Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review – After 250 Hours!
For the most part, courageous ideas live on a dangerous tightrope. When they leave the imaginary realm and are pushed towards reality by one daring mind, the tightrope snaps and they fall: the place where they land inevitably determines the way they are perceived by pretty much everyone else. If the idea succeeds, it is considered to be brilliant; if the idea fails, it is condemned as plain crazy. There is no middle ground; there are only extremes, and it is this lack of a safe balanced landing zone that causes most thoughts to never materialize. They are afraid to be because being entails judgment, and sometimes that is simply too much to bear, and one cannot help but wonder about the different futures that never happened because someone somewhere was reluctant to take a leap and the door of opportunity proceeded to be slammed shut.
At one point of a not-so-distant past, one of those someones that are somewhere was a Ubisoft employee who dared to envision a game where Mario (him, of the understandably overprotective Nintendo) was paired up with the Rabbids (them, of the average mini-game collections and often criticized platformers) in a strategic turn-based adventure that took place in the Mushroom Kingdom: an idea so absurd that upon hearing rumors regarding its existence the gaming world almost universally chose to slam it to the ground even though absolutely nobody had ever seen the game in motion.
Thankfully, though, whether due to a complete disregard towards what others think or thanks to a sudden surge of courage (induced by external substances or natural chemical reactions of the body; it does not matter), that employee went ahead with their vision and dared to pitch it not only to their bosses but also to the masterminds at Nintendo. Fast forward in time, like the Rabbids do with their Time Washing Machine; and avoid the flames of creatures that are angry for no valid reason, like Mario does as he walks the halls of Bowser’s Castle, and that someone somewhere, through some process that was certainly somewhat tortuous and occasionally awkward, has managed to make their courageous idea come to life. And anyone who plays it is certainly to be thankful that Ubisoft developer did not succumb to fear of judgment or lack of attitude; the door was not slammed shut, it was blown open.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is excellent. Despite how his genre-spanning nature has led him to cover numerous areas of the gaming palette, Nintendo’s plumber had never tackled the turn-based strategy style, which makes it quite smart on Ubisoft’s part to take the partnership between Mario and the Rabbids in that direction. After all, it is easier to generate positive reactions when direct comparisons to the stellar Mario platformers and RPGs are avoided. However, Mario + Rabbids is not great because there is an absence of a bar against which it can be measured: those bars exist. Not only is it among the best Mario spin-offs, but it is also a pretty strong effort inside its genre. And although it is true that Mario could have explored gun-based tactical gameplay without the Rabbids, the wild creatures do a good job showing they are great additions rather than unnecessary extra elements.
They come into play when they pop up, aboard their Time Washing Machine, in the room of an inventor who is working on a device that has the capability to merge objects. Given the girl is taking a rest due to frustrating technical problems, the Rabbids recklessly grab a hold of the invention and start wreaking havoc around the place. As her room is filled with Mario-related objects, a couple of Rabbids are soon merged with Mario and Peach. And when the Time Washing Machine is accidentally hit by the Rabbid using the device, all of the creatures (alongside a Mushroom Kingdom poster; the girl’s electronic assistant, Beep-O; and numerous objects) are sucked into a vortex that spits them out in the middle of an inauguration ceremony for a statue of Peach.
With both corrupted and regular Rabbids spread around the kingdom, a giant vortex in the sky threatening to swallow the entire place whole, and the innocent Rabbid that has the dangerous merging device on the loose, the heroic quartet of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi are joined by their Rabbid versions and Beep-O in a journey to stop the madness via a good deal of shooting, explosions, and light-hearted humor.
Speaking of the latter, one of the greatest characteristics of Kingdom Battle is how nicely the Rabbids were integrated into the Mushroom Kingdom fabric. The Rabbid versions of the main characters are not blank copies of the originals; they have personalities of their own. Rabbid Mario has, for some unknown reason, a mandolin; Rabbid Peach is selfie-obsessed and seems to strongly suspect Peach wants to take Mario away from her; Rabbid Luigi merges Luigi’s friendly and clumsy attitude with the Rabbid’s love for madness; and Rabbid Yoshi is, even by Rabbid standards, a mad lunatic. Those traits, obviously, are used through the course of the game to produce some humorous gags that walk hand-in-hand with the kinds of jokes often used in Mario RPGs.
Moreover, the Mushroom Kingdom itself has been altered by the Rabbids’ presence. As the worlds are explored, many regular Rabbids can be seen around the scenario engaging in utter nonsense: such as relaxing on a lava pit or acting out a pistol duel in the middle of the desert. Those scenes add a special flavor to the adventure as by pressing the A-button players can watch those actions unfold and read an amusing comment by Beep-O on the whole situation. In addition, given the Time Washing Machine has sucked into the vortex all assortments of objects that lay in the inventor’s room, the Rabbids were quite effective in using them to vandalize the Mushroom Kingdom with pieces of underwear waving like flags in the wind and much more, giving the traversed scenarios a psychedelic surrealistic touch that had yet to appear in a Mario game.
Although the adventure is condensed into four worlds, which may not seem like much but that do produce a regular quest that lasts for about twenty hours, the scenario variety is quite extensive, for each world presents very interesting and natural mutations in the environment. The first world, for example, starts out on green fields, goes through a thick jungle, and ends on top of a block tower; while the third one holds a vast deck of creepy-looking haunted settings, including a farm, a swamp, and a cemetery. All of those scenes, including the character models and animations, are remarkable both from a technical and artistic standpoint; and the accompanying soundtrack, composed by Grant Kirkhope, who is not quite as inspired as he was when he produced his musical masterpieces, does a good job at tying it all together.
As a game, Mario + Rabbids can be divided into two clear pieces: exploration and battling. All of the worlds are broken into nine chapters (marked by scrolls that appear on the scenario), which usually contain between one and three battles, exploration segments that separate them, and occasional cutscenes that move the plot forward. The exploration portion of the experience is solid, but never remarkable. Although there are plenty of puzzles that do grow nicely in terms of complexity as the game goes on, their block-pushing and switch-pressing ways never feel like more than little intermissions between the real meat of Kingdom Battle, which comes in its strategic skirmishes.
Still, Ubisoft does go out of its way to reward that exploration. The worlds are bursting with treasure chests containing music, art pieces, and – most importantly – weapons; moreover, each world has a secret chapter that can only be found after its boss has been defeated. Two little issues hold back the exploration, though. Firstly, the game features no maps, which would have been helpful given worlds two and three have a complex structure. Secondly, the clearing of each world, including the last one, rewards characters with a new context-sensitive ability (such as breaking blocks, or carrying statues), which can then be used in previous areas to open the way to chests; that optional backtracking feels, unfortunately, quite unnatural as it is pretty blatant some areas have been blocked off just to force players to come back to them later.
The stars of the show, by all means and ways, are the battles; and, on this front, Mario + Rabbids delivers the goods. It is a simple setup: in a restricted area, which is fully integrated into the world’s map, Mario and two companions must either defeat some of or all of the Rabbids in the place, escort a character, or survive for long enough to reach a specific zone. With each turn, all members of the team can use their main or secondary weapon, move, and trigger one of two special skills. The scenarios are packed with pipes that quickly allow characters to move between distant places, hazards, opportunities to obtain high ground, and covers (both of the destructible and indestructible kind) that give a certain level of protection according to how tall they are, diminishing the chance of an accurate shot by 50% or 100%.
Mario + Rabbids, therefore, requires thinking and planning. A tactical camera allows players to analyze the stats and range of movement of all enemies, and going headlong into a battle without taking those variables into consideration – especially late in the game or when facing a boss – is a recipe for disaster. The game has a surprisingly good level of challenge and, knowing it will draw in not only an experienced audience but also a lot of younger gamers attracted by the colors and charm of the Mario universe, it features the option to activate, before the start of all battles and with the simple press of a button, an easy mode.
Kingdom Battle succeeds in keeping battles engaging all the way through in a number of ways. The scenarios where the shooting takes place are incredibly varied, some support different kinds of strategies while others force gamers to play in a specific way, therefore presenting many gameplay facets. Alongside the battlefield changes, sets of enemies are always being renovated both in-between chapters and worlds, as well as being mixed and matched in different ways.
There are ghosts that teleport, support Rabbids that use grenades and that can heal their partners, maniacs that wear machine guns on their chests and that can jump with the help of their peers, smashers that move whenever they are shot, shielded monsters that need to be shot at from certain angles, enemies that are clever blends of Rabbids with Mushroom Kingdom staples like Piranha Plants and Boos, and more. Mario + Rabbids has no shortage of creativity for spitting out foes; it is worthy to mention, though, that it is a tad frustrating that bosses – as smartly designed as they may be – have the annoying tendency to rely too much on minions to produce challenge rather than doing so by virtue of their own skills.
When it comes to the gang of heroes, battles gain life due to the amount of actions they can perform. All of the eight playable characters have their own skill trees, which can be unlocked as orbs are obtained from battles or hidden chests, and although there is some overlapping between the trees, with some abilities or similar weapons being featured for two characters, all combatants turn out to be unique. Among other abilities, Mario, true to his origins, can be catapulted by his partners into the air to land on top of foes; Luigi is a long-ranged specialist; Peach throws grenades; Yoshi packs a rocket; Rabbid Mario has an explosive dash; Rabbid Luigi recovers energy when attacking enemies; Rabbid Peach has healing powers; and Rabbid Yoshi has a main weapon whose damage range is unpredictable.
Given such an incredible variety of strategies, it is very disappointing Kingdom Battle does not allow players to assemble the trio of fighters they are going to use during a battle in whichever way they see fit. Some of the characters are unlocked way too late into the game. Additionally, there are rules that determine how a team can be constructed; namely, Mario always needs to be on the team and at least one Rabbid has to be used, which means that only deploying the folks from the Mushroom Kingdom is completely out of the question.
Surely, those issues are slightly annoying to a certain degree; however, neither do they hold the game back from excellence nor will they stop players from feeling like sinking their teeth into the full extent of the title’s content, which is quite impressive. All worlds hold ten challenges, of varying types, that can be tackled once an area’s boss is defeated. All missions can be replayed at will from a simple menu so that players can try to perfect their score (calculated by number of turns that were used and total of surviving characters); although it is a bit disappointing those missions are tackled with the team’s current equipment, which makes getting perfect scores way too easy most of the time. And a cooperative mode with special missions is also available, which alleviates the lack of a two-player option for the battles of the main campaign.
Simply put, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a fun, unexpected, unlikely, and very welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch’s catalog. At this point, it is unknown how many years the console’s lifespan will last and how much support it will get from third-parties; regardless of the value of those variables, though, it is pretty clear Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle will stand as one of the console’s finest overall entries. A product of Nintendo’s pleasant recent tendency to be less protective of its franchises and to open up its business model, it is a sign that – when handled by other parties and with the proper oversight – those properties can be taken to interesting places. If Mario + Rabbids is the first of numerous unforeseen partnerships, Nintendo fans are in for a treat. All that it takes is for those someones who are somewhere to step up to the plate with their courageous ideas; may the doors of opportunity be forever blown open.
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#Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review – After 250 Hours!