When Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was leaked a few weeks ago, the reaction was about what we would expect. Why is this being made? Who asked for this? Who thought this was a good idea? This was the basic sentiment shared by many, only using much more colorful language. Yet while the Rabbids haven’t always been synonymous with quality gameplay, titles like the first two Raving Rabbids games and Rabbids Go Home were proof that these psychotic bunnies could put together a great game when they need to. With a collaboration as big as one with Mario for the Switch, I had little doubt that they would knock it out of the park. Based on what I played of Kingdom Battle on the show floor at E3, Ubisoft is on their way to doing just that.
The comparisons that have been made with Xcom since its initial reveal are apt on the surface, with this bizarre mishmash of characters coming together in a turn based strategy game that involves the Mushroom Kingdom’s finest and cosplaying Rabbids getting into gun fights with the bad guys. I found myself mapping routes, sliding into cover, (and enemies for extra damage), exchanging Mario’s iconic golden coins for better equipment mid battle, and whittling down enemy HP with each shot. When you can’t quite reach that perfect position to wipe out your enemies from, teamwork goes a long way when two units make contact. Once they do, the non-active unit will spring the character you’re moving into a far off spot, allowing you to get some extra distance before launching your attack. Special abilities eventually come into play, such s Mario’s ability to increase his attack strength for a certain amount of time, or the hilariously creepy Rabbid Peach being able to heal allies in her, (its?), vicinity. A variety of objectives led to victory, between eliminating the entire enemy squad to positioning your squad to claim a section of the map.
But outside of combat is where the mashup really comes together. Battles start when your team is ambushed on the world map, which you travel through in real time as if it were a typical Mario adventure. Scanning the environment led to finding bonus coins, extra items that you could take into battle, and bonus sections in the environment where you could observe the Rabbids as they interact with your favorite Mario environments in some hilarious ways, all while your annoyed narrator explains how truly obnoxious these things can be. That’s not to say that your references stop once the action starts. Maps become even more interesting when explosive crates, warp pipes and chain chomps all become strategic elements of this wacky war you find yourself caught in. Luring enemies into the Chomp while trying to avoid it myself was especially fun, knowing that this indiscriminate animal would attack whoever came near it. This was especially useful when the stronger units started to overwhelm us, forcing us to use our wits to get us out of some tough situations.
We were promised that the full game would have even more depth, so expect genre staples like terrain, additional hazards, and character growth for more strategic options. At the conclusion of the demo, I left feeling even more excited for what a full campaign would be able to produce, with local co-op expanding the possibilities of the game to an even wider scope. Many doubted this seemingly nonsensical combination of characters, but it’s safe to say that we all owe Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle an apology. It’s looking damn good.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will launch exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on August August 29.