E3 2017: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Surprises with Charm, Tactical Gameplay

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle has a tumultuous history. Leaked early, no one took the game seriously, with many thinking it would be some mini-game compilation title like the Mario & Sonic Olympic Game franchise. What we got was something unique, yet insanely awesome. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a tactical turn-based RPG where Mario and crew team up with the Rabbids. We went hands-on with the title at E3 2017 and it genuinely shocked us.

Mario + Rabbids, from a story perspective, is a bit like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. A disruption in the spacetime continuum is merging the Mushroom Kingdom with the world of the Rabbids. While no specific reason was given in the demo for why the characters have arm-cannons, they’re still a cool weapon to wield with each character having a unique one. The zaniness the Rabbids bring to the Mario universe is best described as quirky fun. One of the first Rabbids players encounter is riding a rubber ducky floating in a large toilet. It’s so out of place in the Mario universe that it manages to illicit a few chuckles.

Gameplay is split between the overworld and battle arenas. Players will play in the overworld in-between every battle. Players control a droid that guides the party through the linear field. Along the way, there are puzzles to solve and secret rooms to find. None of the puzzles required much thought and were simple. Battles commence after players guide their party through a pair of checkerboard flags.

Mario + Rabbids takes a lot of inspiration from games like XCOM. Players can bring three characters into battle (we were given Mario, Rabbid-Peach and Rabbid-Luigi). Each character has their own stats, weapons, special abilities and movement points. Within each round, players will love their characters around the map, finding the best places to take cover and fire from. Characters can also execute special abilities that allow them to heal allies (Rabbid-Peach), protect themselves with a shield (Rabbid-Luigi) or counter-attack against enemies that get too close (Mario).

What separates Mario + Rabbids from the likes of XCOM is that much of the movement, and strategy, comes from chaining movement to perform additional damage. Characters can link with another ally to jump across large sections of the map, slide into enemies and run to a safe place, and utilize warp pipes to move across the map further. These chains add a new layer of strategy by giving players new ways to get around the map. You will need to be wary though as the enemies can also take advantage of these moves. Careful planning and keeping a watchful eye on where the enemy is on the map is the key to success.

Probably the biggest concern with Mario + Rabbids is that the demo was too easy. The battles, puzzles and bonus room felt like they were lifted right from the opening tutorial, which we hope is the case. A tactical RPG is most fun when facing difficult enemies and coming up with unique strategies to achieve victory. It would have been nice to see a more challenging level from later in the game to see how the difficulty scales. Considering that there are a lot more characters that can join your party, and the fact that you can unlock new weapons and equipment for your characters, it would seem that the game’s difficulty will increase.

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a lot of third-party games, and after E3 2017, it looks like all the big games are skipping the platform. Thankfully, Ubisoft is doing their best at bringing something new and fun to the platform. The concept seems crazy, but the developer and publisher appear to have executed it well. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a quirky, fun tactical RPG that may be lacking difficulty at the moment, but scores big when it comes to charm and gameplay.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is out August 29 for Nintendo Switch.