Splatoon 2 doesn't feel like a proper sequel just yet
Squid pro quo.
It's a simple fact that not enough people played Splatoon. Blame it on the Wii U's poor uptake, the game's toy town veneer putting people off or it just being a bit too slight at launch; Splatoon was a stand-out classic, but there aren't anywhere near enough people intimate with its charms.
Perhaps Splatoon 2 will change that - should the Switch prove more successful than the Wii U, which is a fairly low bar to leap - and right now it feels like a reintroduction rather than a retooling of the original. That's fine, and it's always nice to have an excuse to return to Nintendo's mercurially messy multiplayer game.
Right now, all that's being shown off is Turf War, the staple mode from the original Splatoon where players win territory by splashing it with colourful ink. There are a few additions, mind, most noteworthy of which is the Splat Dualies, a new weapon that requires a subtly different skill set to the existing arsenal.
There are two reticules that speak to the added spread of both weapons, those same reticules coming together as one when the target's at the right range. The Dualies also bring the ability to perform a dodge roll left or right, while their special sees both pistols used as a jetpack as you briefly fly across the stage.
All the specials are brand new, Nintendo says, so don't expect to see any old favourites recycled. The new specials are a neat bunch, in this demo at least, with Tentamissiles that lock on to enemies then squirm their way to the target and a Splashdown that sees you thundering down into the action for an effective and far-reaching attack. Existing weapons have been given a slight makeover. You can now store a charge in the charger weapon, and jumping with the roller will now unleash a vertical stream of paint.
That's all well and good, but right now it feels mighty slight, the initial demo not really doing enough to justify that number 2. The hope is that Nintendo's holding back the more substantial stuff for further down the line, and that at first it simply wants to prove that Splatoon can work on the Switch. It certainly looks the part on the portable screen, while the gyro controls are faithfully recreated via the Pro Controller or the tablet, but elsewhere you begin to realise how well Splatoon was designed to fit around the eccentricities of the Wii U, and how any port may well be resigned to slightly fudging the formula.
With the second screen absent, you now bring up the map with the press of a button, and upon doing so it fills the entire screen. You can still jump to partners, either using the touchscreen on the portable or by selecting them with the d-pad, but it feels like an inelegant solution. Being able to quickly read the map is such a vital part of Turf War, a mode in which to succeed you must constantly be looking at where needs coverage next, that this port can feel compromised.
Then there's the problem of it just feeling like a straight port rather than something new. That's not such an issue when the original is so fantastic, and maybe Nintendo's designers did perfect the formula first time around, but a little more progression wouldn't go amiss, and would help calm the concern that the number 2 was only slapped on late in the day to a deluxe version of Splatoon.
Perhaps the innovation is to be found in the single-player (let's not forget how wonderful that original campaign was), or in some all-new game modes yet to be shown, so here's hoping we see them sooner rather than later. More Splatoon is no bad thing, but if this is going to feel like the full-on sequel the original deserves it's going to need more than just a fresh lick of ink.