Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – Strong sequel or soft self-plagiarism?

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope releases on October 20. We played the title and explain whether the colorful crossover succeeds a second time.

Berlin – When Nintendo and Ubisoft introduced the strategy game “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle” in 2017, the crossover between the mushroom kingdom and the crazy rodents was admittedly met with skepticism. Beneath this colorful facade, however, was a highly addictive turn-based strategy game inspired by the model from the XCOM genre. The fact that “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle” is a fun and challenging game has also been appreciated by fans, and the title has sold over ten million copies on Nintendo Switch. We have already been able to try the sequel “Sparks of Hope” and we will tell you if Ubisoft can build on the strengths of its predecessor and if Sparks of Hope is more than old wine in new wineskins.

game name Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Exit 20 October 2022
Editor nintendo
Developer Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Paris
Platform nintendo switch
Sex Adventure, turn-based strategy game, role-playing game

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – New excitement in the mushroom kingdom

What is it about ? The story of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope can be summed up in a few words on a beer cap: the dark entity Misera haunts not only the Mushroom Kingdom, but also the entire Mario galaxy. The black space monster has sent his villains everywhere to grab the energy of the adorable “Sparks” (a cross between Rabbids and Lumas). So it’s up to our favorite plumber and his furry friends to cross the universe and save the galaxy and the sparks.

But let’s be honest: the story is typically secondary in Mario’s adventures and serves more as a nice bonus to put our protagonists in adventurous situations. But that doesn’t bother us. Raving Rabbids fans will find their fill here, because the ridiculous humor brought by the psychotic rabbits is present throughout the game, as in its predecessor, and provides the necessary winks.

A screenshot of Mario + Rabbids

How does Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope play? Like its predecessor, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a fairly standard turn-based strategy game. You take a position in an arena with a team of several characters and try to bring your opponents to their knees with ranged attacks or melee attacks. To do this, you alternate with the opposite team.

You always have to plan your action carefully, and you can, for example, heal your teammates or temporarily empower them with special skills to deal them particularly effective damage. After a match, you receive various experience points to upgrade Mario and your Sparks. This simple formula is supplemented by special abilities of certain characters and different enemies and playing fields.

What is new ? The biggest new feature of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is that you can now control your characters directly and place them more freely on the battlefield within their range of movement. In the previous game, you still had to navigate the terrain with a cursor. Thanks to this new freedom, battles generally gain more dynamism and seem less static. According to the developers, this news responds to a request from the fan base.

Screenshot from Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

The upper world between battles is also less linear and you can explore it more freely. It’s full of side quests, puzzles and little secrets for you to find. Additionally, in the previous game you had to have Mario fight as a team on the field, limiting your freedom to create a team. In Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, on the other hand, you can do without the moustached hero and freely choose who you want to fight with. This gives you more freedom to combine your heroes.

More depth on the battlefield: Additionally, you now have four active characters on the battlefield instead of three, and you can switch between them. In addition, battles gain tactical depth thanks to the different powers and special abilities of your heroes. For example, Rosalina can freeze an entire horde of enemies for a turn, while Peach takes advantage of a moment of respite to heal her team.

But to be truly effective on the battlefield, you need to skillfully use your heroes’ special abilities and combine them with each other. It’s also important to consider your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses in your strategy and gain advantages with appropriate items.

Screenshot of the game

You should also always be aware of where you place your heroes, for example to protect yourself from enemy ranged attacks. But you can’t take cover, mostly cover can be destroyed and the layout of the battlefield can even change drastically. Battle arenas become more and more complex as you progress through the game, offering more and more verticality with different stairs and multiple floors, requiring extra attention and planning from you.

Presentation, technique and performance: The colorful art style of “Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope” is timeless and utterly charming. Visually, the title is directly in line with its predecessor, and the attention to detail is clearly noticeable. However, we see how time has done its work on the Nintendo Switch. During our gaming session, we couldn’t help but think that the game would be much smoother and look much better on more powerful hardware.

A screenshot from Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

What does Sparks of Hope sound like? The show is accompanied by a soundtrack, again the work of Grant Kirkhope, who was already responsible for the music for Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64. Besides Kirkhope, there are also tracks by Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts). ) and Gareth Coker (Ori and the Blind Forest). The music fits perfectly into the general atmosphere without being disruptive.

Does the title work well on Nintendo Switch? Although the game aims for 30 frames per second, some particularly complicated cutscenes regularly tend to drop the refresh rate and the game starts to feel a bit jerky. But these moments were quite rare and fortunately not important in a turn-based strategy game, so the technique in no way hindered the enjoyment of the game.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – Here’s our conclusion on the preview

Our conclusion: Thanks to the three selectable difficulty levels, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is definitely suitable for beginners, but it offers some tactical depth and can get really demanding from the medium difficulty level. A classic case of “Easy to learn – hard to master!” For those who have had little contact with the turn-based strategy genre, the many guidance screens and menus may initially overwhelm them.

A screenshot of the game

But Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope has a steep learning curve, and after just a few hours you start to understand the mechanics of the game. It’s all the more satisfying when you start to assimilate the rules of the game and his own strategy really works. The only downside so far is the Nintendo Switch itself, as the title remains technically below its capabilities. But Sparks of Hope is already a smooth affair: the solid basic structure of its predecessor is here judiciously expanded, and the battles are simply fun.

It was even recently revealed that Ubisoft is planning three DLC packs for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, including one featuring Rayman, the company’s famous mascot, as a playable character. If you’re looking for a light-hearted turn-based strategy game that still offers tactical depth, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Mario + Raddbis: Sparks of Hope.

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