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Nintendo Details 'Splatoon 2' Game Modes, Companion App, Demo

Nintendo revealed more information about Splatoon 2's various game modes, companion smartphone app, and free demo, among other things.

Splatoon 2 is a competitive third-person shooter for the Nintendo Switch arriving on July 21. Instead of the assault rifles and plentiful waist-high cover you'd find in other shooters, the game features squid-kid hybrids called Inklings who use a variety of unusual weapons to cover arenas with their ink. Underneath that layer of kid-friendly violence, however, lies a fast-paced game that has enough depth to appeal to adults.

That's where Splatoon 2's game modes come in. The original Splatoon, which debuted on the Wii U in 2015, featured only a handful of play options. You could play through an action-packed single-player campaign, compete against other players online, or use the Wii U's GamePad to play one-on-one with a friend. Splatoon 2 expands on that with a new single-player campaign, tried-and-true competitive modes, local multiplayer, and a new horde mode called Salmon Run, which tasks you and your teammates with battling waves of grotesque salmon.

This added variety could help Splatoon 2 succeed where its predecessor stumbled. The first game's lack of compelling local multiplayer limited its co-op appeal, and because sets of maps rotate every couple hours, playing the competitive mode could be hit-or-miss. Sometimes you just don't want to shoot ink around a skate park for a couple hours while you wait for other maps to cycle through. Being able to play with someone in the same room--and to do so with the added Salmon Run as well as the competitive game modes--ought to make Splatoon 2 a little less stale.

Nintendo's hoping a companion smartphone app called SplatNet 2 will help as well. SplatNet 2 will be part of an upcoming mobile app designed to give the Switch some of the multiplayer features (voice chat, lobby making, etc.) that it's currently missing. That app will, appropriately enough, be called Nintendo Switch Online, according to a press release. Here's what SplatNet 2 will offer when it launches on July 21:

SplatNet 2 displays information like stage schedules, gear and stats, and even lets users view their lifetime inkage, a feature that shows how much turf a player has inked compared to real-world places. The Nintendo Switch Online app allows users to invite other players to join Private Battles, League Battles, Salmon Run and Splatfest Battles, as well as communicate with those players using voice chat.

Not to beat a dead seahorse, but restricting vital features to a mobile app--and the accompanying Frankenstein's Headset--is befuddling. We assume it's supposed to help Nintendo preserve its family-friendly image by making sure children aren't exposed to the horrors of competitive online games, but not having this functionality on-console might be more trouble than it's worth. We'll have to see how Splatoon 2's reliance on a mobile app feels in practice when the game debuts before we make a final judgment, though. Maybe everyone will be pleasantly surprised by the setup.

We'll get a small taste of Splatoon 2 ahead of its July 21 release thanks to a new free demo. This demo aligns with the game's first Splatfest, which are competitive events that pit two things (cats vs. dogs, pirates vs. ninjas, etc.) against each other. Players choose sides and then fight it out to prove their choice is better than the other one. This early Splatfest's theme is cake vs. ice cream. (Ice cream all the way.) Nintendo said you'll be able to download the demo ahead of time so you can immediately start to play when the event runs from 3-7pm PT on July 15.

You can learn more about Splatoon 2 from the Nintendo Direct livestream from this morning: