Bonus Round: Mario sparks hope in October

Welcome once again to Bonus Round, our weekly look at some of the biggest news stories of the week. Well, mostly weekly. There was such a famine of news last week that we didn’t bother wasting your time or ours with an article. There are some tasty morsels this week, though, so let’s eat!

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope coming in October

As previously rumoured, Nintendo held a new Direct event on 27 June. The showcase mainly focused on third party games, disappointing some (like me!) who were hoping for news on Zelda or a new Mario platformer. One game straddled the line between first and third party, though: Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope got a new trailer, and a new release date of 20 October.

For the uninitiated, Mario + Rabbids is a turn-based strategy game that mashes up the popular Mario and Rabbids franchises. Through a series of events that involves magic portals or something (it’s been a while), cutesy characters from both series must work together to save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain doom. Armed with fun laser cannons and melee weapons, your team of three Mario or Rabbids characters take turns trading blows with foes, forcing you to think tactically as you plan your next move and try to anticipate your enemy’s.

Sparks of Hope seems to be making some fairly substantial changes to the formula. Your movement in battles is no longer constrained to a grid, and the stages seem less linear; it seems like there’s a big focus on giving the player more freedom. Plus, Bowser is now a selectable character for your team! I’m excited to wreaking some havoc with the most dependably defeatable villain in video game history.

I really enjoyed the first game in this series, Kingdom Battle, as well as its Donkey Kong-based DLC. Back when I was commuting to work every day (remember that?), it was perfect for picking up for 15 minutes and clearing a battle or two. More than anything, I just love the world of Mario, and I’ll take any excuse to return to it. I look forward to Sparks of Hope with great interest.

A screenshot from Persona 5. The game's characters are sitting around a table in a restaurant, looking at a map.

Persona series coming to Switch

Microsoft surprised gamers during their Games Showcase a couple of weeks ago with the announcement that the Persona series is coming to Game Pass. The Persona games have historically been PlayStation console exclusives, so this was a big deal. However, fans still waited with bated breath to find out if the games would ever see the light of day on Switch. That question has now been answered: Persona 3, 4 and 5 are coming to Switch, starting with Persona 5 Royal on 21 October.

Putting these games on a portable console makes a lot of sense; in fact, Persona 3 and Persona 4 have already been released on PSP and PS Vita. These are long, grindy RPGs that take dozens if not hundreds of hours to complete. The idea of devoting this amount of time to a home console game is daunting for some, so the prospect of portability is going to entice a lot of new players.

I’ve wanted to properly try the Persona series for a long time; I only played a little bit of Persona 4 Golden on my second hand Vita before it died. It’s cool that the series will be available on Game Pass but I think I’ll buy at least one on Switch. Being able to battle through dungeons while watching TV or on the bus to work seems like the ideal way to experience these games. Starting with the most recent game seems strange, and is likely driven by Persona 5’s huge success. I may well wait until the earlier games are available before diving in.

A screenshot from the campaign co-op multiplayer mode of Halo Infinite. Four versions of the Master Chief character are standing on an alien world and shooting guns at unseen enemies.

Halo Infinite campaign co-op preview

Halo Infinite has walked a rocky road. From the infamous gameplay reveal that resulted in a yearlong delay to heavy criticism of the multiplayer mode, Infinite has suffered a troubled reputation. It seems undeniable that Infinite might have benefitted from a little more time to cook.

The most glaring example of this fact is that Infinite didn’t launch with campaign co-op multiplayer. Campaign co-op is a mainstay of the Halo series, and its omission from Infinite provoked a good few raised eyebrows. Players will be able to buddy up and journey through Infinite’s story together soon, though: a public test of the co-op campaign mode will begin in July.

This is essentially an open beta, with none of your existing campaign progress carrying over into the multiplayer. The full release of the mode should arrive in August, according to developer 343 Industries. I really enjoyed the single-player campaign, and the idea of teaming up with three friends to experience it again sounds like a lot of fun.

Also coming soon is the ability to replay campaign omissions, another much-desired feature. It’s a little bizarre that Infinite launched without some of this core functionality in place; it really seems that the developers were laying down track seconds before the train arrived in order to release Infinite last November. With each addition like this, Halo Infinite becomes a fuller and more compelling package, but fans aren’t really in the wrong for feeling that these features should have been available at launch.