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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Milan

Publisher: Ubisoft

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Review copy supplied by publisher

 

Nintendo must be absolutely insane, right? I’ve mentioned their shitty business practices plenty of times before (and I probably will keep doing so, since I don’t want them to keep getting away with it), but now they’ve done the unthinkable in licensing their most beloved and well-known franchise out to a company with an even worse reputation! They even let it become a crossover with that company’s equivalent of Minions! It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

What makes it even weirder is that the result is bloody fantastic.

When the idea of the crossover was leaked in the months before the Switch’s release, I was sceptical that it could work — the Rabbids are just too obnoxious to be compatible with Mario, I initially thought. Yet the proof is in the pudding: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is not only a faithful interpretation of the Mushroom Kingdom, with the perfect amount of Rabbids-inspired insanity, but also a damn fine turn-based tactics game that feels right at home on the Switch.

The story is simple enough: the Rabbids discover a helmet which can merge objects in the basement of an inventor who happens to be a massive Mario fan. They manage to create an interdimensional vortex which transports them to the Mushroom Kingdom, causing all sorts of chaos. Playing as Mario along with Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi, as well as four Rabbids dressed as them, it’s up to you to fix everything and save the kingdom. It’s typical Mario fare, being light in character moments, but it is competently told with plenty of decent jokes at the expense of the Rabbids.

But the gameplay is really what makes this project stand out. Progression requires going through a series of battles, either solo or in co-op, that can perhaps be best described as a kid-friendly XCOM: manoeuvring a squad of three around a battlefield in a turn-based fashion, looking for cover and openings to fire at enemies, while desperately hoping that the RNG works in your favour. The system is simplified compared to XCOM, with the chances of hitting an enemy entirely dependent on your positioning, but the movement system makes up for this by allowing you to use your teammates to jump across the battlefield. Each character has their own unique weapons and abilities, making squad composition a crucial factor in your success.

I love how intuitive the battle system is, as it cuts the bullshit and allows you to focus on completing the goal while maintaining a sense of tension. With each of the four worlds divided into nine battles, each lasting between five and fifteen minutes, the game is well suited for portable play, as it should be on the Switch. Exploration and puzzle-solving between levels gives the game some variety while offering plenty of collectibles to find and coins to pick up and spend on new weapons. There are also numerous secrets to be found in each world, including special battles which will push your tactical nous to the limit. You’re likely to get at least twenty hours’ worth of gameplay from the main storyline.

In addition, the game’s environments look absolutely gorgeous, maintaining the classic Mario style with some incredibly creative structures and backgrounds, complete with Rabbids running around everywhere. The soundtrack is composed by the legendary Grant Kirkhope, and is a wonderful variation on classic Mario motifs that is an absolute joy to listen to.

I am in disbelief about how good Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle turned out. It has no right to be as fun and exciting as it is based on the concept alone, but they actually did it, the madmen. Frankly, I think Nintendo should do stuff like this more often!

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