That was the first note I wrote in my hands-on session with the newest update to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle that introduces not just a whole new area, but new characters and new (like-for-like) incentives. One of those being to “collect bananas”.
On paper it sort of sounds benign, but you’re no longer in charge of Mario -- who you could also say has an arbitrary obsession with coins, right? In this new update you take control of Donkey Kong, Rabbid Cranky Kong and naturally Rabbid Peach, who returns at her
selfie best. An entirely new space to explore presents itself and, triumphantly, Rabbid Kong also returns and in this instance, he’s the new content’s big-bad.
You see, he also loved bananas, only he’s come across a batch of “Bad Bananas” that appear to be corrupted due to the Rabbid presence here, and they’ve made him angrier, stronger and obviously hungrier. Hence your main goal: “collect bananas”.
In totality, not a lot has actually changed from the base game
. However, upon deeper inspection it’s the way in which you approach the tactics-heavy gameplay this time around that actually does successfully shift at least your thinking towards gameplay. Donkey Kong, for example, has the ability to utilise most interactive things on each battle map -- friends and foes alike -- as weapons. This means he can pick up the Honey boxes, the Explosive boxes, Rabbid Peach -- even ears, and throw them at the enemy. This not only hurts the opposition, it can also prove invaluable in place baddies where you want around the map, or inflict a peripheral debuff, depending on what you throw, on them that might otherwise have not even been utilised in the battle. This shift alone is genius.
However, DK also has the ability to traverse the map in unique ways with DK-specific launchpads that let you string together expansive movement. And in a game where positioning and territory is super-important, this is an added tactical and fun addition to the game. That being said, the devs have been clever enough to ensure it’s not overused -- at least in the short time I’ve had with the game, so utilising it requires a measured approach.
Beyond the “collect bananas” side of incentive, you also need to collect Washing Machine Parts, as in keeping with the base game’s odd setup, however, new enemy-types -- “Collector Rabbids” make this task harder than just collecting and moving on. They’re attracted to anything shiny, and even if you manage to defeat one carrying a part, the part itself is ejected to another part of the map where yet still another Collector might pop up and nab it before you can. Again, it’s sort of subtle, but genius in the matrix of the game’s overall makeup.
And what you can add to all of this is the outlandish humour -- and trust on Nintendo’s part -- for that to be both un-Nintendo like but Ubisoft (read: French) like all at once. And it’s always just a giggle-fest. Rabbid Cranky Kong, for example, has an attack called “Long Story” that puts any enemies within Rabbid earshot to sleep. Also, Rabbid Kong never
forgets. His spectacular ‘fall’ from grace in the base game is reminded to both he and the player in hilarious fashion, and also sets up the core of the enemies-side of the game. You almost want more interaction with him -- or maybe that’s just me as he was my favourite enemy in the original release. And I still want a giant plushie of him.
Moreover, the throwback and love towards the more Rare-built (and now Retro-managed) DK universe is intact here (I mean, Rabbid Cranky Kong already sells this), but it’s also other factors. Things like the overworld traversal also having the original launch barrels from so many great DK outings that also feature puzzles and mini-games -- it just works to sell the new setting which, as mentioned earlier is largely the same, only it’s not… if that makes sense. At the very least it’s equal parts nostalgia and amazing Ubisoft tactical design. If Mario + Rabbids doesn’t become a longstanding franchise for Nintendo and Ubisoft, collectively, moving forward, the world will be a sad place. This is where you go to have fun, feel and beat a challenge and skip down memory lane, in a contemporary and challenging environment that excludes blood, zombies, swearing and all that heavy stuff from real-life. We need more games like this, in the current environment.
I just want to collect bananas in the end, is all.