Since 2015, Nintendo fans have been enjoying the ink-based action shooter Splatoon, featuring the beloved Inkling characters on the Wii U, with a highly successful follow-up in 2017. Now, in September 2022, the third title splashes down on Nintendo Switch with new features, quality of life improvements, and the return of many classic abilities, weapons and clothing with many more outfits to help keep things fresh!

Splatoon 3
Nintendo Switch
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Released: 9th September 2022

For those new to the series, Splatoon is a third-person shooter which can be played locally or online, on your own or with friends (2-8 players). You take control of your environment by shooting ink everywhere, including at enemies. The objective of its main mode (Turf War), is to ensure your team has the highest percentage of the area inked as possible in three minutes.  Finding weapons that suit your play style, and upgrading your gear to unlock new abilities, will give you an edge in battles against your opponents.

Before starting your adventure, you’ll have the opportunity to customise your Inkling, by choosing the colour of your eyes, hair, skin tone, and eyebrows. This time around, you’ll have a new companion in the form of a little buddy called Smallfry, a Salmonid companion for your character that will become an important ally. Once you’ve set your buddy’s hair colour and style, you can be on your way. The journey that follows serves as a basic tutorial to help you get to grips with the controls and movement of your character. Entering the in-game options menu will allow you to adjust controls to your liking and toggle between motion control and more traditional movement for both handheld and TV/Tabletop Mode.

Splatoon 3 takes place in the thriving city of Splatsville, which serves as the main hub. Exploring this large, bustling metropolis is going to be your first major task. Within the Square, you can access different single, local and multiplayer game modes, and visit a variety of shops. Each time you play, you are greeted by the Anarchy Splatcast, a live news broadcast hosted by Deep Cut. The characters Shiver, Frye, and Big Man will give you information on the current stages and modes in rotation, and any Splatfest announcements. While broadcasts have been a constant throughout the series, one welcomed feature is the option to have it run in the background, allowing you to get straight into the action. This can be done by holding in the left analogue stick.

Ammo Knights is a weapon shop run by a returning character called Sheldon, who sells a variety of useful tools to splatter opponents or turf with, with more unlocking as you progress through the game. Sheldon has a range of cool new weapons, as well as many returning ones from previous Splatoon games. If you happen to have data for Splatoon 2 on your system, it’s one easy way to unlock Golden Sheldon Licences, which allows you to exchange them for weapons much earlier than the game would normally let you.

If you’re thinking of changing the look and style of your Inkling, look naut further than Naut Couture, which is run by Nails. They provide headgear such as hats, visors and glasses. Man-o’-Wardrobe’s Jel La Fleur is on hand to share the freshest clothing options, while Mr. Coco of Crush Station will step in with a selection of footwear, from stylish boots to comfortable flip-flops. Wearable gear in Splatoon have slots to equip abilities, which can help improve your chances. These unlockable abilities can include things such as increases in ink-tank refill rates, damage to non-player targets, movement speed, and many more! All gear items come with one primary ability, while secondary abilities will unlock as you build up enough experience using that gear in battles. You can add slots to your gear by winning Super Sea Snails in Splatfests, which I will cover later in this review.

Last but not least, there’s a character called Harmony who runs a new kind of shop in Splatoon 3 called Hotlantis, where you can buy badges to customise your Splattag profile, and items for your personal locker (more on this shortly). You can hold in the right analogue stick to try on all of these different items before you make a purchase, to make sure they work for you. The inventory of all these vendors will refresh daily, encouraging you to go back often and discover the latest and freshest swag!

The Nintendo Switch App for smart devices, has a game-specific service for Splatoon 3 called SplatNet 3, letting you access the SplatNet Shop to obtain exclusive items, a history of your recent battles, and a preview of your current stats and gear. Be sure to check the SplatNet often for all sorts of cool updates!

Speaking of being fresh, Splatoon 3 has brand-new modes, customisations and great quality of life improvements. Tableturf Battle is a card game that is inspired by Turf War battles. This turn-based game can be played by two players, where each person plays cards to add ink to a grid board. The objective is to ink as much of the board as possible, claiming as much territory as you can. You can’t cover another player’s area with your own ink, but you are able to use special attack cards in order to cover your opponent’s inked area from special spaces on the board. I had a ton of fun with this mode, but was disappointed to find that it could only be played against CPU’s and not real opponents online. I really hope this changes in the future.

Splattags are a new customisation feature in Splatoon 3. They can be decorated with banners, badges and custom titles, where you can select from two words or phrases, combining them together to form one whole. If you’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you may already be familiar with how custom titles work. You’ll come across these as rewards for playing through Splatoon 3, and there’s some really cool ones!

If you head over to the online lobby, you can head on through to the locker room, an area where you can fill your own custom locker with items, weapons, stickers and a whole range of customisation options. In this area, you can also view your friend’s lockers, or the lockers of strangers you’ve met online. One of the more popular items in these lockers are the Easter Island heads, which seem to pop up frequently in this game. They were quite a talking point online upon release, which was quite amusing!

Return of the Mammalians is the title of Splatoon’s single player campaign, where you dive into a manhole and down to an area called The Crater. It’s a wasteland that has been consumed by a mysterious substance called Fuzzy Ooze, and touching it will cause your Inkling to become paralyzed and transform into a fuzzy creature. Thankfully, this is where your Salmonid companion Small Fry has their moment to shine. Salmonids are completely unharmed by the Fuzzy Ooze, and launching Small Fry at the Fuzzballs protruding from the Ooze, will cause them to disappear entirely. But in order to power up Small Fry, you need to gather Power Eggs from navigating each level in the campaign. Once you obtain the designated number of Power Eggs and clear the Ooze, you can find a safer path to navigate through The Crater.

By diving inside kettles, your Inkling will be tasked with completing a mission, which will offer a variety of challenges under specific conditions, with the main objective of reaching the end goal. Examples of these challenges include finding keys to unlock the path forwards, destroying targets in a single hit, or using a limited amount of ink. There are a lot of fun puzzles to complete across these missions, and it can feel quite rewarding to reach the end. They serve as a great tutorial for Turf Wars, and can educate you on the different weapons in the game.

I will refrain from posting any spoilers about the campaign, but as you progress through the single player, you will descend even deeper to another area, and you can expect to see some returning characters from previous games, plus a few surprises along the way! For those of you who like a bit of lore, Sunken Scrolls can be found across the campaign, offering some information on the world and its history. There are also a set of logs that can be collected, but I will refrain from saying anything further about them in this review, as I would hate to ruin the surprise.

The real star of any Splatoon title has to be its multiplayer features, whether you’re playing  Turf War, or Salmon Run, you’re going to have a fantastic time with friends and strangers alike. 

Turf War in Splatoon 3 can be played across several new and returning maps, with even more being added throughout the next couple of years. The objective, as always, is to ink as much of your opponent’s turf as possible, avoiding enemy fire and traps. Play smart and work together to get the majority of your team’s ink down on the battleground as possible before the time runs out.

Ranked Battles have been replaced with “Anarchy Battle” in Splatoon 3, an online multiplayer mode for eight players (4vs4), where you can team up with your friends, or play with randoms. Four modes can be played on rotation in Anarchy Battles: Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker and Clam Blitz.

Splat Zones is a King of the Hill style game where players need to cover zones in ink and hold it for as long as possible. Tower Control requires a team to take control of a tower and ride it towards the enemy base, all while defending themselves from an onslaught of enemy Inklings. Rainmaker is a game mode where players grab and take the Rainmaker weapon towards the enemy team’s spawn point, which can also be fired at other enemies. Finally, Clam Blitz will have players pick up clams scattered around the stage and carry them to a goal in order to score points.

Once a player reaches Level 10 (Or has save data carried over from Splatoon 2), they can take part in one of two types of Anarchy Battle. “Open” is described as an ‘extreme battle’ where every match can last up to five minutes long, but can be much shorter depending on how things turn out. On the other hand, a “Series” Anarchy Battle requires the player to win best out of five games, can only be played solo, and contestants will instead be placed with random people online. 

Rank points are on the line for every Anarchy Battle, which is why this mode is aimed at the most competitive of players. Your rank will rise if you are able to win enough matches, and if you lose, as you may expect, your rank will drop. While it’s great to see change, I was happy with familiarity in Splatoon 3’s Turf Wars. I just picked up and played exactly as I used to.

For those who haven’t played Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, it’s a co-operative venture where you team up with three other Inklings to take out enemy Salmonids, including some more deadly bosses. Transport Power Eggs from these enemies back to your crate to meet quotas in order to win. One cool new ability is to throw your Power Eggs, which makes transporting them a little easier than before. This seems to be balanced out by Salmonids collecting up their dropped Power Eggs much more quickly, so you need to be fast if you want to meet your goal! This time around, you will encounter a greater range of Salmonids, and possibly even a deadly and fearsome King Salmonid!  But while Salmon Run is always a blast, I was kind of hoping for some bigger changes within this mode in Splatoon 3, which felt a little stale to me.

There are many quality of life improvements, such as a lobby area where you can invite friends, and then search for others online to fill up your crew numbers. In this lobby, you can also see what all your friends are up to, and jump into their games if applicable. Other QOL improvements include greater flexibility on where you spawn in at your base, as well as with the Squid Surge mechanic, allowing you to charge up walls, and specials feeling way more balanced compared to previous games. Veteran players will certainly appreciate these new additions.

One improvement I would like to see, however, is the overall balance between teams. During my review period of Splatoon 3, I felt that, on occasion, the teams I faced were either too challenging, or had no challenge at all. This was the case in both regular Turf Wars and Anarchy Battles, and I didn’t feel that teams matched the skill level of my team. Perhaps this is just early days, and the game will do a better job at matching players to their appropriate skill levels.

Splatfests are a popular event in the Splatoon series, and they’re back for Splatoon 3, hosted by the characters of Deep Cut, with three options to choose from instead of two. Splatfests are events of two parts. The first part of the event focuses on two teams battling it out, while the second half, the Tricolour Battles, pit the winning team of four against two players from each team trailing behind banded together. The leading team must defend their area against both teams from all sides – it can become quite intense!

For the Splatoon 3 Splat Test prior to launch, players could choose from the options of Rock, Paper and Scissors. The first post-launch Splatfest is focused on what you would bring to a deserted island, with the choices of gear, fun and grub. The practical side of me will be backing Team Gear, but anything can happen during Splatfests! Players who back the winning team, will receive Super Sea Snails, in-game items that can upgrade your gear by adding ability slots. These fun events will be going on for two years after launch, meaning that players will have plenty of opportunities to keep returning to the game.

I have always been a huge fan of Splatoon 3’s soundtrack, and I think this one slaps even harder than any of the previous entries. I especially loved “Sea Me Now” and “Paintscrapper”, but there are literally too many to choose from. On top of all that, there are many returning themes from previous games, meaning you’re never going to get bored. Can we get an official release of this soundtrack, please, Nintendo?

Throughout my time with Splatoon 3, I’ve had mixed feelings on the game. While I appreciate a much greater balance compared to its predecessors, and despite having lots of fun playing the game’s single-player campaign, and going online with friends, there was one significant issue I encountered throughout the online parts of Splatoon 3, that was many communication errors and disconnects. If I were to estimate, I was probably only able to play between 60-70% of my games online during this review period, up to two weeks after launch. There was even a point where I finally got into a game with a friend after three disconnects, only to have the lobby close on me for the hourly map rotation, requiring me to reconnect back to friends again.

These problems come off the back of a Splat Test event, a stress test for servers prior to launch that should have identified and made efforts to correct these issues. It is completely unacceptable for a game with a paid online service, two weeks into its launch, to continue having problems. It made me not want to play the game at all, and caused friends to quit playing, ruining the experience. Despite this, when the game actually did work, it worked well, and I had a blast playing through a new game in a series I have enjoyed since the original entry on Wii U. I can only hope that something is being done to fix these issues behind the scenes.

Splatoon 3 offers a fresh, fun and exciting experience across its multiplayer modes, and has a fun single-player campaign that will have you explore the secrets of the world beneath the Splatlands. It has many quality of life improvements that will be welcomed by veteran players. Unfortunately, it’s hard to recommend due to the communication errors that plague the game at the time of writing, which my score reflects. Providing those issues are corrected, this is absolutely a must-own game.

Final Rating – 3.5/5

Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.