Massively on the Go: Splatoon 3’s Pokemon Collab was fun, but skipping Halloween wasn’t


I want to be upfront first: I am loving Splatoon 3. Building a bit on my post-release opinion of the game, I think there’s a lot that’s still good. I’ve met many players who do only the PvE Salmon Run, which I find much more difficult and frustrating than the PvP modes since it’s gear agnostic and people can’t hide lack of skill behind stat boosts, making the PvErs an absolute godsend for those of us who wanna play it all.

The card game is a good enough challenge, even if it feels grindy once you hit about level 28. Ranked Play takes some getting used to, but I find hitting up recon mode before jumping in a great refresher that makes it easier. Turf War is still my favorite, especially because it features so heavily in Splatfest. Customization is still fun, as is building your dream sets, though the lack of Splatfests is a problem for those of us who enjoy amiibo.

You may be noticing a bit of a theme there, and that’s the issue: Splatoon 3 can’t be skipping Splatfest.

As we previously reported, the Pokemon/Splatoon collab essentially replaced the traditional Halloween Splatfest, but it also didn’t run until November, meaning the game had no October event at all. The Big Run launch theory failed to materialize, so while Nintendo could still release it sometime in the future, the game went longer than usual without an event to break up (or mask) the grind.

This is unusual for the series, even moreso right after the September launch. And the impact is even worse the game has pushed something like a battle pass, dangling trinkets to grind in front of the players, at least for those on their first catalog. Mind you, unlike passes in most other games, the Splatoon battle pass is free, but Splatfest makes the grind easier. The seasons also last only three months, so Nintendo skipping a boost period is more noticeable, and I say that as someone who is on the second and far less rewarding catalog.

Even more noticeable is that Splatfest is also the sole source of Super Sea Snails. While these have myriad uses, one major one is they are the only way to power up amiibo gear, which can be obtained only through the figures (or the data, if you’ve got generous friends). If you’ve paid real money for gear that you can’t really upgrade except for special events, you’re going to notice when those events don’t materialize.

Had the wait been due to different rewards or structures, it might have been worth it. Something as simple as Pokemon shirts or gear we could keep, like locker items, would have probably spiced things up, but alas, the event was basically just to generate hype for the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet and Violet games.

That isn’t to say there were no changes though. While I initially didn’t have many connection problems, that actually got drastically worse after Nintendo “fixed” a connection issue. I have never purposefully disconnected from a match, but I’ve been disconnected far more frequently as of late, punished by hours of lost gameplay at this point, the most painful of which are during difficult Salmon Runs (because you cost others rank and often lose good opportunities when you’ve finally found a good group) or during Splatfest (not only for similar reasons, but also because those are limited time events). Nintendo either needs to improve its connection services or fine-tune its penalty system.

That being said, during the second day of the recent Splatfest, I was getting more “Connection Unstable” messages than I usually get. This basically kills you as you can’t defend yourself, but at least it’s not a disconnect. I haven’t seen many reports on this, but the servers were also hit quite hard by all the players coming (back) for Splatfest.

The Pro version of Splatfest didn’t feel much different this time than last time; I consistently had three random players per match painting the base, even though a pro has noted you only need to paint enough for movement at the start. But I don’t recall getting zero clout from a loss before. This makes it feel a bit more dicey, and I can see why fewer people would participate in it and beat up on less skill players like last time.

Speaking of changes, the Tricolor map was rebalanced to encourage each team to essentially attack the group on their right, as the left side was better guarded. This may have helped Team Water win despite having to be the Splatfest defender after half-time. The change was very slight, and as someone who was attacking last time, I didn’t notice a huge difference. I had defended previously during the Splatfest test event though, and things did feel much less chaotic than that iteration.

Even if all these changes aren’t just in my head, they don’t quite seem like enough for the loss of Splatfest. The new model – with its week-long prep, three-day proper event, and catalog boost – really brings the game alive. Without out, the gear/money/XP/chunk grind is very real. For a game that’s supposed to last a few years, you don’t want the seams showing before the first battle pass season is up, especially if your game is going to also promote an upcoming game.

My hope is that something came up. Maybe Big Run wasn’t ready yet, or the datamined Salmon Run modes are somehow connected to it and slowed it down, or (my greatest fear) Nintendo is trying to produce less and see how long players can go without event-related content.

The Splatoon series has never really had a lot of big crazy events, but we do tend to get sporadic additions to the game. The collab Splatfests are particularly fun since they motivate lapsed players to come back just to fight for their side. And unlike past entries, Splatoon 3 has lockers, as kind of mini “housing” for us to show off trophies, but that system’s gone unused. Salmon Run players get to contribute at least a little during Splatfest via conch shells, and their work suits could be more festive since they’re already just there for looks. The card game’s totally left out for Splatfest contributions, but maybe once online matches are available, that can change, and Tableturfers could get special card sleeves.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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