Splatoon 3 just got a serious deep dive thanks to this afternoon's Nintendo Direct, revealing new levels, new weapons and an all-new approach to Splatfests that will introduce three-way fights into the series for the first time.
Three-way fights come as part of the returning Splatfests, with matches during the special timed events being split into two halves, with the first part a traditional 4v4 face-off while the second sees a 4v2v2 fight for territory.
There'll be a chance to sample this particular new flavour of Splatoon during a Splatfest World Premiere that's taking place on 27th August - effectively a free demo where players can sample Splatoon 3 for a limited period, choosing to fight for rock, paper or scissors (it's worth noting that the demo will be playable from 25th August , giving a small window for practice before the Splatfest World Premiere itself).
It'll be a chance to sample some of the new features in Splatoon 3 as well, headlined by a couple of new moves in the player's arsenal. Squid Surge allows you to speed up an ink-covered wall while in squid form, while Squid Roll lets you dive out of ink with a small window of invincibility as you repel ink.
There's a new background and player hub, too, with Splatoon 3 set in Splatsville, a new urban Hong Kong-esque sprawl where you'll find familiar vendors hawking gear. Arms dealer and horseshoe crab Sheldon returns to dole out weapons, although this time out you'll pay for them by earning 'Sheldon Licences' that can be unlocked in battle.
Highlights amidst the new weapons include an explosive bow and arrow set and a 'Splatana', a katana-inspired piece that can fling paint a considerable distance while also doubling up as a melee tool. There are new special weapons, too, including a Tacticooler that can be deployed to buff your teammates, a Wave Breaker that can spot and damage nearby enemies and a Reef Slider that looks very much like an exploding jetski and therefore a lot of fun indeed.
Splatoon 3 will also introduce new maps, with Scorch Gorge, Eeltail Alley, Mincemeat Metalworks and Undertow Spillway joining some more familiar faces. There'll be some 12 maps in Splatoon 3 at launch, with more due post-launch as free updates. Splatoon 3 will have a rejigged approach to post-launch content too, with 'catalogues' of unlockable collectibles being introduced every three months for the next two years - essentially acting as an analogue of a Battle Pass for Nintendo's online-focussed game. On top of that, "major" paid DLC will also arrive at some point.
There will once again be a story mode, though details were short on 'The Return of the Mammalians'. Salmon Run will also be returning in beefed up form via the new mode Next Wave, with more intense showdowns and a handful of new bosses thrown into the mix. Perhaps most excitingly there's a new mini-game on offer within Splatoon 3, with what looks like a fully featured card battler called Table Turf Battle playable on the streets of Splatsville.
Even more exciting is some basic online functionality that was inexplicably missing from earlier Splatoon games, such as the ability to find friends and then join them in battle in an all-new lobby. Here you can also browse other players lockers while decorating your own with items you acquire in-game from the Hotlantis shop.
But most importantly of all? There's an all-new group of idols fronting the game, with the group Deep Cut picking up the mantle from the original Splatoon's Callie and Marie and Splatoon 2's Pearl and Marina. Deep Cut comprises Shiver, Frye and oversized stingray Big Man. Nintendo confirmed a series of three new Amiibo to coincide with the launch of Splatoon 3, but criminally it seems we'll have to wait longer for Deep Cut to be immortalised themselves in Amiibo form as they're not part of the first wave.
There'll be a fair amount to sink into, then, when Splatoon 3 launches on 9 September - though we'll be getting a decent early glimpse when the Splatfest World Premiere takes place on 27 August.