After 25 years the NES cult classic, Kid Icarus, makes a return with Kid Icarus: Uprising. Can Pit, the game’s protagonist, hang with the best Nintendo has to offer in his new portable outing?
The answer is absolutely. If you’re the type that browses through reviews just to get a sense of the writer’s feelings on the game, know that Uprising offers one of the most full and satisfying experiences I’ve played in a while, whether on console or handheld. Gameplay is expertly paced, narrative is light-hearted and witty, graphics are Wii capability or better, and the multiplayer is a great addition to an already beefy single-player campaign. There is an overwhelming amount to do and see here, especially for a handheld game. Like Masahiro Sakurai’s other blockbuster title, Super Smash Brothers, the game is absolutely packed to the gills with things to do, from gathering idols to replaying levels to get new weapons, the game will occupy the slot of your 3DS for quite a while. For those of us sick of all the day one DLC and incomplete titles being sold back in chunks, Kid Icarus Uprising is a breath of fresh air.
The narrative revolves around the protagonist Pit and his Goddess Palutena as they struggle against the Underworld forces to strike down their old foe reborn: Medusa. The overall plot has a few surprises and is often over the top and intentionally hammy. Uprising never takes itself too seriously and witty banter between Palutena, Pit and his enemies can be heard throughout levels. At first you might think that the material would grow stale or old and especially those that have been victim to horrible voice work before may cringe at the idea of being constantly assailed. However, the voice work is spot on and the script to the game is often times laugh out loud funny, which is probably one of the most difficult things for a game to be.
Pit and crew also are very aware that they exist within a video game and break the fourth wall frequently mentioning that they are in a game, levels, saves, and even other Nintendo games. At one point the game openly pokes fun at patches and in another Pit talks about Smash Brothers with Palutena. Banter like this will keep you laughing through out the game and for me personally it never got old. The narrative is just plain fun and gives you an excuse to blast away at enemies without bogging down the experience with lengthy cutscenes.
Gameplay wise the setup usually takes place as such: air battle, land battle and then a boss fight. Whilst in the air you’ll be on rails and be tasked with blasting away enemy forces as you dodge incoming fire. Controls at this point are regulated to just the L Button to fire, circle pad to move and the touch screen to aim. Overall the control scheme works well and these areas are enjoyable with fantastic vistas, though you’ll usually be too busy dodging enemy fire to fully appreciate them.
Once you complete the air battle you’ll land and move through a traditional adventure based 3D brawler. You’ll dodge and run with the circle pad, aim and move the camera with the touch screen, and fire or do melee attacks with the L button. Things get a little more tricky on land with the touch control portion, but by the end of the game I was a pro at spinning the camera with the touch screen and obliterating enemies. As you work through the level you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled as you’ll find secret areas, vehicles and intensity gates.
Intensity gates and the mechanic associated with them are where some of the replay value of the game spring from. At the beginning of every level you’ll be able to change the difficulty as you see fit. Essentially you’ll bet hearts, which are money in the game, and the higher you crank the difficulty the more hearts you’ll lose if you die. At higher levels the difficulty can be absolutely brutal, but the rewards are equally as succulent. Move it to the lowest difficulty and you’ll actually pay hearts straight out with no chance of earning them back, but on the flip-side your invulnerable. This allows even the most casual player to make it through the story and enjoy the gameplay, but gives the hardcore people out there reason to keep coming back. The aforementioned intensity gates are strewn throughout the levels and in order to unlock them you’ll need to play at the intensity listed on the gate. This will lead to multiple replays of the same level as you use the handy built in notes of the 3DS to keep track of them all.
Not content with a ten plus hour campaign mode, Project Sora also added in a multiplayer mode. Every weapon and power earned in the single-player mode can be used in the multiplayer mode and vice versa. The weapons are all well balanced and based on a play-style which lends itself perfectly to the multiplayer arena as you don’t have just one ultimate weapon. While I prefer using claws another person can use a club to devastating effect and both are perfectly legitimate play-styles.
At the beginning of a match you choose the aptly named Together (local wireless play) or Apart (online play) and choose one of two modes to play. The first is a standard free-for-all death match scenario while the second is the fantastic Light vs Dark mode which is a team based VIP mode. At the start both light and dark sides will have a meter that will go down with each death of a team member. Every weapon in the game has a value and as the weapon grows more powerful so too does the value go up. Whenever you die the meter will go down depending on the value so more powerful weapons will cost your team more points when you die.
Once the meter empties your team’s next player to die will become either Pit (Light Side) or Dark Pit (Dark Side). At this point it becomes a VIP mode where the goal is to keep your angel alive while attempting to find and kill the opposing team’s angel. While playing the multiplayer I never had any substantial lag or experienced any problems and the experience is constantly rewarding you with new weapons and abilities that can be used through all modes. If you can’t get the friends together to play the multiplayer, or you just want to practice your strategies, you can fill out the team with bots. I appreciate this specifically because I don’t always want to play online with strangers or sometimes I just want to sharpen my game.
Weapons, as mentioned above, don’t just stop at single-player and multiplayer. Streetpass is utilized to trade weapon gems, gems you create from your existing weapons, and SpotPass enables you to grab a new weapon gem from Nintendo everyday. All weapon gems can be fused to create new weapons that retain some traits of each which net you a weapon more powerful then both usually. Even a weapon that is the same name can be a drastically different weapon then your friends depending upon how you build it. The system is incredibly addictive and building your penultimate weapon is something that will have you replaying levels for hearts and newer weapons constantly pushing your difficulty envelope for those truly great rewards.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the controls in slightly more detail as it seems to be a sticking point with a lot of players (myself included at first). Because the aiming is so reliant on the touch screen and the circle pad and L button are used for moving and firing, your hand can become fatigued quickly. When I first started playing the game my hand would begin to hurt after 3 or 4 levels and I couldn’t play anymore no matter how much I wanted to; not to mention the ground levels felt awkward at first aiming and moving the camera with the touch screen.
Towards the end of the game I had mastered the aiming and moving the camera at the same time and the pain wasn’t quite as pronounced as before; perhaps because the muscles of my hand grew more used to it. Just like Super Smash Brothers Brawl Masahiro Sakurai has packed the game with tons of options for control. This includes using the circle pro for lefties and other such accommodations, but my favorite of the bunch is hands-down the 3DS stand that comes packaged with Kid Icarus Uprising.
Though other sites (I’m looking at you Kotaku) have called the accessory worthless I couldn’t disagree more. While I understand that, yes, this is a portable and having something you have to sit on a level surface isn’t always practical, when I played at my home and used the stand it made all the difference in the world. Marathon sessions suddenly became possible and I definitely took advantage of it to do just that. Yes, the controls do take away from the experience, but not nearly as much as most reviewers would have you believe. Obviously having another control stick would have been preferable, but the stand helps and even without the stand playing in moderation (a good idea for any video game) is the order of the day.
Kid Icarus Uprising, in short, is the type of game that makes me glad to be a gamer and is the reason I purchased my 3DS. There is so much packed into the title that it puts other portable games, and console games, to shame and it’s all unlockable right there in the game without spending another penny on DLC. The action is frantic, the narrative legitimately made me laugh out loud and the whole title is full of top notch production values. Regardless of the controls, if you own a 3DS and are remotely interested in this type of action game go to the store and pick this up right away. You will not be disappointed.