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‘Splatoon 3: Side Order’ is the main course

By Paul Harrington 

Staff Writer 

When I first played “Side Order” on its midnight release, I wasn't sure of what to expect - or even  what was going on. 

What I didn't realize was that this was everything I ever wanted from my silly cephalopod game.

“Splatoon 3: Side Order” was first teased in August 2022 as downloadable content for the game “Splatoon 3.” However, it was not released until February 2024. 

The approach taken with the DLC is one unseen in any of the previous “Splatoon” games, and it works well.

“Splatoon 3” stuck to its roots as a third-person shooter, but opted for a roguelike experience akin to “Binding of Isaac” when it came time for the DLC.

The setting of “Side Order” brings “Splatoon” full circle to the lore of the second game and is handled in an immaculate manner.

For those not familiar with “Splatoon” lore, in the final Splatfest of “Splatoon 2,” players were given a choice of either Chaos or Order.

If you are asking yourself, “What the heck is a Splatfest?” think of it as a popularity contest but decided over battling. 

What players did not realize was that the events would influence the next installment. “Side Order” is based on if Order were to have won the Splatfest.

The setting is, well, bleak.

It is a combination of a beautiful texture of gray that adds a little bit of glitter to ink when it's shot out. 

The Spire of Order feels exhausting. As you step into the elevator to start your run, all you can hear is the elevator's sounds of going up - and that scared me. 

The tower is split up into 30 floors. Floors one through nine and 11 through 19 are challenge levels, with randomly generated scenarios and formats. Floors 10 and 20 will always be a boss fight. 

The randomly generated levels can make or break a run. They aren't hard - it's just that since it's random, you never know what to expect. 

The difficulties range from the usual easy to challenging, but an interesting mechanic is that near the end, the levels will only consist of challenging difficulty.

You might be thinking that this playstyle sounds fundamentally boring. But what changes the gameplay is two things - palettes and color chips.

Color chips enhance gameplay, add buffs to the specific weapon class being used, and can be stacked to make for a godlike weapon build.

Palettes are meant to resemble soundboards, and are essentially different weapon classes.

My personal favorite palette was Marie’s palette that unlocks the sniper class and allows you to feel like a master marksman.

The first run of “Side Order” felt like a fever dream. Seeing the credits roll made me teary-eyed and I even made it my computer wallpaper.

The story may be painted as very dreary and hopeless, but seeing the ending made me feel like all hope was restored.

After the first run of “Side Order,” the focus shifts to unlocking and collecting the other palettes. Although it isn't required, the completionist in me went for a 100% run.

Going for a 100% run is not for the weak. You will find yourself getting annoyed with hitboxes, motion controls, and enemies. 

Though the runs after the first go-around might feel stale to those not familiar with the roguelike genre, that’s the beauty of it. 

I found myself attempting to get faster times on certain levels, seeing what certain chips did for upgrades, and trying different play styles. 

I enjoyed the different play styles provided with the palettes and color chips, but would have loved to see more customization. 

Players also begin to collect Membux throughout their runs. 

This form of currency can be used to unlock power ups that can be used to make runs more accessible as you go along. 

Another big part of “Side Order” is the soundtrack. It’s a mixing pot of breakcore, techno, house, and pop that mixes exquisitely. 

With all of these ingredients, you have a story that can be taken at whatever pace, and whatever difficulty you please. 

“Side Order” is an outstanding addition to an already amazing game, and offers longtime fans a new way to be a kid now - and a squid now. 

Rating: A

It’s off the hook!


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