Overall - 80%
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope improves on Kingdom Battle, but drags things out far too long near the end. Fans of the original - or tactical combat games in general - should still check it out.
Four years after the first Mario + Rabbids, Ubisoft’s Sparks of Hope is finally here. Is the sequel worth checking out, or is it more of the same?
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope begins during a peaceful time in the Mushroom Kingdom. Unfortunately, Rabbid Mario has lost his overalls and it’s up to you to help find them. After you find them, the kingdom is invaded by a mysterious creature called Cursa. Cursa spreads Darkmess (yes, it is actually spelled that way) and covers the planet in it. Mario and a couple of Rabbids jump up to stop Cursa before being forced to retreat to the spaceship WM ARC.
Cursa has been spreading Darkmess all over the galaxy, and it is up to you to help the other planets. You start with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and their Rabbid counterparts. As you progress, you unlock more characters, such as Rabbid Rosalina and Bowser. The story is basic, but it is enough to keep everything moving.
Sparks of Hope is mostly broken up into two parts: combat and exploration. Combat is tactical, with each fight taking place on a separate map from the world map. You pick your character, enter the fight, and then have an objective to complete. The goals vary, but often boil down to killing all enemies, reaching a certain point, or destroying a particular boss or enemy type. The first 10 hours or so of this is fun, but it really starts to add up as you progress.
As far as I know, there is no auto-battle. You can make yourself invincible in the options, but you must manually fight all battles. Most of these fights take around 10 minutes, if not longer, on normal difficulty. Due to this, the battles really started wearing me out towards the last third of the game. You can avoid some by not doing side quests, but I had bosses that needed to be killed three times before the battle ended. That is way too much for a primary boss.
Combat itself is tactical and turn-based. You pick your character before the fight and then dive right in. Each character has different weapons and skills, like Mario’s dual pistols that can hit two different targets. Meanwhile, Luigi is a sniper that does more damage the further away he is from his target and Rabbid Peach’s heals are helpful in any fight you plan on taking damage in. While each character plays different, it isn’t enough to prevent combat from eventually dragging.
On top of the skills each unit has in battle, you also get Sparks. Sparks Rabbid Luma (the star-like creatures from Super Mario Galaxy) grant abilities and power-ups. You can only equip a certain amount to each character, but they can change the tide of most fights. For example, the fire Spark on Mario means that you shoot two fire shots instead of regular shots outside of your pistols. There are plenty of Sparks that improve combat abilities, allowing players to reflect damage and turn themselves invisible, among other perks.
Exploration is excellent, with plenty of puzzles, challenges, and secrets to be found. Each world has it’s own tokens to be collected, and you can exchange them for goodies at the item vendors. Most of the items you buy are just lore, but the vendors also have keys. These keys unlock each worlds’ secret areas, giving you a new challenge to overcome. If you don’t care about the secret areas, you can skip the side content and move to the next world.
Each world has its share of puzzles as well. Most of these are easy, but occasionally you’ll run into something that stumps you. It is a nice break from the combat, but ultimately most of them end in trial and error. One other bummer is the frame rate of worlds past the first one. The second world is nasty, but I had frame drops in the third and fourth world as well. The Nintendo Switch seems to be finding its limit.
There is also a skill tree that allows you to somewhat customize your party. Most of the skills are more hp, more damage, or more movement. Each character can upgrade their skills as well. These skills are the prime reason to keep fighting and get the experience to level up. Eventually, I had Mario jumping into the air and shooting down on enemies to blow them away. It is fun a few times, but again the combat starts to drag on toward the end.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope improves on Kingdom Battle, but drags things out far too long near the end. Fans of the original – or tactical combat games in general – should still check it out.
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