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Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review

September 4th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

BWAH!

So this is a game that was rumored a bit before the big Switch reveal event in January, the question on everyone’s mind was “Why?” with a bit of “This can’t be real” and “The Rabbids are still a thing?”. Pre-E3 we got a leak, a picture of Rabbid Peach, which lead to “Okay this looks bad”. However not long after that leak there was another leak, showing internal release plan materials and some gameplay details and… my curiosity was piqued. Then at E3 proper I think everyone remembers the moment where Miyamoto went on stage to present the game and creative director Davide Soliani got super emotional… That’s when I got really excited. This was clearly a project of passion (something that’s not a frequent occurrence at Ubisoft). Plus the gameplay trailer looked really fun.

So the hype was pretty big, early impressions were just straight up positive, and finally we got it in our hands. I finished the main story as of this writing, though there’s still plenty of content to go if I so wish, but first let’s review this!

Read on!

Developer: Ubisoft Milan
Publisher: Ubisoft, probably Nintendo
Date of Release: August 29th 2017
Platform: Switch
Genre: Turn-based strategy

Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10

Presentation

It looks like a Mario game, which is a good thing. It’s colorful, the character design is great (even the rabbids), there’s lots of cool areas, and as far as gameplay goes the graphics never get in the way and provide you all the information you need. One of the nicest things to me is when you go high up in some worlds and looking in the distance. Yes it’s a bit blurrier (for performance), but you still see a lot of the world in pretty extensive detail. I do notice a lot of “tricks” to keep performance smooth, but in general the game is just really nice to look at. The animation is really fun too, clearly the rabbids let creators have lots of fun with things, and the crossover enables even more fun, with lots of big objects and random things with rabbid ears and such. Plus there’s a lot of small details in the environment that are really cool, or show the Rabbids doing funny/dumb/random things. I thought I’d hate this, but no, the Rabbids are actually pretty funny. Oh and another cool thing: when you finish a world, the hub world around Peach’s castle actually changes, gets new objects and stuff just laying around.

Speaking of performance in general the game comports itself admirably, however I did get some frame issues from time to time. Sometimes in cutscenes which really confuses me. But for the most part this does run smooth. I did get a few moments also where, after a more “cinematic” attack (which happens sometimes when you deal critical hits), if you get dealt Freeze the game kinda stops doing anything for a few seconds. It’s pretty weird.

On the music side of things, we’ve got Grant Kirkhope. While Grant provided some of the music for Yooka-Laylee, thinking back on it… it was okay. Here, however… this might be his best work since Banjo-Kazooie. There’s a lot of interesting takes on Mario music, and original stuff that’s just a blast to listen to. It’s all so happy and cheery. One of the bosses in particular was… well, clearly inspired by Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Overall I have absolutely nothing to complain about with the music, it’s one of the best soundtracks this year.

On the story side of things, I was surprised about some of it. For example, there’s actually a reason the crossover happens. In some world similar to ours an inventor created a headset that lets you lock on to 2 objects and combine them somehow. When she leaves her office, the Rabbids pop up from their time-travelling washing machine (which is from one of the Rabbid games apparently). They start messing with things, but one of the rabbids gets a hold of the headset and starts combining things. The inventor is a Nintendo fan, so there’s Nintendo memorabilia all over the place, so this spawns Rabbid versions of Mario characters, and then the washing machine freaks out as the headset also freaks out, and Rabbids are sent over to Mario’s universe. A lot of stuff is messed up, so Mario teams up with the Mario-themed rabbids and tries to fix stuff with the help of Beep-O, the inventor’s assistant robot things. Bowser Jr kidnaps Spawny, the rabbid with the headset (who combined with the headset). This all leads to a final boss that might be the coolest final boss in Mario history.

My one complaint about the story is that I feel like it needed more cinematics, which is a weird complaint coming from me (cinematics tend to annoy me more than anything. It develops the characters a bit which is fun, and there’s some legitimately awesome moments (and lots of small funny ones), but I feel there’s not enough of that. Plus the ending doesn’t really set things straight at the end… which could be what the story DLC next year will do.

Gameplay

So this is one thing that surprised everyone. This game is a turn-based strategy game, with guns. Though in this case these are fairly wacky guns that shoot energy beams rather than bullets. The gameplay itself is comparable to the recent XCOM games, but that’s not quite an apt enough comparison. Mario+Rabbids is definitely its own thing. Combat is the core of the game, so let’s talk about that first.

In all battles you get 3 characters. Before a battle you get the ability to survey the map, look what enemies are there, see their stats, go in the battle HQ to change your team around or level up (more on that later), all before you start the battle. Each character gets 3 actions per turn: Attack, movement and special move. As you progress through the early game you get several options for some of these, so all characters get 2 attacks and 2 special moves. So on any said turn a character can attack with one of his 2 attacks, move and do one of his special moves. A character can do that in any order, so you have lots of flexibility. You don’t even need to do all of one characters’ action before using another, so you can move one, attack with another, go back to the first one to attack with him… It’s pretty nice.

Movement is really interesting in this game. As per most grid-based strategy games each character has a movement range. But that range is very flexible here. Instead of only moving, say, 7 spaces away on a turn, you can move anywhere within your movement area (so if you want to do a dash attack on 4 enemies with Rabbid Peach and there happens to be 4 enemies in her movement range, you can totally do that). Once you select your ending tile that’s it for movement. During your movement, if you select the same space as one of your other characters, you get a jump (being boosted by the friendly character), which has its own range, and the space you choose then becomes your destination. The jump can be used to move to higher areas, or just further away than your standard range. Some characters have special skills when landing from jumps too, such as Mario being able to stomp enemies (and use that to move even further) or Yoshi doing ground pounds. There’s also very disturbing rabbid warp pipes (you literally go into their “mouth” and get out their butts). If you move to a pipe’s space you move up the pipe, and then you get an extra range of movement from the exit of the pipe. Plus either after or before going into pipes, choosing the same space as an enemy makes you run into that enemy and damage them (some characters have special skills related to that, or can dash into more than one enemy per turn). Overall there’s a LOT to the movement here.

Attacking is a bit more straightforward than moving. Each weapon has an attack range, if an enemy in within that range you can attack them. There’s blocks throughout all the levels though, and half-blocks. If an enemy is right behind a block it changes your accuracy. Behind a half-block you have a 50% chance of hitting them, behind a full block you have a 0% chance of hitting them (though you can still take the shot and damage the block they’re hiding behind). If they’re not directly behind then your accuracy will be 100%. Each weapon except maybe the ones you start with have a chance of doing a special effect. Honey (prevent movement), Ink (can’t use weapons), Push (pushes you), Bounce (pushes you but also vertically), Fire (deals extra damage and also makes the character catch fire, making them run to a random square as they run around screaming), Freeze (can’t use special abilities), Vampire (makes attacks on the target heal your character) and Stone (prevents your whole next turn). Some of those can spread to different characters on contact which can lead to lots of fun. Those last until your following turn except for Fire. Not that the main weapon has no cooldown (so it can be used every turn) but the secondary weapon generally has a turn of cooldown or 2.

One weird note here is line of sight… It is a thing, but it’s a bit arbitrary. Blocks tend to block line of sight, but not always. And I’ve definitely shot through solid elevated platforms a few times too. Maybe this would need to be made a slight bit clearer, it’s weird to see shots going straight through something when it definitely shouldn’t.

Then each character has 2 special moves. Those can have many effects. Healing, various types of shields, buffs, nerfs, and I think half the characters have a “if they see an enemy moving they’ll counter-attack them” thing which is really cool. These skills do have several turns of cooldown though so you have to use them wisely.

So Battle HQ. When you’re in a world, or right before a battle as you’re looking at the map, you can go into this menu. This enables for 3 things. First, you can select your party. Sadly you’re required to always use Mario, but the other 2 slots can be any of the 7 other characters. One sad thing though, there’s one character you get REALLY late into the game. Would be nice to get him early. The second thing you can do here is equip new weapons. In general the more expensive the better, and in general for each “tier” of weapon on a character there’s 2 of them, and each does a different special effect. You do need money though, so it’s hard to keep everyone fully upgraded all the time. The third thing you can do is use Power Orbs to upgrade skill trees. You get said orbs from finishing chapters, beating bosses, doing challenges and finding them in chests. These are pretty basic skill trees, they’re were you first unlock the secondary weapons and special skills, then you have a bunch of stats you can upgrade. Movement range, movement range outside of a pipe, jump range, health, healing from mushrooms, dash attack damage, general upgrades to special skills (damage, cooldown, range), and a small handful of other things.

Battles are overall very interesting. There’s several possible objectives: escorting a character to an area, moving one of your characters to an area (or several characters to several areas), defeating all the enemies, defeating specific enemies, and some maps where there’s respawning enemies and you have to defeat a certain number. There’s a lot of different things you can do. You can cater your team to your play style since each of the 8 characters is very different (I started mostly using Mario, Peach and Rabbid Peach for a while, though I changed that several times). Some enemies have different skills and weapons just like you, some have shields that stop most damage, some move when they’re attacked (which can lead to cool combos with the “I’ll shoot you if you move” skills). The large movement options and cool special effects are just a ton of fun to mess around with. This is one of the few games where even escort missions are decently fun. Plus all the boss battles (except the second one I’d say, that one’s kinda weak) are great. You are graded for every battle, as every battle has a maximum number of turns required to get a high grade, plus you lose “points” if any of your characters are knocked out. If you get perfect in all battles (usually 1 or 2) in a chapter you get a pile of bonus coins which is quite useful.

Outside of battle, you run around a fairly linear path in each world. There’s occasional forks in the road, and several puzzles too, with buttons and moving blocks and such. There’s some legitimately interesting ones, and some that have different solutions for bonus treasures, or mushrooms for healing mid-chapter (you don’t heal at the end of a battle if it’s not the battle that ends the chapter, by the way… which may lead to having to switch to different characters if some of your damage is too heavy, which is nice). After each world Beep-O learns a new skill to use in the worlds, which can be used to access new areas, solve new puzzles, open new chests, and access hidden chapters in completed worlds. Chests usually have stuff for the museum like 3D models and concept art and music, but sometimes they’re power orbs. And there’s a few that even have new weapons. In general these are pretty fun. If you want deep exploration that’s not happening, but I don’t think it’s needed here.

My one complaint gameplay-wise is that you don’t get maps of the area you’re in, it’s kinda annoying. You can see one using the cannon that leads to the different worlds (that you finished), but it’s not very useful.

Also there’s a ton of content. Each world has a lot of battles and puzzles, then once you finish a world you can come back with Beep-O’s new abilities to find more stuff (as mentioned before) and each world has I believe 10 challenge maps. Some of them are kind of puzzles in and of themselves (like requiring enemies to hit you with a bounce attack to get to a target area), some are just really tough, some have very limited turn limits (“defeat 10 enemies in one turn” kinda things is possible). It’s pretty interesting. Then once you finish the main story there’s 4 Ultimate challenges which I haven’t tried yet but they seem pretty crazy. Definitely a lot to do once you finish the game if you want to 100% it.

Overall

This is a great game. The gameplay has elegance to it… which is a weird thing to say about a game that’s about the Rabbids, so let me explain. It’s not super complicated but it still allows for just enough depth to be really fun. Everything just makes sense and fits with everything else. There’s nothing really superfluous to it. It is what it is, basically.

The presentation is pretty great, the music is great, the gameplay is really clever, the leveling and team customization is really cool, there’s a good amount of content here… Yeah, it’s good. People may have been put off by the first leak and the fact that it has Rabbids (which are basically Minions (several years before Minions were a thing), but less lame), but it works. There’s no reason for this crossover to work, but it does. I don’t know how that happened.

There’s very minor performance issues, but for the type of game it is… I don’t care. Otherwise I have very little to complain about (the line of sight thing I mentioned, but it’s rarely an issue). This game is, surprisingly, a winner.

And, again, coolest final boss in Mario history.

… I want more crazy crossovers with weird unexpected genres. Do it Nintendo.

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