Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (NS) Review

Welcome to the last review and post for September 2017 here at SuperPhillip Central. It's for a game that launched late in August for the Nintendo Switch, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle!

Mario + Rabbids + XCOM = A Winning Formula


What happens when a leaker only interested in furthering their career and Internet notoriety blabs about a game before it's ready? It brings out the worst of online gaming culture, as evident by the leaking of information surrounding Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Shown with Ubisoft's plan for releasing info on the game, something meant for only employees associated with the company, one rogue leaker only saw the opportunity to reveal it all to better their themselves while bringing nothing but added stress and sadness to the development team, who saw their creative vision and project of love skewered to death.

Immediately, as predictable as Internet-dwelling gamers are, hate-spewing nerds across the community showed their asses as well as nothing but loathing for the game's concept without even seeing a glimpse of actual gameplay. When Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle actually debuted in trailer form at E3 2017 and the game released the following August, these quick conclusion-jumpers were once again forced to eat crow. Why? Because yes, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is an amazing game albeit with an admittedly strange concept behind it, but the end result is one of the best games released yet on the Nintendo Switch.

Mamma mia! Who are these strange creatures?!
When the worlds of the Rabbids and the Mushroom Kingdom combine, all sorts of havoc reigns down. Our story begins with a certain Rabbid being combined with a special kind of glasses, able to morph a myriad of objects and creatures in to corrupted beasts. Once crazed but still friendly Rabbids are still crazed but now antagonistic, sporting dangerous weaponry for Mario and pals to contend with. However, Mario immediately meets up with two unlikely allies, a Rabbid dressed in Princess Peach's attire (who loves taking selfies) and a Rabbid dressed like Mario's brother, Luigi. Like all playable characters within Kingdom Battle, each has their own special uses in battle. Mixing things up isn't your traditional arsenal of Mario fare. Instead, Mario and company use arm cannons, somewhat more fitting to something Samus Aran of the Metroid series would wear rather than Nintendo's mascot.

This Rabbid might have been late for a Van Halen concert, but he's just in time to receive some pain.
Battles occur between two sides: Mario's party of three (where Mario is always the leader and cannot be substituted out) and the enemy's squadron. Mario's group gets to perform of all their actions first, such as moving, attacking, and perform each member's special abilities. Each unit can perform one act of movement, one act of attacking, and one utilization of their special ability before their turn is over. Of course, nothing says that you have to use all three moves during a Mushroom Kingdom denizen or Rabbid's turn.

Kingdom Battle is pure tactical action where decisions on the battlefield, maybe even the smallest of choices, can determine a quick victory or a prolonged loss -- or anything in between, of course. Each party member can deal a grand amount of damage in one turn. For instance, Mario can move to a close enemy, slide into them for some minor damage, and then quickly move back behind cover. Then, he can use that cover to safely launch a blast attack from his gun over a long distance (different characters have different ranges depending on their weapon type). Finally, maybe Mario opts to use one of his two special abilities, my favorite of which allows him to attack a given enemy that crosses in to his line of fire during the enemy group's opportunity for movement and action. However, some moves and abilities require a cooldown period of a set number of turns before they can be activated again.

Foolish, Rabbid! Now you're right in Mario's sights thanks to his special ability!
Characters can also interact with one another as well. This is mainly used for party members to gain extra movement distance on maps via launching off the top of other teammates' heads in a move called the Team Jump. Some versions of the Team Jump will cause damage to surrounding enemies upon impact, while others will heal surrounding party members a la Peach's special jump.

After all of Mario's teammates have made their tactical decisions on the battlefield, it's the enemy team's turn to fight back. This is where being behind appropriate cover is supremely beneficial, as this not only affects your line of sight but the enemy's as well. Taking cover behind blocks two characters high will make oncoming attacks from the front of enemies have no effect on your character's health. Instead, it just weakens the cover. Waist-high walls give a 50% chance of your enemy dishing out damage to you or just roughing up some of your cover. Then, there are walls that can't be damaged at all, which is preferable to take cover behind. That said, enemies can obviously use cover to their own advantage as well as using height differences on the numerous battlefields in Kingdom Battle. It means flanking foes or moving to their sides where a 0% chance of hitting them turns into a 50% or better yet 100% is better encouraged, as long as you don't put a character into harm's way for a painful beatdown of bullets and attacks.

The percentage under Mario's health (or any unit for that matter) shows
the chance of this enemy shot hitting our plump protagonist. Thank spaghetti and meatballs for cover!
Starting off in Kingdom Battle, the types of enemies Mario and company face are relatively simple. They'll perform one type of shot which is a simple one-hit bullet with no specialty to them. Eventually, as you progress through the four worlds of the game, you'll come across enemies that can transport across the map, perform significant damage with melee attacks, be completely invulnerable from attacks to the front, throw grenades over cover, use status effects, and more.

These particular foes like to roughhouse and dish significant pain onto nearby
foes with their devastating melee attacks.
Thankfully, as you progress through Kingdom Battle yourself, Mario's team will be prepared, as every battle rewards coins that can be used to purchase new weapons and guns. New ones are added by discovering them from treasure chests in the overworld maps, or by finishing worlds. New guns have upgraded attack power and many add status effects of their own to unleash upon foes. Such effects include blocking a unit from using their weapon, honey that stops a unit from moving for one turn, burn that causes erratic movement which can send a unit right out into the open for enemies to pick off or easily reach, and freeze, which stops a unit from using special abilities. All effects last one turn, and these are just some examples, but when dealt onto a unit, they can really change the tide of battle with one shot.

Mario seldom misses his mark when an enemy is helplessly dangling in the air like this.
Aside from new weapons, you also gain skill points that can be spent on each of Mario's party members' skill trees. Initially, you unlock a special ability from the tree, but then that branches off to increasing running distance, Team Jump distance, health, how long it takes for abilities to cool down, how much damage specific moves take, and much more. This is something that grants players the appreciated ability to set up each unit in Mario's team the way they like to match their play style.

When Mario and gang aren't in battle, they explore adventure fields known as overworlds, where you can move the non-playable but only speaking member of Mario's group, Beep-O, to guide the other current lineup of battlers through. These sections sometimes provide unique puzzle-solving opportunities which I enjoyed a lot as they broke up the game from just being a mere compilation and onslaught of battles. Additionally, seeking out treasure chests within the worlds provided more longevity and often gave significant rewards in the forms of new weapons, skill points, soundtrack entries, artwork, and more.

Tropics and temples await for adventure in this first world of Kingdom Battle, Ancient Gardens!
These worlds start off linear, but as you complete other worlds, you earn new Beep-O abilities that grant you access to new portions of each world. For instance, the first world's finish presents Beep-O with block-pushing capabilities; required to move through future worlds, but also pretty nice to have to revisit a past world as well. Those previously completed worlds also happen to contain ten special challenges, which range from very easy to super hard. These might be completed in a set number of turns in order to successfully beat them. They're all non-mandatory, but for those looking for more skill points and a better completion percentage on their profile, they're great to pursue and attempt to beat.

As for the required battles in the game, there are usually 8-10 chapters per world. These chapters consist of 1-3 battles each, where you can opt to enter Easy Mode if a certain battle is giving you more of a challenge than others. Easy Mode provides you with a full replenishment of your party's health and weakens enemy attacks. Each battle has an optional prerequisite amount of turns to beat while having all members of your party survive in order to earn a Perfect rating on them. This rating rewards you with more coins after battle. As for the battle types, there are four: defeat all enemies, defeat a set number of enemies, reach a destination on the map, and escort a character (which thankfully, you control) to a set position, similar to the previous battle goal.

Each midway chapter features a more challenging midboss to take on, while the final chapter of a world always concludes with a battle featuring a powerful boss. These encounters take more ingenuity to tackle, as it's not always "deal as much damage as possible" right at the beginning of the battle. For instance, the boss at the end of the first world requires a party member to step on a switch in front of the Rabbid beast to deprive of it of its health-replenishing bananas. Then, you are given free reign to eliminate its HP until the second phase starts. Each boss is creative and engaging to fight, with my particular favorite (and a favorite for seemingly many) being the world three boss.

Luigi uses a suspiciously Poltergust-like gun to ravage this Piranha Rabbid with a blazing bullet.
Each of the four worlds in Kingdom Battle is absolutely bonkers in aesthetic. One world has gigantic item blocks resting under a humongous tower of colorful building blocks, while another is a combination of a dusty desert and a frozen-over mountain, stocked with overgrown underwear and huge mine cart sections of track. It can be a bit of pain to retread past worlds, as there is a lot of ground to cover in each, especially in world three, where the world is much more nonlinear and confusing to explore because of it. Regardless, the exploration ends up staying remotely satisfying throughout the game, and there's always a wonder of what wacky piece of environment you're going to stumble upon in your adventure next.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle features a Grant Kirkhope-scored soundtrack. This is overall nice, but it sounds more fitting of a Rare-developed release like Banjo-Kazooie rather than a game featuring Mario. Furthermore, while Kingdom Battle looks exceptional with its bright, vivid colors, well animated characters, and astonishing environments, showcasing an immense amount of objects and movement, the game isn't particularly proficient with performance. Many times during battles, zoomed in attacks would result in brief freezes or sputtering in the frame-rate, resulting in an unappetizing effect. Worse case scenario, Mario + Rabbids is prone to crashing. I've had the game do so twice to me, and thankfully it didn't happen during a prolonged boss battle or worse, a three-round engagement with the enemy. Combine that with sometimes being unable to skip cutscenes (making repeating certain boss battles a pain), and not all is well with Kingdom Battle. Hopefully, some patches are in development to iron out these issues.

The draw distance, depth of field, complexity in the environments -- all of these amaze.
Those who were worried or worse so, antagonistic towards the idea of a game combining Nintendo's Mario with Ubisoft's less popular (and to some, annoying) Rabbids characters need not be so, as Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle turned out to be just as big of a hit with myself and other players as it was when it was officially unveiled this past E3. Some performance problems bring the overall package down, but with smart tactical combat, a delightful sense of charm and chuckle-worthy humor, and an appealing slice of exploration in the game's four worlds, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a terrific overall game. Perhaps the best combination of two things since pizza and pineapple! ...Well, maybe not. I can't vouch for pineapple pizza myself.

[SPC Says: A-]

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