Title: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Ubisoft Milan/Ubisoft Paris/Ubisoft Montpellier
Release Date: August 29th, 2017 (NA)
Next comes a game I don’t think ANYONE ever imagined would ever exist. A Mario game, crossing over with Ubisoft’s Rabbids, as a turn-based strategy game? Madness I tells ya! But was this idea crazy enough to work? Let’s find out!
A look at Peach’s Castle hub area
This game was the creation of director Davide Soliani at Ubisoft Milan. He’s been at Ubisoft for quite a longtime. The team actually made games all the way back to the Rayman games on Game Boy Color, so their relationship with Rabbids (which were born from Rayman Raving Rabbids) goes way back! This bizarre crossover was apparently in Ubisoft’s mind dating back to around 2009-2010, as some concept art of Rabbids carrying away Bowser from that period surfaced. I’m not super certain on the actual game’s beginnings (was it ever targeted for Wii U?), but I sure as hell would love a documentary detailing the whole thing bit-by-bit!
So after years of development, the game’s existence got leaked back at around October 2016 as a Yoshi and Rabbids crossover, and sadly the reaction was… not favorable, much to the sadness of Davide Soliani and his team. But he showed them all at E3 2017 when the game’s full unveiling seemingly got universal acclaim and just blew everyone’s socks off at how wonderful this game looked. The passion demonstrated by Davide is seen in every stitch of the game, it’s honestly a work of art at how much genuine love went into this. A cash grab, this was not. Davide adores Nintendo and to say it was a dream come true for him at the unveiling when Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned his name, on stage, would be underselling it. He didn’t earn his meme “Don’t Cry Ubisoft Man” for nothing! 😛
Do you mind?
So enough about history, what on Earth is this thing? I’ll tell you! The story begins in the home (in the real world seemingly) of this girl testing out a prototype called a SupaMerge headset, which has the power to merge two objects together. She then leaves the room when things didn’t work out, and then all of the sudden, RABBIDS! Indeed, the Rabbids just pop out of nowhere in their Washing Time Machine (Time Washing Machine?) and cause their usual mischief. One gets a hold of the headset and starts merging stuff together, such as one of Rabbids wearing a blonde wig then becomes Rabbid Peach! Soon after the SupaMerge merges the Rabbids and their Washing Machine with a Mario poster and that’s when the Rabbids are transported into this messed up version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario and friends also end up being sucked into a portal from their normal Mushroom Kingdom into this one as well.
So when everything falls into this new version of the Mushroom Kingdom, somehow the Rabbid wearing the headset merges ITSELF with the headset, creating the adorable Spawny! The poor fella becomes timid and frightened, only to end up getting lost, but not before zapping (against his will) a bunch of Rabbids, transforming them into the enemies you fight in the game.
A Wild Spawny appears!
So once Mario comes in and meets up with Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi, we are introduced to the game’s mechanics. The game is a turn-based strategy game where you have to choose which tile on your area of moment you want to move to (note that once you choose you can’t undo this). You can then fire your gun (think Mega Man’s gun in style) at the enemy, but later on you can ALSO choose to put up a shield, activate a character’s ability to automatically shoot enemies when they move, etc! You basically get three actions each turn for each character; move, shoot, and activate a special ability. A neat feature rather unique to this game is the Team Jump. Here you can move your character to your ally, and bounce off him or her into another spot further ahead, or in Mario’s case, onto an enemy for bonus damage (and getting a bit more distance with that also). Another ability is to dash onto enemies. This is merely done by selecting an enemy in your area of movement. Dashes don’t take away anything, and later on some characters can dash through 2 or even 3 enemies in one move!
Weapons have Super Effects which include Honey (which prevents enemies from moving on the map during the next turn), Push (causes enemies to be pushed back a certain distance), Bounce (sends enemies flying backwards), Burn (causes enemies to run around aimlessly, and if they touch another character (even you), said character also takes burn damage), Ink (you can’t use your weapons that turn), etc! Certain weapons have higher chances of activating their Super Effect (each can have only one) against certain foes.
Mario + Beep-O
After each fight, you’re graded on if you have all party members active or not, and if you’ve beaten the fight within a certain number of turns. Do all that and you’re given a Perfect which gets you more coins at the end of the chapter of the story. You also earn Power Orbs in these results screens and at other points. These are used in the game’s Skill Tree system that gives you new abilities and buffs up other abilities such as granting more dashes, more healing, more HP, a larger area of movement, etc.
In-between battles you explore the world and can do some neat puzzle-solving and uncover boxes that give you new weapons, artwork, models (like the trophies in Smash Bros.), music, and tarot cards. Weapons most of the time have to be purchased with the coins you collect during the game, though some are free (like the Pixel weapons you get in the physical copies via a code).
The game is absolutely gorgeous
Presentation-wise, the game is one of THE best-looking games on Switch to date. It runs in 900p docked at 30fps and runs on Ubisoft’s big next-gen (well current now) Snowdrop Engine, the same one created for The Division. The actually graphical techniques on display are outstanding and combined with the gorgeous art direction, shows that this game is a thing of beauty. Honestly it gives Super Mario Odyssey a run for its money in my opinion. Take notes Nintendo EPD Tokyo! 😛
And how can I go on without mentioning the soundtrack composed by Grant Kirkhope? That’s right, he’s finally back, performing for you, if you know his tunes, you can join in too! The man who composed Donkey Kong 64, the Banjo-Kazooie series, Goldeneye, and the Viva Pinata series is back again, and about time too, and this time, he’s in the mood!
Options before starting a battle
The game is so packed with stuff that it’s hard to list and describe them all! Honestly, this game may indeed be my game of the year. That’s right, even above The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. The visuals, humor, music, gameplay, it’s all here and I’m at the edge of my seat waiting for Davide Soliani and Grant Kirkhope to show us what’s next from then with Nintendo on Switch. Davide Soliani said he wanted the team to be the next Rareware, and you know what? They’ve earned that title in my book. Just keep doing what you’re doing and stick close with Nintendo like you guys did here, and I think there’s a very bright future for the team. How about a 3D Donkey Kong game if I may make a suggestion? 😉
If it wasn’t obvious by now, I give this game my HIGHEST recommendation. Don’t let the Rabbids fool you, they’re HILARIOUS and a delight (especially Rabbid Peach) and the game is something I thought we wouldn’t have seen much of after Rareware left Nintendo. Ubisoft Milan really help fill that void. I hope Davide Soliani and his team at Ubisoft Milan sticks with Nintendo, they’re a perfect match!
General view of the combat
+ The game is a feast for the eyes. Ubisoft really got a lot out of the system with the Snowdrop Engine and it shows!
+ A soundtrack by Grant Kirkhope? He really is one hell of a guy!
+ It’s utterly hilarious. Rabbid Peach alone steals the show.
+ The gameplay is perfect for first-timers of turn-based strategy games. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master. Absolutely well done. Hell they asked X-COM creator Julian Gallop to work on it, and you know what? They didn’t need him!
+ Certain bosses as characters are some of my highlights by far. Hint: One has no style and no grace, but also has a bunny face, and the other puts on quite the show!
– The framerate isn’t quite perfect. Even now during some close-ups upon executing some moves, performance can take a quick dive (but it’s not game-breaking in the slightest and is like a second long).
Score: 10/10 Game of the Year