Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Adventure & Strategy
Release Date: 29th of August, 2017 (Worldwide)
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For many months, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was simply a rumour. Something that so few believed in and many hoped would be a lie, but then came E3. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was revealed to be as real as you and me. Fast forward to now and now the game is released the world over and it is mind-blowingly shocking just how well the Mario and Rabbids mesh, which is something I never expected I would ever say in any lifetime.
Personally I was against the idea. I’m not a fan of Rabbids and I’ve never really enjoyed their sense of humour, so seeing them go toe to toe with my favourite plumber, I wasn’t over the moon about it. Although while I may not like the white nutters, they’re clearly doing something right, as they went from being characters who made several appearances in the Rayman games, who then got their own series and now they’re in a game with Mario. Or is it Mario who is in the game with them?
Believe it or not, this is a very valid question, as the answer is something of an intriguing one as it is an answer of many layers. It is as much of a Mario game as it is a Rabbids game, but at the same time, it is neither of those. Sure the game is set in the Mushroom Kingdom and the Rabbids have invaded it, with characters from both franchises being playable in battle, but out of battle that’s a different story. For the majority of the game’s story, you’ll actually be controlling an AI called Beep-0, who Mario and whoever else you have in your party, will follow around everywhere.
The thing that really shows Mario up as being a secondary character though, is the lack of jumping. Yes he can jump in battle, as can everyone else (team-mates and the enemy Rabbids you’ll face,) but when strolling through the 4 Worlds Mario + Rabbids has to offer, his lack of a jump soon becomes noticeable and while Mario’s missing jump and Beep-O the leader is not a deal breaker, it does come across as a compromise being stuck so that neither Mario or a Rabbid would be the true star of the show.
Although why should it be any different? While Mario + Rabbids is in part a Mario game, it is not a Nintendo made Mario game. Instead it is a Ubisoft made Mario game with the Snowdrop engine, as Nintendo actually had very little to do with Mario + Rabbids. Yes they helped the Ubisoft development team capture and understand the true essence of the Mushroom Kingdom and of all those who dwell there, but literally everything you see, is the work of Ubisoft. The Mushroom Kingdom, the combat, the guns and even Mario. I kid you not, the design sprites of Mario and co are done by Ubisoft, and sure their art style looks a lot like a HD version of the toon art style for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the fact is it works!
Ubisoft have created something truly beautiful to look at and not only does this messed up, Rabbid invaded Mushroom Kingdom look and feel like the real deal, but it also sounds like it too thanks to two very special people. The first is the legend himself, Charles Martinet who is on hand to lend his voice to Mario and Luigi and the second guy is Grant Kirkhope. Kirkhope is a legend in his own right and has composed a lot of great stuff over the last few decades (such as the score for Yooka-Laylee) and Ubisoft couldn’t have picked a better composer as Kirkhope truly knocked it out of the park.
Now besides looking great and sounding great, I have yet to flex my fingers and dip my toes into the world of story and gameplay, so for anyone who has yet to play, or wasn’t paying attention to all the Mario + Rabbids news in recent months, here’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle’s story in a big ol’ nutshell. It all begins in the basement of a female inventor and her AI companion Beep-0 as part of a lengthy opening animation. Judging by all the stuff she has in the basement and the fact she is humming the Mario theme tune, she’s clearly a big fan of the Mario franchise.
The inventor is tinkering with her latest invention, the SupaMerge helmet, which can “merge any two objects it targets together into a single entity” and she hopes will be able to solve the energy crisis, but with this being the opening of a game, of course things go wrong. The helmet overheats, and while the inventor goes to have a lunch break, the Rabbids arrive in their time-travelling washing machine and instantly begin causing chaos, mayhem and destruction. Only one Rabbid is more interested in the helmet and once it’s on its little white head, the helmet begins misbehaving.
Before you know it, some Rabbids are being transformed and the washing machine gets hit. Suddenly every Rabbid and the items in the room get sucked in and what was once a peaceful day in the Mushroom Kingdom soon becomes anything but. Chaos and panic ensues upon the arrival of the Rabbids and while Mario has become separated from his usual companions. Fortunately a certain Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi and Beep-O are on hand to help Mario begin his adventure and do what needs to be done to save his world and get rid of the Rabbids, but if you ask me, Mario was way too eager to get his hands on a gun. He smiled, he made a delightful “oooh” and his eyes glistened.
Being a small team of 3, saving the world won’t be easy, as the SupaMerge helmet and the Rabbid it has merged itself with, are corrupting Rabbids left, right and centre and a certain Bowser offspring is aiding him, but don’t fret just yet, as the team of 3 won’t remain as such as the likes of the actual Princess Peach, Luigi, Yoshi and Rabbid Yoshi will join your team as the game progresses and once Battle HQ is unlocked, you can swap team-mates any time you want, except for when actually in a battle. (Just remember your party can only consist of three fighters at a time.)
As far as the actual story and characters go, it all works, especially since the story does do a good job of explaining everything, even if it does use the typical Rabbid sense of humour that pokes fun at Mario and Mario games. Still each one of the Rabbid versions of Mario and co, have a life of their own, with Rabbid Luigi being the village idiot, which even Rabbid Peach picks on, as she’ll pick him up and throw him at a certain plant, because she’s dissatisfied with the reward the plant has to offer them. She also has a penchant for taking selfies, as every moment is a photo opportunity for her, even when there is a Boss in the background. It’s actually rather surprising by how natural things between Mario and the mischievous Rabbids feel and how fun it all is, but then, Ubisoft is at the helm and they, like Nintendo are masters of taking crazy concepts and making them work brilliantly as a video game.
In terms of gameplay though, there is essentially two main ways to play. The first is your standard exploration, which mostly involves of navigating Beep-O and your team through the various worlds, solving puzzles and opening chests to collect things like Soundtracks, 3D Models, Artworks and Tarot Cards. Just don’t expect too much of the puzzles, as a lot of them are straight up simple and they’re very repetitive as most of them require you to just push blocks around, but being a game that encompasses the spirit of Mario, there are Red and Blue Coin challenges and secret chapters to be discovered. To find them though, you will require a certain ability like Lift, Push, Dig or Smash in order to find them and to get the abilities, each one is unlocked by defeating the boss at the end of each world Mario + Rabbids has to offer.
The second form of gameplay however, is of course the battle system. Battles are turn-based (Mario + Rabbids is a Strategy game after all,) and have different requirements for you to win, as some simply desire you to kill everyone on the field. Some only require you to kill a select amount, whereas some battles, just need you, or someone you’re escorting like Toad, to the end zone, highlighted by a golden light, but whatever the requirement is, unless you have a plan in action, there is every chance your team will get slaughtered!
It doesn’t matter that everything in this game is simple to pick up, because if there is one thing Mario + Rabbids does exceedingly well, it’s turning up the heat. While you may easily be able to rely on Super Jumps and a couple of dashes before going in for the attack, during the earlier stages, come the later ones, the enemies will be pulling off the same manoeuvres as you, so it’s either time to rely on a different movement, or a different team, as each character has their own particular skill set and way of doing things on the battlefield. For example, Luigi might not have a lot of health, but he is a great sniper, so on a battlefield that has a lot of distance to cover, he’s worth having on your team.
Not only can you mix and match your team though, before the battle even begins, if it’s too hard for you, you can select Easy Mode, which allows you to refill your health as there are no health items other than the occasional mushroom you can encounter, but it will also let you have 50% more health too. Also before the fighting starts, you can choose to dive right into battle, or take the time to view the surroundings, get a feel for the enemies and change your weaponry. Weapons can be found in chests, or unlocked by winning certain battles, then brought with the coins you’ll find all over the Mushroom Kingdom, (even in battles,) and each one has different stats and Super Effects. Super Effects are great for turning the tide of battle as weapons that have Push, can push enemies off a ledge if they’re close to one, with Bounce doing a similar thing, but there is also Ink, Honey and even Burn.
The bad news is, the enemies have weapons that also have these effects, so while you can be enjoying yourself one minute, shooting at them from behind partial cover, with them having a 50% chance of hitting you, don’t be surprised if you’re the one who gets sent flying, or running round the area, holding your tushie, as the enemy Rabbid just got you with Burn. The AI encountered in battle is not stupid and will do everything it possibly can to try and stop you from completing the battle and obtaining a *Perfect score. (*Perfect scores can be earned by completing battles in a certain number of turns with every unit alive and depending on the number of battles in a chapter, getting Perfect on each one will earn you a gold trophy.)
Provided you do adapt to the battle mechanics at play, which are done right, compared to plenty of other Strategy games, and are in it for the long haul, to reach the credits, will take you anywhere between 12-15 hours easy and that’s without collecting and completing everything, which I can assure you is worth doing, as Mario + Rabbids really is delightful experience and if you’re going to buy it, it’s only fair you put the time in to properly complete it.
Only to truly master Mario + Rabbids, as well as going round finding every collectable the game has to offer, which once you have them are all viewable in the Museum, which can be visited at any time from the Peach’s Castle hub world, there are challenges in each world that need to be beaten, as well as secret ones that need finding and battles to be replayed! Once a world is completed, you can revisit it, without needing to replay any of the battles you did previously, so you can explore leisurely, but say you earned a silver trophy instead of a gold one, chapters can be replayed thanks to the time-travelling washing machine that is also present in the hub world.
There’s also an amiibo R&D building that can be used to scan in a Mario, Luigi, Peach and Yoshi amiibos to unlock specific weapons, as well as the Battle HQ, which is where you can buy and changed primary and secondary weapons. Choose your team and spend Skill Orbs that are earned from challenges, battles and chests, but you can also upgrade skills as well. Want more life, or simply deal more damage in a dash? The skill tree has that covered, but if you are sick of playing on your own, there is a place to go that you can play with a friend. That “place” is the Buddydome, and it is the place to go for some co-op play challenge completing. You’re not playing against each other, but with one another, in a bid to accomplish the same goal. Only instead of a team of 3, each player has a team of 2, which you’ll play by taking it in turns, which does mean, you can actually do this mode without an actual Player 2 sitting beside you, but where would the fun in that be?
Nevertheless, as tempting as it is to just play Mario + Rabbids for hours on end, I would actually advise players not too. Every time I played the game with my Switch docked, for three hours, the fan would start blowing like nobody’s business and the Switch would be incredibly hot, which would also result in frame rate dips and the occasional unexpected game crash. Such a thing has happened to me on three occasions with Mario + Rabbids and while the fault is not necessarily down to Ubisoft and Mario + Rabbids, it is something that happens during lengthy gaming sessions, so do try to be careful, or at least play in a cooler environment than the one I was in. After all, no one wants to have the game cash, when there is a whole opera song going on and the Rabbid signing it is laying into Mario big time! (Yes, this is something that actually happens in-game, but shh, spoilers!)
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The undeniable truth is, whether you like Mario and Rabbids or not, the two really do go hand in hand with one another in this must own Switch exclusive. Ubisoft have done a stupendous job of bringing two franchises together and have done it in is such a way that the game is easy to pick up and open to all as you need not be a fan of wither franchise. Furthermore it is just incredibly delightful. Yes the game can be a little too silly at times, but that’s those Rabbids for you, they’re always like that, but Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle truly is a phenomenal piece of work and a positive step forwards into a future of what Nintendo/Third Party collab gaming could become!