Nintendo Switch Review
This title from Ubisoft delivers that unmistakable Nintendo charm, showing Mario and Luigi looking as good as they ever have, which is saying something. The crossover with the Rabbids is seamless and this whacky story is backed by amusingly animated characters and the sounds they make. The environments and enemies are as interesting and polished as Mario himself and I took so many screenshots of memorable cinematic scenes that occurred in cutscenes and battle animations. The levels were all fun and inventive too, with a spooky ghost world, a world that was half desert/ half ice, and much more. The music also holds in own even when compared to Mario’s historic soundtrack catalogue. Overall, this is one of the best-looking Switch games available.
The opening cinematics set the stage for the whacky story of a crossover between Mario and the Rabbids’ world where many memorable zany moments would take place. Even if the story and dialogue were nothing special from the start, the cinematic moments kept my attention.
The gameplay is split between the traversal and puzzle-solving of the overworld, and the turn-based tactics combat sequences. I was not impressed with the overworld sections at all, as I just wanted to dive into another tactics battle. Though, from the start the tactics battle seemed a little shallower than I wanted. I have put a ton of time into Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced and Fire Emblem Three Houses, so I had experience in tactics RPGs and of course this title was never going to be as deep as those franchises. This tactics “shooter” that uses long-ranged weapons and cover-systems added a twist to familiar gameplay for me (having never played XCOM) and as the game progressed it did end up giving me enough depth to sink my teeth into.
Players will walk around the overworld of Peach’s castle travelling through linear levels that were all unique and interesting ascetically. Controlling the small robot Beep-0 with Mario and troops following behind. Players go through the overworld level by level, solving puzzles along the way to unlock the next battle. Some skills are unlocked along the way that change up the types of puzzles that need to be solved and allow for backtracking to past levels to unlock secrets that were missed.
The puzzles that need to be solved start very simple and grow increasingly complex, though most of the time I was more annoyed than amused when I was just looking to battle and not walk around moving boxes.
The main path is always blocked by some simple conundrum, while branching away from that main path will lead to other mysteries and unlockables. Most of the time these weren’t worth it for me, as they were just statues or soundtracks, things that were available to look at only in the museum and didn’t affect gameplay. The puzzles that led to new weapons being unlocked or upgrade orbs were worthwhile, though. I wish they had just cut out the weaker puzzles and weaker rewards that just added unnecessary fat to the overworld.
The combat is what I came for and it is very satisfying and fun even coming from a background of Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem where I loved the larger-scale battles and more combat options. Mario+Rabbids is a scaled back tactics battle in a way that makes it very approachable. This is to be expected by a Mario title, and even with only three units to control there are enough decisions to make to keep every fight engaging.
Players will choose three characters for their team each battle, and after starting with only Mario, Rabbid Luigi, and Rabbid Peach, five more characters are unlocked over the course of the story. Unfortunately, Mario is a required member of the team so the combinations are a little more limited than I would have liked.
Players are taught from the start to smartly utilize cover and plan out movements strategically. The combat is tense, with well-planned turns making me feel like a genius and calculated risks resulting in huge payoffs or detrimental results. Utilizing all my characters’ special abilities and secondary weapons and planning two turns ahead feels as great as in any tactics game.
However, there were some very frustrating details to the combat that could have easily been fixed. It was almost impossible to tell when moving a character whether they were moving into the range of an opposing rabbid. I could hypothetically go back and check that rabbid’s movement and shooting range but I’d then have to count out the squares and I end up just guessing and hoping. Sometimes the whole battle would hinge on whether I made a tiny mistake in thinking I was a safe range away from their “smasher” when I wasn’t, and it was just not fun having to start the battle over in those cases. A related issue is that I could not go back and undo a movement. I understand attacks being irreversible as they are often chance based, but when I move and decide I wanted to move to a slightly different location without doing anything in between I should be able to redo it. I don’t even need the full rewind ability seen in Fire Emblem Three Houses, I just want to simply redo movements. Because again, this game can hinge on single plays and having a slightly off movement lead to a battle going awry does not make for a fun experience and I hated having to redo a battle in those scenarios.
Progression comes in spending coins to buy better weapons and in spending orbs to buy upgrades in an upgrade tree that is unique for each character. The skill tree is fun and its rewarding to out together the best three-person team based on these skills. And it’s great that each character earns orbs no matter who is battling. I also appreciate being able to re-spec the tree at any point. In fact, the skill tree made me want to explore the overworld more to earn more orbs, even though I was otherwise bored of the puzzles.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a bright and colorful turn-based tactics RPG that has all the fun and approachability of any classic Mario franchise. It lacks the depth of more established tactics based JRPG’s, lacks some quality-of-life elements that would be appreciated, and has no noteworthy story, and an underwhelming overworld with some boring filler puzzles. However, the playful cinematic moments, exciting and testing combat, and interesting RPG elements made it a game more than worthy of my time. I really enjoyed my time with Mario + Rabbids even though I don’t think its something I will come back to again and again.
Approachable tactics combat
Interesting strategic choices
Beautiful cinematic moments
Overworld has some filler puzzles
Lacks some quality-of-life considerations