After five years of waiting, the world of Mario and Rabbids reunites in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. While many sequels keep what was established in the original and tweak its mechanics, this title does something completely different, as everything from its combat system to even the titular Rabbids has seen changes. So, whether you’re eager to know what’s new in this latest title or want a simple rundown, here are some of the most significant differences in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.
The Rabbids Talk
So, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The Rabbids now talk. Unlike in past games, where they scream, they can speak complete sentences, and each has its own voice actor. That being said, the Rabbids will only make small quotes like, “take this” or “live stream!” during combat, and some dialog boxes will have the rabbits talking for a bit. NPCs you meet along the way also follow this pattern. Meanwhile, Beep-o (the robot from the first game) and his creation, JEANIE, are fully voiced.
Compared to the text-only dialog of the original, It’s a huge step up in investing you into the story. The only problem is that you’d wish they did more. While the Rabbids making short quotes in animated cutscenes and gameplay is all good, it’s a bit odd for them to stop mid-sentence during in-game conversations.
New Team Mates
While Mario, Peach, Luigi, and their Rabbid counterparts are still in the game, Yoshi and his Rabbid doppelganger are gone. It’s never really explained, but oh well. This time you get a Rabbid version of Rosalina, a Rabbid named Edge, and the king of the Koopas himself, Bowser. Rabbid Rosalina can use a stuffed animal mini-gun and can use her powers to prevent enemies from moving, Edge has a sword that can act as a boomerang, and Bowser is all about explosions and AOE damage.
While Yoshi is missed, Rabbid Rosalina makes up for him by having a similar move set, while Edge annihilates both versions of the green Dinosaur. Meanwhile, Bowser’s raw strength is (both literally and figuratively) a blast to use and comes with the ability to ground pound and use robot minions is great fun.
The Sparks and Elemental Damage
As you progressed through Kingdom Battle, more powerful weapons became available for purchase, each having its own elemental damage or status ailment. Your guns could set enemies on fire, cover them with honey to prevent them from moving, and so on. The titular Sparks will now embed your weapons with elemental or status effects, allowing for improved customization.
Compare that to the more restrictiveness of having status and element damage of the original; it’s an incredibly flexible system that allows you to get comfortable with your preferred playstyle.
One of the odder elements of the original Mario + Rabbids title was the grid system, which felt restrictive. In comparison, Sparks of Hope allows you to move around the battlefield as long as you are within the white ring. Jumping has also seen a change, where you’ll use Beep-o to act as a helicopter to fly around for a short period.
The cover system has also been streamlined, as you simply need to move towards it for your character to take position behind it. It makes it much easier to go where you want, and you won’t accidentally go somewhere else, like in the original (for the most part).
The original Mario + Rabbids could get frustratingly difficult, with some sections feeling next to impossible, even in easy mode, which just gave you more health. It’s not that challenge isn’t welcome, but Kingdom Battle’s difficulty felt inconsistent. The new game is far more generous on the default difficulty, though there are some rough spots. If you still crave the challenge, you can change it anytime in the options menu.
This flexible approach to difficulty makes the game appeal to a broader audience without sacrificing the difficulty many strategy veterans loved about the original. If you still find that the story missions are too easy, some of the side-quests can lead to much meatier challenges.
As you explore the galaxy in Sparks of Hope, you’ll visit a variety of different worlds. The planets are large and dense, featuring dungeons for you to explore, a stark contrast to the more linear progression of Kingdom Battle. This galactic approach leads to many more unique enticements, like tropical beaches, snowy mountain tops, and autumn countryside. The new setting offers more variety outside the usual Mushroom Kingdom of grasslands, desserts, and lava worlds.
One area that might be divisive for some is how you get into battles. Unlike the original, which had you move from one battle arena to the next, Sparks of Hope has a more JRPG approach. If you see an enemy, you dash toward it to initiate battles, teleporting you to a combat area. It can take away from the more interconnective approach that Kingdom Battle had.
All Mario or All Rabbids, You Decide
Character choice in Kingdom Battle could feel pretty restrictive, as you were forced to take a Rabbid and Mario character with Mario to battle. This time around, you can mix and match who you want in your party. You can even play without Mario and have the Rabbids if you choose.
It’s a solid change that doesn’t just force you to have a specific character for no other reason than the game demands it so. Having the ability to use Mario, Luigi, and Peach or their rabbid versions gives you more customization options than in its predecessor.
Skins of Choice
Unlike the last game, Sparks of Hope doesn’t let you purchase weapons. What you see is what you get. Mario has his twin pistols, Luigi has a Bow and Arrow, and so on. While it stinks that you can’t have more than one gun like in the original, it does help give characters a more defined role.
You can also change your weapon’s appearance via skins. To purchase these, you need sun stickers, which can be earned by completing side missions. While most of them are pretty forgettable, it’s still a nice option, and at least you’re not being forced to pay like in so many modern games.
How you upgrade your powers and abilities has seen some overhalling. In Kingdom Battle, you gain currency to increase Mario and the gang’s abilities. For each level, you’ll earn a skill point that you can use to improve your character’s abilities. All characters gain XP and enemies generally remain at the same levels as you, so grinding isn’t an issue.
It’s a small but noticeable change, especially given how you were only rewarded by playing extremely well in the original. Given how hard the original could get, it could feel like Kingdom Battle was punishing you for not playing up to the game’s nearly impossible standards, especially toward the end.
Additionally, you can upgrade your sparks by feeding them star bits, though you’ll have to be at a specific level to do this continually.
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