Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is an answer to every Nintendo fan that has ever wanted the Big N to step out of their comfort zone and try something new with their established world’s and franchises. Combining many elements from the XCOM series and games like the Mario & Luigi series or Super Mario RPG, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a great entry point for children and families to get introduced to addictive, turn-based strategy gameplay.
Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a game that Nintendo fans of all ages can enjoy. The humor is slapstick and mostly reminiscent of the shenanigans that the Minions get into in the Despicable Me film franchise. There is no drug use, foul language, or sexual content of any kind. While the Princess Peach Rabbid does sometimes humorously pose for selfies, this is all done in jest and pokes fun at selfie culture in general with how ridiculous it is to try to take the perfect selfie in a time of peril, such as right at the start of a boss battle.
While this game marks the first time that we have ever seen Mario, Luigi, and the gang use guns to combat enemies there is no extreme violence. Enemies are knocked out with stars over their heads when taking a hit and when defeated, vanish in a puff of smoke. Guns fire things like energy, honey, and ink. Melee weapons, such as mallets, and a weird yo-yo like contraption, are also available and only serve to flatten enemies but there is absolutely no blood or any other indication of injury or serious bodily harm in combat encounters.
Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a collaborative effort between Ubisoft Milan and Nintendo. For the first time ever, Mario and pals will use guns, hammers, remote controlled bombs, and other weapons and gadgets to combat corrupted Rabbids in a VR style world. Led by new companion, Beep-O, a roomba-like robot that got sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom alongside the mischievous Rabbids, Mario and his new Rabbid pals must work together to find out how to restore the Mushroom Kingdom and send the Rabbids back home to their world. This beloved land has been splintered into wildly different areas: lush jungles, icy caverns, scorching deserts, and more.
When a VR headset, owned by a young Nintendo-obsessed child malfunctions, and the mischievous and child-like Rabbids are sucked into a VR world where they are introduced to Mario and friends. Not long after their brief introduction, a small, runty Rabbid runs off with the headset very much permanently attached to his face and begins transforming the Rabbids and other denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into violent, and sometimes hulking, monstrosities. It is up to Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and the Rabbids to stop this rogue Rabbid, and Bowser Jr. from destroying everything both the Rabbids and the Mushroom Kingdom hold dear.
Outside of battles, gameplay plays out similarly to Mario’s past RPG outings. Games like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga or Super Mario RPG will immediately stand out in the minds of players who have experienced these titles in the past. Exploration is encouraged as hidden chests are scattered all across the land. These chests contain various collectibles like concept art, soundtrack pieces, and figurines of characters from the game that can all be enjoyed in the hub world between story chapters. There are also rare gold chests that can be found by accomplishing certain tasks, these chests often contain new weapons and gadgets for the heroes and their Rabbid companions.
Combat, the battle UI and, many gameplay elements such as the turn-based strategy seem to have been ripped straight out of the XCOM playbook. However, this is not a bad thing as Ubisoft and Nintendo have of course, put their own unique spin on it. While overwatch mode is a thing in Mario+Rabbids, it is not the only action that can be taken prior to finishing a turn during battle. Each character can do a combat slide during the normal movement phase that allows players to deal extra damage to especially tough enemies. These attacks can later be upgraded to allow certain characters to slide tackle two enemies during the same movement phase or add elemental attacks or after-effects to these moves.
Each character, out of the three that can be taken into battle at any time, can jump off of the shoulders of an ally to reach higher ground or to extend their range of movement during the player’s turn. For example, to gain a height advantage on the enemy team, Luigi, the team’s sniper, can jump off of Mario to reach a warp pipe on a higher section of terrain. This expands his attack range and even increases his chances of hitting an enemy that is currently hiding behind a piece of cover. Cover can be destroyed in battle leaving an enemy, or even our heroes, exposed and open to a powerful barrage of attacks. To circumvent this, players can use the slide tackle, shoulder jump, and their currently equipped gear to take out enemies before they have the chance to fire back. The aforementioned shoulder jump can also be used to jump on the heads of enemies, in classic Mario Bros. style, to deal additional damage while still extending a character’s movement range.
While each character has a gun that is the primary means of attack, each hero also has a secondary weapon and ability that offers unique opportunities in combat. These weapons and abilities can be upgraded as the game goes on to become even more formidable in combat. For example, Rabbid Peach can heal herself and allies and has the ability to slide tackle two enemies in one movement turn. Mario can jump on the heads of enemies before he even chooses to use one of his primary attacks. Mario can also choose to shoot an enemy with his Mega Man-like blaster or he can pull out his trusty mallet and bash them over the head to deal extra damage and potentially knock an enemy out in one hit.
The battlefield also offers certain hazards as cover is destructible and is more susceptible to damage from elemental attacks like a blast from Rabbid Luigi’s rocket launcher. To help with this, players have the choice to dive straight into a battle or survey the battle to get a lay of the land before attacking. Character’s pants will sometime ignite and catch on fire after such an attack and they will run around briefly before stopping in place, often right out in the open and away from the protection of cover. There are even shockwave attacks that can knock characters off of the edge of the battlefield which often results in the instant death of that character. This is where the game’s difficulty can become grueling.
As the victory conditions for each battle don’t always entail simply wiping out all the enemies on screen, staying alive long enough to reach a designated escape zone can be quite the challenge. Enemy types are surprisingly varied and include heavier enemies that can smash multiple hero characters in a single attack or enemies who wield a huge shield and shotgun who can only be defeated via flanking. Some enemy encounters also continue to spawn in opponents until players can reach the designated victory area. While players are given a rating after each battle which yields better rewards, only one character has to make it to the marked victory area in order to come out on top.
However, battle and exploration are not the only types of gameplay that Mario+Rabbids has to offer. Red coins make their return and often provide players with a gold chest, containing powerful new weapons that can later be obtained in the Mushroom Kingdom shop with coins collected in each world. Between worlds, players can return to Peach’s Castle which essentially acts as a home base where players can purchase new weapons, view other collectibles, swap out the heroes in the current battle squad, and find other hidden goodies and collectibles. There is even a co-op mode that allows two players to work together in various combat challenges. Amiibo support is also included and certain amiibo will provide exclusive in-game weapons and gear for Mario and his pals.
Among the neatest surprises that I found during my time with Kingdom Battle are the blue Rabbid cannons scattered around each world. These cannons lead to bonus missions which have a sort of virtual reality look to them and often contain more challenging puzzles that yield better rewards. Most of these missions consist of collecting red coins within a set time limit, often about 30 seconds. However, as players complete worlds they will unlock abilities that allow them to push blocks or activate certain switches, these abilities come into play in these bonus missions in a big way as players often have a very slim margin of error using these new abilities in order to collect all of the red coins.
The special abilities obtained at the completion of each world can also be used at Peach’s Castle to access previously inaccessible areas. Players can also re-visit previous worlds using these abilities to obtain collectibles that were out of reach just moments ago. This lends a sense of replayability to the game and encourages players to explore every nook and cranny of the different worlds that Mario and his friends will visit.
Mario+Rabbids is exactly the the kind of revision that Nintendo needed to inject into its Mario games. By combining a familiar, yet alien style of gameplay with well known Nintendo characters and worlds Ubisoft Milan has created something truly unique that I honestly believe is one of the best Switch games to date. XCOM, and games like it, are some of my favorite games to play as they encourage players to not only use their skills as gamers but also to learn to come up with complex strategies on the fly to succeed. Nintendo fans and gamers who prefer tougher, more strategic gameplay will love Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle as it is something most players would never expect to see from Nintendo but yet here it is making its mark on the industry in a new era of gaming. Nintendo is making a statement with the Switch and this game shows that we should never, ever count Nintendo out when it comes to their creativity and passion for creating fun and unique gaming experiences for all types of gamers.
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The Bottom Line
Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was the the biggest surprise from Nintendo at E3 2017. Seemingly coming out nowhere and combining elements of gameplay that Nintendo hasn't really utilized before Ubisoft Milan and Nintendo came together, they have created one of Nintendo Switch's best games to date.