Initial Release Date: 10/20/2022
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
Note: Mild spoilers only
Sequel to the popular Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle back in 2017, Sparks of Hope lights up Metacritic scores with its lovable crossover upon its release on October 20th, 2022. In Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Mario and team must travel across the galaxy and save the Sparks from the mysterious Cursa who wants to use their powers and spread Darkmess throughout the planets.
Did Ubisoft and Nintendo create another home-run or give us more of the same thing?
At the start of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, you start off with:
- Mario- the Well-Rounded Character: As the description suggests, Mario is a versatile combatant with his Dual Slinger weapon.
- Luigi- the Sneak Attacker (Sharp Shooter): He is the archer of the group who can snipe enemies from afar.
- Peach- the Protector: Although she has a valuable Team Barrier ability, don’t underestimate her Boom-Brella.
- Rabbid Mario- the Brawler: This overly-confident Rabbid is excellent with close contact.
- Rabbid Luigi- the Pest: He is able to weaken enemy attacks with his Exhaust ability.
- Rabbid Peach- the Healer: In addition to healing her team, her Triple-Troll can reach even the most well-hidden enemies .
However, you meet additional teammates with each world you visit, adding a plethora of options to approach your battles:
- Edge- the Blade Master: She is an excellent Rabbid with a strong, throwable sword.
- Rabbid Rosalina- the Demotivator: Her ability to lock enemies in place temporarily is extremely valuable.
- Bowser- the Overseer: Big roar, big gun. Boswer is a force to be reckoned with.
Now, to address the question at the top of this review:
There are a few differences you’ll notice if you’ve played the first game. One major and obvious one is that the Rabbids talk! For those that have known the Rabbids over the years, they normally shout gibberish, but the dialogue is quick, witty, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s a touch of voice acting to cover a few words. Also, as I will elaborate further, battles in Sparks of Hope no longer have grid-based movement. Each character can free roam within their defined area during their turn.
There are other improvements and additions such as different weapon skins, the Sparks, and manner of leveling up. I noticed that all your characters level up at the same time. Although convenient, it does seem to diminish any motivation to swap them out regularly. Because of this, I tended to stick with my main three (Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Rosalina with Bowser as my back up) unless a particular challenged called out for a particular set of skills.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a beginner-friendly turn-based strategy game where you can rotate through a team of three at a time. Each level compromises of a planet you can free roam until you run into an enemy or leap into a Darkmess area. Upon contact, you are transported to a platform where your goal is either to eliminate all or targeted enemies, reach the other side of the course, or complete any other objective. Using the turn-based strategy gameplay, you can leap with the assistance of another character, move about a limited space, attack, or buff your way to your goal. You can dash into enemies–even activate and toss a Bob-omb!
You can choose between three difficulties, restore HP for a price, and swap team members and/or Sparks before initiating the battle. Beep-O can also fly around and analyze your enemies for weaknesses and immunities. Overall, the battles are on the easier side and simplistic (e.g. attacks have 0%, 50%, or 100% chance of hitting); however, the varying puzzle aspect keeps things interesting. Also, as you progress through different planets, you encounter a wider variety of enemies with different skill sets and abilities.
There are several Sparks you unlock when you defeat certain battles. There are ones that deflect damage, boost attack power, add elemental powers such as fire, water, ice, and electricity, and attack themselves, such as Toxiquake with its Shockwave Ooze! Some of my favorites include:
- Exosphere– a great defensive Spark
- Vampdash– when attacking, this Spark retrieves some health for you
- Ethering– Makes you invisible for a length of time
- Electroid– powers your weapon with electricity
Sparks can also be leveled up with Star Bits, and you can carry more than one Spark per character later on in the game. Because each battle consists of a variety of enemies with strengths and weaknesses, it’s important to check and swap them out each time as needed.
While you are battling the Darkmess, there are also a few optional side quests available. They are relatively simple–most are fetch quests. While not required, they are fun, and some provide a reason to return to planets you’ve already visited.
The art direction relies on bright colors and smooth textures–it’s not difficult to feel warm and fuzzy when booting up Sparks of Hope. Even the different planets have strong themes: Beacon Beach (summer), Pristine Peaks (winter), Palette Prime (fall), and Barrendale Mesa (desert). Of course, while all’s bright and colorful, it’s hard to ignore some frame rate drops and murky backgrounds. The textures are not like a first party Nintendo Mario titles, and many can tell this was a third party creation fumbling its way through the Switch hardware. While it may bother some, I would not call it immersion-breaking. Music is pleasant, upbeat, and not bothersome.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope delivers. As a successor to Kingdom Battle, Ubisoft brings new characters, witty dialogue, and just enough changes to bring us a fresh game. There are clear ties to Mario Galaxy with the Sparks, Rosalina, and travel to various planets.
Does Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope do anything new or revolutionary? No. Are there flat textures and frame rate drops? Yes. However, this game succeeded in what it intended to do–provide another grand adventure steeped in the Mario and Rabbid crossover that makes the turn-based strategy genre easy to swallow for beginners. This game is not for everyone–as some may complain it’s not a “true” turn-based strategy game. It’s not a powerful next-gen game, but if you’re looking for some more fun with the Rabbids, Sparks of Hope does not disappoint!
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