We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope

Ubisoft had a major crossover hit with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle back in 2017 and is looking to build on that with Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope. The game actually had a positive impact in a lot of ways as its one of the few Nintendo-related properties that the company wasn't 100% in control of, one of the few Nintendo crossovers with major characters from a franchise, one of the few Nintendo-related RPG titles not named Fire Emblem, and one of Ubisoft's most successful partnerships with another gaming company all rolled into one. What's more, a lot of players who tried the game out admitted that the first game was both their first RPG and first Tactical RPG experience, which says a lot about both the Super Mario Bros. and Rabbids brands.

Ubisoft was kind enough to fly us out to San Francisco for a special preview event for the game, where we got to play about six hours of it across a couple of levels. Here's what we experienced for ourselves.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

So first off, this does not play like the original as they have changed up some of the mechanics and gameplay. You start the game by being able to walk around freely in the Mushroom Kingdom, learning how to do several tricks and moves with Mario before the story kicks in. Once it does, the real tutorial begins as you learn different skills and combat maneuvers on the back of an astronomical whale. The first major change is that the hex-system for movement is gone. You now have the ability to freely move about in a designated area based on each character's movement speed. You don't have free reign, but you can maneuver about for a bit. If you've played XCOM, you know what's up. You have a slide move that can be used to hit multiple enemies at once and take HP away from them before you make your final attack choice. You also have a special ability that charges up over time, giving you a bonus option depending on the character. For example, Mario gains an extra bit of accuracy when shooting characters, while the Peach Rabbid can heal multiple characters in a specific radius.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

Once you're done with the whale, you'll discover that multiple galaxies are being attacked by a new force of evil known as SupaMerge. It will be up to you and the crew of Mario characters and Rabbids counterparts to visit each one and make things right again. Yoshi and his Rabbid are not here, but they are replaced with a Rosalina Rabbid and a few extra characters to choose from. Each world you visit, you will have a chance to choose who is in your party, starting off with two characters and eventually building up to three. The first level we visited was a beach area where it's constantly raining. Some of the terror that SupaMerge has caused has touched here, but not everything is hopeless as you see some things you can take care of and attempt to repair the damage done here. Part of this is restoring the place to some of its former glory, while other parts of it include finding special Star Rabbids who all have different personalities and abilities to aid you. (More on that in a moment.)

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

To get the job done, every character will have their own skill tree that they can build up over time. Each of them is divided into five categories, as you can see four of them above. Each one will give you more health, movement, weapon power, and special techniques that will aid in making each character amazing. You'll be able to increase the abilities in each of these by defeating enemies and earning bonuses along the way, but there's a lot of ground to cover so even if you take on every battle you can in one stage, you'll still need to manage these out for every character to get the best results when moving into harder areas.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

The combat in Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope flows really well. It reminded us a lot of Earthbound where if you get the drop on a character, you go first. But if they attack you, they get the first movement. Each battle has its own flavor where you'll need to figure out the best positioning for all of your characters in order to take out the most enemies in the fastest amount of time, or at least position yourself well to take out a single enemy and plan for the next onslaught. Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope can be challenging as there were many battles that did not have an obvious solution, and we ended up being defeated. That said, there is a learning curve, and battles do get easier once you figure out the best way of handling them.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

Some of that can be eased with the aid of Sparks. Sparks are essentially bonus characters that follow your main characters around and have special abilities that come into play at different moments. As you can see from the image above, they each come with a different personality and power, with the Purogeddon able to inflict a ton of burn damage if you use the Burn Super Effect from Marion, while Exosphere adds shielding to everyone within a specific radius to reduce damage. There are a ton of these sparks that you can find and collect throughout every level of Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope, and you can also level them up and make them do greater things as they get more powerful. However, they also have a health meter and can be taken out of the fight at any time, so you'll need to take care of them as well.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

We also explored a second area that was a snow-covered kingdom with its own lore and history, which we weren't quite expecting but should have been from the start. The team went into every detail with this as you might expect from a normal Mario Bros. title, giving every Rabbids-filled world its own personality and feeling as you delve into what makes everything about it special. You'll explore different lands with puzzles and challenges, watching the story unfold in a dramatic but also funny way as the game knows exactly what it is. Especially with every scene practically being stolen by the Peach Rabbid. The one downside to all of this that we could see is that the game has no multiplayer feature, which was one fo the cool bonuses to the first game as you could work with a friend to decide what needed to be done. Maybe it'll be added later, but to know it won't be a part of the game at launch was a little disappointing.

We Got To Preview Mario + Rabbids Spark Of Hope
Credit: Ubisoft

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing this demo version of Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope. The game has a ton of variety that RPG fans will enjoy and enough creativity that even non-RPG players will get a kick out of learning. But we do acknowledge we haven't tried out the full game yet or experienced everything it has to offer in full. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to do that next month as the game will be released on October 20th for Nintendo Switch.

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About Gavin Sheehan

Gavin is the current Games Editor for Bleeding Cool. He has been a lifelong geek who can chat with you about comics, television, video games, and even pro wrestling. He can also teach you how to play Star Trek chess, be your Mercy on Overwatch, recommend random cool music, and goes rogue in D&D. He also enjoys hundreds of other geeky things that can't be covered in a single paragraph. Follow @TheGavinSheehan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vero, for random pictures and musings.
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