Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of the most unlikely crossover that I remember in recent times. While Rabbids are known for their wacky antics and have their own spin-off series from Rayman, Mario has never been successfully incorporated in a strategy RPG so the fusion of these two franchise just felt like a weird mashup when it was announced. After having played the game, I can confidently say that this has turned out to be the surprise hit of the year and one of the best RPG for the Nintendo Switch. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a system seller either.
The story of the game begins with a nicely animated cutscene which explains the origins of the SupaMerge Helmet. This helmet has the potential to merge two different objects and it is used as a basis to create the main cast, enemies and boss battles. Somehow Rabbids are able to invade the location of the SupaMerge Helmet through their Time Machine and start to mess with it. This results in a weird fusion for some of the other Rabbids making them similar to characters like Peach and Luigi. They accidentally open a portal to the Mushroom Kingdom where Mario along with his friends are gathered to attend a ceremony at Prince Peach’s Castle. The Rabbid who wears the SupaMerge Helmet is fused with it after travelling through the portal and has the ability now to merge any two objects. He is named Spawny and thanks to the chaos wrecked by his fellow Rabbids, the Mushroom Kingdom is destroyed. It is up to Mario and his friends to find Spawny so they can turn the Mushroom Kingdom back to normal.
The main character in the game is actually Beep-O, a robot that was developed by the same inventor who also created the SupaMerge Helmet. He is also thrown along with the Rabbids in the portal and it is up to him to lead Mario and his friends in the search for Spawny. You will be controlling Beep-O during exploration for the majority of the game while in battle, you will be controlling the main party members individually. Beep-O can also learn some new moves like pushing or carrying objects as you progress further in the story, which lets you discover new secret areas featuring weapons and extras.
If you are worried that having to follow a robot would get old quickly, it is actually fairly different once you are able to control the party in the game. While the characters are following the robot, the game still plays like a traditional Mario RPG where you can perform a variety of different moves like moving through warp pipes, jumping through cannons or using special moves to unlock new paths. You will be able to learn new moves after you complete each world which adds a bit of replay value once you return to the world to uncover some of the secrets that you missed earlier. You can also attempt challenges in the world after defeating the main boss and they offer skill orbs and gold coins, both of which can come in handy if you want to maintain your power over the enemies.
The game also features a central hub in the form of Prince Peach’s castle. It connects to all of the worlds and lets you utilize some extra features like using the Amiibo functionality, playing multiplayer, customizing characters and purchasing weapons or viewing the art and soundtrack that you have discovered so far. Some of the items are locked in the start and will be made available once you have progressed further in the game.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is actually a fairly deep strategy RPG. The game seems to be inspired from the turn-based combat featured in XCom series but the addition here is that the developers have molded the abilities and combat from a standard Mario RPG. The combat works with weapons and it is surprisingly fun to play as you gradually unlock more abilities and in turn more weapons to use in battles. The beginning of the game feels fairly basic but as you progress further in the story and unlock more skills through the skill tree, it becomes rather complex. You have the option to use a main as well as a secondary weapon. You can also perform 3 different moves at a time in the battle, either moving to a location, using weapon or using one of the skills for the character. Enemies can also be harmed in a different way aside from just shooting them. Your character can perform a slide dash that can damage enemies or you can stomp them by jumping on their head with the help of another team member. All of this adds an interesting dynamic to the battle system.
One of the most satisfying aspect of the game is the progression system. You start the game as a 3 member team with not much in the way of skills or weapons. As you progress further in the game, you will slowly learn the basics of the gameplay mechanics and also able to unlock new skills and abilities for your characters. You don’t really gain any experience points in the game, instead the progression is tied to weapon upgrades, skill upgrades and health upgrades that are rewarded by either passing a certain point in the story, or defeating the boss of each world. You will also earn skill orbs that have to be used to unlock upgrades from the skill tree.
Each character has their own unique skill tree and you don’t really need to use them all in battle in order to let them get skill points. Since your party will be limited to just 3 characters, you can switch over to a different character at any point during exploration or before the beginning of a battle. Once you unlock new weapons, which is done by exploring hidden chests or solving some puzzles, these weapons then have to be purchased before they can be used by a character. Each weapon comes with a damage bonus which can range from elemental damage to special damage boost for certain type of enemies. You will have to choose your weapons wisely since gold coins don’t come easy in the game.
Purchasing these weapons is where you will be spending your gold coins which you can collect through a variety of means. You can attempt to achieve perfect rating in each battle to get bonus gold coins, or you can try to explore around the world and discover its hidden secrets. Finally you can also return to each completed world again to perform a number of challenges which are essentially simple battles with custom rules. You will have to either kill a set number of enemies, kill them before a set number of turns, or reach a certain area of map before the end of limited turns. There are variations to these type of challenges but most of them are still fun because they usually let you utilize your skills. Some of these are luck-based while others are pretty tough and need a well managed strategy to complete them.
The boss fights in the game are all well designed for the most part where each battle requires a carefully planned strategy to take down the boss. The bosses are all designed to be fusion of a popular creature with a Rabbid, which usually ends with some hilarious results. I won’t be spoiling the boss fights since they are easily the most fun part in the game. Each world offers a good chunk of content that can take somewhere between 5 to 10 hours depending on whether you tackle the challenges or try to discover secrets. You will be able to return to any world once you complete them to replay the challenges or discover any hidden secrets. Each of the world is divided in 8 chapters and there is also a bonus chapter which is unlocked once you have defeated its boss.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle never feels like it was developed by a third party. The game carries the same aesthetics and charm that Nintendo games are known for, and features bright and colorful visuals. It is a great looking game on the Nintendo Switch whether you play it on the big screen or in portable mode.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is an upcoming turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed and published by Ubisoft for the Nintendo Switch.
Despite being one of the most crazy collaboration so far from Nintendo, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle ends up being a highly competent strategy RPG with an addictive combat and progression system.