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An Entirely Optional Addition to your Switch Library

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    so_hai
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    Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    An Entirely Optional Addition to your Switch Library

    Cross-over titles can often have the reverse intention â€?they can weaken the elements of the series that are combined, they can generate an underwhelmed response and serve neither of the series included. Mario + Rabbids does not exactly fit this description, but nor does it soar to new heights like it might. It serves each series well (provided you consider the Rabbids to be of their own series), but there is something lost too, and it isn’t obvious until sometime throughout the adventure.

    The game looks great â€?it’s colourful, it’s the Mushroom Kingdom as you know it (to a point) and it provides a great backdrop for a turn-based strategy game. However, there are slight issues to deal with. While the landscapes look great and evoke that charm that the Mario world has consistently provided, it is presented in a strangely fuzzy or blurry manner. All the graphics, on close inspection, are filtered through this design choice, and it gives the presentation a gloss that is at best unnecessary, and at worst distracting.

    The camera in the overworld does conform to your commands at all times â€?it often locks inexplicably. And as there are little puzzles and secrets hidden throughout the worlds, the locking camera is used a device to hide them from you. In battles, the camera is free to control â€?free in that it snaps at 90-degree divisions, and does not allow free-roam without switching to another display mode altogether. Add to this that the fixed camera aspect is too shallow, it can be hard to achieve a mental image of the battlefield, and the temptation to move your character forward just to “seeâ€?the battlefield presents itself often. This isn’t to remove “fog of warâ€?mind you, the game has no such fog, it is to scroll the screen itself.

    Musically, the game suffers. The themes are all Danny Elfman soundalikes, and almost all of them are utterly inane. The melody-lines resemble something you’d hear whistled in a gym locker room â€?made up on the spur of the moment to defeat any silence. While the landscapes vary, the themes don’t keep up as well as a Nintendo first-party game might. They don’t speak to the environments and are not memorable or evocative enough for a Mario game. The music direction is just a failing in tone and application. No themes stick in the mind like any Nintendo first-party title typically do.

    The core of the game is the turn based battling itself. This too has its issues. While the premise is fine â€?(move, attack, seek cover, enable passive ability), the game lacks deep strategy elements. Keeping out of reach of the enemy is the most effective strategy, but the battlefields are typically small and the movement boxes are far too generous â€?there’s are no action points to “spendâ€?as in other turn-based titles, there’s just a set range for all occasions. Add to this that the shooting mechanic is way too simplified: your chance of hitting a target are either 0%, 50% or 100%, the game soon becomes more about rushing around to cause damage than it is about choice/consequence.

    The weapons are various and plentiful, but their differences are minimal and they really are just there to scale with the difficulty. You’ll never return to a weapon you used in an earlier chapter for the simple reason that it isn’t powerful enough anymore. They can’t be upgraded either, so it’s a one way trip with the weapons and sub-weapons. This makes them all feel non-special and just temporarily useful â€?you’ll never find a favourite weapon and you won’t recall differences between them. This is true even considering that they have some special effects (burn, stone, ink, push). These effects trigger at a set percentage (say 20%), but it never seems to happen when you need it, and the enemiesâ€?always seem to work when you don’t need it.

    The level progression is somewhat broken too â€?there are difficulty spikes that occur reliably throughout the game. This prompts the player to enable an “Easy Modeâ€?where the health is refilled and increased. Why there is a need for any difficulty offset at all is indicative of the unbalanced progression. Re-visiting past chapters to “grindâ€?for coins isn’t as easy as it should be either. You’re required to select the chapter from a menu which is accessible from a building in the overworld. The layout of this menu is unclear too, and the hidden challenges aren’t listed until you physically re-visit the location and access them. So why have this screen at all, and if you do, make the hidden challenges discoverable during the initial play-through. Don’t make an unified system.

    Issues with your team selection are present as there’s strange limitations on this aspect: Mario must be used, but you must use a Rabbid too, which means there’s limited freedom of party constitution. The Rabbids are literally crossed-over in that there is Rabbid Peach, a Rabbid Luigi, a Rabbid Mario etc. they are aa useful as any other character, if not slightly unfathomable in their presence. I suppose Rabbids are a bit like Minions â€?unidentifiable an anonymous, and therefore they borrowed a bit of character from the Mario series… They provide some comic relief, but this has the consequence of pushing Mario far into the background in this game. A better suite title would be Rabbids + Mario.

    Enemies are unveiled as you progress through the campaign. They’re all from the Ubisoft catalogue though, and you’ll be battling fluffy things the entire game. Their AI is pretty well done, if not slightly weighted to their own advantage. Unlike X-COM (the game this title heavily borrows from), the enemies work more-or-less independently. They don’t cage you in, they don’t fall back to re-group, they don’t co-operate, they just attack you from the best position possible as the conditions are on that turn. There’s no over-arching strategy that the mobs take, you’ll soon discover.

    I can only recommend this game to players new to the genre, and even they may tire of the issues I’ve listed above. X-COM Enemy Unknown brought the genre to the mass audience without compromising the core of the genre’s own advantages. In comparison, this game plays almost like a mobile version of an X-COM game with a bright, colourful (but fuzzy) skin. It also de-emphasises the importance of gear, weapons and makes squad selection fairly arbitrary. All of this coupled with the difficulty spikes and middling interface, makes the game at best, an entirely optional addition to your Switch library.

    Rating:   2.5 – Playable

    Product Release: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Collector’s Edition) (AU, 08/29/17)

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