Videogame cross overs are nothing new in gaming but it is seldom that Nintendo opts in for an entire game built from the ground up revolving around two completely different franchises. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle stars two very unlikely worlds that have collided into one awesome Switch game. It has everything we love from the Mario series, and the sheer madness of the Rabbids series, all packed into one tactical RPG adventure game. It's attention to details is where it shines the most and while the combat and the story arc hits its peak in the early hours, I simply continued onwards to the end just to discover the worlds and beauty of this mash up.
After the Rabbids get hold of a device that has the power to combine two objects into one and transport themselves into the Mushroom Kingdom, all hell breaks loose as Mario and his team of Rabbid Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi set off to track down the Rabbid who was combined with this device and leaves a trail of spliced-up objects and enemies in its wake. Along the way, the team must fight off the Rabbids who have welcomed this new merge of two worlds and have literally been merged into everything too. While the Rabbids brought themselves into the Mushroom Kingdom, they also brought everything that surrounded themselves in the house where they found the device.
Each location in the game is scattered with real-world objects that have now blended perfectly into the environment around you. Giant bubble-blowing sticks cover the area, massive statues of Rabbids are seen from the distance, and every single piece of the surroundings has been carefully crafted to show the results of this merger of worlds.
Like all games in the series Mario +
Where Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle shines is in its combat. Borrowing much love from the XCOM series, the game feels very much the same. As you explore each world you will encounter battle areas which are mandatory to advance the game. Using your team of Rabbids and Mario characters, you take turns to move around each area in a grid formation. Hiding behind blocks to take cover from enemy damage, using your team mates as a trampoline to jump across the stage and using bunny-eared Mario pipes to get to and from different locations.
Each character gets a turn and the battle system is divided into three portions per turn. You can move, attack, and then use a special ability that is exclusive to each character. The best thing about this is that you can move or attack in any order so you can really plan your approach to each turn. If Rabbid Peach was nearby, she could boost Mario into the distance, he could land on a Rabbid dealing damage and then land even further away behind a block which he could then use as cover as he takes his shot at the nearby Rabbid.
Teamwork is vital to surviving the game's later battles as they are pretty brutal. Enemies get smarter, deal more damage, and every single battle arena has been carefully crafted for each encounter. You have to plan ahead, learn each Rabbid type and how they move and attack, and make sure you understand your team to make it out alive. It was these harsh encounters where I truly felt that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle brought out the tactical side of me, the same feeling I got when playing XCOM 2's later game content.
The Rabbids are also relentless which adds to this emphasis on strategy. Big brutes are slow but deal heavy damage and chase towards you if you hit them with anything but a dash or stomp. I later started using team mates who were far away to lure them closer to them by shooting them in order to save Mario who was right next to a brute. Healing Rabbids are weak but they heal wounded enemies. These then became my primary focus. Let me not forget the fantastic mid-boss and boss battles that were not only constructed perfectly but also starred some awesomely-designed Rabbids.
Secondary and main weapons are the game's main source of combat damage. Sure, you can dash into enemies and stomp on them, but if you want to attack from afar and inflict cool effects like burning, vampire, and bounce, which pushes Rabbids off ledges and deals major damage to them, then you will want to focus on this. Each character has their unique weapon and attack style to keep in mind when going into battle. Luigi acts like a sniper that has low health but can shoot from afar. Mario is a tank that deals heavy melee damage with his hammer and withstands quite a beating.
Utilizing each character's unique attack style and weapon loadout was challenging given that you need to buy weapons with coins and these are not easy to come by, but after I bought each teammate a new weapon the damage and overall effect of it was a big help in the levels ahead. One major issue I had in the game was that you first had to find the weapon by opening hidden chests in the world around you, and then buy it in the Battle HQ. Not the most ideal way to do things, but I suppose it kept me grinding the battle encounters to make sure I got the gold. Talking about grinding, each battle rates your overall performance on how many turns you took, and who was alive to tell the tale at the end of it. This then rewards you with gold depending on your rating from bronze to gold.
Skill points also grant each team mate new abilities but the skill tree is not anything to write home about. Each character has one or two nodes different from the other, and to max out the tree, you will need to go back and visit each completed world to participate in the tough challenge battles. These are rehashes of older battles but with a strict turn limit or double enemy count. Still, with how basic the skill tree is, the impact of levelling each character up was felt throughout the game. Mario's stomp damage increased. Rabbid Peach's healing ability got a buff, and each character has the same option to level up overall health and movement per block.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a stunning game on the Nintendo Switch and every new world and enemy came to life in a way never experienced in a Mario game before. Various hidden areas to explore made it worthwhile to venture off into the distance, but my main goal was to see how the Rabbids have adapted to the world around them. Throughout the game, you can see Rabbids doing things and interacting with various objects. Now I don't need to tell you how stupidly ridiculous these creatures are for you to know what joy it was to see each one doing something insane.
The same can be said for the teammates in the game as each of them comes to life with humour and personality like never before. Rabbid Peach is obsessed with selfies and does not miss an opportunity to take one, even while Rabbid Kong is falling to his death. Rabbid Luigi is simply not well as he cannot put two and two together, and Rabbid Yoshi is just another mad Rabbid interpretation of the famed character. I could not stop waiting in anticipation for a cutscene where I would see these Rabbids go off on their episode. It was half the fun in the game.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a perfect example of a great combination of two awesome series. Its combat is refined, its comedy is on point, and its world has been carefully crafted to pay homage to both franchises. It is another perfect example of how the Switch can be the home for everything.
Available On: Switch | Release Date: 29 August 2017 | RRP: R899