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It’s funny how Ubisoft‘s best effort in years is a Mario game.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope comes out for Switch on October 20. The strategy RPG is a sequel to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, which debuted back in 2017. Sparks of Hope is an improvement on its predecessor in just about every way.
While Kingdom Battle was a tile-based affair, Sparks of Hope offers more freedom on the battleground. Characters have a limited range of movement each turn, but they can walk and plant themselves anywhere within that range. It may sound like a small change, but it helps make combat feel less rigid.
Are Rabbids really a plus?
Speaking of characters, this includes Mario and friends … and their Rabbids counterparts. Look, I’m not the biggest fan of the Rabbids. Their Minion-esque energy is just too much for me. But even with Kingdom Battle before, Ubisoft has mellowed the little creatures a good bit, making them less obnoxious and more just silly.
Sparks of Hope continues that trend, so much so that I’m not even sure why they have to be Rabbids anymore. I’d feel happier if, like in Super Mario RPG, we just had a cast of new characters. Granted, we do get one of those with Edge. She’s a, uh, edgy Rabbid who looks like she took all of her fashion advice from Final Fantasy characters.
So, OK, nice to have a new character. But here, it’s even more confusing why she’s a Rabbid at all. She has none of that slapstick, zany energy that used to define the creatures. She even has a completely normal voice. Granted, I’m not all the way through the game, hence why this isn’t a full review. Maybe I’ll come around on Edge. Right now, her addition confuses me.
Sparks of joy
On a more positive note, I’m a big fan of the titular sparks. You can equip these little guys to your characters, and each comes with a passive bonus and an active ability. One will boost damage for you and any nearby allies, for example. Another will add a fire effect to your attack, giving you some bonus damage and burning your target.
Along with these sparks, you get a large and varied cast of characters to play with. You can put three into your party, each with different specializations. Luigi is a sniper who can deal more damage the further away a target is. Rabbid Peach can heal her allies directly, while regular Peach can offer temporary invulnerability. Along with mixing and matching these characters with different sparks, you can play around with a lot of different builds and strategy.
And that’s the most important thing. The strategy and tactics of this strategy tactics game feel great! Sure, I still find something about the Rabbids off-putting, even in their neutered, less bombastic form here. But, hey, I’m free to make a team with all Mario characters anyway.
I can’t score this one yet, as I haven’t finished it. But if you’re looking for a basic recommendation, consider it given.