How FF7 and Berserk inspired Sparks of Hope's most intriguing new character
Speak softly and carry a big sword.
When it comes to Rabbids, cool isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind. They’re goofy cartoon rabbits with Minion vibes after all. Edge, a new character in the upcoming Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, however, is about to change that. Taking inspiration from iconic, ultra-cool heroes from video games and beyond, the developers wanted to create a Rabbid unlike anything players had seen before. Inverse talked with the developers at Ubisoft Milan about the challenges presented by creating Edge, a cool character with wild hair and a big sword who stands out as a totally unique invention.
It all started with a sword — In the first Mario + Rabbids game, there are two types of Rabbids: those who dress as iconic Mario characters, and those who are the traditional, over-excited Rabbids. Neither of these offered much of a challenge for Ubisoft creatively. They could fall back on the work of other games for either the Mario Characters or the Rabbids.
For Sparks of Hope, they took a totally different approach to designing Edge.
“We said this was a test for us. Can we do it?” recounts Lead Producer Xavier Manzanares. “Is it as interesting as other characters that are based on Nintendo heroes? Is it possible?”
The team started with a big sword, as many game-makers do.
The image of a character wielding such a blade inevitably drew the team toward a specific archetype: a serious fighter hiding emotional depths. Inevitably the similarities to a certain spiky-haired sad boy arose: “We thought of course about Cloud,” says Manzanarez, referring to Cloud Strife, the superpowered mercenary for hire who’s the protagonist of the legendary Final Fantasy VII.
But the team needed to move beyond something as simple as “Rabbid Cloud Strife,” so they searched for even more inspiration.
“Manga and anime, especially Berserk” all became part of Edge’s background, Manzanares says. While Cloud starts as an aloof, uncaring mercenary in Final Fantasy VII, the connections he makes to his various compansions soften his rough exterior. As a result, he evolves into a more compassionate and well-rounded human being. Guts, the protagonist of the beloved manga and anime series Berserk, on the other hand, is defined by an extreme and unyielding cynicism.
Guts is a powerful warrior with a big sword, and much of his existence is defined by grappling with inner darkness while surviving in a violent, bleak world.
Edge both channels and challenges aspects of these archetypal characters to strike a stark contrast against the rest of very silly Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope cast.
A Rabbid of few words — To help define Edge’s character, Ubisoft developers needed to overhaul two systems: animation and sound. Edge is a warrior of few words, so communication through movement was important to capture accurately. The animation team ran into numerous bugs using Kingdom Battle’s existing rigging system. Edge’s face folded in on itself if she smirked too hard. Solving this terrifying issue meant generating a new system that gave each character 2000 points of control, making even more detail possible.
The team also took deliberate steps to ensure that when Edge does actually speak, her voice was memorable and befitting such a darker, more complex character.
“We did a casting in Paris,” recalls Audio Director Romain Brillaud, “and this incredible voice talent came in with this deep tone and badass attitude. She would say a couple of words and everyone knew that she was the one.”
Lexie Kendrick is the actress in question, and she’s worked on games like Detroit: Become Human and Haven in the past. Kendrick has the ability to communicate the complexity of Edge’s emotions using only a few words, and it goes a long way to helping define her too-cool-for-school attitude.
“This character took a lot of time to create,” says Manzanares. “We had multiple versions of Edge because at first, it didn’t fit, but this is the last one.”
In her final form, Edge is a punk-looking Rabbid with spiky hair, bushy eyebrows, a leather jacket, and the big sword that started it all. In setting out to challenge themselves to create something new, Ubisoft went through so many hoops of improving old tech and iterating on character design that Sparks of Hope as a whole benefitted from Edge's inclusion.
At the very least, Edge quite literally gives the Mario + Rabbids sub-franchise a bit more bite, helping it to transcend beyond its core identity as the silliest crossover premise since Kingdom Hearts.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope will be released on Nintendo Switch on October 20, 2022.