Saturday, December 23, 2017

Paris + Milan: Mario Strategy

I've been chipping away at my small library of Nintendo Switch games over the last couple months.  Legend of Zelda and Mario Kart are won and done, but I've only just completed MARIO+RabbiDs: Kingdom Battle (rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?).  It's an interesting game that just missed out on winning the "Avant-Garde" category for my 2017 list of awards.  The writing is pretty clever in places and the basic small-squad, turn-based firefights are great.  Players might be reminded of XCOM.  What's on offer here though is both a distillation and refinement of the mechanics found in that game.  Sadly, it's not all sunshine and stars in the Mushroom Kingdom.

One of the less stellar aspects of MARIO+RabbiDs (it's not a typo!) is the difficulty curve.  Of the four worlds found in the game, the first and second are extremely easy.  Meanwhile, the fourth and final world gets brutally hard toward the end.  I'm not even talking about the last boss so much as the four back-to-back battles featuring cameos by RabbiD Wario and RabbiD Waluigi.  The healing abilities of Princess Peach (or her RabbiD counterpart) are pretty much required to endure the waves of enemy units.  It's not a dealbreaker, but the viable team selection does feel awfully limited in the late game areas.  Outside of combat there's a decided lack of compelling things to do.  Exploration is fun, but requires a lot of backtracking and the rewards for solving puzzles and claiming a prizes are more often than not lackluster collectables like concept art.

So, there you have it, Mario+RabbiDs has a strong core gameplay element surrounded by some weak peripheral components.  That said, getting to battle a ghost/rabbit/gramophone hybrid world boss, who delivers operatically sung  hints as to how he can be defeated, is one for the books.  I also think the anti-discriminatory rule built into the team selection system is amusing.  Requiring players to choose at least one RabbiD team member might piss some Nintendo purists off, but for me it's schadenfreude.  As far as third-party treatment of iconic Nintendo characters go, it could have been better...but then again, it could have been a lot worse.

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