Splatoon 3 has entered March with a big update, new three-month Fresh season, the first wave of paid DLC, a big trip down memory lane, and an event this weekend.
Kicking things off will be another Big Run, and Season 3 is turning things up by giving us a brand new King Salmonid: Horrorboros. The Big Run will be from 7 p.m. EDT on March 3rd to 7 p.m. EDT on March 5th, and the new update brought lots of new rewards for the few of you who may have an overabundance of scales to spare. But that’s literally just the start of what Splatoon fans can expect.
Speaking of freshness, the Fresh Season 2023 catalog is coming soon, and it's packed with new banners, decorations, and gear. When Fresh Season starts, you can flip through the pages in-game by selecting Catalog from the Status menu. pic.twitter.com/BDZ5kTw9iB
— Splatoon North America (@SplatoonNA) February 20, 2023
Freshness all around
New seasons in Splatoon 3 have already brought new weapon kits and catalogs filled with new items and even a few new cards. Surprisingly, though, there are two new special weapons: the Kraken Royale and the Super Chump. Kraken Royale is basically a more balanced version of Splat 1’s Kraken, so while you’re still invincible and climbing walls to spread ink everywhere, there’s a longer vulnerability timer before and after your transformation. You also need to charge an attack to one-hit someone or use a two-hit spin attack. Bringing back Splat 1 kits, like the Krak-On Splat Roller, hits right in the nostalgia.
Super Chump, on the other hand, is a totally new, sneaky AoE paint attack. It makes it look like tons of people are about to jump to a certain location, which you can use to confuse enemies, but it also locks down the area in a similar but longer fashion compared to, say, the Inkstrike. Granted, the Decoys can be destroyed, but the distraction can be enough that you or your allies can take out the enemy during or while the decoys explode. It’s downright diabolical, and I wish my beloved Custom Jet Squelcher had gotten this effect, but alas, it did not.
That being said, the myriad new weapons released not only this season but since release have made me grow as a Splatoon player far more than Splatoon 2 did. While Splat 3 still seems to want to play it safe and avoid abilities that can swing things too far in one direction, there’s enough “oomph” in specials to encourage branching out. Certain sub-weapons still feel useless (looking at you, Angle Shooter), which holds back those weapon kits, but the variety of gameplay options in Splat 3’s weapons is getting better with each update.
One of the more disappointing new features is Tableturf Battles being online. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Tableturf, and the new cards can be pretty wicked, but we’re still in a rough spot in terms of playing against other players in a rather balanced environment. While other game modes have match making systems with random players, Tableturf sadly didn’t get this, seemingly forcing you into playing with only “friends” since Nintendo didn’t add turn limit timers or anything.
There is a bit of a workaround, though: pools, a new social feature. Think of them as secret clubs or – for Final Fantasy Online vets – a bit like linkshells. If you know the name of the pool, simply go to the Mail tab, hit + to join a pool, and type in the name, like a password. Again, these aren’t guilds or clans. You don’t pay any currency to form them, and no one but the members know who’s in them. You can join and leave as you please, as long as other people join.
For example, if you tell your friends to join the “CheeseburgerMuffin” pool for Salmon Run, and they tell their friends, you could do Salmon Run with those Muffins, leave that pool, join Tableturf for some card games, and then go back to doing Salmon Run with the Muffins without jumping through any guild leaders, admins, or weird timers preventing you from socializing as you see fit. I’ve joined the “Tableturf” one to find Tableturf opponents even in the early hours of the morning, and it still had plenty of people.
Pools have probably saved Tableturf Online battles right out of the gate, to an extent. First, there’s no matchmaking, which does mean you may bump into extreme skill differences. I’ve only done a few matches, but I can tell I’m, uh, above average, so apologies to those newer players. Heck, you can even watch other players in the room by approaching their table.
The other part is that you can’t leave the “room” you set up for card battles until everyone is out of a match. As the feature is new, lots of people entered my room but didn’t stay for many matches, so I had to wait only a few minutes. In the future, though, I’m not sure how well this will work out.
A whole new old world
If Tableturf’s online release wasn’t disappointing enough, let me tell you to keep your wallet closed for the first DLC, Inkopolis. I do love having Spyke back and possibly remembering me, and I like the nostalgia of the old town, but it’s shallow.
It’s essentially just the old Splat 1 town: no new function, no new clothing, nothing. Even Hotlantis was phoned in as simply a kiosk, rather than being a physical store with new local shopkeepers like the other shops have. At best, it’s a smaller city that would be more convenient if the game didn’t already have a menu to take you to nearly any part of the city you wanted. The one exception is for Tableturf’s PvE matches, so while it’s not entirely useless, the whole first DLC is essentially a glorified skin for the game’s city hub. It’s a nice throwback, but for $25, part 2’s Side Order DLC – which seems to be named after Splatoon 2’s final Splatfest losers, Team Order – players better be getting a lot of content.
Players already assume that the Side Order DLC is going to focus on a single-player story, which I’m sure will be enjoyable for single-player fans, but I do wonder how it’ll affect online fans. Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion allowed for players to finally have an Octoling avatar in multiplayer, for example. It was a small cosmetic change but one thoroughly enjoyed by the playerbase. Many of the features I said I wanted to see in Splat 3 have actually been added in some fashion, but a new player race would be fun, even if it’s not nautilus-based.
Combined with what we’ve seen in Splat 2, the new DLC and the concept of Side Order seem to prove Nintendo’s dedication to keeping the whole online community on even footing. That is, DLC thus far doesn’t seem to even plan on adding anything to give purchasing players even minor advantages. For example, if Inkopolis gave players a second town with separate inventory, it would increase the odds that DLC players could find and purchase more gear to upgrade, leading to them possibly earning more chunks and thus gaining more customizations than players lacking DLC. Admittedly, it seems like a small advantage to me, but I can respect the sentiment, as long as the next DLC provides far more meat than the Inkopolis one did.