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9 things you should know before starting Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

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Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope might look sweet as a peach, but your circumstances can turn sour on a dime. The turn-based tactical game, developed by Ubisofts Milan and Paris and out now for Nintendo Switch, is frequently just as tough as the titans of the genre — not exactly what you may expect from an XCOM-like starring talking bunnies with crooked smiles. Here are nine tips and tricks you should know before (wah! hoo! yippee!) jumping in.

You don’t need to defeat every enemy

Sometimes defeating every enemy in a mission will be your goal, but not always. For one mission, you may be tasked with reaching a specific area. (Bonus tip: You only need one character to reach the destination.) For another, you may need to survive for five turns, à la Into the Breach, or eliminate a number of Darkmess nodes strewn around the battlefield. Focus on the objective, not on clearing the field, and you’ll be set.

Don’t worry about running out of health

It’s a natural assumption for those steeped in turn-based games: A character needs to finish a battle to earn XP. Not so with Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. In this sequel, all of your characters level up at the same rate regardless of whether they participated in battle — or if they survived it. Yes, having a character go down for the count will make any battle you’re in significantly more difficult. (You don’t unlock a revive ability until well into the game.) But you needn’t worry about that character lagging behind the rest of your party as a result.

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Also, condolences to genre purists, but there’s no permadeath.

Be careful about restarting

Fact of life: In tactical games, sometimes you fuck up. Though Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope doesn’t give you the option to reset a single turn, you can start battles from scratch. If you’re in one of the game’s multi-battle missions, though, be careful. Make sure to select the “restart objective” option instead of the “restart battle” one. Otherwise, you’ll end up redoing the mission from the very beginning of the first battle.

Stay close together

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It can be tempting to divide and conquer, to send your party all over the board in order to whittle down enemies. Resist this temptation. Otherwise, you could leave a party member high and dry.

In Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, every character can team jump — literally bounce off the head of an ally — once per turn (later abilities can increase this number for certain characters). A team jump allows a party member to glide for a few seconds, greatly expanding their range of movement. This ability is key for getting the angle on the opposing team, but it’s far more helpful for moving a wounded ally out of an enemy’s sightline. And to keep that option open, you’ll need to have your trio at least relatively close together.

Use your sparks and abilities first

Every character can expend two action points per turn, allowing them to use a standard attack, a special ability, an item, or a spark. (Movement abilities, like dashes, stomps, and team jumps, don’t count toward this total, though most characters can only do those once per turn.) Many sparks grant stat buffs to every character in your party, so long as they’re within range of the character who activates it. In most cases, it’s beneficial to apply these effects before moving your team around the battlefield.

Rabbid Peach stands in front of Luigi as fireballs rain from the sky in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

Image: Ubisoft/Nintendo

Customize your loadout at the start of each battle

At the start of every battle, you can click the left thumbstick to get a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield. You’ll assume control of Beep-O, your stalwart if moderately irritating drone companion, and can zoom around the map, viewing detailed information about enemy resistances and weaknesses with the tap of the A button. (You can also do this in the middle of a battle, though by then you’ll no longer have the chance to switch up your loadout.) Make sure to take time to plan before beginning the fight, and to equip any elemental sparks that’ll give you the advantage.

Also, there are a handful of moments where new characters — like Bowser and Rabbid Rosalina — will join your squad. Before you hop into these fights, open up your character menu (Y button). You’ll be able to assign sparks to new allies (although their skill trees will be locked until after the battle), giving you an edge you otherwise might miss out on.

Don’t use your star potions

There are two ways to level up sparks. You can spend star bits, a currency earned from defeating enemies and finishing missions. Or you could use a star potion, which automatically advances a spark’s level by one. Sparks level up at an exponential rate; jumping to level two requires 100 star bits, hitting level three requires 200 star bits, level four requires 350 star bits, and so on. It’s better to hold onto your star potions until the higher levels — sparks max out at level five — when leveling up costs more.

Peach stands in front of a cracked wall in the Winter Palace in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.

Image: Nintendo/Ubisoft via Polygon

Know what to look for while exploring

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope game doesn’t fully explain how to use the various traversal methods at your disposal, nor what you can get for doing so. You can spin like a top while standing on swirl-shaped symbols to reveal hidden treasure. You can shatter cracked walls with Beep-O’s Wave ability (ZR button) to open up secret pathways. Halfway through the game, you can use Beep-O’s Scan ability (ZL button) to unmask all manner of invisible secrets, shortcuts, and bonus items. Here’s a full list of what to look out for.

Finish (most of) the side-quests

Most side quests will reward you with a planet coin upon completion. You can spend planet coins on cosmetics like weapon skins, but you can also save up a bulk for something far more essential: a key for that planet’s “secret zone.” Secret zones are indicated by a semi-circular, rainbow-hued door (and also marked on your map). For every zone you complete, which typically is little more than a rudimentary environmental puzzle with the occasional dash of combat, you’ll get a new spark. If you want to get all 30 sparks, you’ll need to do the majority of the game’s side quests.

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