Sparks of Hope, Mario + Rabbids, looks to be a more interesting sequel than you may anticipate.
The follow-up to Kingdom Battle adds some new characters, including Mario opponent Bowser as a reluctant ally, as well as new mechanics, including a less grid-based battle system.
Two new musicians have been added to Sparks of Hope, Yoko Shimomura (who has experience with previous Mario role-playing games like the Mario & Luigi series) and Gareth Coker (who composed the hauntingly beautiful scores for the Ori games). Grant Kirkhope will also join the cast of the game.
I had the chance to chat with Cristina Nava, the game's senior associate producer, and ask her about these new features in Sparks of Hope. The transcript below is a transcript of our conversation.
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When did the team decide to make a sequel to GamesBeat? Was this always planned?
Cristina Nava: The first game was an experiment. We did not know how it would be liked by the public, by the players. First of all we developed the Donkey Kong Adventure, and so on. The game is continuing to be successful, especially in 2018.
We thought we had more to offer to the players, more to give to the players? Can we do more of the same, do a Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle 2 with different settings and new heroes? Or should we innovate once again and give players something more, something they didnt expect? Thats how we began to think, okay, lets look beyond the turn-based tactical game niche and go to real-time. Action and real-time. This was how everything became possible
GamesBeat: One thing that struck me about the teaser was that the first game, aesthetically, took so much from the Mario universe. It appeared to be straight out of a Mario game. Here, things are more visually distinct.
Nava: Thank you for pointing out this point, because that's another area in which we didn't want to repeat ourselves. We loved the first game's aesthetic, but we wanted to do something different there once more. The intent was just artistic. We wanted something new. We were developers, but we remain real players as well. From a visual standpoint we want something new every time.
GamesBeat: The other striking aspect is how each character now has a unique weapon. They dont all have the arm cannons, but you can talk about that approach and how you paired each character up with their weapons, like how Luigi now has a bow and arrow?
Nava: Every hero belongs to a particular archetype, even if it isn't obvious. We don't declare it. But you mentioned Luigi. He is a long range fighter. He has a bow. He is a sharpshooter. Each hero has his distinctive signature weapon.
GamesBeat: That's awesome, like in Mario Kart.
Mario has the Hero Sight while Luigi has the Steely Stare. With that, Luigi reacts, even outside of his turn, and can shoot at the target, even outside of his turn. It's wonderful to see things coming together, particularly when an enemy is positioned in the exact same position.
GamesBeat: I was interested to see that Yoko Shimomura is contributing to the soundtrack. She has a long history with Mario and role-playing games, dating back to the original Super Mario RPG. Is it why she was invited to come and contribute to the soundtrack of this game?
Nava: Yoko is a legendary musician. Weve always been huge supporters of hers. The fact that we tried to get her on board was because we liked her style and wanted many different musical moods in the game. Grant Kirkhope is a legend, and of course, since we went cosmic, we wanted to have more musical moods in the game.
She's working on the game with the third musician, because we've got three musicians this time. We went cosmic not only with the story and the worlds, but also with the music. We also have Gareth Coker. It's a question of admiring their musical styles.
Rabbid Rosalina, who appears to be a fun character on GamesBeat, has a strange personality. Is human Rosalina going to make a comeback in the game?
Rabbid Rosalina is there because there is a connection, too, to some Super Mario Galaxy themes and elements. We wanted players to be able to add her to their hero roster as soon as possible. I will neither deny nor admit that she is there until a few months from now.
Bowser has been a party member since the first game, but he didn't get much screen time in the sequel. He's going to be a playable party member now. That's a pretty exciting development.
Nava: Absolutely. Bowser was on vacation. It was his son making a mess with the heroes in different environments. It was the perfect time, because Cursa wants to drain all of the energy of the galaxy. With its powers, Cursa is able to mind control even Bowsers minions. That leaves Bowser alone.
He shoots magma rocks at opponents with his skill, Rabbid-style Mecha Koopas, which go toward a target and of course assault them. Bowser is a great game.