Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a great example of when a developer has the balls to take an intellectual property that has been around longer than most of my generation, and try something outside of the box with it by going into a genre mario has never gone before, and slamming the Mario universe together with one of Ubisofts own IPs, the Rabbids. Over the years, Mario has been 2D, 3D, made of paper, a traditional RPG, been in the olympics, has played tennis, thrown parties, driven go-karts, traveled the galaxy…..8 minutes later….. dodged barrels, traveled through time, has been toted around by Yoshi, been in a fighting game, and so on. This time however, Ubisoft has managed to take the Mario franchise to the one place it hasn’t been yet, the realm of tactical rpgs. Mario + Rabbids is basically Xcom for kids. That said, you might be wondering how the rabbids play into the equation? Well, from what I could gather during the introduction to the game, a super genius from seemingly the “Human” world, developed a machine called the “Super Merge.”
The Super Merge, by basically breaking time and space itself, allows the user to lock in on one object, lock in on a second object, and merge their properties together. Our super genius pal, puts his super merge headset down to call it a day, and that’s when all
hell Rabbid breaks loose. The Rabbids show up in a washing machine, time machine thing of sorts, and spill out into this basement laboratory. In the process of screwing around with everything they can get their hands on, one of them grabs the Super Merge head set and starts locking onto things on accident. Eventually stuff gets way out of hand, the washing machine time machine malfunctions, sucking all the Rabbids back into it, as well as a Mario poster that was hanging on the wall, and the roomba looking robot, Beep-O. The Rabbids get sucked into a time vortex, and start getting spit out all over the mushroom kingdom.
This is where the game starts to grow some legs and gives you an idea of how bad the situation is. Right off the bat we’re introduced to two Rabbids who have merged with Peach and Luigi from the poster. However, most of the Rabbids were not so lucky. A lot of them were corrupted negatively by the merges that happened to them, creating most of the antagonists throughout the game. The Rabbid who had been screwing around with the super merge ends up having it merge to his face. Beep-O makes it very clear to Mario and team that the end goal here is to find this Rabbid, as he is the key to undoing all of it. On top of all this, the Mushroom Kingdom is in disarray, and most of Marios friends have been scattered all over the place. The hunt is on!
Before I even get into the mechanics involved in the actual battles of the game, let’s talk a bit about the game world and how you’re going to interact with it. The actual world of the game that you’ll run around in between battles, is fairly built out. It’s almost as though if they wanted to build a normal 3D mario game in this world, they could have. The main area that you will find yourself coming back to, which connects every “area” of the game, is Peaches castle. As you defeat Rabbids early on in the game, they will turn back to normal, get transported to the castle, and start building things that help out your team. This area will give you access to the Battle HQ, where you will be able to change out weapons, characters, and use skill orbs to upgrade different abilities for your characters inside of a small 3-4 tiered skill tree. You will gain access to the Museum, where you can look at all sorts of concept art as you unlock them, including 3D models, a la smash brothers. There will be a building where you can go register amiibos, as some of them unlock different weapons. Finally uou’ll have a place called the Buddydome where you can link up with a friend, each control two characters, and go into tactical battle together in a mode completely separate from the campaign. Being that I have no friends with a switch, I was unable to test this out. However, the guys over at co-optimus.com have a video on this, if you’d like to check it out.
As far as interacting with the world itself goes, most areas are completely three dimensional. Each area is broken up into sections that have two to three battles within them. However, as the battling happens inside specific area, in this game, Mario does not jump outside of battle. Most of the time when you are exploring the game world you will be using things like cannons, and pipes to get places you can’t normally reach. Each battle area is designated by two small black flags with white bunnies on them. Once you break the threshold of those areas, a battle begins. The game will often times use an introduction if they are introducing a new enemy, or mechanic. Between the battles however, most of the running around takes place in small, usually square shaped sections of land, connected by bridges. Sometimes there’s nothing going on and you just run right through. However, sometimes you’ll see a big red ring that triggers a bunch of red coins for you to grab within a time limit, or a blue cannon that shoots you to a separate room filled with blue coins that harbor a similar challenge. Gather all the coins, and you usually unlock a weapon. Sometimes you may just find random pipes that send you across the map to a different area that as a box with an item in it. More often than not though, those are going to be Museum unlockables. You’ll also have the occasional puzzle to solve, which can be pretty fun. A lot of times they involve hitting switches to line up pipes properly so you can throw yourself into them and “pipe it up”, as Migos says. Also, throughout your encounters, you’ll collect coins, in traditional mario fashion, that can be used to purchase new weapons for your characters.
Now, for the mechanics that take this game to a place that no Mario has gone before. If you’ve never played a tactics game, especially one that uses a basic “cover” mechanic, you’re in for a treat. Mario + Rabbids does a very good job spacing out tutorial concepts over several battles, so that if you’re new to the genre, you’ll be able to piece things together without feeling lost. The flow of battle goes something like this, your characters start at one end of the field of battle, and the enemies tart at the other end. During your turn, your character can move a certain number of steps, and then choose an attack if an enemy is close enough to hit with your weapon. You can also choose to stop your characters movement near a wall, which grants them cover. If your character is not visible to an enemy due to being behind a wall, there is a 0% chance that they will hit your character with anything other than an explosion. However, some cover can be damaged, and eventually destroyed. Some cover is only half as high as your character, and grants you a 50% chance not to be hit. If you are out in the open, well, you’re screwed. No matter what cover your characters are in, they can always attack as long as they have line of sight of an enemy by peaking around the corners of the cover. The basic idea of the game is, keep your characters well covered while trying to outmaneuver the enemies, and knock them out, before they knock your characters out. Be careful though, sometimes cover is actually an explosive box in disguise. Occasionally a Rabbid will shoot cover you are hiding behind to expose the cover as a giant box full of explosives. In that case, you might want to move.
Some other nuances of the battle mechanics involve choosing weapons with different types of damage that can be applied on top of their normal attack. For instance, some guns have a chance to push an enemy. If they are pushed into a wall, it will add extra damage. Some guns have bounce damage, which can bounce an enemy out of bounds of the map, adding a ton of damage. Additionally, the game has high ground and low ground based advantages and disadvantages. If you are higher up than enemy that you are attacking, you do more damage than normal with your projectile weapons. You also have the option of running “through” an enemy. If the path you choose to move your character in passes through an enemy, you’ll slide tackle them, doing about half the damage you normally do, but you are still able to do an additional regular attack after you finish your move, even if you slide into them. After it’s unlocked, each character has a secondary weapon, which usually does more damage than their normal weapon, but will have a cool down, making it unusable for a few turns after it’s used. Each character also has a character skill that can be used after a move/attack that also has a cool down. For instance, Rabbid Peach has a skill that reduces all damage by 40% for one turn.
On top of being able to use those additives to your advantage, there’s another really cool mechanic that comes into play whenever a map has a pipe on it. If there is a pipe present on the battleground, your character can walk into it. If you do, when you come out of the other side, you get some extra movement spaces, which will give you the ability to get behind enemies. You have to be careful where you end your turn though, as the enemy has the same access to these pipes, and I have found that they will consistently use them to their advantage if you don’t get to them first. The game will also throw boss battles at you from time to time, where your winning condition is to finish off the boss. However, if you ignore the rabbids that accompany the boss, you can find yourself in a cross fire pretty quickly. After a battle, depending on how many turns you took, and whether or not everyone survived, you’ll get a rank (I’ve only seen Good and Perfect so far, it’s hard to lose people if you’re paying attention) that denotes how much gold you’ll get at the end of a series of battle sections.
Visuals and Final Impressions
I have seen a few other reviewers complaining about the Rabbids themselves being annoying, or not funny. To be honest, to me that just sounds like whining. I’m a 30 year old man, but I have no disillusions over the fact that this game is targeted towards children, but made for adults. I expect there to be an inordinate amount of random silliness going on fort he kiddos, and as far as kids humor goes, it works nearly every time. As far as adult humor goes, the nuance of the blonde haired, white skinned Rabbid Peach taking a selfie every time literally anything happens, is god damn hilarious. Regardless, the game inside and outside of battle is incredibly smooth. Winning a battle feels satisfying, even when the battles are easy, and the small but useful skill trees for the characters add an extra layer that honestly the game still would have been great without. As far as visual appeal goes, a Mario “world” has never looked more sharp, in my opinion. The colors are vibrant, and the game runs in 1080p. However, so many of the visuals are so striking, that even when playing it without the dock (720p) it’s hard to even tell the difference. Overall, I’d say you’d have to say, if you’re a fan of Mario games, or tactics games, you’d have to be a pretty damn picky individual to not enjoy this welcomed addition to the never ending catalog of Mario games.