Growing up you’re always told, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Don’t look at something and make an assumption about the overall quality by one small piece of information that you have. You’re going to miss out on a lot of great things if you do that. Sometimes that first piece of information you have isn’t enough to really make a solid judgment on the product. You most often need more information to build a solid opinion about something. If there was ever a game that epitomized the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it would be Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. The game has seen one of the biggest turnarounds in opinion from the time it was first discovered until it was officially shown off by the developer.
Details about the game first started leaking out around May 24th. That was when the first images appeared online for the game. They appeared to be promotional shots of the game showing how the developers were thinking about the world. They showed Mario with his arm cannon and captions like ‘Weapons for the 1st time’. They showed a Rabbid taking a selfie while dressed up like Princess Peach labeled, ‘Humor & self-mockery’. They showed Peach with her gun and the words, ‘Self-defense kick-@$$’. At the time I’d even posted a story here detailing the leak, but then took it down because weird typos and the wording didn’t quite seem like it could be real.
Fans online immediately began the mockery. Comparing Rabbids to Minions, another group of characters people find highly annoying. Other people online were saying, “Here’s your Metroid”. The accompanying picture was a close up of Mario’s Arm cannon. It was also a reference to the fact that Nintendo hasn’t put out a new game in the Metroid franchise since 2010, with the exception of Metroid Prime Federation Force. The internet was generally not a very nice place in regards to the announcement. There were far more posts mocking the game than actually saying positive things about it.
For the next two weeks leading up to the reveal at E3 the message was pretty much the same. I was even a part of that, though not quite as vocally. I’ve been on record saying I’m not a big fan of the Rabbids. I haven’t played a game with them yet that I really enjoyed. They were being relegated to strange mini-game compilations, or weird adventure games that just didn’t seem like they’d be very interesting. There were, prior to this announcement, 13 different games starring the characters and to me, and many others online, they were getting more annoying as time went on. They weren’t endearing. Many didn’t find them cute. Some did, for sure. I just couldn’t imagine a game that included those characters that would be interesting at all.
Some more details about the game slowly leaked out, but nothing could be confirmed. Some were saying it was an adventure game. Others were saying it was more like a strategy RPG. Nothing really concrete was happening. Then E3 happened.
June 12th, 2017. Los Angeles, California. Ubisoft held their annual E3 press conference and the show opened with an image of a rabbid. You quickly see a question block over his head and they show a quick video of two rabbids interacting with that question block and eating a mushroom. CEO Yves Guillemot then appeared on stage to officially show off the game. He introduced Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto and the two showed off the first official footage of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. The two spent about 10 minutes talking about the approach to developing the game and showing off the first real game play showing that it was, in fact, a turn based strategy RPG.
That’s when the opinion of the game across the internet officially turned. The game play they were showing off was really good. A lot of people were saying that it reminded them of XCOM. The characters move around a map and then at various, pre-determined places, they enter a battle map. The small group of characters you control, which are Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and then rabbids dressed like those characters, move around the map fighting against Rabbids that have been corrupted and are invading the Mushroom Kingdom. You can perform team based combos, use cover to help defend against enemy attacks and it just looked fantastic.
At one point during the presentation the game’s project lead, Davide Soliani, is seen and he’s very visibly emotional about the whole thing. The picture was circulated around the internet after the event and Twitter immediately began showing their support. No longer was the game being made fun of. Sure there were the holdouts who still said they’d never play a Rabbids game, but there was a very visible shift in the perception of the game.
To me it’s been all about the game play. It really looks good. The development team has taken great care in crafting a world that looks amazing. It feels like the Mushroom Kingdom. You see goombas bouncing on waterfalls. You see piranha plants decorating the landscape. You see Peach’s castle. You see a game that looks like strategy will be of the utmost importance. You see cover that matters and can be destroyed, adding to the tactical feel of the game.
People found out that Grant Kirkhope is doing the music for the game. He’s been the one behind some of the most memorable soundtracks in video games over the last 20 years. GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Viva Pinanta, Yooka-Laylee. Those are only a few of the games he’s composed the soundtrack for. Everything about the game feels like Ubisoft is putting everything they can behind it. They want this game to be a success.
No longer is the tone that of derision and mockery. It’s now excitement that people are finally playing a game that stars rabbids that they’re interested in. They feel Ubisoft is making a game they didn’t know they wanted to play, but are excited to try out. I really hope this game is a success. I really hope it proves that teams that do something interesting will be rewarded by putting their game on a Nintendo platform. I know I’m looking forward to it, and I’m going to do everything I can to show my support of this game, the team, and the company behind it. Ubisoft deserves our support now. If they make a game that reviews well and people genuinely love they deserve the benefit of the doubt in all future games that seem like they won’t work, but just might. “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. “Don’t judge this game by the linked images that came out before the developers had their chance to fully show it off”.