Splatoon 2 is starting out stronger than ever

Splatoon 2 is entering its Global Testfire phase before it is available to purchase later this year, and as early beta tests go this game checks all the right boxes. Nintendo needed to be able to show this game was just as compelling to play on the Switch as it was on the Wii U, and a big part of that was revamping the UI and making sure the multiplayer servers were rock solid even when the data connection wasn't.

For the first hour of this Global Testfire, I tethered the Switch to my phone and had someone drive me around town. Not only was the online gameplay nearly flawless, but it quickly became clear the changes Nintendo brought to Splatoon 2 are going to be amazing.

Despite the Wii U itself not being a huge hit, Splatoon on the Wii U was a runaway success. As Nintendo's first entirely new IP in a very long time, not to mention the first IP that really focused on multiplayer online combat as the primary game mechanic, Splatoon impressed a lot of people.

On top of being a colorful spot in a sea of gritty dystopian nightmares, it's just plain fun to play. You can be a serious combat specialist and shoot the most people every round, or you can focus more on taking and holding objectives with a different set of tools. It's a great game for families, and offered just enough of a single player campaign to feel reasonably well-rounded as a game.

Splatoon 2 is only for the Switch, and that raised some eyebrows. The original was built 100% for the dual screen experience of the Wii U, so Nintendo would need to change some things to make the game feel like it belonged on a single screen.

The biggest part of this change is the map, which unlike other games was built to be a dynamic part of the game. On the Wii U, you could look at the map and see the mission progress, but you could also tap on the map and send your character flying to that spot to help a teammate or make sure the enemy didn't have a huge advantage anywhere.

On the Switch, your map is hidden behind the X button until you call for it, so you're only going to use it for quick glances. Instead of trying to find a good spot to tap, each of your three teammates are hotkeyed to a D-Pad option. Hold down the key assigned to the player you want to jump to, hold A, and your inkling will perform the sky high ink blast and land near your teammate.

The only real problem with this new teleport mechanic, from the gameplay so far, is how much easier it is for your opponents to camp and wait for you to land if they managed to take out your teammate while you're in transit. It requires a slightly different set of strategies to make work, but it quickly becomes second nature to hit this button combo and fly off to help.

We've known for a while that Splatoon 2 was going to introduce new weapon loadouts and special weapon options, there were several on display for this event. Here are some quick thoughts on the exchanges I had:

  • The Ink Roller is still my personal favorite, but the special Kraken attack has been replaced with an area of effect paint blast. More than anything, it's a great way to defend if you're surrounded by the other team, which happens when you paint the way into enemy territory.
  • Splat Duelies are brutal up close. It's clear this was designed to stop Ink Roller suicide runs and interrupting special attacks. The biggest weakness for this weapon loadout is range. The ink rockets you fire as part of the special attack are fantastic.
  • Splat Charger now comes with a special the fires a constant stream of ink that can pass through walls. The only way to avoid the attack is to get as far away as possible and hope the sniper can't follow your movement.
  • The Ink Jetpack special hurls blobs of ink everywhere, but isn't very easy to control. The flying-ish ability makes locking down an enemy base much easier.

There are tons of new changes coming to gameplay, but the most important thing about this experience so far is the way the core Splatoon look and feel have been preserved. Nintendo is set to deliver an amazing multiplayer experience through the Switch with Splatoon 2, and if you have time to take part in the Testfire this weekend you really should take the opportunity and check it out!

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!