Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was one of the games I picked up (during the first year of Nintendo Switch’s launch) and fell in love with. As I was a huge fan of the XCOM series, with XCOM 2 released a year earlier, M+R KB was a surprising take on the genre. With the addition of Rabbids to Mario, this unexpected gem was really enjoyable and kept bringing me back to it often. So you can guess my excitement when the sequel was showing at E3 2021 with new characters, and a new antagonist Cursa, with a sky-touching height, dwarfing everything in the surroundings. The ambitions were transcendental, and with the game now finally here, we can finally deduce if our wait is worth it. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the series or a returning veteran, our review of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope will help you decide if this game is for you.
A Plot Set Across the Galaxy
If you are new to the series, then watching Ubisoft’s wacky Rabbids coexisting with Nintendo’s Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom is more fun than you would expect. After all these years, it is still surprising for me to see Mario with a blaster, Peach wielding a shotgun, and Luigi with a bow & arrow. But that’s the kind of weirdness mixed with their fun personalities that makes the first game delightfully replayable. And if you have already played the prequel, and thought the Mushroom Kingdom offered everything it could, then Sparks of Hope takes it up a whole new level across the galaxy.
In a nutshell, the plot has two new main additions, “Sparks” & the antagonist entity “Cursa”. The star-shaped adorable creatures “Sparks” from the trailer & the cover art are a fusion of Luma & Rabbids. So, they are equal parts pretty Luma & equal parts sweet Rabbits. As a result, Sparks have massive amounts of harnessable energy in them. Cursa is conquering the galaxy using corruptive energy called Darkmess. To execute this plan, Cursa is hunting down all the Sparks scattered throughout the galaxy, for their energy. Amidst all this, Rosalina is missing because of Cursa. Now Mario & friends have to set on an epic journey to save Rosalina, Sparks, and also the entire galaxy this time.
An Unparalleled Turn-Based Strategy Experience
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has not only improved game mechanics to Kingdom Battle but added layers of elements that could, in theory, add hundreds of attack combos in the game for a unique experience in every battle. Let me illustrate. We have 9 heroes (Rayman to be added in DLC), each with their very own skill tree to upgrade & unlock new abilities. Pair them with different Sparks for new synergies, as you can equip each hero with 2 Sparks in battles. Each Spark has its own distinctive abilities like burn attacks, revive, and more. This allows different gameplay styles to experiment and get that perfect score every round.
SoH adds new freedom of movement with a unique animation for every character but is limited to the tiles set by the character’s mobility stats. Luigi still sports his famous running style, Brawler is as menacing as always, and Rabbits have their individual identity & body language. My new favorite character is ‘Rabbid Rosalina’, a languorous emo teen with fun eccentric moments, who made me giggle even in the thick of the story. SoH also gives you new ways to navigate the battlegrounds. Apart from hiding behind the cover, now you can dash, and team jump around the tactical battle maps.
The ingenious way of adding distinct enemy types, with differentiated weaknesses, means I had to switch my hero choices and pair them with new Sparks to keep all the heroes alive in battles. The game even in its easiest settings requires a comprehension of rudimentary principles of the game, designing the best approachable strategy, and organizing your heroes to easily maneuver the enemies. On both lower & higher difficulties, the AI was quick-witted, and a lack of foresight on your part can let enemies easily change the tide of battle instantly. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope thus comfortably satisfy the needs of both casual and hardcore fans of the TBS genre.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is one of the must-play games on Switch this year. The bigger semi-open world maps filled with puzzles and mysteries let you break free away from the monotonous battles in the casual difficulty. The cutscenes are really amazing, the animations are great, and it has the chemistry of everything you love about a Mario game at its core. There are many elements to explore on different planets, and new NPCs to meet. The graphics are marvelous to look at on the 7-inch screen of the new Nintendo Switch OLED, and the colors hold up really well on LCD screens of both normal Switch & Switch lite models.
There are lots of in-game items and treasure hunts we are not explaining in detail to make this review as brief as I can. The 20+ hours of the campaign feel fulfilling and worth every bit of the time you spend here. So to conclude this Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope review, I will say it is a lively, enjoyable, pleasant experience that will doubtlessly offer you the opportunity to replay on different difficulties. With innovative gameplay mechanics, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope elevated everything best about the prequel, & rises to become a new star on Switch’s list of TBS games.
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