Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope was one of E3 2021’s biggest surprises. Revealed during a lengthy segment in the French Publisher’s Ubisoft Forward E3 2021 event, a CG trailer, gameplay trailer, and extended developer interview gave fans an in-depth look at the latest entry in this fever dream crossover series. It’s a game that few saw coming, and as a sequel to the already fairly improbable Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, it’s fair to say that Sparks of Hope’s reveal turned a lot of virtual heads.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope trailer
Reuniting Mario, Peach, Luigi, and their slightly unhinged Rabbit counterparts, the latest release from Ubisoft Milan promises to pivot the action RPG title into a slightly new direction. Where Kingdom Battle’s crossover capers wreaked havoc across the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope sees our oddball heroes journeying a little farther afield, embarking on an intergalactic adventure.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope release date
The bad news about the brilliantly bonkers Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is that it’s still a fair way off. While we don’t have a specific date confirmed for the upcoming tactical RPG, this colorful creation has been given a 2022 release date. Unsurprisingly for a game starring Mario and co, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope will be launching exclusively on Nintendo Switch. The big question for many, however, is whether this will be a Switch Pro enhanced release, with the first gameplay trailer released looking impressively crisp… Was this Nintendo Switch Pro footage? That remains to be seen, with Nintendo yet to announce their heavily rumored new Switch hardware revision.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope gameplay
After setting the scene with a surprisingly atmospheric CG reveal trailer, Ubisoft’s Forward event went on to give fans a proper glimpse at Sparks of Hope’s gameplay. Where the first Mario + Rabbids title took its inspiration from the Mushroom Kingdom of old, Sparks of Hope instead takes a leaf from the planet-hopping Super Mario Galaxy games. As well as providing a fresh new range of playable possibilities, interestingly, with this starry new setting comes an unexpectedly darker tone. From Rosalina’s brilliantly emo Rabbid counterpart to glowing-eyed Bob-ombs and hooded antagonists, there’s an altogether eerier feel to the ironically named Sparks of Hope.
Even more interesting is that Sparks of Hope will be doing away with the original’s grid-based combat entirely. Thanks to the sequel’s newfound focus on exploration, battles will now be triggered Pokémon style, launching players into a separate environment for a battle encounter. While developer Ubisoft Milan still promises that these encounters will have the original’s tactical decision making, this time around, your battle decisions play out in real-time – resulting in gameplay that feels more "fluid" and "action-packed".
Still, based on what’s been revealed so far, it seems as though Sparks of Hope’s second new gameplay hook revolves around the titular Sparks. Looking like a wonderfully derpy recreation of Mario Galaxy’s cutesy Lumas, these mischievous floating companions take after different elements. With different colored Sparks floating around our mustachioed mascot throughout our heroes’ journey, during the presentation, the game’s producer reveals that the Sparks will be “integral to both the story and the gameplay”, lending powers to the players in battle.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope characters
Who else can we expect to see on this new journey, you ask? Well, returning to help the world’s most famous plumber are Luigi, Peach and, of course, their Rabbids counterparts. Yet it’s Spark Of Hope’s menacing new villains that have us most intrigued. This time around it’s not just Rabbids that are the problem, as Mario and his mischievous companions find themselves going head-to-head with an all-new antagonist named Cursa. This red, eerie, ethereal creature wants to rule the galaxy – heading from solar system to solar system draining energy from every planet and consuming the pure energy emitted by the Sparks themselves.
Much like in the Kingdom Hearts series, Cursa’s evil energy coats the land in an evil sticky substance known as Dark Mass, which consumers both the game’s characters and environments alike. It’s an interesting new twist, and based on what we’ve seen so far, looks to provide a nice change from the purely Rabbid enemies that players faced in the first game.
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope setting
Developer Ubisoft Milan promises that Sparks of Hope will contain "many planets" for players to explore and that each planet will contain multiple puzzles and house secrets waiting to be discovered.
"We have a lot of planets," explains lead producer, Xavier Manzanares. "We won't spoil the amount… but we went crazy over the number of different environments, and what happens on each planet - could be on the narrative side, or with the different puzzles or mysteries that you have in exploration or even the type of enemies and what they do." Otherwise, the main crux of each world comes from rescuing each planets’ Sparks – after you’ve blasted away that pesky-looking Evil Mass.
For more top Switch titles to look forward to, check out our upcoming Switch games round-up.