When Nintendo confirmed that the co-op Salmon Run mode in Splatoon 2 would take place in specific limited time windows, there were some understandable groans. Nevertheless since the game's launch it's not been much of an issue, as the mode has been available pretty much whenever we want to play it. The function of the time windows is merely to incentivise rewards; your points reset at the end of each period, pushing you to string together a number of successful sessions in order to get the best gear and monetary goodies each day.
Though currently limited to two stages it's a rather strong new arrival in the game. You can hop into rounds with randoms and communicate with the simple 'Over Here' and 'Help' commands, or attempt to set up lobbies with buddies. The only downside to setting up your own rooms is that if people aren't all the same 'rank' you may not level up as much as you'd like, so that's worth bearing in mind.
Though the two stages and various weapon options rotate - and are therefore restrictive - through each extended window, it can be oddly addictive. Night time and fog can mix up the way the game behaves, and there are some delightfully hideous and peculiar enemies to deal with. It's been a logical inclusion for the series, as plenty of top shooters have variations on 'horde' modes in which you fend off waves of enemies.
In any case, recently a couple of the Nintendo Life team - including this scribe - found ourselves on a lengthy train journey with some other Switch owners, and the strengths of the Salmon Run mode and, by extension, the system shone through. With a combination of stands and normal portable mode gameplay we happily played for nearly two hours in the local wireless version of the mode, with time flying in the process.
One notable thing that shone through was the stability of the local wireless connection; none of our systems were connected to the train's wonky Wi-Fi, it's worth noting. Over the course of two hours we had no accidental disconnects at all, and in fact this writer didn't see a single blip of lag or interference. This was in a carriage with a number of people using various gadgets and smart devices, but the signal between the three Switch systems - all around one table - never blinked.
It's not always been this way with the Switch, with some occasional issues popping up with local wireless in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at launch, for example. Whether those problems were down to the game or have been improved through system updates isn't entirely clear - we suspect the latter - but in two hours with Splatoon 2 the performance was flawless.
This is all a big improvement over the equivalent games on 3DS, for example. We recall the review process for The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes and playing in local wireless in which everyone had a copy of the game, and it would occasionally buffer, lag or even randomly drop the connection. Some games on 3DS do hold a solid experience, but Tri Force Heroes was a particular strain on communication due to the players interacting frequently and directly in-game.
What's impressive with Salmon Run is that the local wireless technology matches the needs of the mode - you need impeccable performance, especially as you up the difficulty and often have to rescue each other from Salmonids. The fact the systems never blinked on this occasion made it hugely enjoyable, and no doubt our Splatoon 2-led co-op chatter sounded bonkers to fallow passengers on the train. We never had to wrestle with buffering or related issues, so we could just enjoy the game naturally.
It's a pleasing additional feather to the local multiplayer bow for the Nintendo Switch. The system is pretty unique in the options it delivers for multiplayer, with two controllers connected to the hardware, table-top play on the go and so on. While Splatoon 2 lacks splitscreen, its local multiplayer does at least deliver a good time for enthusiasts that own the game and get together.
For this writer that experience of Salmon Run while passing the time on a train ride, with play being flawless and easy to set up, was further affirmation of the strengths of the system. The 3DS, for the first time in a while, was left at home, with games normally played on the TV on the Switch becoming portable entertainment. It was a reminder of why Nintendo is confident about selling plenty of Switch units, due to that portable hook, and assuming they can manufacture enough of them in the first place.
The Nintendo Online Service app is a real disappointment early on, yet Nintendo has at least continually mastered local play, whether sitting around the TV or tablet with a Joy-Con each in some games or playing a dual-stick game like Splatoon 2 on individual systems.
That alone makes the Switch the first thing to go into this scribe's bag before a journey.