One of the more fascinating titles to be shown off at E3 2017 involved a collaboration between Nintendo and Ubisoft. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle featured the staples of the Mario universe, mixed together with the unusual Rabbids universe that I never really cared for before. On top of that, the game is a turn based tactical in a similar vein to the XCOM titles.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, maybe this will:
Mario wielding a laser gun. Mario. A laser gun. The same Mario that original concept arts of Super Mario RPG depicted him with a sword in hand, and Shigeru Miyamoto voicing his disapproval over.
But this all very much exists, and the shocker is that it’s a ton of fun.
This 16 minute or so demo went over the basics of gameplay, as well as powers each character will have. We were told Mario Rabbids would be 20% exploration and puzzle solving and 80% battles like the ones that we played at E3. The demo showed off a few battle situations, mostly going from learning the ropes to applying things to harder adversaries.
Like XCOM, players and enemies alike can use high walls to their advantage in regards to avoiding ranged attacks. Certain obstructions can be shot down to reveal the concealed enemy; there are also blocks that will explode and do damage to anyone near it. And unlike XCOM, accuracy wasn’t a complete wash; being right in front of someone means I will actually hit them and not miss, and being across the map behind cover won’t mean a 5% chance of an attacking hitting me lands a critical blow nearly every time.
Player movement phases allows for a myriad of different set ups to be dealt. Pipes nearby can be used to take shortcuts to the enemies flank, as well as allow for extra range to the players movement upon its exit. One character can be pushed out to cover and, in turn, be used as a literal spring board that will propel the next character farther ahead, adding more range to where they can move. Against the enemy, players can send their hero into a direct path into an enemy for a sliding attack, and then set themselves up to a vantage point that allows for them to easily connect a second, ranged attack. There’s a bevy of strategic planning and execution in Mario Rabbids, and the tutorial we were given perfectly explained everything we needed to know for the demo.
Each of the protagonists have their own special skill they can use, which has a 4-5 turn cooldown. From Mario’s boost to his attack to the Rabbid Peach casting an AE heal, these skills add upon the formula and give Mario Rabbids even more depth to its gameplay.
The puzzle solving aspects of Mario Rabbids was touched upon towards the end of the demo. A section was revealed where a number of red coins popped all around, and the player was tasked to collect them all. Going the wrong way erected a wall that blocked the path to the red coins ahead. As a mostly trial and error process, the puzzle aspect didn’t really do much other than slow me down once, until I saw the pattern. One can only assume that the puzzle difficulty will be raised in increments as the player gets further into the game.
Here’s the thing with Mario Rabbids though – the accessibility level to someone that’s a novice to the genre is very much there. The way the game explains each scenario and what to do makes for a welcoming experience that even an advance player to the genre will find enjoyable. The Rabbids franchise never resonated with me before, but put them together with an established powerhouse franchise, and they are instantly lovable.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has the potential to do to the tun based tactical genre, what Super Mario RPG did to the RPG genre years ago – create an experience that is elementary to understand and come into, but with enough depth for a more experienced player to enjoy as well. Beyond gameplay mechanics, the roster has quite a bit of charm to them, just like the Mario RPG cast was lovable and memorable. We won’t have to wait long for Mario Rabbids, as its August 29, 2017 release date is quickly approaching.