Splatoon 3's Side Order DLC is another display of the series' versatility

Nintendo has found another genre for the Splatoon series and Side Order's roguelite presentation is enough to fill anyone's plate.


For as long as the Splatoon series has been around, Nintendo has done an admirable job of showing the series' versatility. Outside of Mario and Pokemon, few of the company's other first-party licenses have proven that they can fit a number of different gaming genres. Over the years, Splatoon has managed to show that it works as a competitive multiplayer game, a linear single-player story, an open-world single-player story, and a cooperative horde mode. Splatoon 3's upcoming Side Order DLC is about to explore another new genre for the series: Roguelites.

Shacknews recently had the opportunity to check out Splatoon 3: Side Order. We went in expecting to see a potential extension of the main Splatoon 3 story that we loved so much, but were pleasantly surprised by what we got instead. Side Order sees the return of Agent 8 from the Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion, who wakes up in a strange, abandoned area. Agent 8 isn't alone, as she's soon joined by one-half of Off the Hook, Pearl… sort of. Pearl's consciousness has somehow been transferred to a drone. A mysterious figure suddenly calls them both into a strange tower known as the Spire of Order. Answers as to what's happening may potentially lie inside the Spire, but danger awaits across every one of its floors.

Agent 8 facing down different Jellatin enemy types in Splatoon 3: Side Order

Source: Nintendo

The idea of Side Order is to successfully climb each of the Spire of Order's floors, facing off against a new class of enemies known as Jellatins. Each floor is a small enclosed space and contains a specific objective, whether it's to control a Splat Zone, destroy a series of portals, or escort an Ink Tower to a goal. Each floor's difficulty will increase gradually, but Agent 8's abilities will also grow over the course of a run. After completing a floor, players will be prompted to select between two or three floors of varying difficulties to tackle next. Each selection offers different rewards, including Color Chips that contain upgrades to Agent 8's arsenal for the remainder of the run. Upon selection, those bonuses can be equipped to Agent 8's Palette immediately. Color Chip upgrades can help players by increasing their damage output, reducing ink usage per shot, and increasing splash radius, just to name a few examples. Players must determine which selections work best for their playstyle, as well as for what weapon they're bringing into the Spire.

Boss fights await every ten floors and they can be tough for even the most seasoned Splatoon player. One example sees a giant funnel-like creature rotate its layers and fire off volleys of enemy ink in massive amounts. If that's not enough, it's spitting out aggressive Jellatins that are constantly pursuing the player across the stage if they aren't taken care of immediately. There will be many instances where players will fall short of reaching the top of the Spire.

While players could start a fresh run and hope for better luck, it's also possible to earn permanent upgrades over time. While the Color Chips incrementally increase Agent 8's power temporarily, permanent upgrades can be drastic game-changers, offering an increase in lives, a permanent reduction of damage, and other bonuses. Players will also spot a vast array of lockers in between sessions that contain various unlockables.

Selecting floors with different rewards in Splatoon 3: Side Order

Source: Nintendo

As fun as it is to play through Splatoon 3's multiplayer and cooperative modes, Side Order's roguelite formula looks like it'll be every bit as appealing. That's partly because of the simple, tried-and-true level design that takes advantage of the game's ink-blasting mechanics. Another big part of that is because of the challenge provided by the Jellatins. Their attack patterns will vary and, depending on the objective, they can even have players shifting their strategies. Some Jellatins will chase Agent 8 across the stage, others will blow a buddy through the air and have it spray the ground below with enemy ink, and others will try and drag out time-based objectives by running away on contact.

Splatoon 3's Side Order shows that there's still steam in the roguelite genre, but is also a testament to how many hats this series can wear. After enjoying the multiplayer Turf Wars and Splatfests, the cooperative Salmon Runs, and revisiting the open-world story, it's nice to see that Side Order is about to add a fun and replayable roguelite mode to the mix. Players won't have to wait too much longer to try this out. Splatoon 3's Side Order releases on Thursday, February 22. Those who already own the Splatoon 3 Expansion Pass don't need to do anything else, but everyone else will need to purchase it in order to jump in.

This preview is based on an on-site Nintendo Switch demo from a press event in San Francisco, CA. It may not be representative of the final product. Flight and transportation were provided.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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