Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Game Review: Out of This World…Literally

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2017’s “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle” saw the lovable Nintendo mascot teaming up with Ubisoft’s minion-like Rabbids to save the Mushroom Kingdom. I was sure the game would be awful, yet I bought it on launch regardless. I sat down prepared to be disappointed.

But I wasn’t.

The game was excellent. The turn-based battles were exciting and strategic. The story, while not amazing, actually didn’t bother me all that much. Some of the puzzles actually required me to think hard. Heck, the game looked beautiful despite releasing only a year after the Nintendo Switch debuted. Needless to say, when a sequel was announced in the form of “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope,” I was beaming with excitement. Now having finally finished the game, I can safely say that it exceeded my expectations, and they were quite high, to begin with.

I will go on record to say that I hate the Rabbids. They are annoying, and they’re poorly designed. In Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, they lived up to their reputation, though I was able to look past it because the rest of the game was so good. However, in “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope,” I didn’t once find them annoying. They were actually characters with personality, and almost all their designs were unique.

 In the first game, only a few Rabbids had new designs. In this game, however, you’ll only find a few Rabbids with their original design. For example, the Rabbids of each planet are designed differently to reflect the world they come from. This allows a greater variety of world-building, and it stops the player from getting bored with the same design over and over again.

Returning from the first game are Mario, Luigi, Peach, Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Luigi, and Rabbid Peach. These characters all have new weapons and new combat capabilities. For example, Mario now has two guns rather than just one. Oh, did I not mention it? Mario has a gun. Not a typical gun that shoots bullets as you might think, but a gun nonetheless. Regardless, there are three new characters who join the party throughout the story. They are Rabbid Rosalina, Bowser, and Edge. Edge is a new character that uses a sword to attack enemies, which is pretty fun to watch.

New to this game are the sparks, which provide a variety of combat skills that can be used in battle. Sparks are a fusion of lumas (little star-shaped creatures with magical abilities, first appearing in “Super Mario Galaxy”) and Rabbids that can be obtained by completing specific missions in the game. I found it fun to test out new combinations of sparks for each new battle. They also provide resistances and weaknesses, which are important as enemies can easily exploit them if you’re not careful.

Battles in the first game took place on a grid-like battlefield, where you could perform actions until you passed the turn to the enemies. In this game, the grid is gone. There is free movement in your character’s designated range, where you can deal damage and hide behind cover until you’re ready to pass the turn. You may only bring three party members into battle except for a few battles where four are available. Battles are highly strategic and extremely fun. It’s similar to the ‘XCOM” franchise. I can’t tell you how many times I got giddy with excitement every time I executed actions that decimated the enemies’ health and got me to safety. With the upgrades available, you can deal serious damage to the enemy before they even touch you.

The story sees Mario and the team heading into space to stop the evil Cursa from kidnapping the sparks and using their powers. All the while, they’re being chased by Cursa’s army, which becomes more powerful as the game progresses. The story isn’t anything new, but it works. In fact, it’s pretty dark at some points, which is a breath of fresh air in a Mario game. 

All of my problems with the first game were fixed in this one. There is now voice acting, which I wasn’t expecting when I booted up the game. The world is less linear and more open, which is also always nice to see. The game looks just as beautiful as its predecessor, which I was happy to see. The frame rate does drop in the late game when there’s a lot going on, but I didn’t really care because everything else was so good. 

This game was amazing. I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. Everything I was hoping for was delivered, and more. There’s so much side-content too that even after the main story you’ll still be busy. I am happy to say that this might be one of the best titles Ubisoft has ever published.

Score: 9/10