Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo Switch) Preview

By Jorge Ba-oh 09.07.2017

Review for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch

Nintendo is no stranger to crossovers - especially in recent years. The once secretive and fairly contained Japanese games giant opened up its doors to selected Third Parties, with Mario and co. able to dabble with other franchises. There have been Mario Sports Mix, Fortune Street and, of course, the Mario and Sonic at the Olympics Games series for a decade now. However, Nintendo is still highly selective with who earns the coveted Mario contract, so developers still need to solidly prove their concept works within the Mushroom Kingdom remit. One unlikely contender would have to be the amusingly titled Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle; a project that has been churning in the rumour mill for months, culminating in a memorable reveal during E3 2017. It's a mix of those bizarre Rayman-offshoot characters and Mario… but does it work? Can Ubisoft perform a cocktail of gaming brilliance? Nintendo UK invited Cubed3 to its offices to sample a short demo section of the upcoming Nintendo Switch game to find out.

Once leaked images started to circulate, message boards across the web exploded with a mixture of intrigue and disgust. Just what the game would be sparked plenty of speculation, and it's ended up being something that not many fans expected - a solid real-time strategy (RTS) game that's, surprisingly, got plenty of depth.

It kicks off with an invasion of sorts - the meddling Rabbids end up in the Mushroom Kingdom, storming the once peaceful world with their antics. Not all is lost, however, as four heroic Rabbids join Mario and friends to save the world of this new threat, together with an adorable, ickle, hovering robot. Once they become acquainted with one another, it's time to venture into a now warped kingdom - full of baddies and mysteries. It sounds like a recipe that just shouldn't work - like chocolate on a savoury pizza, or a hypothetical Mario x Grand Theft Auto. However, all credit goes to Ubisoft as the concept seems instantly familiar; as if these folk are just distant cousins who have hopped on a plane for a summer vacation.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch

The game itself is devised of exploration/puzzle sections, with Mario and his allies walking around as if they were in a conga line, and grid-based battles. It's the latter where the demo excelled, arming Mario with an arm cannon and sending him deep into heated set pieces against Rabbids and other in-universe baddies. Unlike past games, it's not a case of storming in and bouncing on unsuspecting heads, but careful planning and a very different pacing compared to the likes of Super Mario Odyssey.

As soon as a battle segment starts, players are presented with an isometric grid - and each character on the team gets a chance to perform two actions per go: move and attack. The good folk go first, and then it shifts over to the opposing team to rally the troops. The grid itself is fairly limited, initially, but can expand if two team members link together during a move, with one propelling the other further across the field.

The neat addition in Kingdom Battle, compared to a fair few strategy games, is the order of movement and action. Players are able to attack first, and then scurry about into a more defensive position. Movement can also incorporate an attack, as well; for example, if an enemy is positioned along the way, players can earn an extra attack, move behind cover, and then perform the separate attack command. For those unfamiliar with how these RTS games work, Ubisoft's attempt offers a streamlined, progressive curve. It is challenging from the outset, but rewarding as mechanics are paced into the adventure well. It might be because it's a demo, but there was no major hand holding - relying on a lot of trial and error, discovery, much like Mario games that have come before it… and that's a good thing.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch

Beyond the attack and defence phases, there are other types of scenario that are required in order to win: defeating bosses, simply reaching a target on the other side of the field, and more. It's a neat touch, with the potential for a manner of different requirements that will keep the action fresh and players on their toes, or in this case, furry paws. The demo only invited a handful of battle sequences, but from the ones sampled, the requirements and field designs did make sense; for example, one tricky obstacle course involved a hungry Chain Chomp that lingered about in the middle. Why not just try to attack it? Within moments, this particular beast was devouring a unit from the enemy camp. It's not all fun and games out there! Combine this with tougher Rabbids that wield metal planks and it's perhaps a good thing that the game invokes a "get to the other side" requirement to win.

As for the non-battle segments, Mario and his cohorts jog about lush, slightly warped but familiar Nintendo worlds, solving the odd puzzle and nabbing resources before the next Rabbid encounter. These areas weren't as fleshed out in the demo as a typical Mario adventure, and perhaps could do with some more interactivity to balance up the mix.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch

Visually, the Kingdom Battle pops with colour. It's an eclectic world with plenty of neat nods to Mario lore scattered across the world. The development team has embraced what makes Mario, well… Mario, and just stretching it that bit further to invoke the Rabbids' sense of pure wackiness. It still looks and breathes Nintendo, conceptually, but has that unique Ubisoft finish. The two studios have had close ties for some time now, and the solid relationship shines through. There were some concerns that it could veer too far off track, but the demo experience has helped nipped these in the bud.

Another surprise from E3 was the inclusion of the veteran composer Grant Kirkhope into the mix, a chap whose work with Rare has earned critical acclaim. Typically known for creating a sense of whimsy and magic, Kirkhope's score helps forge this new world, in particular during the off-battle, exploration segments. It's light-hearted, playful, and blends into the action seamlessly. It will be interesting to see how it plods along during the latter, presumably more intense, sections of this crossover adventure.

Screenshot for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch

Final Thoughts

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is one of the biggest highlights from E3 2017's crop of games and fresh reveals. Initially bathed with a marmite reception, it has drawn much praise from critics and Mario fans from what they have seen and sampled so far. The demo was an enjoyable romp that offered solid controls and mechanics, all within a familiar yet ever-so-slightly different world. If there's any franchise that can inject a little excitement into the RTS world, it would have to be Super Mario.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

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I've not played too many RTS games, but I'm really curious about this one. It's such an unlikely crossover, but it looks to be shaping up really well. Also I'm very happy to hear Grant Kirkhope is on-board. Smilie 

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ ] 

I enjoyed Codename STEAM, which seems pretty similar to this, however I actually think there are wayy to many games coming out for me to keep up with. With Metroid, Mario and Sonic coming out shortly after this I just won't have the time to play it! It'll have to wait!


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