Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
“Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope makes excellent tweaks to Kingdom Battle’s winning formula, especially in relation to its more creative tactics.”
- Strong exploration
- Excellent combat tweaks
- Distinct characters
- Strong customization via Sparks
- Flexible challenge
- Unpredictable enemies
- Long battle animations
If the Mario franchise has taught us anything over the past three and a half many years, it’s that sometimes change may be for the very best. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is one other fantastic example of that. Moderately than rehashing the successful tactics formula that made 2017’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle a surprise hit, Ubisoft switched the recipe up for its sequel by ditching traditional grid-based battles. Though that call can have raised eyebrows for anyone who fell in love with the primary game, I can’t imagine the series playing every other way now.
Don’t panic: The basics of the 2 games are still the identical. Sparks of Hope is a tactics game where Mario and his friends team up with their Rabbid doppelgangers to take down enemies in turn-based battles. Nevertheless, the sequel brings a number of essential changes that improve on the unique’s ideas fairly than throw them out the window. Less rigid combat, a greater emphasis on exploration, and a stronger approach to character constructing all make the sequel feel as fresh as the unique did in 2017.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope shines because of its reworked tactics, which make way for a few of the very best turn economy I’ve seen within the genre up to now. Though it doesn’t fix all of its predecessor’s issues, it’s a worthy follow-up that ranks among the many Nintendo Switch’s best exclusives.
Super Rabbids Galaxy
Drawing inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy this time around, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a more intergalactic journey. Mario and his pals (each human and Rabbid) team as much as stop Cursa, an evil force that’s seeking to sow chaos within the galaxy by consuming Sparks, creatures which can be a hybrid of Rabbids and Galaxy’s Lumas. The vague, cartoon narrative doesn’t really matter much; it’s just an excellent excuse to explore five visually creative worlds.
Galaxy often is the primary visual inspiration here, however the world structure jogs my memory of Super Mario Odyssey greater than anything.
Exploration is far more essential to Sparks of Hope than it was in Kingdom Battle, and that’s one in all its best changes. Though there are primary story missions to finish in each world, they’re largely open-ended with side missions and secrets scattered throughout. Galaxy often is the primary visual inspiration here, however the world structure jogs my memory of Super Mario Odyssey greater than anything. Combining that with Ubisoft’s usual “map game” variety of play makes the sequel work even higher as a conveyable game which you can play for five minutes and make some form of progress.
While the majority of quests revolve around tactical encounters, there’s far more to do outside of combat. Short coin-collecting challenges, fishing minigames, world riddles, and more help break up the longer battle sequences, bringing more variety and defining the series beyond its core hook. I’m most pleasantly surprised by a few of its puzzles, each traditional ones and environmental ones that open up recent paths on the planet. The sport’s best side activity is available in the shape of secret doors, which contain a small puzzle room that hearkens back to the diorama-like charm of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
The worlds themselves take a step up visually too, working well with the restrictions of the Switch. Kingdom Battle’s levels felt like somewhat basic Mushroom Kingdom fare, moving between archetypical platformer worlds. Environments are more vibrant and densely full of detail here. The moment I step into the ice-themed Pristine Peaks, I can immediately see a rock cave shaped like a Rabbid head, a rickety wood path built around a snowy hill, a ship frozen in a lake, and more. By the top of my stay there, I’ll reach all of those areas and even find more hidden around, like a ghostly mansion that serves as its own separate dungeon.
There are discoveries tucked away in every nook and cranny, whether that be well-hidden secrets or some type of level design sight gag (like a Wiggler trapped in a snow globe). Those changes bring the tactics game more in keeping with a contemporary 3D Mario game, making it feel like a more natural marriage of Ubisoft and Nintendo’s design philosophies.
While the exploration is a refreshing change, the wonderful tweaks to its tactical battles are really where Sparks of Hope stands out. Moderately than sticking to a strict turn-based grid formula, Ubisoft has loosened the foundations of battle up a bit so as to add in some real-time motion ideas. Players have two actions on any given turn, which they’ll use to shoot, use their special ability, or activate a Spark skill. Two actions may not sound like quite a bit, but Sparks of Hope has a unbelievable approach to show economy that permits players to chain together quite a bit more moves directly, something that capitalizes on Kingdom Battles excellent Donkey Kong Adventure DLC.
That’s mostly because of an enormous change in how movement works. Not only are players now not restricted to a grid when traversing a battlefield, but it surely’s a completely free motion that may be performed in between skill uses and even other heroes’ turns. Jumping off a teammate’s head or dashing into an enemy are also free actions, meaning players can accomplish quite a bit on a turn without even spending some extent. That opens the door for far more creative turns that had me switching between my three characters in between actions to execute complex sequences.
The perfect laid plans make turns feel like a puzzle game where you’ll want to stretch your actions so far as you possibly can.
On one turn, I can run forward as Peach after which switch over to Rabbid Rosalina and jump off of her to maneuver even further into the battlefield. Then, I can switch to Rabbid Peach who can leapfrog off each of them to achieve a spring pad inside range of enemies, and switch back to Rabbid Rosalina to springboard even farther. From there, Rosalina can dash into an enemy, inflicting ennui on them to silence them for a turn. The remaining of my party focuses on one other nearby enemy, spending their dashes and attacks to take them out. With one motion left over per character, I can use a toxic shockwave spark to poison nearby enemies and trigger Rosalina’s special ability to silence all enemies inside range. The perfect-laid plans make turns feel like a puzzle game where you’ll want to stretch your actions so far as you possibly can.
There are lots of key ways in which Sparks of Hope keeps that have feeling fresh battle after battle. For one, each of its nine characters is entirely distinct from each other. Mario wields two mid-range guns which he can fire at two separate targets, while the newly added Bowser can summon a military of mecha-koopas to blow up on enemies and inflict fire damage. Different character combos create entirely recent strategies. For example, anytime I used to be faced with a mission that required me to easily reach an area, I’d equip my designated movement team: Luigi, Edge, and Rabbid Mario. Constructing each character’s skill tree around team jumps and movement range, I used to be often in a position to complete those missions in a single or two turns, sending Luigi safely across a whole map with a careful motion order of operations.
The titular Sparks play an especially big role in constructing characters. By mid-game, players will give you the chance to equip two Sparks on each character, giving them 4 total actions to pick from on a turn. Sparks have a ton of applications, from augmenting attacks with elements to deflecting damage back onto enemies. That permits for some clever customization potential, even when a personality’s weapon stays the identical. For example, I equipped Luigi with a Spark that might turbocharge his damage and one other that might turn him invisible for a number of turns. That may let him sneak deep into enemy territory and pick off enemies along with his overwatch skill without taking a scratch.
All of that doesn’t take away from the franchise’s best trait: It’s still an incredibly approachable tactics game. With added difficulty options that may be turned up or down on any battle, it’s still a terrific entry into the genre for teenagers or newcomers. But veterans of games like XCOM can have a field day constructing a team that’s able to wiping out half the enemies on screen before taking a single point of harm.
What’s not recent
Though Sparks of Hope makes some key improvements, there are still some pain points from the primary game that hold true here. For example, it’s still very hard to read an enemy’s range of movement. You’ll be able to click on an enemy to see its movement area, in addition to weaknesses and resistances, but that every one goes out the window once they move through a pipe. I’d often need to restart battles one turn in when enemies on the opposite side of the screen chained their option to me and killed a teammate almost immediately.
Turn animations can take a torturously very long time in missions which have a dozen enemies on screen …
Battles may be incredibly slow too. While there’s a fast-forward button, there’s no option to outright skip enemy turns. Even at a quicker speed, turn animations can take a torturously very long time in missions which have a dozen enemies on screen and portals that slowly spawn out two or three more a chunk. Some long loads when opening menus can similarly put a dent within the pace. I’d often only go into character menus after I could upgrade a bunch of heroes and Sparks directly, fairly than making micro-changes on the fly.
Those issues make for some frustrations throughout, but they don’t take away from what’s an overall stronger installment of the young franchise. It makes for a standout 30-hour adventure that’s fun from end to finish. And while it doesn’t have post-game content, its worlds are loaded with some genuinely difficult missions that’ll test your ability to maintain a busy battlefield under control (plus, several DLCs are planned, including a Rayman expansion). One “epic” boss fight against a large Goomba on a small stretch of land had me occupied with every little movement so I could keep safely kiting my team around it while conserving as much of the map’s limited cover as possible.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope isn’t just one other Nintendo Switch hit; it establishes the tactics franchise as one in all Mario’s finest spinoffs. Like a tactician planning out the proper turn, Ubisoft has made all the precise moves to maximise Kingdom Battle’s strengths, positioning the series as among the best tools within the publisher’s current arsenal.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.