Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope brings noticeable improvements

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It’s funny that Ubisoft’s best effort in years is a Mario game.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope releases for Switch on October 20. The strategy RPG is a sequel to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, which debuted in 2017. Sparks of Hope is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way.

While Kingdom Battle was a tile-based affair, Sparks of Hope offers more freedom on the battlefield. Characters have a limited range of motion each turn, but they can walk and plant anywhere within that range. It may sound like a small change, but it makes battles feel less rigid.

Are Rabbids really a plus?

Speaking of characters, this includes Mario and friends… and their Rabbids counterparts. Look, I’m not the biggest fan of the Rabbids. Their Minion-esque energy is just too much for me. But even with Kingdom Battle before, Ubisoft has softened the little creatures a bit, making them less annoying and more just plain stupid.

Locations in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope look great.

Sparks of Hope continues that trend, so much so that I’m not even sure why they have to be Rabbids anymore. I would feel happier if, like in Super Mario RPG, we just had a cast of new characters. Granted, we’re getting one with Edge. She’s a, er, edgy Rabbid who looks like she’s taken all her fashion advice from Final Fantasy characters.

So okay, nice to have a new character. But here it is even more confusing why she is a Rabbid at all. She has none of that slapstick, crazy energy that used to define creatures. She even has a very normal voice. Admittedly, I’m not quite through the game, hence this isn’t a full review. Maybe I’ll stop by Edge. At this point, her addition confuses me.

Sparks of joy

On a more positive note, I’m a huge fan of the titular sparks. You can equip these little guys with your characters, and each one comes with a passive bonus and an active ability. One, for example, increases damage to you and any nearby allies. Another adds a fire effect to your attack, giving you some bonus damage and burning your target.

Mario and those Rabbids are at it again.

Along with these sparks, you get a large and diverse cast of characters to play with. You can put three in your party, each with different specializations. Luigi is a sniper who can deal more damage the further away a target is. Rabbid Peach can instantly heal her allies, while regular Peach can provide temporary invulnerability. In addition to mixing and matching these characters with different sparks, you can play with many different builds and strategies.

And that’s the most important. The strategy and tactics of this strategy tactics game feel great! Of course, I still find something about the Rabbids off-putting, even in their neutered, less bombastic form here. But hey, I’m still free to team up with all Mario characters.

I can’t score this one yet, because I haven’t finished it yet. But if you’re looking for a basic recommendation, consider it as a given.

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