I don’t know if this is some weird digital version of Stockholm Syndrome, or my trying to rationalize a Nintendo-ass decision about multiplayer. Whatever is going on, I’m surprised to report that I’ve started to like the way Salmon Run is only available during certain block schedules.
From what I’ve seen online, most Splatoon players seem to hate the schedule, and I get it. At launch, Salmon Run seemed to only be around for a few hours at a time. Later, blocks started extending into 12-hour/24 chunks, but it’s still pretty unusual to have a popular game mode be restricted to certain times of the day.
Salmon Run, as many of you know, is Splatoon 2's addictive take on Horde Mode. You play as a freelancer who is being paid to retrieve salmon eggs from increasingly larger waves of mutant fish. The more eggs you collect above your set quota, the more points you earn and the higher you elevate your pay grade. The whole thing pokes fun at corporations and the ways in which they exploit workers for personal gain—you are, after all, trudging through toxic waste here.
The thing that makes Salmon Run so good is that the mode cuts out the fat: each round only lasts 100 seconds. Once you go beyond the first pay grade, things in Salmon Run become hectic almost immediately, with mini-bosses and endless smaller minions gumming up the stage right away. That, coupled with all the different variants, makes the mode feel dynamic and exciting. Even if you’ve played on the same map for hours, rounds will unfold in surprising ways. Maybe one round you’ve got access to big power weapons stationed around the map. Maybe another round, the map overflows with a borderline overwhelming number of small enemies—and tons of eggs.
Salmon Run is so fantastic that lately I’ve been playing it way more than PVP multiplayer. Actually, I’m obsessed with it. This is literally me right now. Really, this is me all the time now:
You’d think, then, that I would want Salmon Run all the time. And sure, when I load up Splatoon 2 and see that the Grizzco section of the lobby is closed, I do get sad. But, I’ve also grown to appreciate the way Nintendo handles the mode.
For one thing, Splatoon as a whole is ruled by schedules. Clothes in the shops change once every day. On the mobile phone app, gear options change every few hours. In multiplayer, maps and modes cycle throughout the day. More overtly, we’re always aware of impending events that only happen during certain certain time frames: this weekend, for example, we’ll have the Mayo vs Ketchup Splatfest. Many comparisons have been drawn to Animal Crossing, but I think a more apt comparison is TV. Splatoon wants to make sure you’ll tune in at a certain time to do or see what you want. And the more you fit a game into your schedule, the more it becomes routine. I’ve found myself booting up Splatoon right at midnight to see what’s new. Nintendo are sly bastards, but it works.
Given that the mode is only around for blocks of time, waiting for it to come back builds anticipation. Salmon Run becomes something I’m perpetually looking forward to, rather than something I gorge on and then forget about because it’s always there. Being able to play it at all feels special, or at least fitting. If the idea is that I’m taking on a job, playing Salmon Run feels like showing up to my “shift.” I don’t get to pick when the shop is open, Grizzco does.
The other big reason I like Salmon Run’s format is the prizes. Every day, the mode offers you bonuses based on how many points you accrue. It sets a clear goal for me, and at the end I marvel at all the goodies I won along the way:
While daily challenges are nothing new, I still like the way all these things come together. I like booting up Splatoon to see when the next Salmon Run is, what map it’ll be on, and what weapons we’ll have this time. I like the feeling that everyone is playing Salmon Run at the same time and the sense of community that builds.
Maybe something is wrong with me. Maybe I should want Salmon Run 24/7, and this is just me coping with the fact Nintendo doesn’t let me play it whenever I want. Whatever the case, I’m pretty OK with Salmon Run working the way it does.