Mario and the Rabbids crossing over is still one of the weirdest shocks in all of gaming history. Who would’ve thought it would happen twice! Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope improves on the XCOM inspired RPG in so many ways so let’s blast right into it.
Having had many issues with Kingdom Battle, will Sparks of Hope be able to address the many flaws the original had? The short answer is yes in every way. Read on to find out why as a rabbid Rabbids fan reviews Mario + Rabbids: Spark of Hope!
Want to see some more Switch gems from 2022? Check out some of our other Switch Reviews:
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Being a Tactics-based RPG means the game needs a compelling story to keep you going and I’d say the game has both good and bad points. The story continues after the events of the Kingdom Battle, which is a very nice surprise. While that game focused more on traditional Mario styled worlds, the Super Mario Galaxy inspiration allows the worlds of this game to be much more unique than the first.
The main plot this time revolves around the Sparks, a fusion of Rabbid and Luma. These little guys are on the run from a giant evil being called Cursa who is consuming them to grow more powerful. The plot pushes the player to travel from planet to planet to destroy the Darkmess which contain Darkmess Crystals. These Crystals can be used to power the WM ARC ship to create portals to warp to other locations.
The goal is that the party needs to reach Cursa in order to stop her from conquering the galaxy and taking all the Sparks lives. Until the final two worlds the plot is just giving a reason to go to each world rather than a gripping story. Nonetheless, that is not the kind of game SoH aims to be. It is definitely going for a more light hearted and comedic tone to fit the colorfilled Mario universe. Some of the spoilery end game content is really interesting but other than that the narrative has a back seat while the gameplay, sound and visuals are out of this world incredible.
Here is where I will talk about spoilers. The main antagonist Cursa has a unique and fleshed out story. Cursa is what connects the two games plots, she is the first game’s final boss, the Mega Bug. After its defeat it escapes into space and eventually comes across Rosalina and her Comet Observatory. Something happens that causes the Rabbids and Lumas that where there to merge. To protect them Rosalina gets merged with the Mega Bug, which takes control of her. She does still have some will left to fight Cursa’s wishes from the inside. However, if Cursa takes the life of all the Sparks, Rosalina’s spirit will give in.
This game has the best use of Rosalina as a character we have ever seen. From the second she was introduced, she has been this ultra powerful being with unknown powers of the cosmos. Ubisoft using this unexplored potential and doing it really well is what makes the game’s ending feel so well done. We rarely get to see how strong Rosalina is but Sparks of Hope shows us a taste of what she is capable of.
I do really love how they handled the whole Cursa elements of the story and the Sparks as well are a dynamic way to do modifiers and buffs. Overall though, the story kind of just feels the same throughout a majority of the game. Aside from the Cursa plot twists which are super predictable.
A Rabbid Sitcom
The humor is something that shines throughout the entire game. It may be hit or miss but I found it is some of the best I’ve experienced in a game in a long while. I loved using Rabbid Mario on my team just for how hilarious he is with his voice. There’s even this ridiculous dialogue making a joke out of NFTs! Ubisoft may often poorly monetize their games but I praise them for being against these cash grabs. This just highlights even more why this game is one of the best Mario RPGs.
Personally I grew up with the Rabbids being a big part of what I loved and no matter how barebones their games are, I always enjoyed laughing at how creative they could be. That’s how I like to see what the Rabbids bring to this game, creativity. With how wacky and simple the Rabbids franchise is, it allowed Ubisoft to just really go all in and create the worlds and characters they wanted. Of course with that extra Mario flair.
I love that the game has a lot of different Rabbid models which really helps in making a more varied cast. Each NPC has their own personality and they are all as goofy as the last. One of the features that returned is the “Atmospheric Rabbids” as I call them. These are things in the environment that just have Rabbids doing silly things on them and each has its own little looping animation. Seeing all of these is so fun and it really makes you appreciate the landscapes and the time and effort that went into the game. Some of these even have dialogue from Beep-O such as the earlier mentioned NFT joke.
The gameplay consists of two forms, 3D overworld exploration puzzle-solving and turn-based battles. The exploration is very fun with each world having a bunch of ways you can interact with it. From shaking trees to breaking open icicles using Beep-Os unlockable abilities. By entering Darkmess Puddles or touching a overworld enemy a battle will start.
Combat takes place in the Darkmess world which means that unlike the first game the battlefields are not weirdly just inserted into the area you are exploring but instead have their own set place. This may make it less immersive but it has the counter effect of making the overworld exploring more open. Before in Kingdom Battle, each fight made the game very linear due to many of them being non-optional. In SoH the separate world that the battles take place in also allows for battlefields to be grander and structured much better.
As for the battles themselves SoH ditches the grid system the XCOM games are known for and instead gives the player a set distance each character can move each turn. This makes your turn much more interactive as the slightest movements can make your turn have more of an impact. There is also a set amount of Action Points you have each turn which makes sure you plan out what abilities you use as you will never be able to do everything in one turn. I really do like these extra additions as they make the game feel so fluid and fun. I never find battling to be a chore and that is a good thing as the game is full of battling.
While most the puzzles consist of very basic challenges found in the overworld the main puzzles are in the battles. Each battle feels like a puzzle with different ways to solve it. The strategies you can pull off always feel so satisfying. Beating a battle in one turn not just because you are over leveled but because your team is perfect for the situation just makes you feel like a master of the game.
This does raise one issue with the game though, difficulty. Even with the option of a hard mode (which is what I chose) the battles and puzzles never feel too difficult and I often just brute force my way through them. During the first Darkmess Tentacle boss fight I ignored all the enemies and just destroyed all the eyes in 3 turns. There is a nice difficulty curve but since your characters are constantly growing stronger with better Sparks, higher levels and more skill tree abilities, the challenge mostly feels diminished by all of these options. They often times make you way more powerful than you need to be.
A Party-sized Party
The game features 9 playable characters, 5 being Rabbids and 4 being Mario characters. While Yoshi and Rabbid Yoshi got cut from the first game’s line up the characters in this entry have a lot more unique traits per character. At first, hearing the game only had 3 new heroes was very concerning. Kingdom Battle already had characters having clones of each others weapons and abilities. Luckily they made changes to give each character their own weapon and abilities that are all suited for different situations. Despite how certain characters are really good such as Rabbid Mario and his high power gauntlets, each still feel really fun and engaging to play and no one feels like they are “bad” per say.
They all have their strengths and weaknesses which is why I love how varied the cast is ability wise. Take for example Rabbid Peach and Peach: they both are supportive characters but specialize on different things. Rabbid Peach provides healing while regular Peach focuses more on shielding teammates from attacks. These little subtleties from each hero really gives the game so much more depth as you can really strategize what suits each battle with the range of options. I also love that you can change your party just before starting a battle. This is a great touch as it allows you to evaluate what your goal is and change accordingly.
Visually Sparks of Hope has a style that encapsulates a colourful cartoon perfectly and fits both the Rabbids and Mario series. Areas look bright and colourful. One thing which is very appreciated is the environment variety, the first game suffered the “Mario game curse”. Essentially this is where the world design consists of the same few themes: grass, desert, snow, and volcano. I am very glad to see that this game breaks that by going for a more Super Mario Galaxy inspired feeling.
As strange as it sounds, it lacking the Mario style really works in its favor. None of the environments directly scream, “This is a Mario game” just like most of the titles do. Hence why I really love the visual direction of the game, it’s refreshing to see these varied planets. The graphics still feel similar to Mario aesthetics and the colours really pop to create memorable areas. Unfortunately as the game only has 5 worlds there isn’t much variety in terms of overall themes but each one is distinct enough from each other for this to not be an issue.
I also want to mention the animation and characters here as this is something the game does phenomenally well. Not only are the characters so expressive and energetic but they also move like butter. Each ability has its own unique cutscene which can be skipped but due to how clean they are you may never want to skip them. All the cutscenes have just great angles and energy that just goes so well. This makes the amazing visuals shine even more.
Continuing his work from the first game, Grant Kirkhope, the composer for Banjo & Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 and Yooka-Laylee, and Final Fantasy composer Yoko Shimomura blow the soundtrack out of the atmosphere for this game. Whatever situation you may be in there will always be grand orchestrated music inspiring you to continue on. The variety of music is also very welcomed when it is all so masterfully composed, each area has at least 2 main battle themes. This makes me wish every RPG could be like this. Sometimes when a game only has a few battle themes you will find that they play over and over.
There’s even tracks for the shortest parts of the game which shows the dedication. Take for example the prologue which features three very short battles and yet it has this masterpiece of a track to start the adventure off with a blast into space. Then in the first world another example is with a side quest which is completely optional and features this pop styled DJ who plays this ultra catchy chiptune beat.
All this remains the same throughout the game — the music is always phenomenal, but one puzzling addition is voice acting. First hearing that the game would have voice acting for the Rabbid characters sounds like a awful decision. It ends up being not bad once you get a listen yourself. It makes each enemy and hero have more personality. Some of the lines may shock you at first due to the randomness. It leaves you wanting to hear every line but once you have heard them once or twice you may end up getting sick of them.
Personally I don’t like using Rabbid Luigi because of his annoying voice. Although in contrast, I love Rabbid Mario and always find his lines and voice to be fun. If you like the overall silly tone the game has you will enjoy the voices.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.