Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review
I recently finished my playthrough of Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle. This Ubisoft developed title released just five months after the Switch itself, so it’s one of the older Switch titles. The Mario+Rabbids crossover theme didn’t particularly excite me, but I’d heard good things about the gameplay, so I decided to give it a shot!
First off, I’m not flagging this review as Spoiler-Free as I’ve done with most of my prior ones. This is because there’s really not much to spoil in Mario+Rabbids. There is a story, but it’s hardly the focus of the game. The big “spoiler” I plan on including is some of the later characters who join your party. But, none of these characters are really a secret or much of a surprise. All of them are on the cover of the game after all.
I won’t spoil any plot points though, so if you really want to avoid story spoilers for the game, you can read this review safely!
Glorious Tactical Combat
The main gameplay loop consists of exploration segments through the current world, split up into levels that consist of one or more battles. For instance, the level 1-1 consists of two battles and an exploration segment where you walk around and collect coins.
Combat in Mario+Rabbids is turn-based. On your turn, you can choose to have each character move, attack, and use a special ability, in any order. You could move one character, then have a second character use their attack before returning to the first character to have them use their attack. Once you’ve used all available actions for all your characters, or you’ve decided to end your turn manually, it’s the enemies turn, and they get the same choices as the player.
Attacks are primarily from projectile weapons, so cover plays a huge role since you have either a 50% or 100% chance of avoiding projectile damage when you’re protected by cover from the direction of the incoming fire. There are melee attacks for some characters and enemies, but most of the time the attacks your characters are facing are energy blasts from enemy blasters, so you’ll want to position them behind cover as much as possible. I’ve heard this cover system is a lot like the XCOM series, and features in a number of games that form a sort of sub-genre of their own. Now that I think about it, Pathway, a game I covered briefly when it released, has this sort of system as well.
Battles are won by completing the victory condition, which is usually “Defeat All,” and you win by defeating all enemies. Others goals “Reach Area,” where you must move any one of your party members to the designated area, or “Defeat N Enemies,” where you win once you’ve defeated a the specified number of foes. There are a few other victory conditions, and it was nice to have a little variety with these now and then. Generally though, victory is won by defeating enemies in combat, which was fine by me because combat is a blast.
Besides the turn flow and cover system, there are a few interesting options in combat that I believe are pretty unique to Mario+Rabbids.
Team Jump is one of the earliest things you learn in battle, but despite that it really adds a lot of strategical options. You can use it to launch a character to higher ground that they perhaps otherwise couldn’t reach.
The Dash is another core combat element that is taught early on, probably because like the Team Jump it can be critical to success. You Dash an enemy simply by moving into them. This doesn’t end your move though, you’re free to move anywhere else within your movement radius afterward. There’s really little reason not to Dash an enemy within your movement range. Since it doesn’t use up an attack, it’s basically just free damage. A number of characters can Dash multiple enemies during one move as well, some can even do up to 5 Dashes if there are enough enemies in range!
On the flip side though, enemies can use Dash as well. Be careful putting yourself too close to an enemy, because they’ll likely use a Dash against you to take some extra HP away too!
Reach the Higher Ground
On many maps, there are multiple levels of elevation. Most of the time, the higher areas are reached by going through a pipe, although sometimes the only way to reach them is by Team Jump. If a character on high ground attacks an enemy standing at a lower elevation, their attacks do extra damage. This makes a significant difference, and the effect can even be boosted by spending Skill Points to buff a character’s High Ground advantage! Like the other aspects of combat though, if an enemy attacks one of your characters from the High Ground they’ll also do more damage, so it’s something you’ll always want to be aware of.
Each character brings unique skills to the table
In the beginning of the game, you only have the initial 3 characters at your disposal, just enough for a full team. By the end though, your available roster has grown to eight total characters, each of which has their own unique skills. While Mario must always be in your party, the other two slots can be filled with any unlocked character. Although, you are required to have at least one Rabbid on your team at a time.
I don’t know if there’s a reason for this, maybe they did it this way because of the interactions Rabbids sometimes have during cutscenes? Or maybe they just didn’t want to let the player ignore the Rabbid characters completely. I definitely tried to build a Rabbid-less team early on, only to discover that I couldn’t!
Anyway, characters’ skills are improved and unlocked by visiting the Battle HQ and spending Skill Points on a character’s skill tree between battles. Skill Points are gained after completing most levels, as a reward based on your performance. Even if you get the lowest rating on a level, you still get some Skill Points though.
The nice thing about all this is that even characters who didn’t participate in battle gain Skill Points, so you never really end up with “underleveled” characters. The closest thing to being underleveled in Mario+Rabbids is a character having a weak weapon if you haven’t used them in a while. That’s easily fixed by spending some coins to buy them a stronger weapon though, and then they’re ready for battle once again!
As an example of a character-specific skill, Mario’s unique ability is his “Stomp,” which let’s him stomp on an enemy’s head after a Team Jump. This is sort of like a Dash in that it’s an extra attack option that doesn’t use up his attack phase on his turn. Fully upgraded, his Stomp becomes pretty powerful too, and can deal over 100 damage to an enemy!
Visuals and Characters
Visually, Mario+Rabbids looks wonderful. In both docked and handheld mode, the graphics looked great, and it ran very smoothly most of the time. The Mushroom Kingdom looks very vibrant and colorful. Mario games are always pretty colorful, but the way characters are shaded here seems especially bright. I think this helps give it a little extra “cartoony” vibe which makes the introduction of the Rabbids into the environment feel more natural.
Despite not being developed by Nintendo, the portrayal of Mario and friends is spot on. However closely Ubisoft Paris and Milan worked with Nintendo, they definitely did the Mario characters justice. Running gags like how Luigi is overshadowed by Mario are referenced. I loved seeing this one, basically when Beep-O meets Luigi he recognizes him as Mario’s brother, but doesn’t remember his name.
There’s also just a lot attention to detail put into characters’ behaviors and reactions in the background. For instance, there’s a time the party meets Toadette. I had Peach in my party at the time, and she waves to greet Toadette, and I thought this was just a really nice touch even though it’s something so basic.
Another funny detail I saw happens when Peach joins the party. Peach is holding Mario’s hand, then Rabbid Peach butts in between the two and shoos Peach away. Shortly after, Peach winds up standing next to Mario again. Rabbid Peach doesn’t step in between the two, but the look she gives Peach is this kind of “are you serious right now” side eye that I found both hilarious and awesome that the developers put that much detail into the cutscenes.
Even though he’s in the party at all times, Mario isn’t the real leader of the group this time around. That would be Beep-O, a robotic assistance who I found surprisingly funny. There’s an instance where he gets fed up with Toadette and curses at her, and his speech is censored with symbols. I thought this was pretty amusing, and it definitely made me like Beep-O more than before. In any other Mario game, something like this would be totally out of place and feel wrong. But due to the Rabbids crossover it works, and didn’t feel out of place.
Even the Rabbids, who I haven’t seen in any game I’ve played before, grew on me a bit over the course of my playthrough. Initially, I was skeptical of the Rabbids aspect of the game. The Rabbids themselves are sort of grotesque. Some of the wacky over-the-top shenanigans the Rabbids pulled were just “meh” to me, but from time to time I did chuckle at some of their antics.
Plenty of Content
Another nice thing about Mario+Rabbids is the level of content and the replayability. There’s a sizeable amount of optional content, but it’s not so enormous that doing it all seems impossible. During my playthrough, there was a decent amount of content I never even touched.
Co-op missions, for instance, I haven’t tried at all yet. I’m pretty excited to give these a go at some point in the future though!
There’s a number of Challenge missions as well, that seem to have varying win conditions and strict time limits. I only tried one of these near the end of my playthrough, and it was fun! I had to defeat 14 Rabbids within 3 turns, which was actually really easy since my team dealt enough damage with a Dash at that point to defeat the weak Rabbids in a single blow.
Besides combat, there are also exploration, puzzle solving, and Metroidvania aspects.
Between battles, there are short exploration segments that sometimes contain puzzles. Some of the puzzles are required to advance, but some are wholly optional, and just hide an optional treasure chest behind them. The puzzles usually involve pushing blocks or activating switches in a certain order. It’s sort of reminiscent of 2D Zelda in that regard. Though fairly simple, the puzzles were all well done, and added some nice variety to the gameplay.
The Metroidvania aspect comes into play when you encounter certain obstructions. For instance, a block for Beep-O to push. Except Beep-O doesn’t know how to push blocks when you first encounter these. Generally, you get a new ability for Beep-O after clearing a world. At that point, you could backtrack and use Beep-O’s new ability to reach new treasures. All of this is optional though. If you hate backtracking it’s never required of you. I like the idea of backtracking in Mario+Rabbids, and though I didn’t do any of it during my playthrough, I can definitely see myself going back in and backtracking to find some more treasure chests.
One last area I want to mention: the music. Greg Kirkhope, known for composing for Rare with titles such as Banjo-Kazooie under his belt, orchestrated the music for Mario+Rabbids.
The pieces fit the zany air of the whole Mario+Rabbids crossover very well, and overall I’d describe it was playful. Honestly, most of the time I didn’t particular notice the soundtrack. It fits so perfectly with what you’re seeing onscreen that it’s easy to miss if you’re not actively trying to listen for it. When you do manage to focus on the music though, it’s a wonderfully done orchestral soundtrack.
There was one song in particular I remember noting during my playthrough. During an early boss battle, I heard a motif from Donkey Kong Country repeated during a song a few times. This was a really neat to hear, and there’s probably more motifs hidden through the soundtrack from the Mario series and other related franchises.
I wouldn’t say Mario+Rabbids is perfect though. There are some aspects that frustrated me during my playthrough. Maybe it was just the way I played, and I’m the only one affected, but a few little things really irked me.
No “Undo Move” Option
The issue I found myself butting heads with the most is the lack of an “Undo Move” option if you accidentally move a character to the wrong space. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally moved a character to a space by accident. I’d accidentally move a character one space away from where I intended, leaving them wide open to attack instead of behind the cover I meant to put them behind. The “Undo Move” option could be available only if a character hasn’t yet attacked, been attacked, or used a special ability on their turn. This would keep the difficulty unchanged, and wouldn’t allow for unfair undo-scumming to undo bad tactical decisions or retrying an attack for different critical hit RNG.
I think the primary reason I made so many accidental moves is that the cursor feels a little sluggish. Really during battle, you’re moving Beep-O around as your cursor. He moves around smoothly, but this means it can be easy to undershoot or overshoot your intended tile if you’re trying to make a move quickly.
I’d love the option to move the cursor tile by tile with the D-Pad, like how Fire Emblem: Three Houses handles cursor control. I think this alone would have helped prevent the majority of my movement mistakes.
Hard to See Beep-O
My second main complaint is also movement related, but occurred outside of battles. During the exploration sections, it can sometimes be hard to see where Beep-O is. He’s always in the front your party, so other characters can block him. Plus, honestly I’m used to controlling Mario when playing a Mario game. It’s a little jarring to see Mario near the front of your party, but not actually be controlling him directly.
I ran into this issue far less than my accidental moves during battle, but it was still pretty annoying during timed Red Coin or Blue Coin events. I’d be trying to hurry to collect all the Coins before the timer ran out, and accidentally get stuck on a corner because I lost track of exactly where Beep-O was, causing me to lose precious seconds of time!
Mario+Rabbids has a surprisingly deep combat system. Couple that with a great rendition of the Mushroom Kingdom and its unique charm, and it’s an excellent game. It’s not without its flaws, but overall it’s a great experience. It’s also pretty inexpensive to pick up. I definitely recommend it to any Switch owner looking for a solid strategy game!