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MARIO + RABBIDS Preview: XCOM Meets Mushroom Kingdom

MARIO + RABBIDS Preview: XCOM Meets Mushroom Kingdom

One of the biggest surprises out of E3 2017 was Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Rumors about a mash-up of Nintendo’s flagship franchise and Ubisoft’s zany Rabbids started floating weeks ago, but it wasn’t until Ubisoft’s E3 briefing that the game became official. So while the title itself wasn’t a shock, the genre was—Kingdom Battle eschews traditional platforming for turn-based tactics. Also a bit surprising to those worried this was just a quickie cash-grab on both publishers’ parts? That the game itself is legitimately fun and hilarious.

The announcement trailer only gives a brief glimpse of the actual gameplay, but thankfully we got our hands on a couple of levels last week. Using a team of Mario and two costumed Rabbids disguised as Luigi and Princess Peach, respectively, we had to get across a multi-tiered field full of obstacles and enemies to a safe zone on the other side.

There will be plenty of things trying to stop you from reaching that goal, however. Obviously, enemy Rabbids will be firing at you, and in our demo, an enormous Chain Chomp was planted firmly in the center of the map, attacking everything in sight. A colorful blue line shows your range when moving, and like any good strategy game, you can’t just leave your team out in the open. If cover isn’t utilized properly, you’ll be an easy shot—or an easy chomp.

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It took us a few turns to realizing that killing every enemy wasn’t necessary, and in fact could be a hindrance, since those bullies just kept respawning. It went against our strategy instincts to leave foes out on the board, but it also helped drive us to the goal. With new Rabbids popping out by the entrance every turn or two, hanging around to kill them all was a self-defeating recipe for disaster. Instead, we made our way across, taking the time to shoot anyone who got in our way (and letting our friend Chompy take care of business when foes wandered into his territory).

We didn’t get too much time to mess around with different weapons, but the gun-like projectile-shooting devices are quite different for a Mario title. There is a menu to buy new weapons with earnings from each victory, so expect to see a variety in the full game.

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Our only concern about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is that it might be a little too simple. Good tactical RPGs require depth that builds up and consistently challenges the player, and what we played was satisfying but fairly straightforward. To be totally fair, though, it’s hard to gauge the difficulty of an entire game from one 15-minute demo; we’re just hoping Mario + Rabbids manages to find a balance between being welcoming to newcomers and longtime strategy fans.

Besides, any concerns about simplicity were offset by the abundance of humor. The Rabbids are nothing if not funny, and throughout the demo, a Nintendo rep nearby giggled at every silly stunt they pulled—despite having undoubtedly seen it numerous times. These two franchises work together shockingly well, all while pulling off a gameplay style foreign to both.

As we saw at E3, the upcoming Switch lineup is strong, and Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle fits right in with first-party games like Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2. Will you be picking this one up when it launches on August 29?

Images: Nintendo

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