PAX West Highlight: Splatoon 3
Video games have always been about the enjoyment of a playful mind and peering into a world never before seen, but as has been seen in recent decades, video games have an incredible way of bonding, from the good old days of couch-coop to the most major online sessions in today's games. This may not seem like news, but it's been a remarkable evolution to witness in the last few generations. The days of 4-player split-screen in Goldeneye on those late Friday nights have become unforgettable after-work online sessions in Destiny 2, slaying galactic monsters with friends miles away. Splatoon 3 continues this tradition with its dizzying array of colors and tight gameplay, and those that have played its predecessors are fully familiar with how the game works. However, after some time with Splatoon 3 at PAX West, and even now, Splatoon 3 isn't just shaping to be another smash hit for Nintendo, but an incredible way to bring those unfamiliar with competitive games and welcome them.
For those unfamiliar, Splatoon is a relatively new franchise and one that has gained ground quickly. The first Splatoon arrived during the waning years of the Wii U, making a mark strong to warrant a sequel in 2017 for the newly-launched Nintendo Switch. After several years of making an ink splash on switch, the third game has finally arrived. If the trailers haven't sold you on the game already, I can confirm the game is every bit as good as you believe it t be. It's quick, fast, and easy to get into. It's remarkably enjoyable and fun, rewarding those needing speed and momentum with exciting ink-filled duels and incredible action. There is a fascinating world of color, punk rock, and beautiful dystopia, all in a time well past when humans were around. There's a sense of incredible debauchery with each session of Splatoon 3, and it's exceptional, unlike anything else out there. But during my time with the game, I've come to realize that Splatoon 3 is an incredibly useful way to make new friends and build the bonds of gaming.
With all the competitive shooters available these days, it's hard to remember that first time you played with another player. There's a high chance some of us can remember those days playing Contra in front of our Grandma's CRT TV, most likely playing alongside a sibling. There's an entire generation of players who grew up on Pizza Hut, orange soda, and playing Super Smash Bros until the crack of dawn on N64.- There are many players, however, that never quite had that until they were older, myself included. Other than my sister, I never played any other game in large-scale multiplayer until I was 19 years old, when, in 2008, Sony released Warhawk for the PlayStation 3. I used to spend entire Saturday afternoons just flying around in capture-the-flag matches, getting into dogfights, and dropping artillery strikes. It was one of the first times I had a mic, and enjoyed playing with and against others.
With so many players in today's scene, it can be overwhelming for any one player to get into a competitive game. Fortnite and Fall Guys are incredibly accessible, but given that they are more battle royales, they can be a challenging entry for most players.- This is where Splatoon 3, with its presentation and gameplay, usurps those challenges to create something reachable and competitive. A control and game mechanic that anyone can learn, but an online experience that can rank itself among the most hardcore of shooter fans, even the Call of Duty and Battlefield arenas.
During my time with Splatoon 3, I was with seven additional strangers, all from different corners of the gaming space, with some having never played the Splatoon games, myself included. After spending time with the single player, our preview took us to the wave-based Salmon mode and five rounds of the multiplayer mode known as turf War.
Salmon Road was tough as our goal was to grab the hard-to-get Salmon eggs and fight hordes of Salmon. Teamwork was essential, and I worked with the team to grab eggs and survive. It wasn't easy, as the Salmon were overwhelming, and in addition to grabbing the eggs, players battle a time limit. It was challenging, swimming through ink, avoiding enemies, and grabbing eggs. But, in those rounds, I saw coordination and speed. We made commands and started working together. The objectives were simple, but the gameplay and number of enemies made it tough. We grabbed our eggs, dodged enemies, and stayed mobile. That was the key victory, though, despite our best efforts, we lost on the third wave. Satisfied with Salmon Run, we made our way to matches in turf War, where Splatoon 3 really opened up.
Turf War has two teams of 4 fighting to cover the entire map in the team's color. The team with the most color all over the map wins. Here, this is where Splatoon 3 went from a very good game to a game that is needed. While I had no experience playing Splatoon games, I was quick to learn the controls, the goals, and the movement. As the punk rock blared and the energy started reaching pitch, I and my team in Bravo Squad started yelling orders and directions. We channeled three big tactics: Aggression, speed, and momentum. We charged the map, split, and inked as much as we could. We inevitably faced the enemy team and went toe-to-toe with them. With our combined tactics, we led to several Team Wipeouts, which means all members of the opposing team, in this case, Charlie Squad, were wiped at once. While there is a quick respawn, those few seconds are precious moments lost to gaining the upper hand.
Over the span of just a few minutes, Brave Squad became a tight-knit team, using our weapons and special abilities to overtake the opposing team. In moments, players who had never played Splatoon were fighting like they'd been playing it for years. There were laughs, cheers, genuine surprises, and Hail Mary moments. I experimented with different weapons and abilities, including a crab mech. We worked in tandem to surprise and achieve dominance. For four of the five matches, we won. In the last match, Charlie Squad rallied, spurned by their recent defeats but motivated to get at least one big win. They were tenacious, splatting and inking my teammates and me, though, despite our strong defense, we were felled for the last round. As I came away from this round, I couldn't help but be profoundly impressed with the games we witnessed.
Strangers became fast friends and competitors. Strangers became teammates and coordinated. Strangers with little experience in Splatoon became pros in an instant. That was the real magic of Splatoon 3 and the rest of the Splatoon series.
The growth of video games is imperative upon making experiences that are long-lasting but reachable. Memorable and endearing. Even today, gaming can be a challenge to enter, especially when the more distracting and exploitative mobile gaming market can be better accessed, but Splatoon 3 is powerful in its ability to remind players of genuine cooperative and engaging gaming experience and what it is to work with others to achieve a common goal, as well as to have fun. It can be a tall order for a younger or casual player to enter the competitive side of games and see games like Destiny 2 which can become intimidating with the various features and modes. This makes Splatoon 3 a breakthrough of sorts to remind experienced and casual players of the color and pure enjoyment of games. In a time of loot boxes, dystopia, and battle royales, Splatoon 3 is a game about pure, unending kinetic fun. It's a game that is needed to bring families and strangers together. To excite players into the thrill of competitive enjoyment. To find strangers within a common game and achieve a common goal. Splatoon 3 is now out in the wild, and the journey its begun is already great.
Splatoon 3 is now available both digitally and physically on Nintendo Switch.