Nintendo and Ubisoft have worked together to bring something incredibly original to the Super Mario franchise. Never has Mario been matched with a species so annoying, and never have we seen him star in a tactical RPG. Unfortunately, if you’re a long-time fan of tactical RPGs, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is not for you.
Graphics are the never the main focus of strategy RPGs, traditionally opting for sprites rather than 3-D models. However, Nintendo always seem to bring a level of quality to their Mario games. As a result, Mario + Rabbids looks pretty decent. The world follows the classic 3-D Mario colour scheme, with vibrant colours everywhere. There are even some pretty interesting landscapes out there, considering the story. It’s too bad that the camera is only a semi-top-down view, and locked to isometric during battle. Of course, it doesn’t help much when characters don’t render properly either. The music isn’t much better, completely unnoticeable and doesn’t really add anything to the game or cutscenes. On their own, Mario and Rayman seem to have pretty decent soundtracks, but those just didn’t come across in Kingdom Battle.
The story starts in the lab of a Mario fan, demonstrating the SupaMerge; a visor that merges two objects together. After overheating, she takes a break, and the Rabbids arrive in their Time Washing Machine. One Rabbid fires the SupaMerge at their own device, resulting in a trip to the fictional Mushroom Kingdom. Mario, Rabbid Luigi, and Rabbid Peach must then start their quest to find the combined SupaMerge Rabbid known as Spawny. Chaos has come to the Kingdom, in the form of Rabbid/Piranha Plant hybrids, defeated Goomba, and more. I am really surprised that it was set in a world where Mario and friends aren’t actually real. As my fiancée pointed out though, Rabbids are real but Mario isn’t?
When it comes to gameplay, things are pretty simple. Turn based strategy/cover combat with a variety of attacks, weapons, and objectives. Objectives include escorting a Toad, eradicating enemies, and reaching a destination on the map, which will give you a grade depending on the turns needed and characters alive. Characters can move (including jumping off a teammate, and dashing into an enemy), fire their main weapon, use a secondary weapon, and use a special move with a cool down. You can buy new weapons with better effects, and upgrade abilities at any time out of battle. There are two different types of cover, 50% and 100%, but right off the bat there are some issues. This cover only works if you’re right next to it, meaning shots will pass through any blocks that you aren’t up against. Sometimes you can even be targeted through terrain.
Battles are split between what I like to call “filler”. Instead of anything meaningful, you’re just walking from A to B, with maybe a short detour for a collectible. What is really frustrating is the amount of stuff you can’t reach in your first playthrough of a world. Once you complete a world, challenges then pop up, and your new ability lets you access more paintings, 3-D models, and songs. Unfortunately, there are more collectibles that need another ability to access, and some challenges require stronger members to complete. Even worse, is that every single collectible could be a stronger weapon, and the rate you collect coins at is atrocious. Just as you buy a weapon for Luigi, for example, 4 stronger ones will unlock for Rabbid Luigi.
Needing to go through worlds at least twice doesn’t do a lot for the replayability. The only memorable battles are with bosses, and challenges aren’t the only things that feel like chores. The forced comedy is painful, even though the Rabbids aren’t that bad. I really wanted to like the new direction Nintendo and Ubisoft were trying, but I can’t. Mario + Rabbids just doesn’t have enough depth and engaging gameplay to keep long time strategy RPG players interested.