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Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Developer: Next- Level Games

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Action-Adventure

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $59.99

When Luigi’s Mansion 3 was first announced back in 2018, I already wanted it. If the Lord was willing, there was no other question about having it. I loved the first title on the Gamecube, and Dark Moon was okay, so I was eager to jump back into Luigi’s trials of spooks. Here’s how I felt about my comeback to the creeps. 

Content Guide

Ghosts/Undead: The game is centered around capturing ghosts and saving Mario and friends.

Petty Theft/Destruction: Luigi rummages through/ destroys objects and takes money from them. 

A gorgeous sunny day and a beautiful hotel…
What could go wrong?

Review

Cue The Shining Theme

Our game starts with Luigi having a nice snooze in the back of a tour bus with beloved brother Mario, Princess Peach, three toads, and a ghost pup who apparently has been following Luigi around since Dark Moon. Other than Toad’s uncharacteristically crazy driving (as he IS the best Mario Kart driver), it looks like a gorgeous vacation.

Similar to The Shining, everything seems pretty nice when the gang pulls up to the hotel. It even sparkles in the sunset! However, things soon turn sour when they separate into their respective hotel rooms. Within hours, everyone disappears and Luigi is left alone to save the day!

This intro is the best I have ever seen in a Mario game or it’s spin-off. I love having the ability to see the characters interact with each other in ways not normally seen, like Mario sitting next to Peach, Luigi sleeping in the back, and the Toads being happy little assistants with tasks such as carrying luggage. Luigi’s Mansion 3 has an intro much more personal than just another “Party at the Castle.” It has a Super Mario Sunshine vibe, just without getting wrongfully arrested.

Pf. E. Gadd looks as good as ever, but he might be a little off on his Virtual Boo prediction…
Nice Place Ya Got Here!

As with many of Nintendo’s major game series, the visuals of Luigi’s Mansion 3 are stunning, now more than ever. Though many cutscenes are the exact same render, such as when Luigi is shown putting in new buttons in the hotel elevator, I always watched them through, just to appreciate how much work was put into Luigi’s design. Luigi’s “L” is actually a patch stitched in his hat, which has a texture similar to denim. His gloves are made of rough cloth or leather, and his mustache has texture as well. Even with all of the attention given to Mario’s outfits in Super Mario Odyssey, I had never noticed such detail on either Mario bro until now. As a caveat, Dr. E. Gadd has never looked better, and I could watch his facial expressions and hear his funny talk literally all day.

Overall the same goes for each environment Luigi traverses through. From finding Easter eggs alluding to other games, to seeing the effect of water shining on a wall, Luigi’s Mansion 3 always manages to create a fitting atmosphere for each level’s design, yet still make them cartoony and navigable. 

“Huh this is neat, it’s a movie studi… IS THAT LITTLE MAC?!”
Ain’t Got No Business Going In There!

Typical of the Luigi’s Mansion series, Luigi’s Mansion 3 involves taking Luigi ghost hunting room-by-room in order to find ghosts, collect riches, and eventually save his friends and family. It’s pretty incredible to see each room individually designed, and to find ghost maids around just doing their work, such as dusting and putting up wanted posters.

Unfortunately, there were several floors I found pretty underwhelming. While it makes sense that not every room would be important within a hotel in terms of jewels or ghosts, it was a bit of a letdown to have, say, a pirate level reduced to being primarily a boss-stage, while the boiler-works had to be visited twice for story-related purposes. Perpendicular to that, it works well to have the game structured in a level-per-floor format, but it would have been nice to have that formula broken up a bit more, for monotonic reasons.

Here are the four main ghost types, in all their colorful glory.
Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters. The ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are the same types as the others. The Goob is the standard grunt that Luigi can easily suck up, Hammers are the brute type, and Oozers throw things at Luigi. Besides those three, Luigi’s Mansion 3 has two other unique types of ghosts: the Slinker and the Trapper. Any and all other types are just similar reiterations of the same character designs, with changes to size or rarity. In total, there are 7 common ghost types, which isn’t nearly enough over the course of 17-ish levels. I miss the bestiary-esque features that Dark Moon and the original Mansion had, as Luigi’s Mansion 3 no longer gives description of the character of each ghost you capture, only the number caught, representative of the bland, grindey nature of the ghosts in the game.

The boss ghosts are a different story, though. While chasing certain ones across a level got rather annoying (lookin’ at you, Dr. Potter!), each boss has a unique mechanic in their fighting style and character that felt really good to solve. I loved most of the boss battles within the game, and, for the most part, their difficulty was decently paced.

I was a little disappointed to find Next-Level Games kept the gameplay formula that was used in Dark Moon when it comes to characterized ghosts. One of the coolest features of the original GameCube title was that you could find the ghost of a unique character most anywhere, such as a rocking chair or bedroom. I fondly remember trying to figure out how to capture a ghost, and finding out I had to move a drafty curtain so I could catch her off guard and capture her portrait. It was a little creepy, but also more in-depth. While boss ghosts do still have their own puzzles associated to defeating them, Dark Moon and Luigi’s Mansion 3 have both done away with that random ghost puzzle formula, making them drier and emptier than the original Mansion.

One of the most unique “boss battles” was recorded as a Godzilla movie spoof. Awesome!
*Uncontrollable Laughter*

The controls are another aspect Luigi’s Mansion 3 has in connection to Dark Moon: they’re not the greatest. I may have been shooting myself in the foot, but I always had severe trouble aiming Luigi’s light with the Right Stick. This is because the stick serves two purposes: It rotates Luigi, but it is also how he aims his light up or down. Thus, just trying to aim up without moving too far to the right or left with such a small stick is always a pain for me, especially in the middle of battle. The settings were changeable for if Luigi was trying to suck up a ghost, but never helped much with his light flash, preventing me from stunning certain groups of ghosts efficiently.

Aside from the issue of aiming, I only had one other complaint, which was that Luigi’s Blacklight tool was mapped in a bad spot. While the plunger button was mapped to two buttons, (left bumper and Y), the blacklight is a more oft-used tool assigned to only one button, which is X. It may not sound like a big deal, but when fighting a ghost, it becomes frustrating when you keep shooting plungers at invisible enemies, who could have been caught in the split second that the mistake was made. Trying to aim the blacklight around when the stick and button both require your right thumb is a pretty obvious problem as well. In addition, the buttons maps are unchangeable, leaving the player to get used to it and struggle through, unfortunately.  

Some simple puzzles are definitely more convenient if someone else controls Gooigi…
Come Play With Us, Danny

One of Luigi’s Mansion 3’s clear selling points is it’s multiplayer-based campaign. While I unfortunately haven’t tested out that feature with another person yet, I can definitely tell where it would be a success. Several puzzles and enemies are designed to be taken on by two people at once, similar to the bosses in the Legend of Zelda: Four Swords games. Unlike those games, though, Luigi’s Mansion 3 does well in it’s one-player mode and has easy accessibility between Luigi and his co-op counterpart, Gooigi. It is also an appreciated boon to have enemies attack the conscious character more often, so that playing single player didn’t feel like trying to control two people at once. 

The ScareScraper makes a return in Luigi’s Mansion 3 from Dark Moon, and a new multiplayer mode called Scream Park was added, but due to these being entirely online/multiplayer based, I hadn’t touched them, and they really didn’t feel like a priority.

There it is, my final rank and coin count.
Is It Worth the Gold Coins?

Luigi’s Mansion 3 follows the same gameplay formula as its predecessors, in that it is meant to be a quality over quantity, arcade-style action-adventure that the player needs to repeat for the best Mansion/Hotel with the highest amount of money. To the story- seeker, it’s a small and charming nugget of personality, but no more. Overall, I would say that the experience is worth the price, but having friends to play it with and an eye for detail would certainly help make it better than playing without. 

Conclusion

Though not perfect, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a good game. The addition of a reasonable multiplayer feature sets it apart from its earlier games, and everything looks better than ever before. Ghost personality and variety are severely missed, but, similar to the control hiccups, can be overlooked. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a game that people of all ages can enjoy, and is an adventure with personality that arguably all Mario series fans should check out.

The End!
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Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Super Mario Maker 2

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Platformer

Rating: E for Everyone

Platform: Switch

Price: $59.99

Few things capture the sheer joy of playing a 2D Mario game either by yourself or with others. And there is nothing more magical than having the tools to make levels yourself. Why wait for something from the Big N when you can have limitless possibilities at your fingertips with a few button clicks. Super Mario Maker 2 is a treasure.

Content Guide

Violence: If you have played a Mario game before, you know what to expect. You can jump on, fire blast, hammer, or claw enemies depending on what tools are given to you by the level creators.

Note: While this is an E rated game, that does not mean there cannot be higher rated content within due to the game’s nature. Seeing as a vast majority of the levels in the game are made by the community, there is a possibility you find something offensive. This can come from something written with the level creation tools or in one of the comments, which can be turned off. Any game with user-generated content can have these issues, but Nintendo is moderating levels, so this chance is slim.

Review

Every time a new Mario game is released, there is no shortage of excitement from both the casual and hardcore audiences. Mario is something that transcends skill level and ranges from being a fun thing to play with your kids to a white-knuckled thrill ride racing your own times to be the fastest there is. And nothing matched the excitement that came when Super Mario Maker came out in Fall 2015, This lead to 4 million copies being sold, making it the 7th best selling game on the Wii U.

For the first time ever, Nintendo was releasing creation tools for the public to make their own content in a completely legal way. You no longer had to go to a university or download expensive software to design courses of your own imagination. The possibilities were truly limitless.

Needless to say, Super Mario Maker was an instant success upon release, and lead to an outcry for more when the Wii U’s successor, the Nintendo Switch, launched. Nintendo listened and announced Super Mario Maker in February of 2019 for a June release of the same year. With the promise of new features and the return of old favorites, this was a shoo-in for success. Super Mario Maker 2 is everything Nintendo promised it to be and more. 

We start story mode with the restoration of Princess Peach’s castle thanks to the Toads’ hard work. All is well and right with the Mushroom Kingdom. HOWEVER, Undodog has come to play. How fun! Uh oh, he found the Reset Rocket! With a mere touch, he has undone everything the Toads worked so hard to finish. Back to the drawing board—the Toads recruit you to bring in more income so they can make the castle once more, and better than ever!

 

Story mode has 100 levels for you to play, ranging from easy to super expert levels of difficulty. Each one of these levels has a unique twist on platforming that should ignite your sense of creativity. While most are based on getting to the goal, some of the best ones limit you on what you can do. One of my favorite ones restricts you from jumping. Since one of the core tenants of this series involves this, it is one of the most tempting things to resist as the level mechanics will carry you to platforms that would normally require you to jump. Anytime there is a new clear condition, I get giddy and anxious, wondering how it will shatter my expectations of what kind of Mario level I can make myself.

In the Make mode, you are given every tool asset from the story to make your own levels as the title implies. Pretty much everything from the predecessor, and some more. The game styles of Mario Bros, Mario 3, Mario World and Mario Wii U are all back with a new friend: 3D World. All of the assets of the first four are easily transferred between each other and not much is lost if you switch between them 3D World on the other hand, is its own separate thing, because everything is rendered in a different fashion; you have to redo everything if you make your level there but decide it would be better in another style. So you must be absolutely certain if you want to make it with those assets. Even though it is named 3D World, it is still only playable in a 2D fashion. While the new style is neat, the real main attraction addition to this game is multiplayer.

Multiplayer is the new kid on the block and he is one popular guy. With your Nintendo Online membership, you can race or cooperate with three other players from around the globe. In versus, a randomly-selected course is picked, and you must race other players to the goal. Once a player reaches the goal, the winners and losers are either given a rank, or it is taken from them on a scale from D to S. The problem with the computer picking the level is that sometimes levels are not always suited best for a competitive style of play. There are often levels that are best suited for a singular player. This is especially true for the puzzle-based ones. I personally believe that the straightforward platforming stages or the ones where each player is given their own section to beat are the best ones.

Cooperative levels are mainly the same, except the difficulty of the level is chosen by popular vote among the players. These courses are typically the usual levels you would find in the story. There is no life limit, but you do race the clock like in versus. If progress is made, players share it. If you hit a checkpoint, everyone can spawn there instead of the start or you can spawn on another team member. It certainly makes things easier if you are not as skilled as everyone else. The biggest headache about this mode is that there is no way to communicate besides preset messages that are no help when you are trying to get something across. When everything comes together, however, it makes for a great romp. I cannot wait for the friend lobbies so I can voice chat with them on Discord. I know there is local wireless at my disposal, but it is rare that I am in the same room with my friends that also have their Switches with them.

Overall, Super Mario Maker 2 is everything you could want from a creative suite. If you want to play only things made by others, you are covered. If you want to troll the living tar of everyone online, you have sixty-four slots to fill in uploads. No matter your 2D platforming fancy, this game has you covered. I cannot wait to play more and see what the community comes up with. Now if only the friend lobby update could be here sooner.

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Gaming Retro Reviews

Review: Luigi’s Mansion (3DS)

Developer: Grezzo

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Action-Adventure

Platform: Nintendo 3DS/2DS

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $40

One major qualm consumers bring up when someone mentions their love for Nintendo is that they produce nothing but ports, remakes, and “deluxe editions” of previously released games. Mario will jump on people in a new adventure, Pokemon will be caught and made to battle against the Champion, and The Legend of Zelda will always have you save the titular princess. The overarching story never changes and yet customers appear in droves and shower praise upon these series. Is the formula so tried and true that even haters have no solid points against it or is there a reason something as simple as a fresh coat of paint brings gamers back time after time?

Content Guide

Violence: Luigi sucks up ghosts into the Poltergust 3000, and sometimes that means he receives a few bumps and bruises, as he is dragged across the room and hit with projectiles.

Spiritual Content: There are ghosts and they are hostile. There is nothing to be afraid of, as everything is portrayed in a cartoon-like manner. There is a friendly ghost named Madame Clairvoya who tells you about Mario’s whereabouts when the player gives her Mario’s possessions.

Review

As one of twelve launch titles on Nintendo GameCube, Luigi’s Mansion received positive reviews upon launch and gained a loyal fan following. A departure from the usual, Nintendo decided this was the Mario-related title to kick off the sixth console generation. Not only was Mario put on the sidelines, Nintendo decided on a more whimsical approach to the horror genre. Instead of gore, jump scares, and maniacal villains, they decided a haunted house filled with ghosts would be the best option.

The story of the original 2001 version remains the same—as expected of a remake. Luigi wins a mansion in a contest he never entered and discovers ghosts have taken residence inside. Mario was there before him, but has yet to be seen. You must find your brother and bust these unfriendly residents like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. In order to do so, you team up with the kooky Professor E. Gadd and use his vacuum-like invention the Poltergust 3000. As one would expect from a horror-themed title featuring Mario characters, Boos play a big role in the story.

As you discover more rooms in the mansion, more Boss Ghosts are in need of capturing. While it is not required to capture all twenty-three, you are rewarded with treasure for doing so. This treasure goes toward what rank you receive at the end of the game and determines how large the mansion is the player receives from the professor.

If you played the original, none of this is new information. What is new is the addition of co-op and amiibo functionality. When you scan any Mario, Luigi, Boo or Toad; special things happen in the game. Mario changes Poison Mushrooms dropped by bosses, which make you unable to use your Poltergust, into Super Mushrooms that heal you. Boo shows you where three escaped Boos are and makes tracking them down easier. Toad will heal you when you speak with him after you have scanned the Toad amiibo. Luigi’s amiibo will summon a ghost dog to revive you should you fall in battle. All of this makes the game much easier to play, and function as physical cheat codes like most amiibo compatible 3DS games. In co-op, you partner up with a friend in Local or Download Play. If one of you has a copy, you can play a timed Boss Rush mode of all twenty-three of the mansion’s big ghouls. However, if both of you own it, the entire game can be played together, making for some great times with a pal. It is a shame that this does not support Online functionality, like Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon‘s Scare Scraper mode.

On the GameCube, controls were based around a twin-stick control scheme. As you move with the control stick, you can aim your flashlight and Poltergust to surprise and suck up ghosts. This remains similar on 3DS. But on the New 3DS system, you use the little nub and motion controls to aim. On paper, this makes sense and is a natural step in taking a game meant to played with two control sticks into one or two circle pads and a nub. The issue is that the nub does not always work the way you want it to. The easiest way to get it to work is to press on it with your fingernails. If you have the original 3DS with a Circle Pad Pro attachment, this works much better as you can move the pad with your thumb without worrying about how much pressure you are putting on one side of a tiny piece of rubber. The motion controls are also more of a hindrance than a helper as they also do not always work the most efficiently.

If you play with 3D on, having to move around the system will disrupt the effect, leading to image ghosting on the display. The 3D is best utilized when you are moving around room to room when there is not a lot of action on screen.

Another gripe I have is that some design choices feel dated. When you have the Fire, Ice and Water elements equipped, it can be frustrating having to back track to another floor so you can equip a new element instead of being able to swap freely between them. Warping freely between rooms and not just the foyer would be nice as well as there is no run button.

There is more to this remake than just bad controls though. The entire game was rebuilt from the ground up using a new engine. As to why a new engine was used as opposed to the one used for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is beyond me. Everything looks amazing regardless, the sound is crisp on the speakers, and the lighting makes the dark rooms creepy. The overall visual style is slightly different from the original release, but it was not something I felt would turn me away from enjoying it.

Overall, Luigi’s Mansion is one for the fans. If you enjoyed the original seventeen years ago, you have plenty reason to revisit the mansion. Even if you did not play it back then, you should check it out now.

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Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Mario Tennis Aces (Switch)

Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Sports
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $59.99

Mario Tennis Aces is the latest in a long list of Mario sports games, from Mario Tennis and Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64 to baseball, soccer, basketball, and more. These games have become known for their over-the-top Mario-flavored spins on the sports they simulate, sprinkling in Mario staples like red and blue shells, Piranha Plants, Bob-ombs, and other wacky cartoon elements.

In many ways, Aces represents a high-water mark for the Mario sports brand, though a few niggling flaws hold it back from greatness.

 

Content Guide

As is typical for Mario games, there is minimal reason for concern about the game’s content. Players sensitive to themes of the occult and magic will find the usual players in the Mario universe here: cartoon ghosts like Boo and Magikoopas. Other than that, the game’s clean as can be for a family or Christian audience.

Review

It’s a peaceful day in the world of Mario as he and his pals relax from their latest tangle with Bowser to play tennis. The featured kingdom of islands has a tennis court on every corner, of course, and confrontations with enemies are resolved with tennis. (Maybe we could learn a thing or two about these people’s method of conflict resolution!) Waluigi and Wario steal a super-powerful magic racketwith help from a bumbling Luigibecause that’s what villains do, and Mario must journey across stormy seas and snow-capped peaks to gather enough power to defeat them.

It’s paper-thin, but it’s fun. Themed areas offer a sense of progression as you move from a spooky wasteland dominated by a giant haunted mansion to a volcano with flowing lava and more. Mario wanders the overworld, overcoming tennis challenges and playing mini-games to advance as he builds up enough power to come back and win the tennis tournament, restoring light and balance to the land once and for all. Or something. With a couple of exceptions, Mario sports games haven’t really been known for their single-player modes or storylines, but this one’s worth playing through for the 5 or 6 hours it lasts.

The game’s boss fights are creative, fun, and increasingly challenging.

Gameplay

Tennis has a dynamic ebb and flow to it, where players test each other’s strengths and weak points until they find an opening and edge closer and closer to that perfect shot where they can finally exploit it. Every serve, every swing, every misstep builds toward the exciting resolution of a volley. The latest Mario Tennis succeeds because it successfully translates the beauty of the real-life sport into the digital world.

The first way Aces does this is its new power gauge: players can’t go for broke on every shot, but rather are forced to build their energy to the point at which they can finally let loose with a slow-motion precision shot. A full energy bar can be unleashed in a devastating super shot that’s very difficult to return. This presents an interesting gameplay dynamic you have to grapple with on the fly: do you save your energy for your super, or do you spend it little by little on precision shots and slow-mo saves? Players are forced to watch their opponent’s bar as well to figure out when their defenses are down and it’s a great time to fire away.

Previous Mario Tennis games could be frustrating because skilled players or high-level AI opponents could take advantage of the slightest mis-positioning on your part, with little chance for you to return. This is still true in Aces, as it should be, but now defenders have a couple of tricks up their sleeve: spending the power gauge for a slow-motion return and the trick shot. The trick shot lets you flick the right stick to make a physics-defying leap toward the ball. The net effect on gameplay is that volleys can last a little longer, but have more big, unexpected moments.

Powerful specials and slow-motion shots bring a fun, dynamic flow to the game.

Video games are fun when they give you these big moments, and Aces excels at playing with the basic rules of tennis just enough to give it that exciting Mario flavor Nintendo’s better sports games are known for. You still have all the strategic considerations of regular tennis, with a full arsenal of spins and situational shots, but then you get just enough randomness and new tactical considerations to make each volley that much more engaging.

The game also offers breakable rackets, but these don’t affect matches enough for them to really matter. Only when you decide to go all-in on a racket break strategy can you possibly do enough damage to your opponent’s repertoire of rackets to achieve the instant KO. This should have been a more viable option, because when you can pull it off, it really does open the game up a touch and fits nicely in with the doublethink a good match of tennis is based upon. In the current state of the game, the racket-breaking mechanic feels like an afterthought.

And that’s Aces‘ biggest flaw: too much of it feels like an afterthought. It’s got a great adventure mode, but doesn’t give players a reason to return to it. It almost offers true stat-building and character customization, but instead dangles features it in front of you as a painful reminder of what could have been. The game has some awesome ideas but lacks basics like the option to play full sets and matches or fine-tune other important settings. It’s really strange that so much of Mario Tennis Aces is a glorious refinement of the formula the franchise is based on, perfectly suited to the Switch’s lean portable design, and yet basic elements are left on the cutting room floor. Without a future update, I’m afraid this won’t have the staying power of Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64.

Ha! You just activated my trick shot!

Worth special mention is the Swing mode, which allows players to swing their Joy-Cons instead of push boring ol’ buttons. Despite the advanced design of the Joy-Con, Swing mode seems to factor in your swing’s timing much more than your angle or speed. I struggled to pull off basic spins and couldn’t aim worth much. I’d hoped this would be the killer motion-control tennis experience, but it’s not a huge leap up from Wii Sports’ classic tennis mode over a decade ago. This mode is best reserved for casual couch play in a party setting, unfortunately.

Mario Tennis Aces is gorgeous. Brightly colored characters stand out against busy, animated courts and crowds. Characters show off their unique and wildly different movement, trick shot, and super shot animations throughout a volley. The audio is nothing special, but hits all the right notes as the familiar characters grunt, shout, cheer, and moan throughout the highs and lows of each tennis match. Online play is stable, with only minor lag cropping up from time to time. The controls are perfect, as they’ve been since the Nintendo 64 days: tight and responsive.

Aces is a great addition to the impressive catalog of Mario sports games, with a strong “just one more match” feel thanks to its truncated match length and addicting power gauge gameplay hook. While it stumbles a bit thanks to some baffling omissions in gameplay and modes, ultimately Mario Tennis Aces succeeds because it builds on the intense seesawing power struggle of a real tennis match. It’s the best tennis game I’ve played in a long time, Mario or no, and it’s well worth checking out for Switch owners.

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Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch)

Developer: Ubisoft Milan
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy, RPG,
Rating: E10+
Price:  $59.99

Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is an answer to every Nintendo fan that has ever wanted the Big N to step out of their comfort zone and try something new with their established world’s and franchises. Combining many elements from the XCOM series and games like the Mario & Luigi series or Super Mario RPG, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a great entry point for children and families to get introduced to addictive, turn-based strategy gameplay.

Content Guide

While most Mario games boast a similar art style, Mario+Rabbids is an absolutely gorgeous game that shows off what the Switch is truly capable of.

Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a game that Nintendo fans of all ages can enjoy. The humor is slapstick and mostly reminiscent of the shenanigans that the Minions get into in the Despicable Me film franchise. There is no drug use, foul language, or sexual content of any kind. While the Princess Peach Rabbid does sometimes humorously pose for selfies, this is all done in jest and pokes fun at selfie culture in general with how ridiculous it is to try to take the perfect selfie in a time of peril, such as right at the start of a boss battle.

Rabbids remind me so much of the Minions from Despicable Me as they are always creating mischief and engaging in cheeky shenanigans.

While this game marks the first time that we have ever seen Mario, Luigi, and the gang use guns to combat enemies there is no extreme violence. Enemies are knocked out with stars over their heads when taking a hit and when defeated, vanish in a puff of smoke. Guns fire things like energy, honey, and ink. Melee weapons, such as mallets, and a weird yo-yo like contraption, are also available and only serve to flatten enemies but there is absolutely no blood or any other indication of injury or serious bodily harm in combat encounters.

Review

Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a collaborative effort between Ubisoft Milan and Nintendo. For the first time ever, Mario and pals will use guns, hammers, remote controlled bombs, and other weapons and gadgets to combat corrupted Rabbids in a VR style world. Led by new companion, Beep-O, a roomba-like robot that got sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom alongside the mischievous Rabbids, Mario and his new Rabbid pals must work together to find out how to restore the Mushroom Kingdom and send the Rabbids back home to their world. This beloved land has been splintered into wildly different areas: lush jungles, icy caverns, scorching deserts, and more.

Mario+Rabbids feels like XCOM in many ways. From a very similar battle UI to the way attacks and abilities are selected on a horizontal wheel.

When a VR headset, owned by a young Nintendo-obsessed child malfunctions, and the mischievous and child-like Rabbids are sucked into a VR world where they are introduced to Mario and friends. Not long after their brief introduction, a small, runty Rabbid runs off with the headset very much permanently attached to his face and begins transforming the Rabbids and other denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into violent, and sometimes hulking, monstrosities. It is up to Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and the Rabbids to stop this rogue Rabbid, and Bowser Jr. from destroying everything both the Rabbids and the Mushroom Kingdom hold dear.

Outside of battles, gameplay plays out similarly to Mario’s past RPG outings. Games like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga or Super Mario RPG will immediately stand out in the minds of players who have experienced these titles in the past. Exploration is encouraged as hidden chests are scattered all across the land. These chests contain various collectibles like concept art, soundtrack pieces, and figurines of characters from the game that can all be enjoyed in the hub world between story chapters. There are also rare gold chests that can be found by accomplishing certain tasks, these chests often contain new weapons and gadgets for the heroes and their Rabbid companions.

Exploring the Mushroom Kindgom’s lush, beautiful worlds with Mario’s companions at my side took me back to the glory days of Super Mario RPG.

Combat, the battle UI and, many gameplay elements such as the turn-based strategy seem to have been ripped straight out of the XCOM playbook. However, this is not a bad thing as Ubisoft and Nintendo have of course, put their own unique spin on it. While overwatch mode is a thing in Mario+Rabbids, it is not the only action that can be taken prior to finishing a turn during battle. Each character can do a combat slide during the normal movement phase that allows players to deal extra damage to especially tough enemies. These attacks can later be upgraded to allow certain characters to slide tackle two enemies during the same movement phase or add elemental attacks or after-effects to these moves.

No Mario game would be complete without an appearance from Bowser, or his aspiring protege and son, Bowser Jr.

Each character, out of the three that can be taken into battle at any time, can jump off of the shoulders of an ally to reach higher ground or to extend their range of movement during the player’s turn. For example, to gain a height advantage on the enemy team, Luigi, the team’s sniper, can jump off of Mario to reach a warp pipe on a higher section of terrain. This expands his attack range and even increases his chances of hitting an enemy that is currently hiding behind a piece of cover. Cover can be destroyed in battle leaving an enemy, or even our heroes, exposed and open to a powerful barrage of attacks. To circumvent this, players can use the slide tackle, shoulder jump, and their currently equipped gear to take out enemies before they have the chance to fire back. The aforementioned shoulder jump can also be used to jump on the heads of enemies, in classic Mario Bros. style, to deal additional damage while still extending a character’s movement range.

Cover plays an important role in Mario+Rabbids but be warned…it can be destroyed almost in an instant leaving players exposed and vulnerable to multiple enemy attacks.

While each character has a gun that is the primary means of attack, each hero also has a secondary weapon and ability that offers unique opportunities in combat. These weapons and abilities can be upgraded as the game goes on to become even more formidable in combat. For example, Rabbid Peach can heal herself and allies and has the ability to slide tackle two enemies in one movement turn. Mario can jump on the heads of enemies before he even chooses to use one of his primary attacks. Mario can  also choose to shoot an enemy with his Mega Man-like blaster or he can pull out his trusty mallet and bash them over the head to deal extra damage and potentially knock an enemy out in one hit.

Sometimes it is better to survey the battlefield before jumping into battle so there are no surprises once the fighting starts.

The battlefield also offers certain hazards as cover is destructible and is more susceptible to damage from elemental attacks like a blast from Rabbid Luigi’s rocket launcher. To help with this, players have the choice to dive straight into a battle or survey the battle to get a lay of the land before attacking. Character’s pants will sometime ignite and catch on fire after such an attack and they will run around briefly before stopping in place, often right out in the open and away from the protection of cover. There are even shockwave attacks that can knock characters off of the edge of the battlefield which often results in the instant death of that character. This is where the game’s difficulty can become grueling.

As the victory conditions for each battle don’t always entail simply wiping out all the enemies on screen, staying alive long enough to reach a designated escape zone can be quite the challenge. Enemy types are surprisingly varied and include heavier enemies that can smash multiple hero characters in a single attack or enemies who wield a huge shield and shotgun who can only be defeated via flanking. Some enemy encounters also continue to spawn in opponents until players can reach the designated victory area. While players are given a rating after each battle which yields better rewards, only one character has to make it to the marked victory area in order to come out on top.

However, battle and exploration are not the only types of gameplay that Mario+Rabbids has to offer. Red coins make their return and often provide players with a gold chest, containing powerful new weapons that can later be obtained in the Mushroom Kingdom shop with coins collected in each world. Between worlds, players can return to Peach’s Castle which essentially acts as a home base where players can purchase new weapons, view other collectibles, swap out the heroes in the current battle squad, and find other hidden goodies and collectibles. There is even a co-op mode that allows two players to work together in various combat challenges. Amiibo support is also included and certain amiibo will provide exclusive in-game weapons and gear for Mario and his pals.

One of many blue tinted VR-style bonus missions that allow players to unlock rare, powerful weapons and gear for Mario and friends.

Among the neatest surprises that I found during my time with Kingdom Battle are the blue Rabbid cannons scattered around each world. These cannons lead to bonus missions which have a sort of virtual reality look to them and often contain more challenging puzzles that yield better rewards. Most of these missions consist of collecting red coins within a set time limit, often about 30 seconds. However, as players complete worlds they will unlock abilities that allow them to push blocks or activate certain switches, these abilities come into play in these bonus missions in a big way as players often have a very slim margin of error using these new abilities in order to collect all of the red coins.

The special abilities obtained at the completion of each world can also be used at Peach’s Castle to access previously inaccessible areas. Players can also re-visit previous worlds using these abilities to obtain collectibles that were out of reach just moments ago. This lends a sense of replayability to the game and encourages players to explore every nook and cranny of the different worlds that Mario and his friends will visit.

Just like every game in existence for the last couple of years, Mario+Rabbids includes a title card for each new enemy and boss type as they are introduced.

Mario+Rabbids is exactly the the kind of revision that Nintendo needed to inject into its Mario games. By combining a familiar, yet alien style of gameplay with well known Nintendo characters and worlds Ubisoft Milan has created something truly unique that I honestly believe is one of the best Switch games to date. XCOM, and games like it, are some of my favorite games to play as they encourage players to not only use their skills as gamers but also to learn to come up with complex strategies on the fly to succeed. Nintendo fans and gamers who prefer tougher, more strategic gameplay will love Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle as it is something most players would never expect to see from Nintendo but yet here it is making its mark on the industry in a new era of gaming. Nintendo is making a statement with the Switch and this game shows that we should never, ever count Nintendo out when it comes to their creativity and passion for creating fun and unique gaming experiences for all types of gamers.

Is that a Game & Watch Watch?!

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