Ubisoft being part of a Mario game? Sounds crazy, but that’s what the Rabbids are all about! The Rabbids, off-shoots of Ubisoft’s Rayman franchise, are demented bunnies, and those demented bunnies are officially coming to the Mushroom Kingdom. The developer started off their E3 presentation with Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo to reveal Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, a tactical combat game that looks crazy fun.
What we saw on screen was a bunch of Mario characters — Mario, Luigi, Peach, Boo, and Yoshi for starters — along with Rabbids dressed like those characters. The Rabbids, in their madness, attempted time travel and ended up in the Mushroom Kingdom. The game will pick up there, and while we don’t know too many details about the gameplay yet, we know it’ll be tactical combat — we expect you’ll have a team of Mario characters and Rabbids on a grid, and you’ll have to decide chess-style when and where to move, and what kind of attacks you want to use (OK, the chess comparison isn’t absolute).
Looks like there will be blasters, bananas, and a bunch of other silliness. Should be good, clean, lighthearted fun, and it’s a rare example of Nintendo being OK with co-developing a Mario game (shades of Super Mario RPG with Square for the SNES). But, the most surprising thing of all might be the release date — it’s coming out on August 29 for the Nintendo Switch. We’re really hoping to get a chance to play the game a bit on the show floor at E3 this week, and we’ll be sure to circle back with first impressions if we do!
UPDATE 06/16/2017 – Hands-on impressions
We got a chance to try out Mario+Rabbids, and it’s looking pretty good. As it turns out, the game was developed solely by Ubisoft, although Nintendo did check in on the game regularly to do their own kind of quality control — rest assured, Mario and his friends look exactly like they would in a Nintendo game. That Nintendo look meshes well with Ubisoft’s cartoony Rabbids, whose offbeat silliness is put on full display. As you progress through the game, magnifying glass icons will occasionally pop up to reveal Rabbids acting ridiculous off to the side.
The Rabbids in your party act pretty silly, too. In the demo we played, Mario was joined by a couple Rabbids dressed like Peach and Luigi, with the Peach Rabbid showing off her best selfie poses. The Mario games have never taken themselves too seriously, either, so the crossover ends up working really well.
Just keep in mind that the gameplay isn’t like any other Mario game you’ve played. Like we mentioned before, it’s a tactical combat game, with some light RPG elements. When you enter a battle, Mario and his two companions will take positions on a grid of square spaces, with cover and enemies ahead. From there, it’s turn based — Mario will be able to move a certain number of spaces per turn, then take an action (usually attacking an enemy with a blaster). You’ll then get to take turns for Mario’s teammates before the enemies take their turns. Your chance to hit an enemy will depend on whether or not they’re behind cover, so it’s possible to take a shot and miss. You and the enemies won’t always be able to camp out behind cover, though — cover will be partially and eventually totally destroyed once it’s taken enough shots.
Sounds repetitive, but like any good tactical combat game, there are enough wrinkles to keep things interesting. If you need Mario to move a little farther, you can move him to a teammate — he’ll jump off them for a movement boost. Mario and friends can also move right through enemies to do a dash attack, which doesn’t take up an action — by judging the distance right, you can have Mario run into an enemy, run back to cover, and take a shot with his blaster. Or, you can use shortcuts like pipes to do quick hit and run attacks.
Good enemy variety should also help keep things interesting. There are small enemies that use similar ranged attacks to use, but there are also heavy enemies that do huge amounts of damage up close. Then, there’s Chain Chomp. Chain Chomp doesn’t care who’s fighting or why — he’ll just charge whoever’s closest, and he won’t be gentle about it.
While you’ll usually need to defeat all enemies to move on, sometimes you’ll just need to get to the other side of the grid. You can do that by fighting your way through enemies or using carefully planned movements to sneak past them. In between battles, there are small puzzles (the E3 demo included a maze) you can solve to get new weapons and items, too.
Add on a bunch of different weapons with quirky descriptions — including a rainbow blaster with a Judy Garland reference — and you’ve got a game that fun, funny game that shouldn’t wear out its welcome. Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle shows a lot of promise, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised — if Nintendo is going to let a third party developer play with Mario, you can bet they’re going to make 100 percent sure the game’s not a dud.
Check out more of our E3 2017 coverage right here!