Splatoon 3 was announced during the February 2021 Nintendo Direct, bookending the presentation with an announcement trailer for the third entry in the beloved series.
The trailer gave fans a glimpse at the new setting, the Splatlands, which presents a very different kind of locale from the bustling cities and trippy, otherworldly landscapes associated with previous games.
This departure from the previous games is stark, and has piqued our interest, but it was paired with more familiar elements like a new hub city and the traditional 4v4 competitive multiplayer fans know and love. There's still a lot we have to learn about Splatoon 3 but here’s the breakdown of everything we know so far, as well as the things we’d like to see.
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Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next instalment of Splatoon, Nintendo’s quirky competitive multiplayer shooter
- When can I play it? 2022
- What can I play it on? Splatoon 3 will release exclusively on Nintendo Switch
What is Splatoon 3?
Splatoon 3 will be the latest instalment in the series, dating back to its first entry on the Wii U in 2015 and followed up with Splatoon 2 for Nintendo Switch in 2017. The series focuses largely on multiplayer battles between Inklings - adorable humanoid characters that have the ability to transform into squids to swim through colored ink.
This feature ties heavily into Splatoon’s gameplay. Its flagship multiplayer mode, Turf War, tasks two teams of four players to cover as much of the map as possible with their team’s ink. This is achieved via the player’s loadout of weapons. Keeping with Nintendo’s family-friendly vibe, weapons in Splatoon fire colored ink as opposed to bullets, and can be used to cover the map as per the objective, or to temporarily incapacitate your opponents.
Splatoon’s got quite a fun assortment of weapons, as well. From the rapid-firing Splattershots to a literal giant paint roller, each weapon comes with its own build of sub-weapons and powerful special weapons. Splatoon 3, judging by the trailer, looks like it will be adding a few more to the pile, with a huge bow taking center stage that looks like a ton of fun to mess around with.
Turf War is great, fast-paced fun as each team battles to claim as much of the map as possible while also keeping opponents at bay. Players can freely swim through their own team’s ink for faster traversal and surprise attacks. On the other hand, your opponent’s ink will slow you down drastically as well as damage you over time. Rounds typically last for three minutes, making each match a frantic scramble as the music intensifies towards the end.
4v4 multiplayer isn’t the only card up Splatoon’s sleeve, however. Each game boasts other substantive single and multiplayer modes. There’s a story that familiarizes players with various weapon types while providing obstacle courses to traverse (and unique enemies to fight).
Splatoon 2 bolstered the series' available modes even further with Salmon Run, a co-operative horde mode where players work together to fight AI-controlled waves of enemies. This was later joined by the Octo Expansion DLC, a massive and challenging single-player mode loaded with extra missions and boss fights.
We expect Splatoon 3 to include the same kind of feature set in regards to its modes, and it may have a few new tricks of its own to show off as well.
Splatoon 3 release date
The announcement trailer gave us an idea as to when we’ll be able to add Splatoon 3 to our game collection. The game is slated for release in 2022, but a more concrete date hasn’t been given as of yet.
Splatoon and Splatoon 2 had worldwide release dates of May 2015 and July 2017 respectively. So it’s possible we could also see a late Spring to early Summer release date for Splatoon 3 in 2022.
Nintendo has said it wants to release more info about Splatoon 3 before the end of 2021. Whether this will be in the form of a dedicated Nintendo Direct or as part of its E3 2021 presentation remains to be seen, but hopefully that new info will include a solid release date before the year is out.
Splatoon 3 trailer
The Splatoon 3 announcement trailer gave us our first look at the upcoming game. It opened with what looks to be the initial customization phase of your playable Inkling and their “buddy,” which appears to be a Salmonid - prominently featured as enemies in Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run mode.
Interestingly, previously gendered options (players could choose to be a boy or girl Inkling) appear to be gone. Familiar options of hairstyles, eye color and legwear remain, but it looks like Nintendo is doing away with making players choose one of two genders. This is a definite plus in terms of inclusivity, and allows players to access hairstyles that were previously gender-locked.
From there, the trailer leads into what looks to be a brief glimpse at a single-player mode. Our Inkling makes their way through a post-apocalyptic, arid landscape, and it looks like someone suplexed the Eiffel Tower, as the ruined structure is half-buried upside down in the earth. The Inkling then boards a train before they find themselves in Splatoon 3’s new hub city of Splatsville.
The trailer closes out with a look at Splatoon’s familiar competitive multiplayer, which looks largely unchanged barring some new weapon types and a new way to enter an arena at the start of the match.
Splatoon 3 news and rumors
The ESA has confirmed that E3 is to be an entirely digital affair in 2021, taking place between June 12 and June 15, and Nintendo has been confirmed as an attendee.
It’s going to be great to get the video game industry back together with our fans this June. We’ll make the virtual format fun and engaging. Looking forward to seeing you all in June! https://t.co/ZQidcWqAF4April 7, 2021
It’s looking like Nintendo will follow its usual approach of a Direct stream and while it’s not confirmed what it’ll be bringing to the table just yet, we’re hoping the show will include an update on the progress of Splatoon 3.
The game was a bit of a surprise announcement this year and not much was shown on it, so E3 2021 would be the perfect place to expand on what players can expect from the game and maybe narrow down that 2022 release date.
Splatoon 3 hiring a level designer to integrate 'existing' stages
Nintendo linked a job opening for a Splatoon 3 level designer via their Japanese Twitter account. Spotted and translated by Twitter user OatmealDome, the job description looks to have some interesting responsibilities.
[Splatoon 3]Nintendo is hiring for a level designer. They will be responsible for the following tasks:- Adjusting stages, weapons, and gamemodes- Renovating “existing” stages- Placing stage objects per-gamemode- Balancing weapon parameter data https://t.co/js8xQqRK4ZFebruary 18, 2021
The job of the Splatoon 3 level designer calls for mostly typical fare, including placing stage objects and balancing attributes for weapons. However, more interesting is another responsibility that calls for renovating ‘existing’ stages.
This could be taken a number of ways. It’s possible that Splatoon 3 could be bringing back stages featured in the first two games, albeit with various twists and changes thrown in. When you think about it, this would make a degree of sense. Following Splatoon 3’s theme of chaos, we might witness stages reimagined in this image, potentially looking dilapidated or at least significantly altered.
However, this could just mean that the new level designer will be looking over new stages developed for Splatoon 3, and just polishing them up for release.
If the former is true, though, we don’t yet know if these stages will be variants on single-player or multiplayer maps. Remixed, harder versions of story missions we’re familiar with sounds appealing, but would Nintendo get a pass for recycling old content?
More likely is that the stages in question are from Splatoon’s multiplayer suite. We can think of a number of fan favorite stages that would look great with a more chaotic makeover. Reusing stages in this way isn’t unprecedented, either. Splatoon 2’s story mode carried some maps over from its multiplayer for certain missions, giving them a slight visual overhaul in the process.
Splatoon 3 - what we'd like to see
There’s many things Splatoon 3 can do to improve on its predecessors. While Splatoon 2 was a solid follow-up to the original with fun new modes to offer, it felt iterative, almost like it was made to keep up appearances on the Nintendo Switch. Not necessarily a bad thing, considering Splatoon 2 is the 9th best-selling Switch game to date, but we feel like Splatoon 3 could do so much more.
Firstly, there’s genuine improvements that Splatoon’s matchmaking absolutely needs. Chief among them is being able to more reliably play with friends. If you can believe it, both Splatoon and Splatoon 2 did not allow players to queue into multiplayer matches with their friends in online lobbies.
Splatoon 2 introduced League Battle which did let players enter with premade groups, but confusingly, the mode was only available at certain times. In both standard and ranked play, it was impossible to play with friends outside of randomly running into them online.
The only way for friends to play with each other was via local play, or in private lobbies against one another. Splatoon 3 absolutely needs to address this. When every other multiplayer shooter on the market lets us team up with our friends, Splatoon has no excuse.
Axe time-limited modes
Speaking to the limited time aspect of certain modes, we’d love it if Splatoon 3 shied away from this practice. This was present for League Battle and Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, the latter being one of the best modes the series ever introduced. It was only available on certain days for a few hours at a time.
Nintendo should be incentivizing players to access modes like this whenever they want - it keeps us playing longer and ultimately get more enjoyment out of the experience. Splatoon is an incredibly fun series - Nintendo shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it less so.
A better single-player mode
Splatoon 3 could use more substantial single player offerings. What’s present in Splatoon and Splatoon 2 is nice, but the base game story modes are very short, with little reason to revisit them bar some extra collectibles here and there.
Splatoon 3’s trailer has us craving a more open-ended single player experience. Fun fact: the story’s direction seems to be taking cues from Splatoon 2’s final Splatfest results. The featured team choices there were Order vs Chaos, with Chaos handily winning.
As a result, the world beyond Splatoon’s hub cities looks to be in dire straits. The series has already established that it takes place in a post-humanity world, so Splatoon 3 has every opportunity to explore the mess us humans left behind.
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