Splatoon is arguably Nintendo’s most important IP to date. The series has sold extremely well worldwide and in Japan, it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Despite originally debuting on the Nintendo Wii U, Splatoon, like other games previously shipwrecked on Nintendo’s failed platform, was given a second chance on the Nintendo Switch. While it’s mostly known for its competitive multiplayer modes, the developers continue to provide single-player experiences in an attempt to build the world around the competitive modes while simultaneously teaching players how to play the game. Splatoon’s single-player campaign has more or less been a glorified training tutorial for the multiplayer modes, but could it be more?
With each new entry, the developers have slowly evolved and made tweaks to the single-player experience, but even with Splatoon 3, it still leaves a lot to be desired. In Splatoon’s single-player, you have a hub-like environment where the levels are located. These levels are known as “Kettles” and they essentially transport the player to a traditional, Point-A-to-Point-B stage filled with platforming challenges and enemy encounters. The levels in Splatoon have always been well designed, even dating back to the original game on Wii U. With that said, they’re essentially obstacle courses; suspended amalgamations of concrete and steel. Splatoon 3 is probably the most ambitious entry to date with its interconnected islands and overworld exploration, however. Each island is filled with satisfying goop to clear, hidden scrolls to collect and other small secrets that can be found off the beaten path. If you “Survey” the entire island (which essentially means 100%’ing each area), you’re rewarded with unique items for your (unnecessarily hard to find) locker room in the online lobby.
I don’t think I’m the first person to suggest this, but what if Nintendo took the lessons they learned from Bowser’s Fury and applied those ideas to Splatoon’s single-player? Could you imagine if the six islands from Splatoon 3 took the platforming and combat sequences from the Kettle stages and placed them in a much larger, more grounded explorable space? What if Splatoon had Super Mario 64-sized worlds and instead of Power Star objectives in each level, you had collectable Zapfish instead? Perhaps that’s not the developer’s intention, considering the approach they’ve taken has been the same now for three games. Outside of some truly epic boss encounters (particularly the final boss sequences) and some interesting lore, Splatoon’s single-player doesn’t have much of an identity, at least in terms of its structure.
Since Splatoon 2, each level can be tackled with different weapon choices. Splatoon 3 carries this idea forward and after clearing every stage with every available weapon, I did learn which weapons I liked/disliked using for when I return to the multiplayer, so perhaps that was the developers intentions all along? For the completionists out there, if you do complete every stage in the game at least once and roll the credits, you unlock a secret bonus stage that’s essentially Splatoon 3’s “Champion’s Road” equivalent from Super Mario 3D World. This level, titled “After Alterna”, is a series of platforming and shooting sequences that tests the player’s complete understanding of the game’s core mechanics. It took me nearly 3 hours to complete and the reward is a new badge/title for your profile and an additional lore entry for your log. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve accomplished all year and it clearly showcases the potential of Splatoon’s single-player gameplay.
For the few people on this planet who care more about Splatoon’s single-player experience than the multiplayer, I can confirm that there is no reward for completing every stage with every available weapon option. Splatoon 3 takes some conceptual/structural ideas from Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion as well. Instead of using Power Eggs to upgrade your character’s equipment like in Splatoon 2’s single-player, they’re used here to either clear the islands of the fuzzy goop that’s impeding your progress or for a small fee, they can be used to access particular stages. I think Splatoon 3’s single-player is a step in the right direction and when (and not if) a Splatoon 4 releases, similar to how the inklings evolved from the ocean squid, perhaps they will be ready for their next step in evolution.
See you next time!