Before we begin our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope Review, a bit of reminiscing is in order. Back in 2017 when Kingdom Battle was released, it was a genuinely nice surprise that came out of absolutely nowhere. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a masterpiece, but it was a really solid Mario title that borrowed a lot of the best mechanics of the turn-based genre to create a fun and really charming adventure.
Fast forward a couple of years and Ubisoft announces a full sequel titled Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, which is slated to be a much bigger title with a whole lot of gameplay refinements. And yes, I think a lot of us saw this announcement and simply expected to see more of the same. But I don’t think anyone was honestly expecting not only one of the best Mario games ever but also perhaps the best title Ubisoft has put out in close to a decade.
I understand that this might come across as a shock to a lot of you, but it is all true. So let’s dive headfirst into this review to learn more about this phenomenal sequel.
Story And Setting
The plot of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope starts off with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and all the Rabbids enjoying their time and being carefree in The Mushroom Kingdom. The mood is really light, and your first task in the game is to literally help Rabbid Mario find his missing overalls so that he can stop hiding in some bushes.
But soon after some small little critters called Sparks arrive on the scene in a hurried manner, and on their tail is a mysterious entity named Cursa, who seeks to use their power for itself. Cursa has been hunting these creatures across the galaxy, and in that pursuit has been infecting different locations with a type of dark matter known as Darkmess. No, that is not a typo, it’s actually called ‘Darkmess’.
So in case, you were starting to think that this whole plot seems super serious, don’t worry it’s really not. All of this is simply set dressing for our heroes, who by the way travel around in a spaceship in over to visit different planets and cleanse them of the Darkmess. Where did this vessel come from? Who knows, but it’s here now. The whole thing is super nonserious, and the only point is to give our heroes a reason to go from location to location, meet new characters and defeat the bad guys.
This will also be pointed out by a lot of other players, but the humor in the game also just works a lot of the time. The jokes are funny, the characters are quirky, and the Rabbids and Mario settings simply work well together. Both are mostly dialogue-free, but a lot of charm is conveyed through simple interactions.
Unlike the last game, we noticed during our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope review that movement is a lot more freeform during combat. You are no longer restricted to a grid-based system, and characters can now move around in a much more organic manner within their own allowed areas. During a turn, you can make a character move anywhere within the confines of a white zone, then hide them behind cover and instantly start attacking.
Movement and acrobatics are also much more fluid, as characters can use each other to initiate team jumps and take to the air in order to navigate towards further off platforms. The last game let you do something similar, but you had to choose the area where you would land. Here, you simply take to the skies, and you’re allowed to navigate in the air where you would like to fall vis a hovering mechanic. There’s even a yellow grid on the ground that lets you know when different characters are within range of each other to initiate a team jump, so there’s no guesswork involved.
In terms of combat, the core mechanics are the exact same here, but the rules have now been changed significantly. Each character has access to their own unique weapons and style, which determines their specialty during a fight. For example, Mario has access to two blasters that allow him to let off two different attacks that can be aimed at two different enemies. Rabbid Peach on the other hand only has one attack, but it lets off three different projectiles and is unaffected by all cover. And Rabbit Luigi throws out a frisbee, that can bounce off different enemies if they are within range of each other.
Each hero also has their own techniques, like how Mario can set himself up to attack any target that wanders into his range, or how Rabbid Peach can heal allies. All of this adds depth to combat and forces players to put a lot more thought into who they choose to bring with them into skirmishes. It also ensures that your choice of characters is dependent on more than which hero you personally like the look of. There’s actual skill involved in combat now, and your choices will radically impact fights, especially during some of the harder encounters in the game.
And if none of that was enough to convince you that this is a very different game, there is even a skill tree system in place that allows you to further customize each hero. Here, you can increase their health, the amount of damage they do, the duration they stay in the air during team jumps, and even how effective their techniques are. You’re awarded points to invest in skill trees for each major milestone you complete, and they truly allow you to customize the feel of your favorite characters.
The really standout new feature that we should talk about however are the Sparks themselves, which are the cute little creatures that you meet at the start of the game. Each hero can be equipped with up to two of these little guys, and they grant them special abilities that can really turn the tide of battle. These abilities offer a wide variety of benefits during combat, from simply raising the percentage of damage dealt by an attack, all the way to unique elemental attacks that deal damage in an area of effect.
But that’s not all, certain Sparks even give buffs like turning the user completely invisible, allowing them to move through a battlefield without being detected. My favorite one to bring along during the harder boss fights was ‘Pulser,’ which revives allies within range with a certain percentage of their health intact.
Now I don’t have to tell you how radically these abilities change the gameplay, and how powerful certain Sparks can be in certain situations. What I can convey is how the game allows you to further upgrade these critters with a resource known as Star Bits, which can level them up and increase the effectiveness of their abilities even further.
And don’t let the cutesy images you see in our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope review fool you, because you will need to utilize all of the tools at your disposal together to be successful. Because after a certain point the adventure becomes tough as nails and the game throws everything at you together. You have to keep your wits about you, and your instincts polished, if you ever want to survive some of the tougher encounters down the line.
It’s a remarkable combat system, that has really come into its own since the last game. Where previously it was easy to throw around comparisons to other series like XCOM, now the gameplay is much more refined and stands on its own. This is a phenomenal game that will keep even the most hardcore turn-based fan hooked for hours on end.
Visuals And Performance
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a much more visually impressive game than its predecessor, and that stands true for both the visuals and the art design. The last entry was no slouch either, but this one really pushes the creativity and imagination of the series further than before, oftentimes to the detriment of the game itself.
Because yes, this is a really pretty game, but it also pushes the Nintendo Switch further than ever. The load times can be absolutely atrocious, especially when you consider that each combat encounter and each building and new location you can enter is also gated behind a loading screen. So each time you find an enemy in the world and initiate combat, expect to wait around 10-15 seconds for both loading in and out of the encounter.
Otherwise, I really can’t complain at the end of the day. The different worlds each look absolutely stunning, and there’s simply so much detail in every nook and cranny of every single location. Seriously, I played this game for close to 40 hours, and I can barely remember seeing something more than twice. It’s a really pretty game, and the developers are Ubisoft have outdone themselves.
Animations are also really smooth, with each of the nine main characters having their own set of quirks and little nuances that can be seen as they move around the battlefields and strut their stuff. Fans will pick on this themselves, but Rabbit Peach is a particular highlight, with how she runs around and interacts with her fellow heroes.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a near-perfect sequel that is not only one of the best Mario spin-off games but is in fact one of the best things Ubisoft has ever put out. It’s cute, charming, and absolutely oozing with personality.
It also radically improves upon the gameplay of its predecessor to deliver a system that is not only more involved, but much more deep and rewarding. The new Sparks also add some much-needed diversity and spontaneity to the mix, by giving us new abilities that are as varied as they are effective. This game’s combat should appeal to everyone from casual players, all the way to most hardcore strategists.
But it should also be said that all of this comes at a price, and that is the increased load times. If this was a one-off thing that occurred when you transitioned to newer locations, that would be understandable. But instead, a loading screen comes up every time you enter combat, which is around 80% of the entire runtime. I really hope Ubisoft improves upon this in some future updates.
All in all, this is a fantastic new entry into the series, and I can’t wait to jump back into it.
This has been our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a near-perfect sequel that is not only one of the best Mario spin-off games, but is in fact one of the best things Ubisoft has ever put out.
- Excellent Combat.
- Gorgeous Art Style.
- Oozing With Personality.
- Great New Abilities.
- Load Times.