After 25 years out of the game, Kid Icarus as a franchise feels like it never even existed. Especially because the original 1987 game wasn’t very good, all things considered. So I’m sure you wonder, what place does Kid Icarus Uprising even have in modern games? Is this just some other game with a Kid Icarus coat of paint on it, kind of like Star Fox Adventures?
Well let me give you my short-review and answer all those questions: The game is awesome, it’s nothing like anything out there, and it is totally a sequel to Kid Icarus. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.
The story picks up 25-years after Kid Icarus for the NES (so the Gameboy game essentially never existed), where Medusa is back and causing trouble again. Damn, time for Pit and the Goddess of Light: Palutena to shape up and stop the evil Medusa once and for all. Of course, there are tons of crazy characters you meet along the way, and things never seem to go according to plan.
With a ridiculous premise, as well as a very long period between the last game in the series, Uprising definitely had to do something to bring the old in with the new. The path the developers took for this was honestly pretty ingenious. As Pit and Palutena exchange hilarious and heartwarming banter constantly through every level, which is all new and entertaining, the bottom screen will showcase the “Kid Icarus past”, such as what Medusa and all the other baddies and bosses of the game used to look like in the good ‘ol 8-bit days. Comparing the 8-bit versions to the new, gorgeous 3D character designs always results and exasperation on the character’s part, which plays again into the great sense of humor Kid Icarus Uprising has.
The game pokes fun of itself, as well as its past, referencing how stupid things were in the old days, and how dumb they still are. Also, each stage features a boss, and half of those bosses have personalities and characters. To showcase them, as you run and fly through these boss’ levels, Pit and Palutena will not only exchange banter with each other, but with those bosses as well. Characters like Medusa, and her right-hand generals all get their own chance to trash talk the young-wonder Pit, and even if it’s all very playful and not as serious as it should be, its very funny and a constant source of entertainment.
That’s just the feel of the game. How it plays is on an entirely other level in of itself. There are two main forms of gameplay: flying around and the on-foot sections. The flying sections definitely have a very Starfox feel to them. You move Pit with the circle-pad, aim with the touch screen, and fire with the L button. These are all based on the right-handed player’s controls. As for lefties, I will talk about the control issues in a little bit.
You’ll be zooming around in the air, firing your shots, and when you wait for a little bit, you reticle changes, and your next single-shot will be a heat-seeker. Pretty basic stuff. I have to say, some of the ground environments when you’re in the air aren’t anything special to look at, but for every drab environment I saw, there always seemed to be one that blew me away, and the game is just so great looking in 3D and on the system’s gorgeous screen. The flying parts usually last only five minutes or less, since Palutena can only keep Pit’s wings strong and flapping for five minutes before they burn up (throwback to the original Kid Icarus mythology).
Then you land and traverse a small dungeon. Almost all of these dungeons are a spectacle to see, and again, look great on the small screen. Something to note is that the framerate in Kid Icarus Uprising holds up great, even in 3D, and this game is no small strain on the system. It’s definitely pushing the little thing to its limit, and I only saw maybe one or two framerate drops that didn’t hinder my experience at all.
The on-foot sections are pretty amazing. You can move with the circle pad, dash by quickly hitting the circle pad, and the rest of the controls feel pretty much the same. Something that improves the experience immeasurably, and good on the developers for incorporating it, is the camera moves with inertia. Depending on the force you move the stylus with on the touch screen, directly affects how fast the camera will move, and when it will stop. It has its own momentum, so you throw the camera around kind of like how you’d spin a globe. You can throw the stylus, then quickly tap the screen to hold the camera in place. I don’t know why exactly, but it made control so much easier, and even though it takes some getting used to, I loved the aspect it added to the gameplay.
So yes, the game plays great, and yes I had fun playing the levels, but that’s just the half of it. Kid Icarus Uprising is a huge loot grind, and if you love loot, you will absolutely adore this game. You can replay every level in the game, and when you start a level, you choose how difficult it will be, from 1.0 all the way to 9.0. Depending on which difficulty you choose affects how many hearts you have to pay to play the level. Hearts, being the currency, are your bet that you won’t die when you play the level. If you’re a sadistic gamer, and love the hardest challenge you can get, you’ll pay hearts out the wazoo, and if you’re good, you’ll get tons of them back to spend on all the loot you want. If you aren’t, then you get go back and play the easier levels with your late-game loot and get yourself plenty of hearts for a shiny new toy.
There are 25 different chapters, each with a flying and on-foot section, and each roughly 20-45 minutes long. The game is about 15 hours long just one time through, and you’ll be playing levels over and over again for more hearts and more loot.
The loot is pretty much just weapons. There are some abilities you can get, but the focus is weapons. You can buy new weapons with hearts, trade weapons with street pass, and fuse multiple weapons into stronger ones. All of the power levels and comparisons are super easy to read, and if you want to try a weapon before you equip it, you can go into the practice area and see how much damage the weapon does (in the form of numbers), try some combos, and jump back out to the weapon list without having to go through a single load screen. When I did this the first time, I was dumbstruck. It is honestly one of the fastest and simplest systems I have ever used in a loot-based game like this, and it works better than anything I have seen. Seriously: no load screens.
With every great game, there always seems to be a few drawbacks. Let’s talk about the stand. If you’ve kept up with the game, you know every single copy comes with a stand because of the apparent control problems. Playing the game without something to put the system down on is supposed to be incredibly uncomfortable. I’ll admit, it isn’t great, and after an hour or so, I hit some palm-cramps, but it’s not terrible. I’d say you don’t need to use the stand, but it does help. Also, lefties are all kind of screwed when it comes to Kid Icarus Uprising. The base-controls are built for right-handed people, and the alternative is to use the face buttons in place of the circle pad, which is just plain bad. If you happened to spend the extra $20 on a circle pad pro, you can use that as your analogue stick, and put the stylus in your left hand. Again, not a great alternative.
Before closing out, I should comment on the game’s multiplayer mode. “Together Mode”, as it is called, has a three versus three mode that I’ll get to in a second and your basic six-man free-for-all. You can bring in your favorite weapons you’ve collected in the single player and attach them to your multiplayer character. The three-v-three mode is actually kind of awesome. The gist of it is you fight until one side is beating the other, and then one of the losing-side’s players becomes either Pit or Dark Pit, a stronger version of the regular characters, and once Pit/Dark Pit is downed, its game over. The mode can be played either online or locally, and after playing a few rounds, I was having a lot of fun. Its a cool little mode, nothing to write home about, but some form of multiplayer still. Its fun, and something I will do from time to time, but nothing that will keep me as hooked as going back and replaying single-player levels in lust for more loot.
Overall Kid Icarus Uprising is so charming, is so funny, is so much fun, and is such a fantastic handheld experience that I can’t seem to recommend it enough. The control issues are a big drawback, but I don’t think that should stop anyone from checking this one out. I will most definitely be remembering this one for the end of the year, because I have a feeling it will make its way into my top ten games of 2012.
This post was submitted by Alex O'Neill.