The XCOM through the lens of a demented Mushroom Kingdom vibe of Kingdom Battle makes this feel like Paper Mario for tactical RPGs.
The promise of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is apparent as we sit more than two weeks after its official reveal. The E3 presentation for the Ubisoft-developed tactical RPG was electric, and by the end of the fabled gaming event, it seemed most doubters were quieted. At a Nintendo-hosted event in New York this week, I was able to go hands-on with the upcoming Switch game and talk to some members of the team at Ubisoft Milan.
The demo I played was largely the same as the E3 2017 demo. With a trio of Mario, Peach Rabbid, and Luigi Rabbid, I wandered around the demented Mushroom Kingdom and fought in a few turn-based battles. These fights call to mind tactical RPGs, a la XCOM, Advance Wars, or the sleeper 3DS game Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars, as you control your trio, moving them around the map while seeking cover and setting up your next shot from your comical gun. Playful touches, such as pipes that you can use to zoom around the map or the ability to jump on top of an ally and get a boost to a different area, help add color and character to the combat. The environment can also be interacted with during combat. I had great success blowing up fiery crates and making my foes run around in circles with their butts on fire.
In my battles, I only got a taste of the mechanics, but a few things stood out to me. The presentation is fantastic. All of the characters animate beautifully, seemingly in ways I don’t really think I’ve seen Mario characters move. The look is amplified by the bouncy soundtrack and sound design as well.
My final battle featured a fight against a Pirabbid Plant (a Rabbid fused with a Piranha Plant), and it also introduced a new tweak to the combat: techniques. These add more depth as now each character has their own additional ability. Mario can go into an overwatch mode so he attacks whenever an enemy moves in his line of sight. Peach Rabbid can heal other allies in the immediate area. The techniques take a few turns to recharge after use, and stand as a nice teaser of what lies beneath the adorable surface here. As you progress, you’ll also be able to purchase new guns for each character and upgrade their abilities in a skill tree.
In addition to what I played, I also found out about the Co-op Challenges. Separate from the main game, these are accessed inside of Peach’s Castle and let two players, using any style of Switch controller, take two heroes each and go fight in unique battles. It appears that it won’t unlock until you at least get your fourth hero. The co-op seems like it has the potential to be a fun addition, but obviously we won’t know for sure until we see it in action.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle looked awesome when Ubisoft and Nintendo showed it off at E3 2017. Luckily, it played up to the standards of that showing, because I walked away from my time with Mario + Rabbids desiring to dive back into that weird, wacky world and see just how deep this Mario-flavored rabbid hole goes.