoon, Nintendo had been relying heavily on its big hitters like Mario and Zelda to carry the weight of its consoles. While that worked for a while, by the time the Wii U came around, fans were asking for more. Secondly, Nintendo had never done a third person shooter before nor had they worked on a game that leaned so heavily on multiplayer, online interactivity for a first party IP. It’s no secret that Nintendo makes great games, but is pretty far behind when it comes to modern, online gaming. Finally, the first Splatoon released on the Wii U, which is a relatively unpopular console. Yet, despite all the reasons it could have failed it was a success.
The early development of Splatoon always focused on causing a huge mess. The alpha build for the game was completely black and white and featured tofu blocks with noses that spewed ink everywhere. As the build evolved, the characters changed from tofu to rabbits. However, the devs didn’t settle on the squid kid design until very late into development. It got to the point where they were considering just making Splatoon another Mario title. Thankfully, the team eventually settled on the Inklings.
Splatoon originally launched as a much smaller game. It had the full single-player campaign, but the online portion only featured one game mode and five maps. Additionally, there were only a handful of weapons available. However, through a series of updates, the game quickly grew. At the end of its life the first game contained 13 maps, one regular battle mode, three ranked game modes, private battles, squad battles, two new weapon types, and an exponential amount of new gear. What’s more, unlike a lot of DLC we see today, all of the DLC was free.
One of the most common questions people ask about Splatoon 2 is if there is enough added to even warrant a sequel in the first place. Why didn’t Nintendo just call it Splatoon Deluxe and treat it like they treated Mario Kart 8 or Pokkén Tournament? As a two year veteran of the first game, I wondered the same thing. However, after actually playing Splatoon 2 and seeing the reception of the fans, I think I finally understand why it is a sequel.
A lot of reviewers say that Splatoon 2 is a great game and I agree with them. I also agree that, while Splatoon 2 is an improvement over its predecessor, it’s not the kind of improvement you’d expect to see in a sequel. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Splatoon is tied to the Wii U, which was widely unpopular and heavily criticized. The small number of us that owned a Wii U liked the original Splatoon. The rest of the Nintendo fanbase never experienced Splatoon and only know of it in association with the console. Splatoon doesn’t have the same leeway that Mario or Pokémon titles can afford. Therefore, I can see why Nintendo would want to put a degree of separation between Splatoon and the Wii U. Calling it a sequel helps to create that barrier as well as assure fans that it will be better than the first game. Additionally, Nintendo said that Splatoon 2 should receive the same amount of attention the first game enjoyed in terms of content updates.
Nintendo is somewhat unique among the developers. When they release games, they release them as complete products. Splatoon and Splatoon 2 were both complete games at the time of their launch. However, Nintendo continued to add to Splatoon free of charge. Even though Splatoon 2 is a complete game, it will evolve overtime and continue to build on the base of its predecessor.
No matter what anyone says, Splatoon 2 is an improvement from the original. The graphics and textures are richer, the animations are better, and there are a lot more character customization options for both the Inkling Boy and the Inkling Girl. It even introduced an entirely new game mode, Salmon Run, in addition to improving on local co-op. Nintendo finally gave Sheldon a speed up option for his long-winded speeches. Even the single player is an improvement. There are a few drawbacks, such as the lack of a true mini-game in the lobby for online matches and the loss of the amiibo challenges. While many don’t consider Splatoon 2 enough of a departure to qualify for sequel, it may just earn that title in the upcoming months. Until then, Splatoon 2 is a ton of fun and finally reached the wide audience the IP deserves.