Yesterday, Nintendo unveiled a new co-op mode titled “Salmon Run” for Splatoon 2. On the surface, Salmon Run appears to just be a horde mode. If you look closely, however, something starts to feel a little off.
Let’s break it down, shall we? Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t seen it yet:
The very first thing we see in the Salmon Run trailer sure sounds like propaganda:
The whole thing is a job advertisement hailing from a company known as Grizzco Industries. Grizzco invites Inklings of all skill levels to collect Power Eggs, which are apparently resources that can be used to create a “better future,” whatever that means. The mere invocation of a corporation already makes this feel suspect, but there’s more!
Collecting Power Eggs for Grizzco happens on man-made islands that seem to be surrounded by toxic waste, barrels and all:
Sure enough, Inklings taking on the job have to suit up to survive the conditions:
Once there, Inklings have to contend with...wait, what the fuck is this?
Those are salmon? Salmon don’t look like that! Presumably, this is a mutation caused by living in toxic waste, though the narrator also tells us that they are a part of the salmon genus, so that might explain why they look so different. At least one of the boss salmon actively carries toxic waste on its head, so it’s possible that they thrive in it.
We are told these monsters “habitually attack for some unknown reason,” and so Inklings must shoot them down. Once dead, the creatures drop Power Eggs. If there’s any doubt as to what these things are...
Okay, so we’re killing another race to steal their babies and harvest them, though we are not told why. Nintendo just teases that the rewards for Power Eggs are “fresh,” so presumably we can use them to our benefit in some way—perhaps for better clothes?
For those of us who played the original Splatoon, all of this falls in line with the overall tone of the series. As you might remember, Splatoon’s story mode has you fighting in a war against the Octarians, who are running out of energy and land. Given that context, there’s something sinister about the Turf Wars players wage against one another in the multiplayer. The whole game is technically about children who are taught to fight and maintain their status as the dominant species, even if it means destroying a civilization that is already on its last legs. While Splatoon was a ton of fun, you can’t help but wonder if you’re on the wrong side of history for that conflict. Surely the Octarians view the Inklings as their oppressors, no?
Could the same be said of Splatoon 2's salmon? Do the salmon truly pose a threat, or have we backed them into a corner? Salmon Run has you killing off “monsters” who appear to be invading our land, but we also know that rising sea levels has dwindled habitable territories. For all we know, Salmon are just trying to escape the horrors of the toxic waste. If nothing else, I don’t blame them for being hostile given that we’re harvesting their babies.
Guess we’ll find out what the deal is later this summer, when Splatoon 2 actually drops.