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Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has a special place in my heart. Not only did it have a blistering debut at E3 2017, with one of the most tender moments in E3 history, it also turned into a fantastic game, one of my favorites from last year. It was my first real tactics game, opening my eyes to a genre that has dominated my play time this year—with a colorful world, deep turn-based action, and a sense of momentum and fluidity that I gather isn’t always the norm for the genre.
The Donkey Kong Adventure DLC, out last week, doubles down on these elements, particularly that sense of momentum and energy in character movement. It makes sense: these are all characters from the platformer world, and they always moved about the battlefield deftly, running around, hopping on enemies’ heads and warping through pipes.
In the new DLC, you play as a set team of Donkey Kong, Cranky Kong, and Rabbid Peach as you make your way through a DK-inspired island. I’m only a couple of hours in, so things may yet change a bit, but the mechanics are similar to the base game. You participate in turn-based battles with your team of three, moving around the map to strategic locations, using your colorful weapons on baddie rabbids, and deciding when to use your secondary abilities: Donkey and Cranky have overwatch commands, Rabbid peach has healing and a shield. Donkey also has a drum that attracts enemies to his position, and Cranky, fittingly, has a special ability that puts enemies in range to sleep (he tells them a long, boring story).
It’s that sense of momentum that sets Donkey Kong Adventure even higher than the base game. DK can use special pads around arenas to swing from vines. He can climb up to ledges using his powerful arms, and lope himself around gracefully, given his massive size. Cranky is another big guy, and when he jumps (from another character’s head, naturally), he lands into an AOE attack, splashing damage all around him. Rabbid Peach is something like half her teammates size, but she moves in quick, nimble bursts.
Also like the main game, the music is fantastic. It’s longtime Rare/Nintendo composer Grant Kirkhope, so, that’s somewhat to be expected, but his rendition here of Donkey Kong 64’s overworld theme is really noteworthy. DK 64 is a flawed game (and I’ve always been dying to hear what happened on that production, stuck as it was in Rare’s otherwise incredible N64 lineup), but its music was excellent.
I was a little surprised by how much it affected me, tooling around Donkey Kong Adventure’s very pretty island setting. Once I placed it, I had an almost overwhelming urge to go back and listen to the whole DK 64 soundtrack, or even… play the game. It’s sweet and sweeping at the same time, a genuine call to adventure that suits the action here beautifully.
I still have plenty of progress to make here in Donkey Kong Adventure. But I’m having a great time thus far, revisiting a game I already loved that understands, on a deep level, what was so special about it.