Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is more than just a enjoyable turn-based combat game or a successful non-Nintendo Mario game. It also serves as a revitalization of Ubisoft’s Rabbids, a game that takes what were (are mostly still are) some of the least liked characters in gaming, gives them depth and personality, and makes them interesting and even likeable! Nobody was clamoring for a new Rabbids game a month ago, but Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle might just interest a few gamers in seeing more from this franchise.
Of course, the Rabbids have been starring in their own games for over a decade, and…well, like I said, nobody was clamoring for a new Rabbids game. If Ubisoft wants to wring some more life out of their bwah-loving protagonists, they’re going to need to find a way to re-capture the feel of M+R Kingdom Battle without having the Mario franchise as an anchor.
So what can Ubisoft learn to make their next Rabbids game a success? Here are my suggestions based on what I’ve seen from M+R Kingdom Battle:
- Make playable Rabbid characters more unique and less ‘bwahhh.’ From Rabbid Mario’s smug attitude to Rabbid Peach’s selfie shenanigans, it’s the personalities of the characters that make them interesting. Rabbids have been dressing up in silly costumes for a while, but until now their attitude never seemed to involve past screaming “BWAHHHH!”and behaving as insanely as possible. This needs to change: If Rabbids are going to be the main focus of a game, the PCs need strong, identifiable characteristics that players can connect with and appreciate (and not be annoyed by).
- Double-down on the adventure/RPG genre. The Rabbid console releases have been mostly minigame collections in recent history, and while there have been stabs at other genres (Rabbids Heroes, anyone?), nothing seemed to catch the public’s imagination until Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. This suggests that as long as the characters as interesting (per my previous point), gamers would be interested in learning more about the Rabbids and their world. Adventure games and especially RPGs would be perfect for this because they would let the developers dive deeper into the lore of the series (filled with all the requisite insanity, of course). What sort of communities would Rabbids build? How would they govern themselves? If you can convince people that these questions are worth answering, then longer, deeper genres would be perfect for doing so.
- Include a serious counterpoint to the Rabbids’ usual antics. The classic Rabbid silliness is still present in Kingdom Battle, the comedic effect is amplified by Beep-0, whose serves as the straight man by offering serious-sounding commentary on whatever bizarre situation the Rabbids get into. As it turns out, Ubisoft may already have the perfect person for this role: Rayman, the protagonist who used to headline these games until the Rabbids eclipsed him (and whose star has faded despite the release of some critically-acclaimed titles). He could fill the role of dispassionate observer (even as the lead hero!), shaking his head along with the player as he experiences the Rabbids’ classic insanity.
- Explore more crossover opportunities. If Ubisoft is serious about re-establishing the Rabbids as a tentpole franchise, they should explore more crossover possibilities just as they did with Nintendo. In fact, M+R Kingdom Battle may not be the only Nintendo-based opportunity: What if Rabbid Peach or Rabbid Luigi showed up in Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros.? Heck, would Rabbids make sense in a Sonic or Crash Bandicoot game? At the very least, Ubisoft could increase the Rabbids’ brand awareness by getting the characters in front of different and larger audiences, and perhaps even increase peoples’ interest in the characters (again, provided they are presented properly).
You can never have too many strong IPs in your arsenal, and Ubisoft should consider Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle a first step towards rebuilding the respectability of its Rabbid characters. If they can take the things that made this game great and apply them to future titles, in a few years the world’s gut reaction to these insane rabbits will be excitement instead of disgust.