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Splatoon 3 Review – One Smallfry Step for Squidkind

splatoon 3 review box art
Nintendo

Splatoon 3 Review – One Smallfry Step for Squidkind

Find out how Splatoon 3 fares in our official review.

Splatoon 3 on Switch

Splatoon 3 is a very good game. Leave it to Nintendo to find a way to turn such an zany concept—a third-person shooter featuring cephalopods battling with ink—into a genuinely fun experience.

The big problem with Splatoon 3 is that it’s the sequel to another very good and genuinely fun game on the Nintendo Switch—Splatoon 2. This raises questions that review-readers may be contemplating as they decide whether or not to purchase this third iteration of the franchise.

Let’s address those questions.

The first thought on the forefront of many players’ minds is how Nintendo expands on Splatoon 2’s success enough to warrant a second title on the Switch. A valid concern.

Ultimately, if you enjoyed Splatoon and Splatoon 2, you will enjoy Splatoon 3. This much is straightforward. As far as brand new content, however, it may be a bit tougher to decide if it’s enough to justify purchasing a whole new game. 

Like both previous titles, Splatoon 3 has a unique single-player story mode and a variety of returning online multiplayer modes: standard Turf War, Anarchy (Ranked) Battles, and Salmon Run (co-op hoard mode). Each of these multiplayer modes has both new and returning stages.

splatoon 3 salmon run results screen

I know that many of those who played Splatoon 2 understandably found fault with some of the game’s limitations and annoyances. There have been several improvements that drastically improve the quality of life of Splatoon 3’s gameplay. For example, you can now skip the obnoxiously long newscast when booting up the game, you can cancel matchmaking in online lobbies if you wish to back out, and you can more easily team up with friends online without headaches. These improvements go a long way to make the game feel snappy and modern.

Other than that, the rest of the new content mostly comes in the form of customization and items. It’s fun to collect decorations for our personalized locker, which other online players can view, though there’s no real benefit or point to it otherwise. Splash tags are neat; Nintendo is finally catching up to the standard of being able to customize nametags that appear during online matches. There are plenty of new weapon classes, special abilities, and gear to mix up the competition. 

Splatoon 3 has only one major mode new to the franchise that has not been in the two previous Splatoon games. It’s a turn-based collectible card game called Tableturf Battle, and let me tell you, it’s pretty addictive. The gameplay is pretty basic, but it has that “just one more game” factor to keep many players hooked for hours.

splatoon 3 tableturf battle results screen

The biggest disappointment in terms of new content is the lack of any new Anarchy (ranked) modes. Tower Control, Splat Zones, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz all return, and although there are some minor gameplay changes, there aren’t any new competitive game modes at launch. At least one new ranked game mode would have taken Splatoon 3 to the next level instead of being a nearly identical experience as it was to Splatoon 2.

I predict that after finishing the single-player story mode and getting their fill of Tableturf battles, the average player will not find too many significant differences between Splatoon 3 and Splatoon 2.

The second big concern that players might have involves a problem with many of Nintendo’s recent online multiplayer games. There seems to be a trend of content updates after a game has been released to support it over time, which in some cases may cause a lack of substantial content at launch. So the question is, where does Splatoon 3 stand with this? 

Compared to other first-party titles released in the past two years, Splatoon 3 has a solid amount of content out of the box on launch day. That being said, much of that content is identical in nature to what was in Splatoon 2, so returning players might not feel like there is a drastically new experience here.

The biggest exception to this is the single-player story mode. Admittedly, the main story campaigns of Splatoon and Splatoon 2 haven’t been the strongest. That being said, Splatoon 3’s campaign, Return of the Mammalians, is a distinct improvement from its predecessors. 

splatoon 3 single player campaign level

The campaign’s format feels somewhere in between the previous base story campaigns and Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion DLC. It pretty much serves as an extended tutorial to teach the best skills and strategies for each weapon and special, and it’s so easy that anyone can do it. I found it to be an enjoyable experience that got better and better as it went on.

In the story, you find yourself trapped in a strange land with six sites (each on its own island) with the objective of rescuing Ex-Cap’n Cuttlefish, who was abducted by a mysterious captor. There are mounds of toxic fuzzy goo serving as obstacles that plague each site. The only way to get rid of the fuzzy goo is to power up your companion Small Fry—who is simply adorable and ends up playing a significant role—with power eggs so he can break through and destroy the obstacle.

You get more power eggs and clear each site by entering levels that each have a unique objective. I liked that I had the choice of taking the most straightforward and direct path, which might have required more power eggs up front, versus taking a longer route that required fewer power eggs. I skipped any level that had an objective that was too tough or too boring for me (please don’t make me do anything on rails) and instead picked the ones I enjoyed the best, like time trials and one-shot challenges.

Overall, I felt like the single-player main campaign was worth doing, which is the first time I can say that about a Splatoon game. I unlocked tons of cosmetics for my online locker and even some card packs for Tableturf battles. I took the time to find the pieces of lore through Sunken Scrolls that added depth to the otherwise bland narrative. Also, I was thrilled about the ending sequence because it was nearly as dark and weird as Octo Expansion’s finale was.

Though we know that Nintendo plans to add additional content to Splatoon 3, we don’t yet know all of what that will include. So far, they have shared that there will be more weapons and customization items added over time for free, just like how it was done in previous games; additionally, X-Battles and League Battles will return at a later date.

Other than that, we only know that “large-scale” paid DLC is planned. I’m excited for this, but I can understand if some players are hesitant after seeing how Nintendo has been treating its other online multiplayer titles lately.

splatoon 3 shoal lobby

Finally, some people may have questions about how Splatoon 3 rewards seasoned Splatoon veterans without gatekeeping newcomers from jumping in with ease. This can be a tough balance—experienced players must decide whether or not to abandon hundreds of hours in the previous game, and brand new players must decide whether or not it’s too late to jump into this third title having no prior experience.

Splatoon 3 finds this balance by allowing players to import their Splatoon 2 save data. Players over a certain level can bypass the level 10 requirement to play Anarchy ranked battles so they can jump right in, allowing newcomers to be matched amongst themselves when they qualify.

Additionally, players who import their save data are given three Gold Sheldon Licenses, which allow them to purchase any three weapons in the shop regardless of the weapon level requirement. This lets veterans play with their three favorite weapons right off the bat, while newcomers gradually learn the game using the easiest weapons without feeling overwhelmed.

Splatoon 3 is a small(fry) step forward in the series. It doesn’t take the leaps and bounds from the previous titles that would have taken it to the next level, but honestly, Splatoon 2 was a pretty hard game to follow up on. Splatoon 3 is the same reliable fun the franchise has always been, and it has the much-needed improvements that fans clamored for, but players should just be aware of how much new content there actually is before committing to purchasing.

Review Block

Twinfinite Editors Choice Award

Splatoon 3

4
/ 5

Great

Splatoon 3 Critic Review
Reviewer: Rebecca Stone | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.

Pros

  • Story mode is an improvement from previous two entries.
  • New Tableturf Battle mode is fun.
  • Many more options for customization & personalization.
  • Much-needed quality of life improvements from previous game.

Cons

  • Story mode is still pretty basic & not as strong as Octo Expansion.
  • No new ranked modes at launch.
  • Might not be enough new content at launch for casual returning fans.
Release Date
September 9, 2022
Developer
Nintendo
Publisher
Nintendo
Consoles
Nintendo Switch
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