Nobody asked for this. Seriously, that’s what we all thought when the first images of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle first leaked well ahead of the E3 announcement. It was weird and screamed “horrible cash grab and everything wrong with gaming, period.” Everyone was angry at Ubisoft for creating an abomination and at Nintendo for allowing such a thing to exist. Everyone was expecting a bad Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review.
But then E3 came along and we got a crying Davide Soliani and news on how the team working on this title was as passionate as they can be on a weird Mario and Raving Rabbids crossover using turn-based strategy gameplay.
Seriously, just look at Davide “Crying Ubisoft Man” Soliani. How could that guy not sell you on this game?
DON'T CRY UBISOFT MAN pic.twitter.com/UtzJa2WUfW
— Kyou (@ningiou) June 12, 2017
It also helps that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a fantastic game and that I cannot be happier that I picked it up despite my initial misgivings.
How Did We Even Get Here?
So, the insane premise of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle goes something like this: a girl genius has invented a visor, the SupaMerge helmet, that combines matter to form… something. A bunch of Rabbids crash into her room with a time-travelling washing machine (of course) and wreak havoc. A Rabbid puts on the visor, combines some other Rabbids with the Mario stuff the girl has lying around. Then the washing machine activates, and the Rabbids get sucked back into it and they land in the Mushroom Kingdom.
As with all things video games, this of course ruins the Mushroom Kingdom, spreading malicious Rabbids all over the place. Mario is off to save the day, and he’s got the help of Rabbid doppelgangers of Princess Peach and Luigi.
Getting Rid of Rabbids – Before Your Next Move
I was itching for another turn-based strategy game in the vein of XCOM, and Kingdom Battle was perfect. Of course the infamous permadeath system isn’t there. And the complicated skill upgrades aren’t present as well, although there is a skill tree, but not as robust. It’s a game meant to appeal to beginners to the genre while keeping veterans happy.
I’m not great with turn-based strategy games by any means – I never managed to finish the first XCOM on hard mode – and once you get past the first two (very easy) worlds, there is a huge difficulty spike that will catch you unprepared. It’s frustrating to start the same battle for the fifth time, but once you get the hang of it and the strategy locks into place, it’s very satisfying to clear the map.
And the missions aren’t all “defeat every single one of your enemies,” either. There are battles where you have to get to a certain point in the map, and we also have the dreaded escort missions just to make you angry at Toad and Toadette.
Exploring the Mushroom Kingdom
But turn-based battles aren’t the only activities you can do in Kingdom Battle. In between battles, you can go around the Mushroom Kingdom and explore the beautifully-rendered locales. And exploring is very rewarding, literally – you get coins that you can use to buy weapons, and you can also encounter treasure chests that’ll give you spirit orbs so you can upgrade your character, and a bunch of other unlockables.
Exploration is a nice break from battles, but I feel that this is where one of Kingdom Battle’s biggest flaws came up. The camera controls on this game just suck so much. Ubisoft’s interpretation of the Rabbid-infested Mushroom Kingdom is so beautiful, and I am annoyed that I can’t move the camera around so I can take in more of the scenery. Coming from the total freedom The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave me in terms of camera movement, it was a bit of a hassle to discover that I can only tilt the camera a few degrees at a time.
Steady Framerate, Except When It’s Not Steady
The game runs at a steady 30 FPS at 1600×900, but when the action onscreen gets too intense, it drops. A lot. I usually don’t mind framerate drops as this is a game that doesn’t require the precision you can get from 60 or more FPS, but sometimes the game freezes mid-animation up to the point where I have to wait for a minute until everything snaps back into place. And yes, I’d love to get 60 FPS 1080p for this game, but I think the compromises Ubisoft made for this game are acceptable.
I never really expected for this game to have so much charm. It’s funny in its own slapstick-with-the-occasional-potty-joke-thrown-in way, and I love how the game doesn’t take itself or its concept seriously and throws in a couple of jokes making fun of its own absurdity. There’s also a mid-game sequence that pokes fun at Mario – a scene that only a team made up of fans who love Mario so much can do.
Despite being a crossover nobody asked for, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch has grown into an essential must-have game for Nintendo’s newest console. Get it and lose 20 hours of your time trying to get rid the Mushroom Kingdom of its Rabbids infestation.