Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle may be one of the biggest surprises in video games this year. Who would have ever thought that we would be seeing Ubisoft and Nintendo work together to create a game that just screams XCOM. Well, my friends, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is real and it is a ton of fun.
The first thing that strikes me about this game is how colorful it is. In the twenty-minute demo I had, I couldn’t help but smile as I walked around a lush and beautiful Mushroom Kingdom that was invaded by Rabbids. In this demo, you take control of Mario and two Rabbids, one dressed as Peach and the other as Luigi. They are being led on by a little Drone/Roomba that serves as your cursor in battle. Before battle, however, there is a decent amount of exploration available.
There are contextual areas on the overworld map that can give you coins or show you what mischief or laziness that Rabbids are up to. There are even mini-puzzles that hearken back to prior Mario puzzles like collecting 8 red coins in a certain time or solving other coin-based puzzles. By completing these little challenges, you may get more coins, unlock new weapons, or more.
This leads me right to the set up for the battle system. As I mentioned earlier, the game is an homage to XCOM and strategic and tactical RPGs. There is a player phase and enemy phase, and even a third-party phase (like Chomp-Chomps), that will attack any in their way. You and your team are equipped with laser hand-cannons and these can be upgraded as your progress through the game.
When the battle starts you use your little Roomba friends to move around the battlefield, and there is a decent amount of depth involved. If there is an enemy in your proximity, you have the ability to move towards him, do a sliding attack, and then position yourself behind cover to attack again. As in other games of this genre, there are different types of cover that can provide different amounts of protection, so it’s important to choose wisely where you end your turn.
When one character is finished, the next in line is ready to make their move. What’s intriguing about this battle system is that if another player character is in the realm of movement for another character, you can move towards them, spring off them, and jump farther than you would be able to move otherwise. This allows for greater tactics and gives you’re the ability to really plan and position your team for victory.
To take movement and tactics one stop further, some maps have environmental areas you can interact with. Besides cover being destructible, there are exploding crates that can cause damage or cause an enemy to catch fire. There are also tubes that you can use in your movement to quickly travel from one side of a map to another.
Each character has a special ability that they can activate as well, like Peach Rabbid’s Healing, and can help turn the tide of battle. The action is fluid and fast, and each character brings their own personality to the table.
In the few battles I got to partake in, each had a different objective. One tasked you with destroying all enemies, while another wanted you to just get one player to a designated area on the map. This obviously changes up your strategy as in the latter match, there was no need to even attack some enemies, as the focus was movement.
The twenty-minute demo was light on story, but I hope the full game leans in to the charm and humor that these two franchises are built on. As with any comedic game, the tropes and jokes can get old fast, and I’m hoping they don’t get too cheesy or grating with their antics. Many people have already started commenting on how Peach Rabbid can’t stop taking selfies of herself, and while this isn’t bothering me quite yet, I could see how it could in the future.
My demo of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle left me very excited for the launch of this title on August 29th, 2017 for the Nintendo Switch. This feels like a perfect portable game and one that can be fun for pick up and play. I love the creativity and weirdness that Nintendo and Ubisoft are bringing to the table, and it is one of the most unique and unexpected titles I’ve played in a very long time.
We will see how the entire package comes together, but if my play session is any indication, Switch owners have yet another reason to be excited in 2017.