A few months ago, I had the opportunity to check out a bunch of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope gameplay and even spoke with creative director Davide Soliani to find out what makes this sequel so good unique. I’ve been drawn to this title since that day (well…since the game was released as it was) and was very excited about it because Ubisoft seems to have looked at the original and really focused on improving and iterating on the gameplay The slower and less engaging part. Of course, this is all just a speculative idea, or rather, because of it, since now that I have had a chance to play a few levels for a few hours, I can add One point, it was a very impressive experience.
First, before I dive into the gameplay, let’s talk about tone. Like the original Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Spark of Hope combines Mario’s charm and heroism with Rabbi’s humor and chaos. The heroes and characters based on the Mushroom Kingdom are once again brilliantly and perfectly delivered, and it’s all backed up by the macho Rabbi De Mario, the return of the endlessly hilarious Rabbi Peach, and this Ubisoft-based Support for various other new and returning faces of the IP hub. If anything, Ubisoft often feels like it has more creative freedom when it comes to how it presents each character, because each one’s charisma is deeper and broader than the first game.
This creative freedom can be seen in almost every turn of gameplay. Combat is a completely different beast than before, and I’ll get to that shortly, but just looking at the world design and the way you can explore, Spark of Hope already feels more like a Mario game than its predecessor. Each planet is presented almost as it is in Super Mario Galaxy (albeit on a level rather than spherical level). You can wander around as much as you want, exploring the quirks of each location, and finding off-the-beaten-track secrets and goodies, hidden from view, that provide useful information that can be brought into battle or used to level up heroes Or spark legends or useful items. There are also new characters to meet here, many of which will have side quests and other activities for you to complete, all with roaming enemies that, when engaged with them, will allow you to enter battle scenes.
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That’s where most of the next changes come into play, because unlike Kingdom Battle and its extremely rigid turn-based strategic combat system, here you’re more willing to approach combat in a way that suits you. During a turn, each character has a specific area in which they can move, and you can do so freely without worrying about grid space. You can also extend this range with team jumps, pipes, tunnels, and more, which means you can traverse the battlefield in a way that wasn’t possible before. Then, on top of that, you have the option to interact with certain enemies, like Bob-ombs, which can now be swiped to handle, then picked up and thrown at enemies within a single character’s turn, all without considering the use of action points to actually attack the opponent.
Here, you have the option to use two generally objectionable actions. It could be simply attacking an enemy with your weapon, or it could be the ability to use a special ability, or the newly added spark. These adorable Lumas and Rabbids combos allow your hero to charge new moves with the elements, such as fire attacks or water attacks. They’re great for knocking out healthy enemies that have some weakness to an element, and also give your hero some resistance against attacks that correspond to Sparks’ elemental type. You might be wondering, how can you possibly know what Spark is best to carry in battle before the battle scene begins? During the tactical pre-battle phase, you can use the Beep-O to study the enemy, so you can change your team or spark combo before getting into the details of the battle.
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While the returning characters all play pretty much the same way, I got a chance to play with a few new faces: Edge and Rabbi Rosalina. The latter is a terrific character when it comes to humor and her on-screen presence in movies like cutscenes, but in combat she’s more of a typical hero. She has a multi-shot primary weapon and can then use a special move to counteract any enemy attacks or movements throughout the turn. She plays a more discreet and safer character than Rabbids Mario, who prefers to get into the heat of battle and let his fists do the talking. On this topic, we have Edge, a pointy-haired heroine with a sword that would make Final Fantasy’s cloud jealous. She fights by throwing this sword at enemies, and can then also use her special moves to spin around the scene, attacking enemies that move near her. Edge feels very powerful and capable, and the kind of character you want, with Rabbi Rosalina’s team because she brings a tanky, aggressive presence.
There are also a few different ways of doing this in terms of progress. Each character’s skill tree is back, but skill points earned through leveling up (experience gained from combat) have been tightened, and skill points are equivalent to one level up – instead of the Kingdom Wars system, where you have to earn a bunch of them Energy Orbs are required to purchase an upgrade. In addition to that, you can upgrade your sparks using star slots you find by exploring and defeating enemies in battle to increase the effectiveness of each spark’s abilities. Of course, there are also gold coins to pick up along the way, which can be used to buy items like mushrooms in the shop, to make the fights more approachable – I recommend this as some boss fights have multiple stages and require you to be very strategic with your actions.
In general, I find it hard to dislike Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope from what I’ve seen. Compared to the original, it features an expanded and improved combat system followed by enhanced exploration offerings that make it truly feel like a top-notch Mario game. This no longer looks or plays like a turn-based strategy game. No, it’s pretty much a 3D Mario platformer with strategy elements, and it’s all done in a captivating and engaging way. Nintendo may have a stacked portfolio for the next few months, but if the rest of the game meets the criteria for the first two tiers, it might just be the cream of the crop when it arrives on October 20 .