E3 2017: Hands On: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch, 2017)

One of the oddest surprises of this year’s E3 Expo has been Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Ubisoft’s collaboration with Nintendo raised eyebrows when it debuted during yesterday’s #UbiE3 Press Brief but after spending some time with the game on the show floor this afternoon, we’re all but convinced that this is a game to watch.

The easiest way to describe M+R: KB is, and I’m sure this example will pop up again and again, is imagine XCOM with a Super Mario reskin. Many of its mechanics from squad make up, cover, chance-to-hit percentages and movement are similar to XCOM. It plays out in turn-based strategy fashion just like XCOM. The AI is surprisingly crafty and it is easy to find yourself left open and vulnerable, just like in XCOM.

Despite this similarity, the truth is that M+R is unlike any Nintendo game I’ve seen before. Nintendo love finding new genres and then kneading that genre in such a way that the addition of their characters feels like an entirely natural fit. This game is no exception.

Each combat phase is made up of a familiar sequence: 1) Movement, 2) Attack, 3) End turn, brace for impact. However, this can be augmented by planning movement paths past your enemies. Doing so will allow your unit to slide kick your foe for a little extra damage on the way to their destination. Additionally, you can double move by selecting a squad mate further ahead of you and using them to bounce off of to terrain further ahead. It’s important to note that, in the build we played, you still got to take your attack after doing this. I’ll be curious to see if things change in the retail build.

During our 30 minutes with the game, we found an awful lot to like, even from a pick-up-and-play stand point. The Nintendo helper who was tasked with taking me through each game hadn’t been able to figure this one out in the few minutes she’d had with it but over the course of my playthrough came to love it as much as I was. It makes sense.

Yeah. This one’s gonna be a meal, and having tried it as an appetiser, we’re ready for more.

The author is reporting from E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Accommodation in Los Angeles provided by Ramada West Hollywood. For rates and booking, click here.