Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a step above its predecessor providing more exploration, better boss fights and a good story.
Developer – Ubisoft Paris & Ubisoft Milan
Publisher – Ubisoft
Platforms – Nintendo Switch
Release – October 20, 2022
The Mario + Rabbids sequel is now here and it’s been five years since we saw the franchise’s debut with Kingdom Battle. In Sparks of Hope you are on a galactic journey with your friends trying to take down a malevolent entity and while also saving your Spark companions. Right from the moment I pressed play I knew we were in for a different experience this time around.
In case you didn’t know, Mario + Rabbids is a Turn-Based Strategy Action Adventure Game that is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.
The first small objective that’s brought to you following the glorious cutscenes this game starts out with isn’t as serious as you might think it’d be. Your goal is to find Rabbid Mario’s overalls from a bush that’s near the castle. Straight from the beginning you knew this game was going to be different based on the fact that you can shake trees and bushes which is just scratching the surface on the exploration to come.
The main objective of this game is to save Spark companions and defeat Cursa who is the main villain who has taken over several planets and is in control of a very known character that we won’t name in this review just yet. Before you actually reach to the point of finding Cursa you’ll have to fight through multiple planets in this game which is a total of five and each of them have unique bosses and even storylines to an extent.
Beacon Beach is the first planet you’ll step on after dealing with the first parts of the game where you do a small mission involving the main enemy you get to learn more about. Instantly you’ll notice a complete difference from this games previous installation and that there is more room than ever before to explore. In the past it was more linear where you’ll just walk from battle to battle, but now you are dealing with the main quest at hand or you’ll run into side quests that you might not even be prepared for.
The neat part about exploring in this game is that you will have enemies dash into you which takes you into battle which is also a good way to earn XP. You can keep yourself busy in one planet because they all have collectibles which ranges from Weapon Skins, Memories, Sparks, and Planet Keys.
The first three planets that you will explore are Beacon Beach, Pristine Peaks and Palette Prime. Each of them has its own level difficulty. Palette Prime for example has a suggested level of 13-20 before you dive into it.
Let’s talk about what’s new in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
Sparks are a welcomed new addition to the franchise and as a little background they’re a fusion of a Luma and a Rabbid. These are your companions and each character can eventually have up to two.
They all come with their own abilities to help out in combat, protecting and strengthening the squad. There are a total of 50 Sparks across all the planets and the majority of them are acquired by side quests that you’ll see throughout the game.
You can level up your Sparks with Star Bits which is also another new type of currency in the game. You collect Star Bits from killing enemies during battle, after the battle is complete and when you reach a fast travel flag. Sparks have a maximum level of 5 and they’ll acquire x amount of XP to level up for example to hit level 5 you’ll need to use 550 of them so spend carefully.
Sparks have made battling more fun in my opinion and it allows for more creativity by combining them with certain heroes. They’ve been my favorite addition in this game overall.
Items help you out in combat and some of the main ones I used were POW Block and mushrooms which heals you so it’s useful if you don’t have Rabbid Peach on your team who is mainly used as a healer. There is a wide variety of items to use in the game that can help you at key points in a battle, but they come at a cost.
Yes, you can find items by exploring, but the easiest way to obtain such items is by visiting the Sales Bot who is placed in every planet. Collecting coins are more important than ever in Mario + Rabbids so spend smart when it comes to the store.
There is another way to earn items through the store and it’s through the planets unique currency. You can earn the planets currency by doing side quests and this will help you earn weapon skins, a planet key and more.
Sparks of Hope comes with three new characters you can play as. Rabbid Rosalina, Bowser and a brand new original character to the series, Edge.
Edge has a background of being a former Spark Hunter and is different than all the other Rabbids having a tough attitude. She is a Blade Master where her speed and skill allow her to target multiple enemies and damage each with a single action.
I ended up using Edge for most of my playthrough because she is just that strong of a character to use in the game and you won’t wait long for her to join the team.
Rabbid Rosalina is a Demotivator who removes any protections enemies may have at immobilizing them.
Lastly, Bowser is an Overseer. He has a rocket launcher and shines when launching area attacks and he has minions that he can spawn and cause havoc.
I found myself using Bowser and Edge a lot toward the end of the game, but when it came to Rabbid Rosalina I didn’t until the last few missions.
The gameplay in Sparks of Hope is even better than the past. For starters you can walk wherever you’re allowed to when in a battle, but of course once you shoot your weapon you’ll be stuck at the spot you choose. In the past it was more like chess where you can choose a spot to walk to then shoot, but now there’s more freedom to visually see how a scenario will look.
Team Jumping has also seen an improvement where you can go much further and you are using Beep-0 to fly to the designated area.
Health Points have also seen an adjustment with your team having more of it, but when you are getting hit the the points are higher so it kind of evens it all out there.
I found myself having more fun being in a battle rather than getting bored of doing the same thing over and over with just a different layout. Each battle and each boss fight in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is unique and requires you to mix up your team based on the type of battle it is. I had points to where I restarted battles because I had the wrong team combination.
Just like Kingdom Battle, this game will have your occasional puzzles when exploring planets and you will need to solve some in order to advance in your main quest. I found the puzzles in Sparks of Hope to make more sense and overall a pleasant experience.
This is still a Turn-Based Strategy game so if you’re into that you’ll have a lot of fun playing this. And if you aren’t used to this type of genre I would say give it a shot because I wasn’t into these types of games, but Ubisoft made it fun with Sparks of Hope.
Another big plus with this game is that there is a ton of dialogue and each Rabbid has its own voice and personality. No, the Rabbids don’t finish full sentences, but it is nice to see them talk more in battle or in cutscenes and become their own character essentially.
Even while exploring the worlds you’ll notice more dialogue all around from the random Rabbids you’ll run into.
With the added Dialogue from the Rabbids in this game it made the experience more enjoyable. The game definitely has the humor we all expected.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING*
This game actually has a story that makes sense. You are facing an entity named Cursa who has been spreading dark matter called darkmess and its seeking out the energy of the titular Sparks. This turns the galaxy into chaos making you travel to different worlds to restore peace to the galaxy, save the Sparks, and defeat Cursa and her minions.
I also find there’s a greater anticipation to finally meet Rosalina in this game as you are in her universe and the game is heavily inspired by that character. The game doesn’t lack storytelling when you compare it to its predecessor. As you go along you just want to learn more about what’s going on with the planets.
The story had its serious moments, but the point of the Rabbids is to have that humor we all know about and it did have multiple moments with that. Whether it was in a cutscene, exploring or even battling you had those comedic moments with the Rabbids.
In order to save each planet you need to complete two main quests that they all provide or in other words you need to collect 2 Purified Darkmess Energy Crystals. To acquire them you need to complete what we love to call, boss fights.
Sometimes boss fights can get repetitive and boring in games if they are predictable. In each planet you’ll face two different tiers of bosses. The first one I view as almost a warmup and not as complicated while the last boss fight before you obtain the last Purified Darkmess Energy Crystal, can be pretty challenging.
With Sparks of Hope I found every boss fight to have something different about them. The quality of fights ramps up toward the end of the game. The layouts of each encounter are different and there will be a couple curveballs on how to defeat bosses.
The final boss fight is one of the most impressive fights I have done and it was unexpected. Without spoiling it for everyone I would say it was one of the more fun final bosses I’ve dealt with in a while for a game.
Just like every last boss fight it can get a little bit challenging and don’t get me wrong it does. I was pleasantly surprised with the way they did this one.
Another positive about this game is that you can replay boss fights even after completing them except for the final one though it seems.
Post Story Content
In case you were wondering, this game does not lack content after you complete the story. Like I’ve said earlier there is a wide variety of side quests to complete on each planet and each of them have their own level.
It’s always a plus when playing a single player only game where there’s more content rather than just the story itself and Sparks of Hope shines at having you spend hours upon hours trying to 100% the game. For some context in my initial playthrough I was focusing on main quests only and after I finished the main story I was only at 54% complete for the entire game.
This Game Has Great Looks
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has great visuals given that it’s a Nintendo Switch only game. The most stunning world in my opinion and where you see the graphics shine in this game is on Pristine Peaks where it’s a snow world.
This game has great looking cutscenes that I felt were more iconic. Ubisoft definitely deserves credit with how the game looks and its art style. I don’t have much complaints about it.
The games audio and music also deserves some recognition. The one and only Grant Kirkhope who did work on the first Mario Rabbids title along with other famous gaming franchises also did the music for Sparks of Hope. The music for this game is an added treat to what is already a terrific experience on the Switch.
Given that this is a Nintendo Switch game there was always going to be questions regarding how it performs. When docked I had no issues with frames dropping for the most part unless if you were in a somewhat crowded area with a lot going on, but that happen occasionally when playing on the Switch handheld.
Overall I would say the game played as smooth as it can get on the Nintendo Switch
No Yoshi of any kind
In my opinion there is no such thing as a perfect game. There’s going to be issues with games especially with sequels. In Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle we briefly got to enjoy having Rabbid Yoshi and Yoshi playing on our team, but that seemed short lived since it was towards the end of the game. For me, Yoshi was one of the more fun heroes to play as.
It seems like both of those characters were replaced with Rabbid Rosalina and Edge. Don’t get me wrong those are great additions to the game, but I would have loved to see them in the game along with the welcomed newcomers.
That’s right this Mario Rabbids sequel does not feature online multiplayer whereas the first game did, but it’s hard to believe it was used much. We would like to see the online co-op option to play with a friend and if it were ever possible somehow, a PvP online mode.
I believe it would be a good addition to the game, but it wouldn’t make or break it. Having multiplayer could increase the amount of times someone would replay the game with a friend.
Where’s the weapon upgrades?
Sparks of Hope lacks upgrades of weapons and what I mean by that is you are stuck with the same type of weapon along the whole ride. Using Mario was an example, he carries the Dual Slinger which allows for two separate shots. You are basically stuck with that same gun, but yes there is a skill tree where you can upgrade your abilities.
It seems that Sparks replaced the ability to upgrade weapons from the first game as they do give you a new way to attack. I would’ve loved to see more when it came to the weapons itself.
In conclusion I enjoyed my time playing Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. To me this is the best game Ubisoft came out with in 2022 hands down. From the exploration it provides to its gameplay to its storyline there’s no question this is the better game of the series. We hope to see them expand more into the galaxy setting in the next installment because this game thrived off of that.
Ubisoft took full advantage of the inspirations from Mario Galaxy and have made a masterpiece with this game. It’s as good as a sequel can get and is worth every penny.
If you haven’t touched a Mario Rabbids game yet and are deciding on which game to play first look no further than Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.