Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope finally gets the deep dive fans have been waiting for ahead of its October 20 launch. The turn-based strategy formula is back, but with a bevy of new sci-fi tricks up its sleeves, and it’s giving me major Super Mario Galaxy 3-vibes. Also Rayman will be coming in one of the future DLCs.
A new in-depth look at the game during Ubisoft’s Forward showcase debuted one of the game’s new locations, more complex RPG elements, and Bowser unloading on enemies with his Bowzooka. In the beginning of the trailer Mario, Luigi, and a Rosalina Rabbid explore a 3D planet called Terra Flora, finding hidden paths and solving light puzzles to unlock secrets. Later, the group navigates a battle on the back of a giant golden Wiggler train complete with a ton of new abilities. Overall, it looks like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle with a bigger emphasis on exploration and character customization.
Ubisoft also announced that the game will have at least three DLC expansions after it launches as part of a Season Pass. We didn’t find out much more about when they will arrive, or what they will contain, but Rayman was confirmed to be a playable character when the third one eventually drops post-launch.
Sparks of Hope first leaked back in 2021. The sequel promised to take fans of the first game into space where Mario and co. and their Rabbid impersonators would planet hop on an adventure to save their Spark companions. In addition to the new environments, the Sparks of Hope also frees up the characters, letting players move around at-will in-between using attacks. In the first game, you could often chain attacks so that characters could move all over the map in a single turn, so the new sequel mechanic seems like a natural progression.
This turn-based, real-time hybrid approach looked so smooth in initial trailers that some even believed it might be running on a new Switch Pro. That turned out not to be the case, however. Five years after the launch of the original, Sparks of Hope is no doubt pushing up against the boundaries of Nintendo’s aging hardware like many other recent blockbusters.
While using the Rabbids franchise as a jumping-off point for a Ubisoft/Nintendo crossover seemed wild at first, the initial result, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, ended up being one of the best games on Switch. It proved Mario and Rayman’s alien Rabbids were a natural fit for an XCOM-inspired cover-based strategy game. The mechanics were streamlined, but still allowed for plenty of tactical creativity and satisfying strategic maneuvers. Plus, it wasn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and the Mario characters it featured. Hopefully, Sparks of Hope manages to keep the win-streak going.
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Creative director Davide Soliani recently told GamesIndustry.biz that the team working on the new game is four times bigger than the previous one, and that a lot of changes have been made, including letting players directly control characters this time around. “We changed exploration, we changed the combat system, we added a big mechanics in the sparks, we added RPGs elements…we changed so many things that it was quite the effort for everyone,” he said.
Where 2017’s Kingdom Battle was part of a robust Ubisoft lineup, Sparks of Hope comes during an unusually sparse year for the notoriously prodigious publisher. With Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora both delayed out of 2022, all eyes are currently on the unlikely Mario collaboration.