I‘ll admit it, I was late to the Splatoon party. I finally got the original Wii U game far after the Splatfests – temporary events that cause players to flock to the game to earn Super Sea Snails in order to enhance their gear and also farm salty tears of rage in equal measure – had ended. I got my Nintendo Switch late in 2017 as well, purchasing the Super Mario Odyssey bundle and keeping Splatoon 2 on my list of potential games to pick up for the system as well. This meant I also missed the first handful of Splatfests on the new platform. I finally got the game as a Christmas gift, and for weeks afterwards the game card did not leave the system. I was completely into the game.
And then it came. My first ever Splatfest – Action vs Comedy. I immediately queued up and pledged my loyalty to cool squids that don’t look at explosions. As soon as the floodgates opened and the Splatfest began proper, I was immediately in the game and playing my ranking matches.
That was when I discovered why they call them ‘Saltfests’. Within two games I was starting to swear bitterly at the screen, my team, and the very existence of Octobrushes. It’s a good thing Splatoon 2 doesn’t have built-in voice communication or I’m sure I would have blistered the ears of every player on the map. Bear in mind at this point I had not only started getting the hang of the game, but I’d even gotten some very good match results – often even when I was on the losing team I was on the top of the scoreboard with either most turf inked, most splats, or both.
I was around the average Splatoon 2 player. And like every average Splatoon 2 player, I was feeling the effects of Splatfest’s 24 hour insanity. I was busy for half of Saturday, but when I got home earlier than I expected I was immediately back on the Switch, grouping up with a handful of friends and pushing hard and fast to make it to the “Action King” rank – the highest you could achieve.
My group and I had hung out in voice chat fairly often before that, cracking jokes and occasionally going off on rants about how broken the Aerosprays were or about how if Nintendo wanted us to pay for online play they’d have to fix the disconnect issues first, but Splatfest brought something else out of us. We had suddenly become serious competitive players. Callouts were frequent, with “left side!” and “push now!” ringing through. This wasn’t normal for us; usually we were just there for the fun of it, but the event had transformed us. Victories were hard-fought, defeats were taken with frustration. It wasn’t just about us and our quest to get the biggest reward possible, it was about pushing for the victory of the Action team.
The Splatfest ended at 11PM EST. At 10:56 I had finally reached Action King rating. It was too late to start another game – between the queue times, the three minutes in the match, and the postgame results screen meant it wouldn’t have counted. I looked at my rank and at the final top score I’d reached; just under 2000 points. I shut the game down, and that night I slept the sleep of the victor.
I will admit once more that I got a little salty when I saw the results. Despite Team Action having a distinct player advantage, Team Comedy took the victory in both solo and team battles, 49%-51%. Despite the narrow loss, I took the Super Sea Snails I’d been rewarded with a smile on my face. I’d survived my first ever Splatfest without throwing a Joy-Con out the window. In spite of the cheesy team comps (two Aerosprays and an Octobrush is incredibly frustrating to deal with), repeated disconnects (Splatoon 2 is notorious for dropping players without any explanation as to why and there’s no way to rejoin games in progress, leaving us with a 3-to-4 disadvantage), and the sheer pressure of a genuine competitive environment I have to admit I enjoyed my first experience immensely.
The next day I saw one of the numerous player-created profile images in the main hub of the game, and it summed up my feelings for my first experience perfectly:
Splatfest Begins: “Aww yeah, Splatfests are the greatest!”
Splatfest Ends: “Splatfests are the worst! I hate them!” … “When’s the next one?”
Call me a masochist, but I know for a fact that whenever the next Splatfest comes around I’ll be waiting, Joy-Cons in hand and both a swear jar and a stress ball within easy reach. I just hope that Nintendo figures out the disconnect issue before they decide to start charging us for online play.
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