Going rabbid with blasters in the Mushroom Kingdom.
|Console: Nintendo Switch|
Mario + Rabbids is a crossover between Mario and Ubisoft's Raving Rabbids franchise, quite an unexpected combination if I do say so myself. The game was an initiative from Ubisoft who, after the party games of the Raving Rabbids franchise gained diminishing returns each instalment, wanted to do something different with the Rabbids. The team thought that the Rabbids could bring something unique to the table when paired up with another franchise. Mario was chosen as due to Ubisoft and Nintendo have had a business relationship for over 20 years, giving the team a higher chance of success of actually getting the rights to Mario. Ubisoft showed a demo to Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto who was impressed by the team's effort and greenlit the project.
Now that I've played the game, what are my thoughts on it? In case you've waited just as long as me with picking up the game, is it worth it? If you like tactical games, or at the very least want to check one out, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a game for you.
Let's dive in.
The plot of the game isn't all that complicated. A young inventor has developed two different inventions: a robot assistant named Beep-0 and a headset capable of merging two different things together into one: the SupaMerge helmet. After she steps out for a moment, the Rabbids emerge and make an absolute mess of the place, as they are known to do. One of the Rabbids puts on the SupaMerge Helmet which fuses to its face and together with the malfunction Time Washing Machine the Rabbids arrived in they and Beep-0 are send to the Mushroom Kingdom. In the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and friends are having some sort of celebration when the Time Washing Machine crashes the party. Not only do the Rabbids wreak havoc on the Kingdom by just being, you know, Rabbids but the out of control SupaMerge helmet also causes all kinds of different things to fuse. With the entire Kingdom in chaos, it's up to Mario and his friends, together with a group of friendly Rabbids, to save the Mushroom Kingdom from impending disaster.
As the gameplay is the game's most defining aspect, aside from the crossover itself that is, let's start off with that. As said before, the game is a turn-based tactical RPG. For those unfamiliar with the genre, this means that battles are conducted on a grid in which the player and the enemy alternate taking turns to perform actions. Each of the eight playable characters; Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and a Rabbid version of each, all have different types of weapons, movement and special abilities that they can utilize during battle. They all have a primary and secondary weapon and while some of those are shared between characters, the combination of weaponry, abilities and passive perks is what makes each character unique.
The same goes for the enemies as well. There are around 6 different enemy types, each of whom has its own behaviour and style of play. While this might seem on the low side (which for the genre it admittedly is) each world has its own variation on these enemies. They don't just have an altered appearance but the secondary effects they can trigger differ between versions. This gives each of them their own little 'flavour' if you will. I could have gone for an enemy type or two more as they do start to feel very 'samey' after a while, but I can commend the effort and this approach keeps the variety fresh for the majority of the story.
The boss battles are an absolute delight. From the bosses themselves to the strategy required to take them down all the way to the music, facing them was a true delight! What also keeps the battles fresh is that you don't always have the same goal to complete. Aside from the usual 'defeat all enemies' you have escort and 'get to the goal' missions. There are still moments in which battles take to long to complete or when they follow each other at such a pace that it becomes a bit grading and I felt the need to put the game down (for now) the different goals still add in some good variety to the battles.
|A closer look at the battle interface.|
While the battle system of Mario + Rabbids is set up well, I do have some frustrations with it. The foundation is solid and the entire system is an 'easy to understand and play, but difficult to truly master' type of deal. It's welcoming to new and casual players while just challenging enough for veterans of the genre. The sudden difficulty spike in the final world is a bit frustrating but when it comes to any issues with the difficulty that's about it.
The problems I have with it are certain limitations that the game has design choices it has made that I feel needlessly hinder the player. When it comes to building your team, you need to always have Mario and a Rabbid in it. This means that you can't have a team consisting of Mario, Luigi and Peach nor a team of Yoshi, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Yoshi just name two examples. I get that the game is called Mario + Rabbids and that they want to promote the two, but this decision is just an annoying hindrance that I feel the game should not have done. I'm also not pleased with some of the interface, it's rather minimalistic, lacks certain features or doesn't implement them all the way.
The menu's and such are just fine. Bare, but functional. It's the battle interface that has real issues here. They're not outright bad, but the problem I have with is that it sorely lacking. You can use the Battlecam before and during a battle to get a good look at the battlefield. The Battlecam has two problems. You can only ever select one enemy/obstacle/unit at a time, meaning you can't toggle all enemies at ones and get a good look at all of the danger zones and you can't have the cam on while taking any actions. Whatever you just learned, you're going to have to remember yourself.
These shortcomings were frustrating to me and while more casual players might tend to plan ahead as much as a Fire Emblem veteran like myself, they are shortcomings nonetheless. What will be more noticeable to those casual players are the limitations of the camera. You're capable of looking at the battlefield from four different directions but you'll find that you're unable to properly see the range of your characters attacks and abilities, obstacles obscuring your view and flat out clipping with all of these angles more times than you'd care to admit.
When you're not battling Rabbids on the battlefield you and your team are exploring each of the game's four worlds and this is where the game shines brightest. Each world and all of the characters that inhabit them are imaginative, fun and look amazing. They follow some of the basics that you've gotten used to with Mario games but add in elements that make each of these worlds feel familiar, yes, but also unique and wonderful. The overworld is littered with puzzles for you the solve, secrets to find and blue minigames. All of this can grant you extra weapons or one of the three types of collectables: music, 3D models and a type of playing card.
These segments of explorations offer some variety, something to break up the battles so they don't overstay their welcome. Not only the worlds themselves but also the presentation of the game is quite memorable. The music, composed by former Rare composer Grant Kirkhope, fits the style of the game to a tea and is quite catchy. You should definitely play this game with the music on, so if you bring it with you on the go I recommend you also bring some headphones.
|Doesn't this world look beautiful to you?|
If four worlds sound a world or two too few to you then your half right. Mario games usually have between 6-8 world in them. The four worlds we have here do take much longer to complete than those in any regular Mario game, however. I personally wouldn't have minded if the game had five worlds, splitting the, in my opinion, too long and drawn out world four in two. once all is set and done, though, these four worlds make up a satisfying story mode. In case you're still not satisfied, after finishing the campaign, the game offers you other content as well. I've already mentioned the collectables in the game, which will require you to backtrack if you want to find them all, but there are also secrets acts to find in each world, a challenge mode and co-op challenges for you the sink your teeth in.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a good and fun game. It can be frustrating at times, from the issues with the interface to sudden difficulty spike, but those issues aren't enough to bog down the experience too much. The world is imaginative and fun the explore, the music a catchy and the presentation top-notch. For any Mario fan or to anyone interested in the tactical RGP genre, this game has something to offer for you. As the game is developed by Ubisoft and not by Nintendo themselves, it has seen a price drop in the three years it’s been on the market and is regularly discounted in sales. You can pick the game, plus its Donkey Kong Adventure DLC, up for a good bargain these days so if you're still on the fence about getting it, you might want to wait for the next sale.