Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope no Switch
In a year where tactical RPGs are flying out of your ears, it can be difficult to break out of this genre and do something new and unseen before. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has no problem standing out because it's such a crazy idea that it still doesn't make any sense. However, it just works.
Following up on 2017's Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope brings the Rabbids and Mario combo back, but takes it to the next level. That's right, Rabbids can talk. We'll get to it.
After a few moments with this game, it's easy to see that the world, story, and gameplay have improved in every way over its predecessor. Exploration is more detailed, characters are more engaging, and the battle system is more strategic and challenging than ever before.
The story is quite simple. A mysterious enemy known as the Cursa is in search of Sparks who will help her gain ultimate power and rule the entire galaxy. Sparks are a combination of Lumas and Rabbids and come with powerful abilities that you can use in battle.
Our heroes Mario, Peach, Luigi, Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Peach and Rabbid Luigi are thrown into the fray when Cursa attacks the Mushroom Kingdom, launching them on a journey to stop Cursa's terror and rescue all Sparkles.
As you travel through each planet, you'll encounter Darkmess, a black goo that has ruined the planet's ecosystem. It's your job to help the planet's Guardian by clearing Darkmess and using that purified Darkmess energy to take your ship to the next planet.
The planets in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope really show how this game improves on the formula and makes it that much more engaging. From exploration to battles, this game makes its predecessor feel empty and unfinished.
Each planet requires you to fight your way through the Darkmess that blocks the way to the goal. It becomes a puzzle where you manipulate blocks, throw rocks to clear the darkness, find special keys to open doors, and place and rotate a variety of objects to unlock paths.
You'll also reach checkpoints that allow you to fast travel back to a location by opening the map and selecting the flag. And after clearing Darkmess, it becomes much easier to get from one place to another on the planet. They even put in convenient bend tubes that will get you right back on the adventure, leaving very little room for unnecessary downtime or backtracking.
On the way, you will see beautiful murals with backstories about the Guardians, narrated with love and fun by Beep-O. Beep-O and his new AI partner Jeanie are fully voiced throughout the game and even the Rabbid counterparts have some voice acting along with their dialogue.
You might be surprised to hear Rabbid Mario say a few words here and there, but it also made me wish they could deliver more of their lines. The usual "bwahs" and nonsensical screams that cause these characters to be compared to Minions are all but gone and there's a better focus on their personalities and character traits.
The cutscenes are beautiful and hilarious, showing just how charming and bizarre the combination of the worlds of Mario and Rabbid can be. Every inch of the planet is full of character and it honestly gets hard to stay focused with all the side quests, collectibles and secrets to find.
Digging deeper into exploration and side quests benefits you in the long run. Side quests usually mean more experience points to power up your heroes, but you can also find more sparks to join your team. In addition, you get more planetary coins that allow you to buy items that will help you level up your sparks or a key to unlock a special quest for another spark.
This is a crucial part of the game because it gives players more options and control over the strategies they want to use during battles. And the battles are where this game really shines. Between Skill Tree and Sparks, there are more ways than ever to change your strategies.
The biggest improvement is that players no longer need to have Mario in their lineup at all times. This allows you to really customize your party in ways you couldn't because you felt like you always had to keep Mario top of mind.
It's really fun to experiment with the skill tree. Each level you grow grants each character a skill prism that can be used to unlock skills in the skill tree. Since you are limited by these points, you need to create builds that benefit your playstyle. Fortunately, you're never locked into one playstyle because at any time you can simply remove an ability and add another without penalty.
Personally, I love getting up close and personal with enemies, so upgrading Rabbid Mario's running abilities to create explosions that destroyed nearby enemies was incredibly satisfying. Finish them off with your powerful weapon attack and you can watch multiple enemies go down at once.
Also, I finally found a Spark with the ability to zoom in on enemies in an area so I can really ramp up the combo of explosive dashes and melee attacks. Sparks really allow you to boost your strategies in many ways.
The new move system definitely inspired my desire to build a dash team. Characters can move freely within a certain area, but once they use their main weapon, they can no longer move. It's rewarding to find ways to slowly advance towards enemies that were initially inaccessible by combining your team jumps with jump pads and rabbid pipes.
Sparks are a joy to collect. Each features a unique ability that a character can use to empower their attacks, deal additional damage, and alter an attack's elements to have a super effect on the enemy. These super effects can burn enemies to make them run in a rage or cause splash effects that knock them off the map.
Also, enemies often have weaknesses and resistances to certain items or super effects, so it's worth exploring the map before starting a battle so you can equip the correct Spark for a situation. You don't want to accidentally weaken your attacks because an enemy might resist.
There is no end to the combinations you can find between sparks, attacks, skills and techniques. It's incredibly satisfying to find a build that lets you complete a mission on the first turn without the enemy having a chance to retaliate.
The fact that the game's exploration and side quests directly contribute to your party shows how well the game is designed to keep players rewarded at every step of the journey. Because while you can finish a random encounter quickly, story missions and side quests can really ramp up the difficulty, so you'll need all the help you can get.
A great convenience that this game offers is the level scale. If you're not interested in side quests, you can simplify your game and focus strictly on story quests. Story missions will always be set at the same level as your characters, so there's no way to have a low or high level in the game.
However, you benefit from gaining levels because you will be able to unlock more of your skill trees and the ability to make your Sparks even stronger. Regardless, players won't be faced with a story quest that takes a bit of effort to complete or feels too easy to be fun.
Leaving battles is another quality of life feature that offers a lot of convenience. Did you click on a mission you didn't want to play or encounter an enemy you didn't want to encounter? It's okay because you can go. There is literally no penalty for leaving a battle and you can leave at any time.
It doesn't matter if you are at the beginning of a battle or in the middle, you can exit or restart it if you are not satisfied with the situation for any reason. Maybe you don't want to use certain characters or maybe you just don't feel like going up against the enemy. The game won't force you to sit in front of an enemy because they won't let you escape. We're looking at you Pokemon.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has a few bugs here and there. None of them are particularly innovative, but one I came across caused me some confusion and missed opportunities in a battle.
Most players will find that the game can experience a lot of pop-up and drop frame rates when exploring the planets. Unfortunately, this can break immersion when you watch a cutscene upon landing on a large new planet.
More commonly, I found some controls unresponsive to Beep-O's powers. You start unlocking these powers on the second and third planets, but the power to reveal hidden paths can be very tricky. Sometimes it may take a few button clicks for the power to turn on. It's not a huge issue, but it's definitely an issue that can be annoying when you're trying to quickly navigate an area.
The odd bug I encountered was definitely due to my tendency to throw enemies. There were a few instances where Rabbid Mario went out of his range of motion. From then on, he was able to move freely around the map, but he was unable to interact with enemies, pipes, or jump platforms outside of the main gun's attack.
The game is based on your character's area of movement, and while this bug was rare, it caused me to miss some strategic moves in these battles. Thankfully, it wasn't something that caused a mission to fail or reset because, the next turn, everything was back to normal.
Overall, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is able to captivate you with its worlds and take you down rabbit hole after hole of side quests, treasures, and battles. You'll go off course to help a Rabbid in need or rescue a Spark that will help you on your journey.
The systems work together and ensure there is always something new to do or discover. All of this directly contributes to your party's growth and the creation of new strategies that make battles more exciting and satisfying every step of the way. It's a game that definitely lives up to the Mario name.
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Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope