REVIEW: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Title: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Project Sora
TL;DR: Where’s my second analog stick?!
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Kid Icarus. Now that’s a name we haven’t seen in quite some time. Almost left to rot and die in the pile of unsung heroes, Pit managed to stay alive. Whether it was through a cult following of his original title for the Famicom back in the late ’80s, or his tiny little bit appearances in Super Smash Bros. trophy rooms (or even as a playable character in Brawl), people were looking for a game starring their favorite Greek…er, angel? Don’t ask, Homer didn’t write this one up.
Before Kid Icarus: Uprising was revealed at E3 back in 2010, Nintendo’s man Yoshio Sakamoto said that there weren’t any plans to revive the supposedly-dead franchise. Yes, well, we see that the plan has gone the right way.
Released earlier this year, Kid Icarus: Uprising is the child of Project Sora, the recently closed studio of Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai. It certainly does do its part in highlighting the greatness of Nintendo’s 3DS system, but also does a damn good job in highlighting (in rather bold, large, Empire State Building neon lettering) the bad things about the 3DS system as well.
We’re thrust into the beautiful and colorful world of Kid Icarus: Uprising right off the bat. For a 3DS game, the title is visually stunning. With a mixture of anime-styled caricatures used during dialogue, and wonderfully rendered in-game models, it’s definitely a treat to just sit and watch. You just need to remember to twitch that analog stick once in a while as an enemy goes whizzing by you.
Yes, this game is an on-rails shooter. But this ain’t Star Fox, guys.
Kid Icarus: Uprising features a seemingly simple story: Medusa, the goddess of the Underworld (I know, where the hell is Hades? Completely intentional, by the way), has been resurrected after 25 years. She wants to take over the world, much like any self-respecting evil being, and she’s using her army to do the job. As Pit, you are the angel in charge and are the closest thing to a capable fighter for the Goddess Palutena. We’re guessing that’s some screwed up spelling of “Pluto,” but we’re going to let all the Greek mythos slide off the deep end now. Together with the Goddess, you must fight your way to Medusa and end her bid for world domination.
Sounds simple and straight forwards enough, but I seriously can’t say anything more. Project Sora had a couple of tricks up their sleeves. The game itself is actually quite long and slightly cumbersome, but it does feature huge replayability factor — and the 3DS is perfect for this kind of title. As you play through it, you’ll definitely enjoy the quirkiness and humor that Project Sora has instilled into the game. They definitely weren’t shy about taking potshots at the original title. After all, it’s been a quarter century since its release. Feeling old yet?
The gameplay and the millions of things you can find and do in Kid Icarus: Uprising are simple in themselves, but when they all come together, it can be either a treasure trove of looting, or an endless spiral of frustration. The mechanics are simple, yes, but are a completely different story when it comes to mastering it. Each level is broken up into two distinctly different parts: the first half of the mission will always open with an on-rails flying shoot ‘em up ala Star Fox. The second part is where exploration and mild looting comes into play, as Pit will land and take on monsters on the ground.
A simple story mechanic was implemented to explain this: Pit sucks at being an angel and can’t fly on his own — Palutena has to help him. Unfortunately, this limits his ability to fly, and so he can only do it for five minutes at a time. Once landed, combat takes on a whole new flavor.
The best way to simply explain the control schematics is this: ignore the right side of your system. Players will use only the L button, the analog stick, and the stylus to move, aim, and shoot. It makes you wonder why a second analog stick wasn’t put on the 3DS. In the flying sections of the mission, using the touch screen to aim and the L button to shoot actually makes a ton of sense. However, once on the ground, combat uses the same button schematic, but takes on a whole new frustrating spin.
Looking left and right requires you to swipe the stylus across the touch screen, much like spinning a ball on your finger. Tap it again to make the screen stop, or if you’re supremely patient, you can wait for it to stop on its own. The act of moving is done with the analog stick, and gently gliding your stylus over the screen aims your fire. It’s very confusing and frustrating to get the hang of things as you make your way through the streets, castles, and hallways. Playing with the sensitivity may help, but in the end, it won’t make a lick of difference once five enemies decide to come at you at once, and from all angles. What’s that? You wanted to gingerly step forwards? Sorry, Pit thought he’d nose-dive off the edge of the platform and into the spikes below.
I won’t even get started on the visual distractions. Comparing it to a bullet hell just doesn’t seem fair, but sometimes, it really did feel like some odd shmup made its way into my game. While Kid Icarus‘ legacy is actually built on challenging gameplay, sometimes it just felt a tad overwhelming. Unless you want to turn it down to the wimpiest difficulty setting, be ready for a million bullets and charging enemies to come at you at once.
All frustrations aside though, Kid Icarus: Uprising does some things quite right. For one, item crafters and those of us looking to play impossible challenges will definitely get a kick out of this game. Each level, after completion, will give players the ability to adjust the difficulty. Of course, the higher the difficulty, the better loot you get, and the more hearts you get so you can buy better weapons. What’s not to love about that? Here’s the kicker though: you spend hearts, the currency of the game, to get the higher difficulty. If you end up dying during the level, you lose all those hearts you invested and don’t get anything in return. Except for a bit of humble pie in your face.
Players who love mixing things together will easily fall in love with this game too, as there’s a simple system to add two weapons together and see what the results will be. Before flying off into your next mission, you’re given the chance to upgrade, make, and test out your equipment. You could be boring and go the traditional “I’m gonna go shopping!” route, or you can choose the “What the hell will these two things make?” route. Sometimes the results will surprise, and sometimes…well, you’ll wonder why you wasted a perfectly good weapon.
Many gamers have bemoaned the fact that Nintendo doesn’t sport an achievement or trophy system like the Xbox or PlayStation consoles. That definitely is true, but with Kid Icarus: Uprising, there’s an in-game Treasure Hunt that’s akin to a trophy system. Meeting specific goals will unlock certain powers and weapons for you, so the next time you fly into battle, you can use these weapons to take out your enemies. Some of these items are specially tailored for the Treasure Hunt, so you can’t really find them elsewhere in the game. Well, that is unless you’re crazy enough to take the highest difficulty level on any mission. Don’t forget to take some happy pills if you’re going to make that leap.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is a great game for its platform. With the amount of loving detail thrown into the graphics, musical score, and the myriad of extra little tidbits strewn throughout the game, it makes you wonder what might have happened if it had made its way to a powerhouse console. However, the biggest hampering to enjoying the game are its core mechanics. While parts of it do work, little quirks with trying to properly move around on the ground and shoot something don’t quite make the translation onto a touch screen, especially for those of us who have dual analog sticks so deeply ingrained within. It does get the job done for one of those “I want to play a quick game of shooting” itches. If you’ve got the time to invest in playing out the full story and getting every single last bit of loot, then prepared to keep this cartridge tucked inside of your console. If not, then you’d best give this game a miss.
- Great graphics, makes you wonder what might have happened if it made the translation to the Wii U.
- You’ll crack a smile at the quirky banter.
- So much loot, so little time.
- There’s plenty of replayability to be had.
What the F@ is THAT?!
- Dude, where’s the second analog stick?
- Visual distractions can be incredibly distracting.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is currently available at all major retailers.
PEGI gives this a solid 12, while the ESRB gives it a 10+ age rating. Appropriately so, because there’s little cussing. Some dude gets called a jerk at one point, but he had it coming.