If you own a Wii, you’ve probably played a game of Rayman Raving Rabbids— the not-so-natural evolution of Michel Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie)’s titular protagonist. Back in 1995 on Sony’s PlayStation, players found Rayman platforming, cracking jokes and charming generally everybody (equipped with a very optimistic outlook on life for a guy missing several limbs), all the while evoking memories of the 16-bit era. With Rayman 2: The Great Escape, Rayman expanded to Nintendo systems, starting with Nintendo 64 and eventually Game Boy Color and Nintendo DS. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc continued this trend by being released on GameCube first before moving to other systems.
But while Rayman’s been through some pretty decent highs and lows of popularity, the limbless wonder’s never been one to hog the spotlight, mostly because he’s never been so popular as to hit the mainstream. When Ubisoft released Rayman Raving Rabbids as a Wii launch title (though it also appears, motion-control-less, on other consoles), gamers may have only expected a modest amount of success for Michel Ancel’s characters. However, Rayman and his Rabbids– or, more likely, the Rabbids alone– have propelled far beyond the amount of success anyone might’ve expected. Rayman Raving Rabbids has spawned four sequels to date, two of which are exclusive to Wii and DS, and each has sold enough to not only top the charts, but actually penetrate the mainstream.
Of course, we can’t look at Rayman Raving Rabbids in the sense that we look at any other Rayman series game. After all, as critically acclaimed as Rayman 2: The Great Escape may have been, asking an average casual gamer about Rayman 2 will probably only elicit memories of Rayman Raving Rabbids 2. Unfortunately, it’s clearly not Rayman that makes Rayman Raving Rabbids so popular– it’s the Rabbids. To be fair, though, Ubisoft’s done a great bit of PR for these extraterrestrial bunnies– more than we can say for Rayman– probably the most prominent of which is Ubisoft’s television ads.
Rabbids can’t watch YouTube … BUT THEY CAN DANCE.
With these commercials, we can deduce that these Rabbids are rambunctious, fun-loving fellows who enjoy a good plunging. And of course, this apparently resonates with millions of people, because these ads, with their minigame-y goodness, have managed to help Rayman make more money than he’s ever made before. Rayman Raving Rabbids, any one of them (but preferably the ones with more minigames and waggle), has become a staple in any multiplayer-oriented Wii owner’s home. (It’s also perpetually rented out at Blockbuster.) It’s the game casual players always end up going for whenever Mario Kart Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl becomes too demanding or complicated, or if New Super Mario Bros. ends up being more troubling than actually fun (usually when the one “hardcore” gamer in the room ends up throwing a tantrum about how the rest of the players are a huge burden on “the team”). And though the Rabbids are definitely a part of this attraction– it’s difficult to resist these somewhat hideous but very much adorable aliens– any good player knows shoddy gameplay when they play it. Therefore, Rayman Raving Rabbids, as quintessentially casual as it may be, still holds a special spark that allures both the casual and hardcore crowds.
The Rabbids’ tendency to partake in mundane activities and take them up a notch only increases their fanbase.
Of course, it’s a bit strange for that spark to be in, of all things, a game revolving around shaking your Wii remote as quickly as you possibly can, and then maybe sometimes waving it around as slowly or haphazardly as you can (remember to put on your strap). Go to generally any video game blog, and inevitably the commenters will be discussing the merits (or, more likely, the lack thereof) of minigame collections for Wii that rely on nothing more than so-called “waggle” for entertainment.
But for some reason, Rayman Raving Rabbids works well regardless of its waggle. For some, it’s probably the fact that Rayman Raving Rabbids was a Wii launch title– it came out at when Wii had no way to be saturated the way it is now with minigame collections. It’d explain the strong brand identity that let the franchise come out with four more sequels, at least. But for others, despite Rayman Raving Rabbids being a minigame collection at heart, it also incorporates humor reminiscent of a tame Conker’s Bad Fur Day. This is all courtesy of Michel Ancel’s Rabbids (though he’s only credited for character design, and apparently had nothing to do with anything else), not to mention some creative, Zack & Wiki-esque implementation of motion controls that would otherwise be monotonous.
Though most hardcore gamers may turn their nose up at Rayman Raving Rabbids, they’ll often find their casual game friends immersed in its crazy world, and having more fun than other gamers might have in the best of “hardcore” games. Especially when almost every game is multiplayer-enabled these days, playing with friends is almost a must, a requirement for having the optimum amount of fun with a video game (an elusive trait). And Rayman Raving Rabbids— or Rabbids, as the series has become as of the fourth title (sorry, Rayman– better pack your bags)– is clearly no exception. It may not be the most fun game out there, but it’s very comedic and highly entertaining. Those raving Rabbids will just never let up.