When Nintendo boss Shigeru Miyamoto showed up on the stage of Ubisoft's E3 2017 press conference to help officially unveil a partnership between the two mega publishers, we should have known something special would come from it. And it has in the form of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is quite simply a must-play game for Nintendo's latest console and more than that, it's a successful proof of concept that Nintendo should continue down the path of forming partnerships with eager and talented developers to license out their properties.
Of course, that's no easy task given how precious and protective Nintendo is of their flagship IP and characters, and Miyamoto's one rule: that these licensed games cannot be action-platformers, and instead need to be different. With three or more years of development Ubisoft was able to craft a wonderful addition to both the Mario and Rabbids universes, blending them together flawlessly for an all-new type of game for the Mario family. And wow, is it pretty to look at on the handheld/home console hybrid.
Mario has raced Karts, played Tennis, Golf, and a myriad of other sports in the Olympics - and he’s saved the princess and fought Bowser numerous times - but never has he and his companions wielded blasters and fought Rabbid Hybrids in an tactical turn-based game. Until now.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle kicks off with a fun cinematic intro where a piece of tech is stolen by a Rabbid that inadvertently merges things together, or more specifically, combines Rabbids with characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, hence the Rabbid versions Luigi, Peach, etc.. It's up to Mario and two allies at any given time (which players select) to save the day.
The game structured like a traditional Mario game with an overworld of sorts and numbered stages, but its primary gameplay is reminiscent of the XCOM games but much more accessible. There are puzzles and coins, and Ubisoft gives collecting coins in a Mario game much more meaning since they're needed to upgrade - another key aspect of the game.
There's an impressively layered RPG progression system too which includes unlocking characters, unlocking their weapons to purchase, unlocking each character’s skill trees for additional abilities, and learning skills to access all areas of the maps and it all happens in a well-paced way as the challenge of the game ramps up in difficulty. And trust us, there are boss battles with whacky albeit familiar characters that may require a few attempts.
Princess Peach’s iconic castle serves as the home base for players in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and here there are various buildings (more are unlocked as you progress) that let players view collectibles and upgrade their characters. Characters are beautifully animated and react to environments and the action in fun and interesting ways. The same goes for pulling off team-based maneuvers like using one character to launch another to a higher platform for a better position or better cover against the opponents, and choosing the right team for the right situation becomes increasingly crucial later in the game.
And don’t worry, Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess aren’t using “guns” as the game cleverly designs the weapons to be more in line with an over-the-top toy blaster based on things like honey that doesn’t “kill” opponents, but rather converts hybrid rabbids back to home base as their original selves. The gear fits nicely with what Nintendo fans would see in a Smash Bros. or Super Mario Galaxy title.
And like any good Mario title, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is immensely replayable since more coins are earned through earning a perfect score in each battle and those coins are needed to unlocking all the weapons. New abilities to interact with map elements are also unlocked later in the game so going back to access new areas and find missing collectibles also warrants backtracking.
There's so much to love from Ubisoft and Nintendo's experiment and we hope this is just the beginning of an awesome new franchise and many more partnerships for Nintendo characters to jump into other game genres.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.