“Sorry for the wait!” – four words uttered by Nintendo’s forgotten angel that carried with it a deeper meaning for those who remembered Pit’s early days in the NES’ Kid Icarus and the original Gameboy’s Kid Icarus: Myths & Monsters. Since then, the Kid Icarus brand faded into obscurity in favour of the rising popularity held by Mario, Link and Samus. However, Nintendo never forgot about their angelic friend – a trophy for him was featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube). However, he would once again be thrown into the public spotlight with his redesign and inclusion as a playable character in the Wii’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The character proved so popular that the game’s director, Sakurai, started development on a game for the Nintendo 3DS which was announced during E3 in 2010 and arrived in our hands on 23rd March 2012 – Kid Icarus: Uprising.
The first thing you will notice when you look at this game is that it isn’t an ordinary barebones 3DS game case release – it’s a rather big cardboard box. This is because as well as the game, buyers are receiving a stand for their handheld console. Why? Because Nintendo themselves have admitted that the game’s controls can be a tad difficult (I will discuss those in detail in a bit). A nice little bonus is also six Augmented Reality cards – apparently each copy of the game has a random assortment of 6 out of 20 (I received cards for Pit, Magnus, Mik, First Blade, Fortune Blade and Crusher Arm in case anyone wants to know). The cards are the same size and have the same feel as the ordinary AR cards one receives with the console itself, but they have a rather cool back with a swanky design that reminds me of playing cards.
Cards can be used to “battle” another using predetermined stats. A triangle at the bottom of them serves as a prompt for you to place the arrow on the other card. When using the viewer, you will be treated to a 3D model of a character (for character cards), a view of the monster (for monster cards) or Pit holding a weapon (for the weapon cards). You can also use the 3DS camera to take photos of the 3D models that appear; but unlike the 3DS’ usual Augmented Reality application, there are no poses – these are models that will only move how they want. When scanned, the cards also unlock “Idols”, which give information about that particular card. Nintendo has promised that there are hundreds available, which will be distributed in Europe through Club Nintendo, with two packs of 6 cards costing 250 Stars (the amount you get for redeeming one 3DS game).
Aside from that, it’s also worth noting that this is the first game released in the West that displays the “Nintendo Network” logo (although Mario Kart 7 first made use of the service, there was no displayed on the box. Also, in Japan, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy was released before this game). Now, onto the game itself.
When you plug the Nintendo 3DS game card into your 3DS, you might notice that the jingle played when you hover over the game is the same 8-bit tune that was used for the recent 3D Classics rerelease of the original Kid Icarus. This is but one of the many references to the older games in the games. For example, characters will often comment on how they used to look, before a picture of their old NES sprite would appear on the bottom screen (some, such as Thanatos, refer to it as how they looked in the ‘80s). References are also made to the time-gap between Medusa’s last attack and this game to be 25 years – which is actually the time-gap between the release of the original NES game and this new 3DS instalment. If I had been old enough to have experienced the original game during its lifetime, I might have found these references to be huge nostalgia trips; but if I’m honest, I didn’t know about the Kid Icarus franchise until Super Smash Bros. Brawl came around. However, having learned about the series’ history during the prelaunch period for Uprising, even I can’t help but find it cute – I imagine the “old school” players will find it was awesome as I found Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver including the “GB Sounds” item – allowing me to replace all of the music with the original music from Gold and Silver.
Those references serve as one of the many ways in which Kid Icarus: Uprising does not take itself seriously at all. Pit’s banter with the Goddess of Light Palutena is perhaps the most infamous though, as from just the game’s trailers it created a Marmite-type effect where people either love it or hate it; I belong in the former group – I LOVE it! One exchange that sticks to memory personally, is when Palutena is joking at how she see into people’s hearts and even see their ‘naughty’ thoughts, which results in Pit becoming flustered – perhaps the banter has a bit of a flirtatious undertone?
The banter also extends to the villains; they’ll often talk to both Pit and Palutena pretty casually, joining in on their jokes and whatnot. They are also well aware that they are in a game, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to comment on how one character has been able to talk the entire game (Thanatos springs to mind). In my three and a half hours of playing, I haven’t come across a single joke or pun that was bad, but wasn’t deliberately so (Well, except maybe Palutena’s “Pitoo” name for Dark Pit; coming from Pit and Two…besides, shouldn’t it be spelt Pitwo? It might have been, but to be honest, I pay more attention to the dialogue than the text, so I could be wrong there). That reminds me though; the voice acting has been criticised by some as sounding static…I want to sit them in front of my TV in front of some static to show them what “static” really is. The two leads, Pit and Palutena especially, are performed very well with changes in tone feeling incredibly natural. As well as jokes, the dialogue also contains some subtle nods to the world around us, such as Magnus referring to the economic climate and large unemployment during an early part of the game. As someone who ends up spending most of his time watching the news, I found that rather hilarious.
One thing that this game has become known for, mainly due to the inclusion of the previously mentioned stand, is the controls. For the majority of people who are right-handed, the left hand will be used to allow Pit to move using the Circle Pad and shoot using the L button, while the right hand will be holding the stylus which lets the player aim Pit’s attacks or move the camera with a swipe. For left-handed players, the right hand will hold the stylus, while the left hand will use the R button to shoot and the A/B/X/Y buttons to move (or the circle pad on the Circle Pad Pro if they have one). The stand was included to help make the controls more comfortable. Personally though, I haven’t been using the stand very much – it’s awkward to place, so you won’t be able to play the game while chillaxing on the sofa or lying on your bed (also, there is the issue of when I go from not using the stand to using it, my aim goes a bit iffy, which as a bow user, is not a good thing). In terms of any physical strain, I only started to notice it after about three and a half hours of playing (which actually made the end of the boss fight with Thanatos a tad painful for me). The problem is, the 3DS is a portable console, so the stand really isn’t the best alternative (also, just to wind up the fanboys – the Virtual Boy had a stand as well, didn’t it? :P). While those behind the game have stated that they learned about the Circle Pad Pro too late into development to do anything significant with it, I would have preferred if they had used it to give control of camera angles to the additional circle pad (the aiming is fine; it’s changing the angle of the camera that can be a bit of a pain). The fact that the 3DS stylus doesn’t exactly have the most comfortable grip is the only downside I can see with using the touch screen to aim. The fact that the touch screen is responsible for both the aim and camera does become very annoying during moments where you have enemies all around you, as you will have to essentially lower your weapon while you turn around to continue your attack, which does leave quite a significant blind spot (which I can imagine will be abused like mad in online battles with other players); this blind spot is most apparent during the land-based portions of levels, as you don’t really need to move the camera during the aerial scenes. At some points in the game you will also come across vehicles which Pit can ride in. Personally, I found them very awkward to control at times and in terms of their effect on the gameplay itself, rather unnecessary.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game is the use of weapons; there are so many available that the game really lets players fight in their preferred style. There are nine different categories of weapons: Staffs (made for sniping; but with little melee strength or homing ability), Bows (long-range), Clubs (highest attack power of all weapon types, but are more close range and have no rapid fire), Orbitars (lengthy attack range), Blades (swords/guns, well balanced), Claws (close-range), Palms (range and power is low, but homing ability is really good), Cannons (charged shots can deal heavy damage) and Arms (melee, shortest range but unmatched in close quarters). As you can tell, the game has something for everyone. Personally, I prefer to use the bow (as does Pit, judging from the box art =3). Weapons can be placed in “weapon gems” to give copies of them over StreetPass, while new weapons can be obtained over SpotPass. One nifty feature is the ability to merge two weapons into a new, stronger one. I was worried that what resulted would be random (or at least, unknown to the player prior to the merging), but those were in vain – the game shows you the new weapon you will get and the attributes it will have prior to you confirming the transaction.
Another feature the game has is the option of giving Pit various attributes or powers that can be activated during the land-based parts of the courses, such as slowly allowing him to heal his health. I do like this mode and putting together each attribute into the grid, trying to get as many as I can to fit is fun, but I can’t help but feel I’ve seen exactly the same thing before – and I have; in Capcom’s Megaman Battle Network 3. I also couldn’t help but be reminded of SEGA’s Sonic Adventure 2 Battle when on one level, I was required to jump from one grinding rail to another to avoid obstacles and enemies. Those are very slight niggles though; the problem is that I’m the kind of person who spent two whole days trying to think of a new name for a character in his novel because it unintentionally sounded a lot like that of a character in a different series (*nervous laughter*).
I haven’t had much time with this game (despite it jumping straight to my Number 1 in the “Average Play Time” department), but so far I am definitely enjoying it. The levels are short and the tone is incredibly light hearted, but that is definitely this game’s charm, meanwhile, the ability to increase the difficulty of a level and the vast weapons available means that there is something for a more hardcore player as well (also, the ability to customise the controls might appeal to some who prefer the control schemes of flight simulators more, or those who would prefer an autofire option). The game does have its noticeable flaws so I cannot say that it is the best game on Nintendo’s new platform, but it is certainly one worth getting.
With what I have played so far, I’d say the game would deserve an 8/10