Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Ubisoft and Nintendo team up to create something completely unexpected. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle art and details leaked (opens in new tab) a few weeks back, but there’s a huge difference between perusing a piece of art, and actually watching this game – featuring turn-based tactical strategy that looks like Mario XCOM – in motion. During Ubisoft’s E3 2017 press conference, we got our first official look at this charming, utterly surprising crossover coming exclusively to the Nintendo Switch on August 29, 2017.
As it turns out, Shigeru Miyamoto – an industry legend who needs no introduction – is something of a Rabbids aficionado himself. “I have many Rabbids figures decorating my desk – I’ve always been a fan of these characters and their humor,” said Miyamoto, speaking through his fellow Nintendo exec and translator Bill Trinen. Miyamoto said he gave Ubisoft a directive when they agreed to partner together on Mario + Rabbids: “Try to make a Mario game that has never been made before.” After seeing this upcoming Nintendo Switch exclusive in action, it’s safe to say that Ubisoft absolutely fulfilled Miyamoto’s special request.
A producer from Ubisoft Paris, Xavier Manzanares (hell of a name) took the stage to show off Mario + Rabbids gameplay. We start out on an overworld map, guiding a party of three characters (led by what looked like a Roomba automated vacuum with rabbit ears) around a somewhat flat version of the Mushroom Kingdom. The mischievous, hyperactive Rabbids – who, for the record, predate pop culture’s obsession with Despicable Me’s Minions – have been warped into Mario’s world, with some Rabbids becoming corrupted (to serve as our punching-bag enemies) while others take up Nintendo costumes and cosplay alongside the likes of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi. The exploration of the 3D world included some truly bizarre sights – like a giant toilet with a spiked-choker-wearing duck floating within – before we got to see the gameplay in all its tactical, turn-based glory.
This really is like a Nintendo-branded take on Firaxis Games’ XCOM, with a grid-based arena, plenty of cover dotting the battlegrounds, and the ability to combo movement, attacks, and special abilities together for some seriously flashy takedowns. Unlike the static, no-moving battles of Super Mario RPG, Mario + Rabbids is all about manuevering your party into position to set up complex chains and take out those rascally enemy Rabbids. The demo showcased the ability to jump off of teammates and vault across the map, use warp pipes in the environment to reposition, and finally blast baddies from behind cover using Mega Man-esque laser cannons and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.
Other glimpses of the gameplay showed off Luigi using his trademark Poltergust 3000 ghost vacuum to blast enemies, alternating with Mario’s laser blasts for a three-hit combo. It looks like your party members will all have something akin to XCOM’s crucial Overwatch ability, where your units will automatically attack enemies that enter their line of sight. There are also post-battle ratings, seemingly based on how members of your party are left standing, and how many turns it took you to fell your foes. We’re excited to see more of this endearingly bizarre, charmingly weird crossover when Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle arrives on Switch this August. Until then, there are two things we know for certain: Shigeru Miyamoto and Ubisoft president and CEO Yves Guillemot are roughly the same height, and watching Mario shooting a laser gun is on the same level of deep-rooted confusion as Batman with a firearm.