Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
The story behind Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle predates its announcement, when a blurry image of the game leaked out onto the internet and set Nintendo fan expectations to a level of nervous excitement at best. When the game was officially revealed and released, players saw that the synchronicity between the two licenses and how well they gelled together, with our own Jeff Marchiafava declaring "it ended up being my favorite Mario game in recent years." Earlier this year, Ubisoft and Nintendo announced a Donkey Kong-themed DLC expansion for this game with a new world and new characters and we got a chance to try the new content out.
In the main game, Rabbid Donkey Kong served as the boss of the first world and was ultimately defeated thanks to Rabbid Peach dismantling a tower and pushing the lagomorph-ape down a cliff. The DLC shows that Rabbid Kong ended up falling into the world's reality-bending washing machine, sending him to Donkey Kong's island. Later on, Rabbid Peach also ends up in the washing machine, inadvertently also following to a Donkey Kong Island that has been taken over by Rabbid Kong with the power of corrupted bananas.
Donkey Kong, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Cranky join forces to take down Rabbid Kong and his hierarchy of magic banana-powered mafioso beneath him.
The island's titular Kong is the real star of the party as he functions differently from pretty much every character in the main game. Rather than dashing through enemies or jumping off teammates, Donkey Kong picks up friend and foe alike and thus becomes a gamechanger for mobility and defense on the battlefield. The large rabbids who aggressively stalked your team and got closer to doing massive melee damage with each attack are made almost trivial by Donkey Kong's ability to pick them up and throw them out of the way. Throwing teammates closer to objectives or within skill range can also totally shake up how you use your long-range squad members.
A further upgrade in the skill tree also allows Donkey Kong to pluck enemies in the ground that are waiting to spawn the next turn, allowing you to get a leg-up on damaging them before they get to you. Donkey Kong's ability to traverse the battlefield is also unparalleled, with special vine platforms introduced in this new world that allow DK to swing around the stage in ways plumbers could only dream of.
The DLC is much of what you remember from the main game, rewarding creativity and speed in achieving your goals. Thankfully, the Donkey Kong DLC expands upon the existing mission types and introduces things like objective destruction to help vary it up. An early mission has your team attacking and destroying bunches of corrupted bananas, giving players who have mastered Donkey Kong's movement options a chance to strut their stuff.
While our demo finished after a few battles, the game is both more of the surprisingly good main game with its own small twists and changes. Moving around as Donkey Kong and basketball free throwing enemies into each other or into teammates' range is genuinely fun and hopefully the DLC has a satisfying challenge progression to keep it fun through the whole expansion.
The Donkey Kong DLC is part of the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle season pass or will be available on its own for $14.99. You can also find footage of us playing the game in the New Gameplay Today episode right here.