Splatoon 3 Preview – Everything We Learned About Maps, Modes, and Splatfests From The Nintendo Direct
To this point, Splatoon 3 has drip-fed players with new information about new weapons, music, and even a special Switch OLED model and Pro Controller themed after the highly anticipated family-friendly shooter. However, now that Splatoon 3 is the next major release on the Switch’s release calendar, Nintendo officially opened the flood gates this morning with a wealth of information through a special Nintendo Direct all about the ink-covered shooter.
Splatoon 3 leaves behind Inkopolis in favor of Splatsville, which is out in the heart of the Splatlands. Splatsville is a growing city that has recently become the hottest new place for inklings to hang out. As such, it serves as your new base of operations and activity hub in Splatoon 3. The news of the day is read by Deep Cut, a new trio consisting of Frye, Shiver, and Big Man, that hosts the Anarchy Splatcast, which Splatsville residents can listen to on their Sea Cucumber Phones while doing other stuff in the game. Deep Cut goes over the activities available to you when you fire the game up, and it’s a good idea to pay attention because you have plenty of activities to choose from this time around.
While this entry expands even further on the activities available to players, the main event remains Turf War. This 4v4 mode where two teams work to cover the stage with as much of their color of ink as possible returns from the previous two entries. The core premise remains the same, but small tweaks look to improve the experience across the board.
One such way Turf War is getting refreshed is through new traversal-based moves players can employ. When you’re swimming through the ink in squid form, Splatoon’s movement is as smooth and satisfying as can be. Now, players can use moves like Squid Surge and Squid Roll to make the gliding feeling even more fluid. Squid Surge lets you swim up walls with a single burst, while Squid Roll lets you jump out of the ink and pull a 180° turn. Not only do these moves help with getting around the map, but when Squid Roll briefly glows, it actually repels ink.
We also got a look at several Turf War stages in which the inklings and octolings will do battle. New stages include Scorch Gorge, Eetail Alley, Mincemeat Metalworks, Undertow Spillway, and Hagglefish Market. Meanwhile, several stages from Greater Inkopolis, such as Museum D’Alfonsino, Hammerhead Bridge, and Mahi-Mahi Resort, appear in rotation as well. When the game launches, there will be 12 stages in total, with several more to come through free post-launch updates. This is a major improvement over the initial offerings of Splatoon and Splatoon 2, which launched with five and eight maps, respectively.
Perhaps the best times in Splatoon are when the typically chill vibes of the hub city become a distant memory, the music cranks to 11, and a Splatfest takes over. Just like with previous Splatoon titles, players choose a team based on preference to a basic prompt. In the past, players have had two options. In Splatoon 3, players can choose from three options to form three distinct squads that will battle it out over the course of the Splatfest event.
Splatfests are now split into two halves. The first half features 4v4 Turf Wars, while the second half brings all three teams together in the new Tricolor Turf Wars. Here, three teams duke it out on the same map to cover it with their color ink; the first place team brings four players into the match to defend their standing, while the second and third place teams bring two players a piece for a unique 4v2v2 setup. The team that’s ahead in the current Splatfest starts in the middle, meaning they have the best starting point from which to branch out, but they also have to fend off attacks coming from both sides.
The first Splatfest kicks off before the game even launches, with the Splatfest World Premiere, which will be made available in the eShop. Once the Splatfest begins on August 27, players can kick off the festivities by choosing between Team Rock, Team Paper, and Team Scissors. This will also serve as a demo for players to try out the game.
The wave-based Salmon Run mode that debuted in Splatoon 2 also reemerges from the depths with Splatoon 3. This co-op mode allows four players to fend off advancing salmonids and earn golden eggs by defeating boss salmonids. We got a look at a couple of the new bosses on display in this iteration of the mode. Slammin’ Lid is a saucer-style creature that can create barriers and protect salmonids on the ground, but if it gets to close to you, it can also go on the offensive and slam down to the ground, crushing all under it. The Direct also gave us a look at Big Shot, a heavyset fish that fires projectiles at players from a distance.
However, the biggest reveal (literally) came in the form of explaining the mysterious monster at the end of the Splatoon 3 trailer in February’s Nintendo Direct. That massive creature is known as Cohozuna, a king salmonid. According to the Direct, king salmonids sometimes appear just as you’re about to wrap up the session. If they do, you can fire golden eggs their way to knock them back and keep them at bay until the time limit is up.
At the end of the Salmon Run section, we got a teaser for a frantic sequence in Salmon Run called Big Run. When Big Run happens, salmonids invade the city in what appears to be a high-energy sequence. We don’t have any additional details about what Big Run entails at this time.
Also back this time around is the single-player story mode, perhaps the most under-appreciated element of the Splatoon series. This entry’s story mode is called Return of the Mammalians, and when you look at how hairy some of the octarians are, you can see why. This story puts you in the shoes of Agent 3 as you battle with the octarians, explore stages, and likely face off against all kinds of creative bosses alongside buddy character Smallfry. Agent 3 sets off to discover the secrets of Alterna, the Fuzzy Ooze, and how it all connects to the title’s theme.
We didn’t get a ton of details for this story mode, but we do know that it serves as the finale of the saga. Nintendo also seems to know many players skip over the story mode, because the Direct pitches it as a great way to become familiar with the movement and weapons, but those who have played the first three campaigns (Splatoon 1, Splatoon 2, and Octo Expansion), know that the series’ story modes are way more enjoyable than any tutorial.
Turf War, Salmon Run, and story mode are still the three main pillars, but the lobby of Splatsville offers several other modes to choose from. Once you’re in the game, you can select Anarchy Battles to compete for rankings, or the various returning modes like Splat Zones, Tower Control, Tower Control, and Clam Blitz on rotation. You can also take part in private battles with custom rulesets.
Nintendo hinted at an additional competitive mode called Tableturf Battle. This deck-based duel is a spin-off of Turf War, letting you ink different shapes with cards in your hand. Players can collect cards and then charge up power to unleash special attacks against their opponents. According to Nintendo, each player is given an in-game starter deck, though it didn’t go into further details about the intricacies of this game or how players can acquire additional cards. However, we do know there are more than 150 cards to collect for this mode.
Outside of competitive play, you can hop into the Test Range, where you can try out weapons or warm up your splatting muscles. You can also interact with Ghosts, virtual holograms of your online friends. There, you can see what your friends are up to, drop into their in-progress activities, or invite them to join you – seemingly a huge upgrade over the group-up system from past games.
You can also watch old footage of your matches from your perspective or the perspectives of other players in the matches, and if you want to show the world, you can upload it. If you miss the days of Miiverse, Mailbox is the place for you as it allows you to post illustrations and upload them. Meanwhile, you can activate photo mode to snap selfies or enter Recon Mode, where you can stroll through stages to familiarize yourself with them with no enemies present.
After matches, you can also go into the locker room. There, you can see the lockers of other players, or customize your own. Which leads directly into our next section…
Customization, Gear, and Weapons
Customization looks to play an even bigger role in the series that’s already very much about making your character to your liking. Various shops throughout Splatsville enable you to make sure your character is just right. Ammo Knights lets you use Sheldon Licenses to purchase weapons, while shops like Naut Couture, Man-o’Wardrobe, and Crush Station allow you to purchase headgear, tops, and footwear, respectively. Since each piece of gear carries different benefits, you can save multiple outfits as presets and swap them out on the fly. If you like the way something looks but wish it had faster run speed or ink resistance buffs, you can visit Murch in Splatsville, who is able to modify the perks of any piece of gear. Once you unlock a piece of gear or a weapon, you can place it in your in-game locker for all players to see. You can also populate your locker with pictures taken in photo mode, or buy new locker stickers and signs at Hotlantis.
Other customizations available to players include Splashtags, which are shown during battle. You can choose your banner, badge, and title for your splashtag, then display it proudly when you enter a match. Additionally, you can unlock victory emotes for your characters, and earn seasonal gear in the catalog through in-game play. Finally, if you need a boost, you can buy drinks that provide you boosts in matches.
Much like previous Splatoon games, you can also choose from a massive arsenal of weapons to fit into your preferred play style. Every weapon from previous games is available, as well as new ones like the bow-like Stringers and Splatanas, which allow you to attack up close or sling ink from a distance. Special weapons also return with old favorites like the Booyah Bomb, Ink Storm, and Tenta Missiles, as well as newcomers like the Tacticooler (a fridge that provides beverage-based power-ups to you and your team), Wave Breaker (a device that unleashes waves around an area to mark and damage opponents), and the Reefslider (a vehicle you can use to charge into opponents with an exploding splat). These special weapons all operate on a gauge-based cooldown that fills when you ink turf. Special weapons are also paired up with main weapons.
Splatoon 3’s launch offerings may be more robust than any other Splatoon game to date, but in keeping with the series’ trademark, the game will receive lots of free content following launch. In fact, Nintendo committed to updating the in-game item catalog with season items every three months for two years. On top of that, new weapons will get added into Splatoon 3 around the same time as those catalog updates.
Following launch, Splatoon 3 will also receive two new modes, X Battle and League Battle, for more competitive flair. Finally, with the launch of Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion, Nintendo clearly saw value in large-scale paid DLC, as it announced it will also be doing that (and potentially more of it) for Splatoon 3 post-launch.
Last but not least, we caught a glimpse of Splatoon 3’s three Amiibo figures. If you’re a fan of inklings, octolings, or new character Smallfry, Nintendo has you covered with today’s newly announced Amiibo figures. In Splatoon 3, Amiibo figures can save your favorite gear configurations or add special gear to your inventory.
The Blue Octoling, Yellow Inkling, and Smallfry Amiibo figures will be available at select retailers for $16 each. Nintendo is also re-releasing some Splatoon 2 Amiibo figures: The Callie and Marie Two-Pack and the Pearl & Marina Two-Pack will be restocked at a suggested price of $25 each.
Splatoon 3 comes to Switch on September 9. If you want to try the game out prior to that date, the Splatfest World Premiere featuring rock, paper, and scissors will be available to download in the eShop starting August 25, ahead of its August 27 kickoff.