‘Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope’ developers scrapped a time manipulation mechanic

Time is the enemy of any developer, especially when it breaks your game.

The team behind Ubisoft’s latest collaboration, mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope, I wanted to push the boundaries of what a turn-based strategy RPG could be. So they experimented with new mechanics, like Sparks, a new item of equipment that gives characters temporary special powers, like reflecting attacks or dealing poison damage.

Creative director Davide Soliani says the team initially hoped to implement a Spark that would allow players to control time, but quickly realized it was too powerful and fundamentally altered the entire combat system. So it was unceremoniously discarded, just another casualty in the constant cycle of game balance.

Rosalina Rabbid kes takes aim.Ubisoft

“We have been working on balance from the first day to the last,” says Soliani. Reverse. “The game cannot be broken all the time, or else we made some mistake on our side.”

A new world of mushrooms

In 2017, Mario Kingdom Battle + Rabbids brought together the worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom and Ubisoft’s wacky bunny mascots in a bizarre turn-based RPG that silenced dissenters with its tight gameplay, fun story, and deep customization.

Despite his many successes, kingdom battle it had some limitations. Movement in combat was strictly confined to a grid, and levels were very linear with little exploration. The sequel takes more risks, ditching the grid system to allow players to explore full, lush worlds filled with side quests, discoveries, and side quests.

“In order to make sparks of hope, we went back to the drawing board, we changed a lot of it,” Soliani said. “We wanted to bring a relevant new experience as it’s easy to jump into sequel mode. But in the end, you don’t bring anything new, which is a shame.”

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Reinventing turn-based combat isn’t exactly an easy task. (There’s a reason the core game of the Pokémon franchise has barely evolved out of the “you take a turn, then I take a turn” cycle in more than two decades. But Soliani and his team focused on innovation, not do more of the same They just had to convince Nintendo that it was a good idea first.

“We prefer surprise our players and do it risky.”

Any project that features Mario and other iconic Nintendo characters is closely scrutinized by Nintendo. And Soliani says that convincing the Japanese developer that having freedom of movement in a tactical genre was not easy. Without its earlier success, it’s unlikely Nintendo would have given the green light.

“We have earned their trust,” says Soliani. “If we started with this idea in 2014, we would not have been able to convince them.”

a rabbi who speaks

the worlds of sparks of hope they are full of life, puzzles and quirky characters. Whether it’s the pristine garden of Princess Peach’s castle or the frozen tundra of Pristine Peaks, there are a variety of vivid environments to explore.

There are nine playable characters, each fulfilling one of three archetypes: goon, support, and crowd control. You can bring three into combat, each with their own unique set of skills and abilities. For example, Mario Rabbid can smash his way through anyone nearby, while Princess Peach can apply a shield that negates some instances of damage. Knowing how to mix and match characters is a core part of strategy.

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Rosalina Rabbid is making her debut, and Edge is a new character in the main game, a Rabbid with a large sword inspired by classic Japanese RPGs.

“She has two emotions: with a sword and without it,” says Soliani. “She’s super stubborn.”

Edge, Luigi and Peach Rabbid have no problem visiting the store. Ubisoft

In kingdom battle, Ubisoft had their own guidelines that Rabbids were not allowed to speak. But with the trust gained by the previous title, the French developer has become more lax with that restriction. Now the entire squad of Rabbids has a full range of dialogue, even though there’s nothing more unsettling than hearing a mustachioed Rabbid yell Mario’s catchphrases and insist that he’s “your guy.”

One of the game’s wildest DLC inclusions is Rayman as a playable character. The star of many platform games and Ubisoft’s longest-serving mascot has spent the last decade in relative obscurity, appearing only in the rayman legends game that has been re-released several times. For Soliani, this was a dream come true, as the first game he worked on was rayman on Game Boy Color in 1999.

All of these changes are meant to surprise players and give them something to play with.

“If you’re not bringing something new, people will get bored,” Soliani said. “We prefer to surprise our players and make it risky.”

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope comes to Nintendo Switch on October 20.

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