A Rabbid Fan

On my mission to go back and close out some of my half-completed backlog of Switch games, I decided this weekend to put down Splatoon 2 and Fortnite and return to the surprise hit of 2017, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

(My quick Fortnite review: I’m torn. I love the art style and weapon system, and playing it is what you imagined playing “manhunt” would feel like as a kid but never did… but I could do without every player rocking an 8-foot vertical leap and building a house at the first sign of incoming fire.)

It took me a moment to get back up to speed on Kingdom Battle. I was early on in the game’s fourth and final world, the Lava Pit, and over the course of two or three days I dove back in and remembered what made the game unexpectedly fun when it debuted at the end of last summer.

If you own a Switch and you’ve not yet partaken in Kingdom Battle, and you have any fondness for X-Com, Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Codename S.T.E.A.M., Final Fantasy Tactics, or really any game in the tactical role playing genre, you really should indulge yourself. The key combat elements of the genre are all here and well-executed, but aside from that Kingdom Battle is a vibrant and colorful game with a tremendous soundtrack, a genuinely amusing story… and if you find the Rabbids annoying, fear not: the presence of the Mushroom Kingdom’s bravest and boldest takes the edge off their Minion-esque antics.

For a game featuring Mario and Luigi and a bunch of cartoon rabbits, Kingdom Battle is surprisingly stylish. Though combat animations occur only after you’ve inputed instructions to the members of your three-man squad, once your team is up and running you’re treated to Matrix-style slow motion camera pans and trick shots, with Mario, his Rabbid doppelgänger, and everyone else flipping and flying through the air, tossing grenades over their shoulder, or dabbing as they send off an explosive trolley through a white rabbit pipe. Developer Ubisoft deserves credit: they’ve blended Nintendo’s house style and their own Assassin’s Creed-flavored approach to game design perfectly.

One of the best things about Kingdom Battle, aside from its impeccable balance (did I mention the balance?) is that after its final boss battle, a boss battle that took me four tries but never felt cheap, the game almost aggressively throws more content at you. There’s a hidden world within one of the game’s worlds that’s only accessible post-game, and the game’s extra challenge maps are all waiting for your now almost fully souped-up squad to tackle. On top of that, there’s a local co-op mode, a local versus mode was added last December, and Kingdom Battle also has DLC for sale, the newly released Donkey Kong Adventure, a whole extra world to play through with a set squad that includes DK himself. I’ve not made a big secret of my love for Splatoon 2 on these pages, but truth told? I’m going to dip into Donkey Kong Adventure before I try out Octo Expansion. I don’t play Splatoon for the single player campaign, but I can’t wait to try out new characters and maps with Kingdom Battle‘s fantastic combat system.

So yeah… here it is, almost one year too late, my ringing endorsement for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. We’ve only had the Switch in our lives for sixteen months, but it already has a very impressive set of titles, representative of most of gaming’s important genres. Check tactical role playing off the list, cuz Kingdom Battle has that covered.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is the game that nobody wanted, but now I’ve got my fingers crossed for a sequel.

Like Fine Wine

The title of this post is a bad pun. See, this is a post about “ports,” which are games for one console that are transported as-are to another console or consoles. However, “port” is also a type of wine, so I’m saying that these ported games have aged as well as a wine has aged, which is to say they’ve aged very well.

The best puns are the ones you have to explain.

Last summer I decided, for no reason other than I decided to decide it, that after Pokken Tournament DX released Nintendo was going to call it quits on porting old Wii U games to the Switch. I honestly thought they’d be very eager to distance themselves from the disastrous former console ASAP, and move quickly to sweep Wii U under the rug. The only developers still working on Wii U games are indies dumping their quickie projects to the E-shop, and Ubisoft, and while the latter still publishes a Wii U version of JUST DANCE, it’s worth pointing out that they also still publish a Wii version of JUST DANCE. (Yes: a major publisher is still making Wii games as of October 2017.)

So, yeah, Wii U is done, and the quicker Nintendo forgets about it, the better. At least, that’s how I thought they’d approach Wii U’s legacy. Nintendo, as usual, seems to have had other ideas. Not only have Wii U ports NOT died out, but in recent months Nintendo is doubling down on them. Since Pokken Tournament DX we’ve seen released or announced BayonettaBayonetta 2Hyrule Warriors Deluxe EditionDonkey Kong Tropical Freeze, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Is this good, bad, or just something? While on the one hand, it looks like Nintendo is leaning on Wii U ports to fill out a so-far slim 2018 Switch gaming line-up. On the other, these are all great games that came out on a console that absolutely flopped. Switch’s 2017 line-up was stacked: Zelda, Mario, Splatoon, and Mario Kart (itself a port) headlined a year of blockbusters that enticed gamers to jump on-board with the new hybrid console. 2018 was always going to slow down, at least pre-E3, and that’s certainly what we’ve seen. Consider, though: more people have already bought a Switch than ever bought a Wii U. Giving gamers the chance to experience a whole generation of great Nintendo games that so many of them missed can’t be anything but a good thing.

Hyrule Warriors was my second-favorite Wii U title, so I happily double-dipped. I don’t know that I’ll do the same for Captain Toad, and Bayonetta 2 still doesn’t do anything for me, but Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is the one Wii U game I missed that I regretted so I’m glad to get the chance to play it again. It’s also worth noting that most of these Wii U-to-Switch ports have some level of new content: Mario Kart 8 included a new and improved Battle Mode, Pokken Tournament DX introduced six new fighters that weren’t available in the Wii U version of the game, Hyrule Warriors Deluxe includes all of the DLC from the Wii U version of the game as well as all of the new content and DLC created for the 3DS version of the game, and Captain Toad will feature new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey‘s kingdoms.

What else will make the transition from Wii U to Switch? I’d be surprised if we didn’t see any 3D Zelda games get a port, whether it’s the much-beloved Wind Waker HD, or if Skyward Sword gets a port over from the Wii. Lots of Nintendo fans seem to think Super Mario Maker is a no-brainer, but I remain skeptical: it’s a fantastic title but its design is so reliant on Wii U’s Gamepad. Even with the Switch’s touchpad tablet screen, I wonder if the title really fits there. Super Mario 3D World is an easy guess, and they could decide to try and salvage Star Fox Zero… but like Mario Maker, the excellent Star Fox Guard seems as though it may be forever trapped on the Wii U. Xenoblade Chronicles X could make the leap, as could Pikmin 3, but the former’s superior sequel already exists for Switch and the latter’s sequel has been long rumored as in-development.

There aren’t many more Wii U games I’d need to see make the leap, honestly, and none of them are the no-brainer purchases for me that Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors Deluxe were. After all, I’m one of those suckers that OWNED a Wii U. Still, bringing nearly the entire first-party Wii U line-up to Switch would be entirely defensible, and who would lose in that scenario? Not Nintendo, who gets to recycle little-played great games to pad out the line-up for their new hit console, and certainly not gamers, who get to experience an entire generation of Nintendo games they may have missed. The possibilities, quite frankly, are intoxicating.

Because a “port” is also a wine. Get it?