Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario has been a gaming institution for over 30 years, while the rabbids have been one of Ubisoft’s most popular creations over the past decade. Nintendo agreeing to a crossover between the two was a pleasant surprise given how reluctant they’ve been to do this kind of thing before – but the combination of classic franchise characters alongside the goofy rabbids had a lot of comedy potential and it’s thankfully realized with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. As a game concept, many wondered just how you could make the two franchises work together – and yet the team at Ubisoft did just that.
Kingdom Battle gives you a taste of the best of both worlds here. The comedy blends both wholesome Mario series fare with slightly cruder rabbids stuff, and features a bit of language being used that isn’t normal for Mario’s games. Longtime fans of the plumber will enjoy seeing just enough familiar Mushroom Kingdom sights, while those seeking something new will greatly enjoy not only the tactics-heavy gameplay, but also the use of blasters by Mario and company. Much like Super Mario RPG, enough franchise staples are kept intact to keep things familiar.
Mario can eventually unlock the ability to jump, while Luigi’s default weapon is his now-signature vacuum mixed with cowardice. Exploring the overworld and grabbing coins keeps an air of familiarity with the Mario games, while the tactical setting blends in not only a ¾ overhead view somewhat akin to Mario RPG, but also allows you to freely move the camera around much like an X-COM game. Careful strategy of unit placement plays a big part in victory – but it isn’t quite as restrictive as a higher-end tactical RPG would be, much to the game’s benefit as a whole.
Kingdom Battle is a turn-based game, with multiple parts to each turn. You start with a battle phase if you want where you can place your units or you can just go hog wild and throw folks where they are by default. Doing so is easier, but taking more time to plan can allow you to get higher ground and do more damage with each shot. Strategy pays off though because you can also slide into enemies during your traversal phase – meaning you can not only get into a better position, but do damage and then combine that with another action turn to possibly take an enemy out in one hit or maximize turns overall. Say you’ve got an enemy that takes one slide, one attack, and another slide to kill – that whole action only used up one full turn, leaving the second character that got the kill off the slide free to do an attack to someone else.
It’s unlikely that this attack and then another slide>attack chain would take out another foe, but it’s possible. Being efficient is something you will get the hang of over time – and not a lot of it. You’ve got a couple of options for combat, with a normal mode only replenishing health after a chapter and then if you find mushrooms on the field – so being efficient when playing under those criteria is key. The combat system is easy to learn and not all that difficult to master. Anyone who has played either a tactical RPG or an X-COM game, or something along the lines of Transistor, will be able to get the hang of things.
The combat being a mix of physical and blaster-based gives the game a more action-oriented feel than most – making it perfect for those new to the genre who need some kind of common ground to work with. There’s even a bit of platforming thrown in with light puzzle solving and the ability to use your teammates to help boost you into better positions on the battlefield. There are many moving parts here when the game is at its busiest, but they’re all explained very well and the game’s learning curve is gradual and quite fair.
Outside of battle, you can upgrade your tech and overall skills with coins. Beyond finding them on the battlefield or grabbing them between battles, you can earn more for doing well. Playing on either the easy mode that grants you health refills and extra health, or on standard still nets you the same amount of coins. However, you will see big gains from either finishing foes in the recommended amount of turns or not losing an ally – with perfect scores being given for doing that, good for getting one of the two, and fair for just getting the job done. You’re always given some kind of reward, and even your base weapons can do enough damage to fell foes – better ones just have perks to them.
One upgrade may give you a bounce factor – possibly sending an enemy off the stage and out of bounds. If that happens, that particular foe is done and you have a slightly easier time going forward. You can also set someone ablaze, which can give you other benefits. It usually puts them in odd parts of the stage, and during a chain chomp battle, burning an enemy set them right in front of my rabbid – so they took the brunt of the chain chomp’s anger. This gave me not only one less massive hit to endure, but also allowed me to win that fight with all allies intact when that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
Visually, Kingdom Battle looks outstanding. It’s one of the best-looking games on the Switch either in docked mode or in portable mode. The visual style keeps things authentic with the Mario series and everything looks gorgeous. Characters are full of amusing detail and the environments stand out with a mix of high details for destructible areas and effective lighting giving each area a different feel. Special effects used for many attacks look great too – this is one of the best-looking games on the Switch and whether you play it in docked mode or portable mode, you’re going to see in for a feast for the eyes.
The music is exactly what fans would expect from a Mario games, and the overall sound design is strong. There isn’t a ton of voice work here, but the small bits of voice acting we hear are solid with much of the voice work being restricted to little silly quips. Sound effects are great, with flames sounding devastating while your blaster gun offers up a variety of blast sounds depending on its power level. Kingdom Battle succeeds wonderfully in every major area with its visuals and sound, and is one of the best games on the platform.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a must-own for any Switch owner and is worth buying the console for on its own. It combines two franchises together wonderfully and gives Mario fans seeking another console-centric RPG-style game more thrills. Everything about the concept gels together surprisingly well, with the only weakness in the whole package being the story. The core gameplay is easy to learn, but still requires careful thinking to truly master. It controls like a dream, looks gorgeous, and sounds great too. Anyone looking for a lot of fun on the Switch should pick this up as soon as possible – you won’t regret it.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch provided by Ubisoft.