Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) [Review]
Ok, so it’s that same “a franchise you loved is back” spiel that I’ve had to go through for like the last buh-zillion reviews, but this time it’s different because it’s freaking KID ICARUS! I mean our main man angel hero Pit hasn’t been seen since his rarely mentioned Gameboy outing in 1991, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. That was 21 freaking years ago! Not only that, but the original story (or lore, or mythos) of the original game are so abstract and obtuse that it’s practically like a brand new franchise! Sure, it’s got the main KI heavy hitters, Pit, Palutena, and Medusa the Queen of the Underworld, but from that base Nintendo had room to introduce a whole stable of really cool new characters and ideas that make it an entirely different game that somehow still feels like it belongs with the other two Kid Icaruses.
The original Kid Icarus was a 2D arrow slinging platformer with it’s own bizarre logic and a stable of weirdo enemies (including the famous Eggplant Wizard and a flying nose) that combined concepts from both Mario and Zelda. It was truly a unique experience, especially for it’s time, and also is brutally difficult (it’s actually more difficult in the beginning than it is in the end, oddly). How did Nintendo decide to update this game for the present day? They put it in the hands of legendary Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai and seemingly gave him free reign with it. It’s now a third person shooter with a bunch of new and different mechanics that plays an awful lot like Star Fox Assault but better all while still being as Kid Icarus as possible. Most, if not all, of the game’s enemies have returned with a three dimensional update– even the Koymato which bares a striking resemblance to a Metroid. They even manage to one-up the Eggplant Wizard with a Tempura Wizard, who turns you into fried shrimp and tries to eat you. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that even with all the changes and new stuff, this still is a Kid Icarus game through and through.
So I mentioned the third person shooter gameplay, which typically requires two control sticks (or circle pads, as they’re called on 3DS). Well, if you look closely at the 3DS you’ll notice it’s only got one of’em, so you’re probably wondering “How does that work?”. Well, the answer Sakurai came up with was the stylus and touch screen, and it works decently enough but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t problematic. There’s two segments to every stage, a flying segment which really has no control quibbles whatsoever (and totally feels like Star Fox) but then after that there’s the on foot areas where the play control takes a lot of getting used to. Turning around (accomplished by sliding the stylus left or right quickly) certainly takes some getting used to, and so does just simply walking. Jerking the Circle Pad in any direction causes Pit to dash and instantly cover a good chunk of ground, which is awkward and can lead to you accidentally running off cliffs. To avoid this you have to gently move the stick to move at a slower clip so you don’t send yoursel careening to your doom. Like I said, it takes some getting used to. The shooting is perfect though, and aiming with the stylus feels just as accurate as a mouse and keyboard would in a PC shooter. There’s some cool dodge mechanics (shoot while initiating a dash) that power up your shots and add some depth to the shooting, as well as charged shots that charge up while you’re not shooting– so there’s a lot more going on then mindlessly shooting at weirdo demon creatures. The biggest fault of the control scheme though is the fact that after awhile, it just friggin’ hurts. That’s why Nintendo included that funky plastic stand, which seems to work well enough, but most of the time I either forgot to use it, or was in a place (like on the bus or waiting for a hair cut) where using it just isn’t feasible. You get used to it though, and honestly the game is so good and so full of content it’s worth a little bit of uncomfortable hand pain.
When I say full of content I am not kidding. The game is loooong, with the solo mode clocking in at 25 very lengthy chapters filled with near endless replayability thanks to a loot system with a crazy amount of collectable weapons all with different stats AND a totally innovate difficulty system that boast a whopping 9 different difficulty levels (adjustable to the tenth decimal place between each as well!). This system lets the game be as difficult as you want it to be– so if you were expecting the bone crushing difficulty of the original two games, that’s there for you, but if you just want to play through the game at a reasonable level, the game will adjust according to your playing ability and suggest difficulty levels for you. The system even has you wagering hearts (the game’s currency) to play higher difficulty levels, therefore netting you bigger and better rewards for challenging yourself. Really every game should adopt a feature like this, it gives the hardcore set the challenge they want, while keeping the game accessible to everyone else! The weapon system is fantastic as well, allowing you to buy, sell, and fuse 9 categories of weapons, all of different styles, (like the Metor Bow, or a pirate-y looking Ball Cannon, to over the shoulder hovering Orbitars that look like cat paws) and with different stat bonuses depending on stuff like what you fused to make it, how much you paid for it, or what difficulty level you were at when you found it. These weapons can then be transferred into multiplayer, so there’s a definite pull to go back and play chapters at higher levels to help you decimate your friends and enemies online. Oh wait, and on top of that there’s collectable Powers too! You can find them littered throughout the various chapters and earn them at random in multiplayer– they allow you to use special moves like enhanced armor or auto targeting, and they all have various levels of off effectiveness as well, again determined by the difficulty level when you found them and that kind of stuff. As you can see this game has a ton of stuff to do– including collectable idols, which are basically the same as the trophies from Smash Bros..
So let’s see, I’ve covered controls and gameplay, so why not graphics and sound next? The graphics are totally rad and are probably some of the best we’ve seen so far on the 3DS. Character animation, the cut-scenes and everything are totally top notch– no complaints here. Even the character portraits that slide around on the bottom screen are super well drawn and appealing. The music to, is phenomenal with great tunes that mix booming symphonic sounds with bits and samples of the original 8-bit soundtrack. The voice acting is also pretty great, and never annoying. Honestly the writing and voice acting is so charming you’d have to be some kind of soulless monster to hate it. The characters are flat out entertaining, from the mischievous and all-knowing goddess Palutena, to our dim-witted but enthusiastic hero, Pit, to the spunky hot-headed Nature goddess Viridi (who is voiced by the way awesome Hynden Walch– aka Adventure Time’s Princess Bubblegum). The characters have no respect for the 4th wall (in a way that totally works) and Pit and Palutena’s quips and back-and-forths are mostly all hit and no miss. It just works so well, and is so incredibly refreshing to play a shooting game that’s not grim or serious, or even realistic in any way. I can damn near guarantee you’ll enjoy your time spent with Uprising’s cast of lovable gods and goddess. The plot even throws some surprising twists and turns your way during the course of the adventure that will take to to the Earth’s surface to Pit’s homeland of Skyworld, to the Underworld to even outer space itself. It seems like Nintendo really put their all in reviving this classic franchise.
Then there’s the AR Cards as well, that throw another layer on top of this game’s 7 layer salad of content. The cards (six of which come packed in with the game at random) can unlock you weapons and idols, along with being usable for a very simple AR card game where if you set two idol cards next to each other they’ll fight to the death. Not very deep, I know, but if you got a hold of enough of them, I guess you and a friend could play a Kid Icarus version of the classic card game War if you wanted. They only problem with that is getting more cards is not easy. Nintendo offered some freebies to Club Nintendo subscribers around the time the game was released (but have since run out) and they only sent 3 freaking cards. The rest of them are only obtainable through special Nintendo events at places like Best Buy or Gamestop or in magazines like Game Informer or Nintendo Power. You see, in Japan, they’ve packaged them in with certain candies, which makes them way more available and obtainable than the hoops you have to jump through to get them here in the States. Of course you can scan them from the web (and print them if you’re so inclined) from sites like ours or this one– but I’d be nice if I could obtain them legitimately without having to go way out of my way.
There’s multilayer in the game too, in two different modes, regular free-for-all deathmatch and a mode called Light vs. Dark. Light vs. Dark is the more fun of the two (mostly because it is better balanced), assigning players to either a Light or Dark team and letting them go at it. The interesting part comes in with the health bar each team has. Every time a player gets killed, health is removed from their team’s bar– but here’s the coolest part– the amount of health lost is based on how powerful of a weapon you are carrying. This one thing genius-ly balances out the game and doesn’t give anybody a huge advantage based on the weapons they’ve managed to obtain in the solo game. Obviously a good weapon is still going to give you a jump on your opponents– but this evens the playfield in a way that keeps the game fun for all involved. Once your team’s health is depleted, the last player alive becomes an Angel (either Pit or Dark Pit) and is granted more powerful shots and stats. Then once the other team kills the Angel player, then they win. It’s a lot of clever twists on the deathmatch formula, and it is pretty darn fun.
Overall this is probably the best game on the 3DS…well, besides Super Mario 3D Land, but I’m kinda Mario-biased in that way (my apartment has all these prints framed on the walls). The game has more content packed in it and more replayability than most full console releases. Really its only flaws are it’s play controls that take some serious getting used to and give you the occasional hand cramp (though nothing worse than what Metroid Prime Hunters on DS did) and a few minor AR card annoyances. If you have a 3DS this is one of the games you probably should get, and if you don’t have one it might just be worth getting one for. If Nintendo had a demo up in the eShop (which of course they don’t) I’d tell you to give that a try first to make sure the controls aren’t too much of a bother for you, but that isn’t really an option. Honestly even if you don’t like them it first they are workable and you will get used to them. Still though it keeps the game from receiving the coveted perfect ten that I wish I could give it.