I love XCOM as much as the next guy. The original reinvented turn-based tactics to such an extent that it practically invented a new genre. I’ll admit I’ve never played UFO Defense, as I was in the womb at the time, but Firaxis Games’ Enemy Unknown is a chilling classic. It’s just a shame it’s not as good as Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Before I run for heresy, I understand that XCOM is awesome. I understand that it revolutionized the genre. I said it in the first paragraph. It has a complexity and depth that Mario could only dream of, and some people even like that it’s tough as nails. Have you ever really saved the Earth? Oh good? I did not mean it. One thing XCOM doesn’t have, however, is Rabbids.
I have no particular affection for the Rabbids themselves. I’ve only played a handful of Rayman games, and none of them even had Rabbids. I didn’t know Rabbids and Rayman were even connected until a few days ago to be honest I just assumed it was a Minion-esque creature that Nintendo licensed for their game Mario XCOM. But Rabbids, especially in the one game I’ve played, represent something more than that. They represent pleasure.
For all of XCOM’s greatness, it’s not exactly fun. It’s fun to play (when you’re not getting your ass kicked hard), but it’s intense and exhausting. That feeling you get when you defeat a wave of aliens? It’s more relief than joy, isn’t it? This is not the case in Kingdom Battle, because your enemies are strange mutated rabbits. Some of them are weird mutant giant bunnies. Your teammates are also sometimes strange mutant rabbits. Frivolity goes further than mutant characters, however.
In XCOM you have guns. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, LMGs, you know the drill. You are a soldier, you have soldier rifles. You can have a little fun with rocket launchers and alien plasma technology, but that’s it. There are also guns in Kingdom Battle (yes, they gave Mario a gun), but they have that Rabbit randomness. Rabbit Peach has a homing missile, for example, and Yoshi throws rubber ducky grenades wearing Splinter Cell costumes. . Why? Because it’s funny.
Rabbit Luigi is a vampire and Rabbit Mario is a human magnet (rabbit?). Read this description of Donkey Kong’s Magnet Groove ability and tell me you don’t want to play this game: “Enemies within range will be drawn to Donkey Kong’s irresistible jungle rhythms as he smashes bongos and take me for a ride to beat the city!” There’s also a Rabbid version of Cranky Kong, so I can only assume Rabbid Funky is coming in the sequel.
As much as I’ve talked about its (lack of) complexity, the thing about Kingdom Battle that most appealed to me when I first played it was the surprising depth. It’s not about XCOM’s levels of tactical precision, but the different character abilities and variety of stages give you plenty of options as you approach each puzzle. But most of all, I love racing as vampire bunny Luigi, to be honest.
2022 is a good year for turn-based tactical games. We got Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters in May, and Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is coming in October. While the former has too much punctuation and the latter too little, they both have the potential to appear on my Game of the Year list at the end of the year. Firaxis is busy working on Marvel’s Midnight Suns, which will also be released in October, but after that? He needs to make a bloody good XCOM game if he wants the series to reclaim its crown.
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