Nin­tendo

Devel­oper/pub­lisher Ubisoft (Paris, Mi­lan) For­mat Switch Re­lease Au­gust 29

EDGE - - GAMES -

Mario + Rab­bids King­dom Bat­tle, Metroid Prime 4, Rocket League, Sushi Striker: The Way Of Sushido, Xenoblade Chron­i­cles 2, Fire Em­blem War­riors, Yoshi, Metroid: Sa­mus Re­turns, Kirby

The last thing we ex­pected the Rab­bids to have was a brain. Yet the de­testable crea­tures’ next out­ing sees gam­ing’s most beloved avatar fights side by side with Ray­man’s furry, mo­ronic an­noy­ances. And it’s smart. This turn-based strat­egy RPG bor­rows much from XCOM. Yes, in­clud­ing the guns — we’re still strug­gling to process that. Miyamoto asked Ubisoft to “try and make a Mario game that has never been made be­fore”. Job done.

Our three-hero squad con­sists of Mario him­self along­side — bite your tongue, now — Rab­bid Peach and Rab­bid Luigi. The trick is ma­noeu­ver­ing each into favourable squares within their al­lot­ted move­ment fields (in­di­cated by a blue bor­der). You must set up at­tack rounds for your team while min­imis­ing the dam­age from the en­emy Rab­bids’ turns, us­ing var­i­ous kinds of of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive po­si­tion­ing — in­clud­ing half or full cover, as in the XCOM games — keep­ing team mem­bers with key skills close, while leav­ing emer­gency es­cape op­tions open.

Not that there’s much in the way of cri­sis in our demo. It’s frus­trat­ing that the AI doesn’t put up much of a fight, be­cause move­ment op­tions soar way be­yond XCOM’s stilted tra­ver­sal. We can send a char­ac­ter di­rectly to an en­emy square for a melee slide tackle, then se­lect where they skid to af­ter­wards. They can then per­form a fol­low-up shot from their blaster — if the per­cent­age chance is high enough to al­low a hit.

This combo proves es­sen­tial, and we’re soon in­cor­po­rat­ing the white warp pipes along the sides of the board. In a sin­gle turn, we can use them to get around the back of an en­emy, tackle them, then whizz through the pipes to the other side and into cover for a sec­ond shot at a dif­fer­ent tar­get. Send­ing them to an ally af­ter­wards also reaps div­i­dends: slide-strik­ing an en­emy with Rab­bid Peach, per­haps, then mov­ing her to Mario to be thrown be­hind cover.

One sec­tion fea­tur­ing a Chain Chomp that at­tacks the char­ac­ter clos­est to it re­quires a lit­tle more care over po­si­tion­ing, but oth­er­wise, it’s plain sail­ing. Per­haps it’s aimed at a younger au­di­ence, but there’s sig­nif­i­cant depth un­der Mario + Rab­bids’ vi­brant sur­face. Char­ac­ters and blasters of­fer spe­cific abil­i­ties: Rab­bid Peach can use her built-up en­ergy me­ter to heal the team, for ex­am­ple, while the Pi­ranha Pel­ter has a chance to deal en­emy-slow­ing ‘honey’ dam­age.

It’s a lot to take in, which is ei­ther a bril­liant sur­prise or in­tim­i­dat­ing, de­pend­ing on the age of the per­son pick­ing up the game. Whether it con­tains that Nin­tendo magic to cater to all ages is still doubt­ful – and such a dras­tic new style of game is quite the risk. But if there’s any­thing we’ve learnt, it’s that Nin­tendo re­tains the ca­pac­ity to counter ex­pec­ta­tions. So, on this ev­i­dence, does Ubisoft.

Bat­tles are bro­ken up by gen­tle ex­plo­ration, as you guide your gang around the Mush­room King­dom via a sort of sen­tient roomba named Beep-0

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