The latter half of 2017 will see no fewer than two different Mario games hit the Nintendo Switch. I was able to spend a little bit of time with both of them recently and, to be honest, it's difficult to say which one I was more excited to play or which one I'm more excited to play again when they come out later this year. However, after doing so, I can't help but feel that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle might be the bigger game as it has the potential to draw in two different sets of fans, those that love Mario and those that love turn based strategy.
Mario has never looked better than he does in Super Mario Odyssey. If you're familiar with the 3D Mario games from Mario 64 forward then Odyssey will certainly feel familiar. Mario controls much the same as he would in Super Mario Galaxy or any other such title. However, the openness of a gameplay area like New Donk City feels entirely different. While something like Galaxy gave you fairly small worlds and linear paths to follow, Odyssey gives you an entire city to explore and I honestly spent the majority of my time just wandering around and looking at it.
It took me a bit of time to get my sea legs back regarding 3D platforming. A sequence involving jumping along moving girders in an attempt to scale a building required precision that may be a little tough for those that haven't played a game like this in a while. In the end, while Super Mario Odyssey clearly is doing new things with a Mario game, the basic gameplay is still familiar. If you loved previous 3D Mario games you'll love this, but I'm not sure there's enough to draw in those who don't.
From there I moved on to the game I was possibly even more interested in, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Turn based strategy is about as far from my chosen genre as a game can possibly get, and yet, there's something absolutely attractive about Kingdom Battle. I played through a few different basic battles during a timed demo and each one presented different interesting ways to traverse the terrain in order to get the drop on your opponent.
Each character has the ability to move and attack and while it can be as simple as that, the real fun comes when characters combine different abilities to chain attacks together. If you move one of your characters through an opposing Rabbids space you'll hit them as you run by, but you'll still be able to do a standard attack at the end of your movement. More than once I was able to run through an enemy, then run through the space of an ally, the ally gives you a boost which means you can jump to any number of locations within your movement area. Upon landing, you can still take your standard attack. What I really wanted to do was land on the Rabbid, this is a Mario game after all, and while I was not able to do that at the stage of the game I was playing, I was assured that ability is one that will be unlocked at some point further on.
Coins picked up along the way are used to unlock weapons. The end of my timed demo also gave me a quick look at some different enemies and some of the special abilities that Mario and friends will pick up along the way. This variety will be key to the game's long term playability and while I only got a glimpse it was a promising start.
I can't help but be reminded of the first time we all saw Super Mario RPG. None of us really knew what to expect when we saw Mario in this new type of game for the first time, but that title went on to become of the best the genre has ever seen. It's too early to know for sure if Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle will do the same thing for turn based strategy, but everything I've seen looks promising. It certainly has the unique look that may bring new players to the genre and if it has the depth to make hardcore players happy then we will have a winner.