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Splatoon 3 Direct Deep Dive

Written by Pawl S.Lax

What was revealed Directly, Indirectly and why it all matters more than you might think.

Splatoon 3 Direct Deep Dive Video

It finally happened. The Splatoon 3 Nintendo Direct has aired and Nintendo has put out a boatload of extra information on their official Splatoon 3 website. Having had a chance to bask in the glory of the Splatlands, and with less than a month to go until the game was released, let’s dive into the Splatoon 3 Direct and see what fresh ideas it brings to the series.

The Direct opened with a pretty safe and unspectacular presentation designed to ease new players in whilst veterans were foaming at the mouth desperate for something new to wrap their tentacles around. We were treated to the basic information about how Splatoon is played – turf war/inking for movement etc. For a brief moment, it felt like this was going to be completely about appealing to brand new fans with zero knowledge but then we got given a proper look at the new movement mechanics – Squid Surge for bursting up walls and over the top of ledges, and Squid Roll, which allows you to quickly reverse direction and dive backwards. We’ve seen these mechanics before but this time we were supplied with all-new details, such as how each option has a small window of invulnerability, allowing for much more daring manoeuvres when approaching enemies. Snipers beware! Will you be able to perform these moves while carrying the rainmaker? Only time will tell.

Next up was confirmed stages. New and retro stages are classed as being from either The Splatlands or Greater Inkopolis respectively. We were shown previously revealed Splatoon 3 original stages Scorch Gorge, Eeltail Alley, Mincemeat Metalworks (I still really dislike the name of that one) and Undertow Spillway – but these were joined by ‘Hagglefish Market’. A new stage that visually reminded me of Mahi Mahi resort as both are surrounded by water, but structurally it reminds me of one of the Shifty Stations from Splatoon 2 – specifically Grapplink Girl - just given a fresh thematic coat of paint and repurposed for wider play by removing the grapplinks in favour of inkrails. 

We then got a brief look at returning stages from Greater Inkopolis – Museum D’Alfonsino, which has been seen previously, as well as Hammerhead Bridge making its glorious return from the original Wii U game. We didn’t get much of a look at it though so it’s difficult to gauge how many changes they’ve made in the interim. Thankfully Splatoon 3 see’s the return of the best stage from Splatoon – Mahi-Mahi resort! You can keep your cheap knockoff New Albacore Hotel, Mahi-Mahi is back BAY BAY! Then they just casually confirmed 4 returning stages from Splatoon 2 – Inkblot Art Academy, Sturgeon Shipyard, Makomart (my favourite Splatoon 2 stage) and Wahoo World. These 4 are amongst the most popular stages from Splatoon 2 so it’s easy to understand why they return here. Although I personally don’t care for Wahoo World, I know I’m in the minority.

We also had it confirmed that more stages will be added in later updates and got a glimpse at what is very clearly Flounder Heights from the first game (although it wasn’t named) and an as-yet unnamed stage from The Splatlands which has a desert theme reminiscent of Egypt.

With traversal and stages covered, the focus now shifted to weaponry, which included a brief but important reminder that all basic variants of weapons from Splatoon & Splatoon 2 will be returning when the game launches. We got another quick look at Splatoon 3’s signature new weapon type – the bow-like Stringer, before getting an extended look at a second brand new class to be added, Splatanas. As the name implies, these weapons are katana-like in nature, but instead of slicing your opponent to pieces, you’ll be slashing at them with focused ink flinging, a bit like a mini roller. The basic attack of the Splatana Wiper swishes from side-to-side in front of you whilst hurtling a wave of ink a decent distance ahead of you. You can also charge your shot for a more powerful attack.

A spotlight was then shone onto Special Weapons, where we were introduced to the brand new Tacticooler. This is unlike anything else we’ve ever seen in Splatoon history – a vending machine that provides your team with 4 drinks containing temporary buffs. So far all we’ve seen is speed enhancement but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that these could include better ink efficiency, faster special charging etc. Next up was generation 3’s attempt at reinventing the Echolocator – say hello to the Wave Breaker. When set up, it emits sequential waves around it that, when they connect with the opponent, will not only mark them but deliver some damage. You can simply jump over the small ring that pulses out and avoid its effects entirely, but you’ll need to time it right - no small feat in the heat of battle. This special will perhaps be best deployed in choke points or focal areas like the middle of a splat zone or on the tower to reveal anyone trying to approach and deal that first part of damage that can make the difference to your attackers trying to get the jump on the enemy. We also got introduced to the Reefslider – essentially a ground based splashdown that starts off with a horizontal dash in front of you; clearly a nod to the iconic motorcycle slide from Akira. Depending on how much armour you have, this could be an excellent weapon for starting comebacks as it should allow you to dive into target areas quickly and clear out the enemy.

It was particularly shocking to see the return of some special weapons from Splatoon 2. Tenta Missiles, Inkjet, Ink Storm, Ultra Stamp and the Booyah Bomb were all confirmed to be returning. To an extent I can understand the development team’s desire to bring back the Stamp and Booyah Bomb as they were introduced relatively late into the life cycle of Splatoon 2, and thus only a small number of weapon options had access to them. The others however are more questionable. We already have the Trizooka and Triple Inkstrike, so the Inkjet and Tenta Missiles seems superfluous by extension as the brand new specials were modern reworkings of the specials that were replaced by Inkjet and Missiles in Splatoon 2. Missile spam in particular can already be a nightmare to deal with in Splatoon 2, so I’m not looking forward to having to deal with this hazard again in the threequel. Ink Storm is fine because it feels like they’re admitting that they already got that one just about as right as they can and there isn’t a significant way to overhaul it.

Speaking of overhauls, the weapon shop’s system is pretty different now. You don’t buy the weapons using the currency you earn from playing the game. Instead, you need to earn Sheldon Licences through levelling up or by increasing the freshness level of weapons you already own. You can exchange 1 Sheldon Licence for a new weapon that’s available at the level you’re already at. Or if you want, you can save some up and use them to buy a weapon earlier than you’re supposed to get it. This change feels like it specifically caters to veterans who REALLY want a certain comfort weapon to be honest – given one of the principle ways of earning Sheldon Licences is to level up anyway, you may as well just level up and buy more weapons for less!

Next up was a brief overview of the rest of the in-game stores. They operate the same way as before – exchange in-game currency for new items of headgear, clothing and shoes, the stock of which changes daily with more items becoming available as you level up. My favourite of the new store owners is Nails. How can you not be a fan of the guy, he looks so cool! There was a brief mention of how abilities on clothing work, with a very visual demonstration of run speed up (which to be fair is the easiest one to demonstrate – most abilities have such a marginal difference visually) before revealing the new ability: Intensify Action, which supposedly improves your Squid Surge & Squid Roll. It wasn’t exactly made clear in the direct how this actually plays out but thankfully the official Splatoon 3 website ( https://splatoon.nintendo.com/ ) goes into more detail – you’ll keep more momentum when using consecutive Squid Rolls and charge up the Squid Surge faster. In both cases, it will also reduce the effect of lessened accuracy after performing these moves. But that wasn’t the biggest news in the world of Abilities – firstly, Murch has now grown up! He looks even older than Spyke did in the first game! What has happened in the last 5 years?!

Secondly, for the first time in the series’ history you can change the main ability of your gear! This change has been one that fans have been clamouring for since the first game. Now you can truly make whatever fashion choices you wish, so long as you’re willing to grind a lot of ability chunks for the privilege! Additionally, as per the info on the website, gear can now be ranked higher than 3 Stars – it doesn’t give you any more slots for secondary abilities but it will give you more experience/earn ability chunks quicker than usual. To reach such heights, you’ll need to purchase a duplicate piece of gear from the shop to enhance the star level of the gear you have already. Alternatively, in keeping with tradition, you can give Murch a Super Sea Snail to increase your gear’s level.

Quality of Life improvements don’t stop there however – another feature Squidkids have been desperately wanting since 2015 is the ability to natively save loadouts for quick access. Well, now we have them! Up to 5 different sets can be registered! Previously this feature was locked to amiibo and needing to have them to hand/remembering which sets were on which one etc, but that’ll be a thing of the past soon, as in Splatoon 3, we’ll have access to this feature instantly. Thank the Big Man for that!

Next up was a look at the new version of Ranked battles: Anarchy Battle. This comes in 2 flavours – Series and Open. Open allows you to team up with your friends in ranked battle modes (Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker and Clam Blitz all return and are available from day one) or just play as a solo squid looking to team up with others. There was no new ranked mode unveiled to the disappointment of many, although having 4 ranked modes, story mode, turf war, salmon run and Tableturf Battles available from the start is plenty to be getting on with in my view. Save that brand new ranked mode (or modes?) for future updates and we’re good. If you’ve played Splatoon 2 you’ll be familiar with these modes. Hopefully there’s a better tutorial for each (as opposed to the virtually non-existent ones previously!) for the new cohort.

Rainmaker seems to be the only mode with any significant changes to it for the most part. Personally, I despise the fact that checkpoints have been added as I fear you’ll be forced to drop the golden fish whereupon the respawn shield will reactivate.  If so, this may kill the thrilling nature of the mode from previous entries as you’re now going to be required to hit certain points on the map before you can reach the goal and be forced to reset at those points. It seems completely unnecessary to me because the flow is now stunted and aggressive moves and swift counter attacks are just not possible until you’ve already been through all the checkpoints. Rainmaker has always been my favourite mode but for the first time I think that won’t be the case in Splatoon 3 which is an almighty shame, because it’s not to do with improvements to other modes but rather taking away what I would argue is the very core of what makes Rainmaker a fun experience in the first place. This was the only real negative in the entire presentation for me, but it’s one that strikes through my heart. But enough about prematurely predicting the demise of the best game mode…

Matchmaking has been confirmed to be based around the player with the lowest number of rank points in the team, so there could be a good number of lopsided skirmishes ahead when a newer player teams up with 3 experienced pros. Conversely, Anarchy Series is very much a solo affair compared to Anarchy Open, where you’ll be paired up with other solo squids seeking to gain 5 wins to complete a run of the challenge – your run will end when you’ve attained 5 wins or suffered 3 losses, and only at the end of your challenge will you receive your rewards. In order to participate, you have to gamble some of your hard earned rank points for the privilege of taking the challenge. He who dares, wins Rodders.  An excellent addition to this is the fact that, assuming your teammates don’t back out (or have yet to finish their own run), if you choose to continue your run, you’ll be kept with the same team. This will give squids the stability they crave over an 8-match run and allow them to learn how their newfound teammates play. Or you can choose to pause your challenge and come back another time. Whatever floats your boat. 

The concept of ranks in each mode is now dead and buried in Splatoon 3. We’re back to the ways of the first generation where you had 1 rank regardless of mode. If you’re a tower control specialist and never want to play clam blitz ever again, you can do that and still have an excellent S+ rank. For the time being, ranks are back to how they were at the start of Splatoon 2: C, B, A, S and S+0-S+50. It has been announced that X rank will return in a future update and that you’ll need to be a bare minimum of S+0 to even attempt to become X Rank, so it doesn’t sound like you’ll necessarily have to rank up from S+9 this time around. This could be linked to the way ranking up now occurs – you have to participate in Rank Up battles, which are exclusive to Anarchy Series.

Your ranks will also drop down at the end of each season – it’s purported to be a case of 2 ranks below the highest you had reached up until that point in the season. We’ll see what happens when all these additions drop, along with League Battles in a future update. Not sure how popular league will really be now that Anarchy Open exists – it was the only way to play ranked modes in the wild with your friends before, but now you can drop in with a friend into ranked play at any time League seems redundant. That said, the official website does drop an interesting tidbit of information – “Since they’re a bit of a rowdier bunch, sometimes the residents of Splatsville go a little rogue and throw some special modes into League Battles.” What could this mean? How special are we talking? 2 rainmakers on the field? Turbo Booster Tower Control? Clam Blitz where you need 20 clams to make a super clam, but it’s worth 40 points when you break the basket? Who knows what kooky ideas they’re going to bring to League Battle going forward. Hopefully it’ll be enough to justify playing it with your friends.

Speaking of friends, let’s talk about the new Ghosts Feature! The lobby not only hosts the test range for weapons to warm up while you wait for a game, but you can find your friends that are currently playing matches and, if their team isn’t already filled out with friends, you can join them and be on the same team in Turf and Ranked modes. This is an evolution fans have been dying for since we first set foot in Inkopolis and it’s finally here. This alone will make playing Splatoon 3 an absolute joy. I’m not remotely kidding. Being able to join up with and play alongside your friends guaranteed at any time without having to go about forming a specific lobby in both turf and ranked modes? Yes! Yes! YHES!

..but wait, that’s not all. The lobby also has a terminal where you can access your results for the last 50 battles you’ve participated in, in the same way you can via Splatnet 2 for Splatoon 2. However Splatoon 3 goes three steps beyond its predecessor, firstly by giving you access to full battle replays, which are recreations of your most recent battles (much like how saving a replay works in Smash ultimate – these aren’t true replays but a recreation from the data recorded during the match, so these will be deleted when future patches change how the game works.) Secondly, you have full access to spectator mode controls that debuted in Splatoon 2 during Replays so you can watch the game from more than just your own perspective. Thirdly, you’ll be able to upload your own Replays and view those of others. 

On the subject of Splatoon 2 – there was some important information that wasn’t included in the Direct that pertains to carrying across save data from Splatoon 2 to Splatoon 3. Players who do so will receive three Gold Sheldon Licences which can be exchanged for main weapons, no matter what their level is. They’ll also be able to join Anarchy Battles from the beginning of the game instead of having to reach level 10 first. Furthermore, depending on their Splatoon 2 ranks, they’ll start Splatoon 3 with a higher rank and be matched up against players with similar skill levels from Splatoon 2. Players aren’t only being rewarded for their loyalty, this system helps protect brand new players from the rampaging murderbeasts that would otherwise be lurking for them in the early game following release. There is a very real skill gap between experienced and brand new players and this method of mitigating the need for experienced players to grind the early ranks and levels alongside those embarking upon their first squid game journey is an extremely welcome addition.

Yet another new inclusion is the locker – a lovely little addition where you can express your personality by decorating it inside and out. You’ll be able to display unlocked weapons, gear, items and stickers which you can either buy from the new shop ‘Hotlantis’, or unlock via the new Catalogue system, where you accumulate points at the same time you gain experience and coinage. The catalogues are seasonal though, so you’ll need to work hard to unlock everything within them over the 3 months they’re available. We’ve been guaranteed 2 years’ worth of these so far, so there’s going to be plenty of content to unlock over the next couple of years. Your snazzily decked out locker will appear in the locker rooms of players you’ve recently encountered. Increased customization is a big theme of Splatoon 3, as you can now have customised Splat Tags (your choice of banner, badge and titles shows up at the start of each match) and you can choose your own end of game emotes.

Easily the most random reveal of the direct that still has me scratching my head was the announcement of Tableturf Battle – an in-game card-based minigame that sees you duking it out with NPCs to establish who can take the most squares on a map with their combination of cards. This was extremely unexpected and could be fun but… it’s no squid jump and if it’s not there as a distraction while waiting for a match to load, I don’t see many spending much time with this. It’s a quirky addition to be sure, but it does seem a bit like someone from the team pitched it as a mobile game and it didn’t go any further so they just bundled it into the main game.

More likely to be played by the player base as a whole (especially as it was confirmed on the website that it’s available at any time now!) is Salmon Run: Next Wave. A couple of new Boss Salmonids made their debut in this Direct, and we also got more info on the Kaiju-like King Salmonid called Cohozuna, an absolutely massive beast that may appear after you’ve completed your third and final wave. The amount of HP this behemoth has is substantial, to the point that your backpack becomes a secret golden egg-firing cannon which will be needed to deal significant damage to the King! Your prize for defeating the king? Fish scales, which vary in rarity (with rarer ones appearing more frequently at higher hazard levels) and can be used to exchange for special Splashtag designs or items for lockers.  The phrase “one of the new king salmonids” was included here, suggesting that there are other as-yet unseen King Salmonids. That said, the award for best pun name so far goes to the UFO-like boss called Slammin’ Lid! Big Shot by comparison seems incredibly tame.

The Direct also sported a teaser trailer for Big Run – a special event where salmonids will invade regular stages! We saw it in action on Wahoo World and it looks absolutely insane. I can’t fathom how intense that will be on certain stages.

There was a short section on story mode, which didn’t reveal much we hadn’t already seen in previous trailers, except that little buddy can be used as a sub-weapon! The little guy will hang on to and attack whatever you throw him at. Amazing! It was also implied that Splatoon 3’s solo story will bring an end to the saga that started back in the first game. Is a truly epic finale on the cards? We have less than a month until we find out for sure. Predictably, substantial paid DLC is coming in the future, which teased appearances from Off the Hook, so perhaps a sequel to Octo Expansion is in the works?

We got a quick confirmation of a few returning features – our Miiverse substitute, the mailbox is back and the Shoal returns as the hub for local wireless play. Recon mode is its own separate thing now and doesn’t rely on the map to be in rotation; there’s a photo mode accessible via the main hub area, and Splatnet makes a comeback via the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app. Splatnet 3 delivers pretty much exactly the same experience as before. Amiibo functionality also returns and operates the same as it did in Splatoon 2 – you can save gear sets to them, take photos with them and they’ll unlock special amiibo gear to use in-game. We also had a set of 3 new amiibo confirmed, although they won’t be available at launch which is disappointing, especially as one of them is Little Buddy :( We’ll see you sometime this winter, my man.

The big finale to the direct was the reveal of our new idols – Deep Cut – consisting of Frye, Shiver and everyone’s new favourite, Big Man. Yes, for the first time, the idols are a trio. They’ll deliver the newscast of course, but it seems very much like this is finally optional! Rather than interrupting the entire game, the news (i.e. change in stages) can simply pop up in the top left corner. You do have the option to actually watch the news if you prefer by clicking-in the left stick but beyond the novelty of seeing our new favourite trio in action, nobody is going to willingly do that on a consistent basis.

Deep Cut provided some of the hottest breaking news of the day. Not only do Splatfests return (honestly we all knew that they would) but they do so with two significant changes that completely freshen up the event and could make them better than ever before. First and foremost, Splatfests are now a three-way vote! That’s right, only one of 3 teams will win. It’ll be harder than ever before to pick the winning team by just thinking about how others will vote. There’s now stuff you can do to contribute to your team’s chances of success before the Splatfest proper begins. During the pre-Splatfest period when you pick your team, you can earn Conch Shells by increasing your Catalogue level through battles and shifts at Grizzco. The number of Conch Shells each team earns during this period will be factored into the final results, so even if you miss the main part of the Splatfest through other commitments, you can still contribute in a meaningful way! You can then spend your shells at the Shell-out machine to win items!

On top of this, Splatfests are now split into two phases. The first half plays out as previous Splatfests did: you’ll play turf war against members from an opposing side in order to gain points for your chosen team. At the end of the first phase, the team that is currently in the lead will be declared and then Tricolour Turf Wars begin! The team in 1st place will have to defend their position against the other 2 teams simultaneously. 4 members of the 1st place team will have to battle against two members of Team 2 and two members of Team 3 to determine which team will be the king of the mountain at the end of the splatfest. There is even a special item in this mode – the Ultra Signal. The leading team will need to prevent members of the other teams from getting hold of this as it will not only summon the Sprinkler of Doom (yes, that’s its actual name) which automatically increases the amount of turf covered by the team that uses it, but it will also add clout to that team for their Splatfest score. Tricolour turf wars look to be an absolute hoot and I can’t wait to get stuck into them.

I won’t have to wait long either, because once again we’re getting a preview Splatfest demo! The Splatoon 3: Splatfest World Premiere runs from 9am to 9pm on August 27th with the theme of Rock/Paper/Scissors in what some are dubbing “The battle of Gon Freecss”. Personally, I’ll be on team scissors. Not just because it’s the team for Big Man (although you should always support his team!) but also because everyone loves The Acclaimed.

Overall, the Splatoon 3 direct contained an absolute treasure trove of information. For those thirsting for more, the Splatoon development team expanded upon this on their official website, so do check it out when you have a chance. We’re less than a month away from launch and we’re counting down the days to not only the Splatfest World Premiere but the day we can finally form a Squid String Quartet. Not long to go now and it’s looking like an absolute banger of a game.



Where to pre-order

• Currys: £38.24 (15% off with the code SPLAT15)
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• My Nintendo Store: £49.99 (Pre-order Bonus: Drawstring Bag + Squid Pin)
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• Amazon: £44.99
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• Base: £41.85  (Pre-order Bonus - Iron-on Patch)
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• 365games: £40.99
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Credits

Article written by Pawl S.Lax
Edited by Paul L. Russell
Review Graphic by Paul L. Russell