It’s a bit odd that Mario’s first completely fresh appearance on the Nintendo Switch isn’t a traditional run-and-jump platform game but a novel foray into the tactical RPG genre. It’s even odder that Mario has to share that debut with Ubisoft’s incredibly annoying (yet ostensibly popular) Rabbids. Oddest of all, Nintendo’s iconic mascot largely takes a back seat to those over-the-top, screaming humanoid rabbits in the game.
Sure, Mario might get top billing in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. All told, though, it feels like Mario and crew were thrown into an existing Ubisoft game midway through the process. The game’s plot, to the extent that it exists, uses a stolen “SupaMerge” device that literally fuses crazified Rabbids with well-known Mario antagonists like Donkey Kong and Piranha Plants, while merging “good” Rabbids with good guys like Mario, Luigi, and Peach to create completely new unholy abominations. There’s also an intelligent Roomba named Beep-o that explains all this with a lot of wordy exposition that the other characters’ wordless vamping for the camera can’t really convey.
While Mario staples like coins and mushrooms make appearances, Ubisoft’s characters and design aesthetic seem to win out most of the time. Heck, the Mario characters can’t even jump without help from an ally, which is practically treasonous in a Mario game. This isn’t really a knock against a title that maintains strong (if silly) visual and gameplay themes throughout. Just don’t go in expecting a Mushroom Kingdom adventure in the vein of the Paper Mario or the Mario and Luigi games.
Take your positions
Anyone familiar with the positional battles in a game like XCOM, Fire Emblem, or Final Fantasy Tactics will recognize the same essential DNA in Kingdom Battle. While there are some perfunctory and simplistic coin-collecting and block-pushing puzzles forced in between the fights, the bulk of the game involves taking turns moving characters around a grid-based map so they’re in place to attack the enemy while avoiding the incoming counter attacks.