Overall score 92

When I first heard rumors of a Mario and Rabbids crossover game being in development, I was certainly in the group of people that thought it to be a weird team up. Enough to the point where I didn’t believe the game really existed. It’s an odd pairing for sure, but it was also real. Still, I remained open-minded once more and more news surfaced of what the project would be. Hearing Mario characters and guns in the same sentence really made it all seem like some impossible fantasy. Then when Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was officially unveiled at E3, all that worry and concern turned into interest and excitement. If Mario and guns seemed odd to hear, Mario and X-COM was just as weird, if not more. Now that the game is out, it’s time to see just how good this very unique project turned out.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle merges the world of Ubisoft’s crazy Rabbids with the very familiar world of Nintendo’s Mushroom Kingdom. A pairing no one thought would ever come into existence. To build more on top of the weird and unlikely pairing is a just as odd choice of genre for the game, a tactical-based RPG. A genre that both franchises don’t have much experience in. You would think this pairing would spring up something like a party game or something more simple, but you’ll soon find out that this game is full of surprises.

If you’ve played the tactical RPG game called X-COM, you already have a good idea on what the gameplay of Mario + Rabbids is. Battles will occur at various points in the game and similar to X-COM, your units have a specific area of movement that they can move in. Once you’ve moved your unit in place, you can then perform an attack on an enemy from a distance away by shooting your projectile. You can even shoot first, and then move after. Once you perform any of those actions though, you can’t perform it again for that turn. In addition to the move and shoot setup, come additional forms of movement where you can jump off teammates in order to reach farther distances or higher areas of elevation. There are also secondary weapons and special abilities that are unique to each of the characters.

Now, I never played much of XCOM, but I do have a good idea of how the game is played. While similar, Mario + Rabbids is actually a bit simpler in its design. Mainly with the percentages you come across in the game, which are dependant on how much cover the target is behind. If they’re in no cover, there’s a 100% chance your attack will hit. If they’re in half, it’s 50%. With full cover being a 0% chance to hit. There’s no in-between, so it’s fairly simple to understand. On top of that, the weapons being used don’t have a direct damage amount. They actually have a range of damage that they will randomly do. For example, if your weapon does 8-11 damage, then the max amount your weapon can do is 11, with 8 being the lowest. So putting it together, if you attack an enemy for a 100% chance. Your attack will definitely hit, but the amount you do will be a random amount from 8 to 11.

THE GOOD: The gameplay may sound a bit complicated when typed out, but the game does a very good job in slowly introducing its mechanics. As I said, it’s actually very simple. And while you may think that being simple means it’s an easy experience, you’ll actually be quite surprised with how in-depth it can all get. It did seem like it would be a non-challenge, but you’ll find out early on that you can’t take this game lightly, even if it’s mechanics are simple to grasp. That ease of understanding, mixed with in-depth tactics, is what really pulled me into Mario + Rabbids. Once everything clicked, I became hooked.

Battles are only one part of the experience, with exploration being the other half of the game. When you’re not in battle, you’ll be exploring the Mushroom Kingdom with Mario and friends. All is not normal, as is the case with Rabbids. Interestingly enough, there is a story taking place as to how the crazy Rabbids stumbled upon the world of Mario and how their appearance throws everything into chaos. It’s a crazy setup that I won’t spoil too much on, but I enjoyed watching how it played out. So being invested in seeing the story progress, along with exploring the world it created, kept me engaged in the game when not in battle. Also, the world is filled with it’s share of secrets and puzzles that you’ll solve in order to unlock useful items or collectibles, even to progress the game. Not overly complicated, but do take some thought. Was quite satisfying to find everything in the game.

It’s a nice balance of battles and exploration, and the game is of a sizable length too. Of course, it’s all dependent on how long it takes you to complete battles and if you’re willing to go through all of the game’s optional items. There’s four worlds to explore, with their own set of battlefields and boss fights. After completing a world, a set of challenges will appear that will really test your skills. Add onto that the many hidden collectibles in each world, and there’ plenty to do. It’s all optional though. Still, even if it will be a shorter experience, it’s still a decently sized one if you’re only in it for the story.

Not only did I enjoy the gameplay aspects of Kingdom Battle, I found the look and sound of the game to be just as good. It’s a great looking game that nicely captures the world of the Mushroom Kingdom, but also mixing in the craziness of the Rabbids. Each world gives off their own feel and are colorful in their own ways. Tying it all together is a fantastic soundtrack that offers up some amazing remixes of familiar Mario themes, but also providing some catchy original tunes on top. The presentation of this game is certainly one of the best on Nintendo Switch so far.

Speaking of which, this is an experience on the Switch, so that means it has the ability to be played on the go. I think that portability works really well with how the game is played. You can engage in a quick battle, then put the console to sleep. The battles are more or less their own puzzles, you can solve a couple for a good amount of time and then return to it later. So it’s good on-the-go type of game.

THE BAD: I do have a couple minor complaints with the game, but nothing that ruins the experience. First thing is the lack of a confirm button for your actions. It’s surprisingly easy to accidentally move your units into a wrong position, and the inability to undo your movement becomes quite frustrating if it puts you in a bad situation. Would’ve been nice to have, but I don’t really think it’s a deal-breaker. Mainly because, you can see all the info you need, like the percent you’ll hit an enemy, before you push confirm on your move. So it’s mostly just something you’ll need to get used to, since it’s presented in a non-traditional type of way.

The other thing is more wishful thinking than a complaint. There’s a co-op feature in the game where you and another player can take on challenges by each controlling two-unit teams. The feature is local only though. I think it’s a neat feature too, and it was fun playing through several challenges with another player. However, I don’t always have someone else close by to play with. So it would’ve been great if the experience existed through online play as well. Too bad there is no online at all. Would’ve been nice for the co-op mode, or even for an online battle against another player.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is definitely one of the most surprising experiences for me this year. Didn’t have much faith in it when rumors were first coming out, but I suddenly became interested once I saw it being presented at E3. So I’m quite happy to see that interest pay off, since Mario + Rabbids is probably one of my favorite titles in 2017 so far. A very simple game with it’s take on the strategy formula, but also featuring a lot of depth with its movement controls and challenges. It also provides a unique look at the world of Mario and friends, thanks to the presence of the Rabbids. Much of that is thanks to the top notch presentation of the game’s look and sound. If you’re a Nintendo Switch owner, this is a must-buy title. Easily one of the best experiences I’ve had so far on Nintendo’s latest console.

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