Kid Icarus: Uprising

Kid Icarus: Uprising
Kid Icarus: Uprising Cover
Platforms Nintendo 3DS
Genre Star Fox (in a Kid Icarus mask)
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Earlier this month, I played through the original Kid Icarus for the first time. It's a golden-age Nintendo oddity with a novel mishmash of action and RPG (novel in 1986, anyway) that provides more frustration than fun. It's okay, I guess.

But through the years, enough fans yearned for a revival of Kid Icarus that an online petition could always be found on any sizable video game forum. Unfortunately for these die-hards, Nintendo never gives its fans exactly what they want: it instead creates something new that resembles fan demands. Besides, Kid Icarus was a strange game. The only aspect of it I could see living on was the oddball Cupid Versus Eggplants theme.

Apparently Nintendo saw that too, because the new Kid Icarus: Uprising celebrates its strange heritage in a game style closer to Star Fox than a return to the original's platforming-action formula. Lifetime Kid Icarus fans are no doubt disappointed, but I couldn't be happier: the rail-shooting half of Uprising bears a strong resemblance to my 2010 Game of the Year, Sin & Punishment Star Successor, and the on-foot arena melees look no less enjoyable. Could Kid Icarus: Uprising be the 3DS's first worthy purchase of 2012?

Minute by Minute

- "Before you head out, Pit, let me explain the basics!" Move with the circle pad, aim with the touch screen, and fire with the L trigger. I can hold it down for continuous fire, or let go to charge a more powerful shot.

01 - Chapter 1: The Return of Palutena. The underworld army is invading! I'm flying through the air, on-rails Star Fox style. Wow...these are pretty clouds, and the 3D effect really makes the scene feel bigger than the handheld. The bottom screen shows Pit and the goddess Palutena chatting, and even shows some 8-bit pics from the original game.

02 - The enemies are heading for the town, so I am sent into a divebomb. Still need to shoot enemies as I fall. They aren't too interested in attacking me, but there's quite a few of them flying around.

kid Icarus Uprising Flight

03 - Man...holding the 3DS in my left hand alone as I play this game is very uncomfortable. I'm already feeling the burn in my fingers. Any more of this and I'll be in actual pain. Maybe that's why Nintendo included a little 3DS stand for this game. Kind of defeats the purpose of portable gaming, but I think I'll try it from here on out.

04 - Pit flies down to the ground. Prepare for land battle! On land, you flick the touch screen to change the way you're facing (it's like spinning a globe). The circle pad controls which direction I run. I can tap it quickly to dash, or to dodge enemy attacks right before they connect (as in Metroid: Other M).

05 - Hmm, turning is a little awkward, but it works well enough. I pick up some health recovery items, then start the ground battle with some charge shots. My weapon works the same on the ground as it does in the air.

06 - Found a treasure chest. It had a hamburger in it (recovered some health) and some hearts (the game's currency). There's a gate here with the number 5 on it...apparently I need to set my "intensity meter" to 5 in order to unlock it. Guess I'll come back later and try it.

07 - There's a vase dropping giant those were annoying in the NES game. I need to use melee attacks to destroy the vase (hit the shoot button when close to the enemy). I received something called a Happy Trigger from the vase. It looks like a pistol with wings...? Another treasure chest has something called a Burst Blade in it.

kid Icarus Uprising Twinbellows

08 - A very short cutscene introduces Twinbellows, the boss of this first stage (and first boss in the original game as well). I keep my aim focused on the two-headed cerberus and dodge its dash attacks...and victory is mine! That was over fast, actually.

09 - Palutena teleports me away from the battlefield, and the results screen shows up. The weapons and powers I collected each show up one by one. I can convert them into hearts or just take them (I choose the latter, since I have none of these yet and they're all better than my current First Blade).

10 - Hey, it's an achievement grid! It works exactly as it did in Kirby Air Ride and Super Smash Bros Brawl. Good to know Sakurai won't let go of a good idea just because it's not the standard.

11 - Checking out the menu now. "Arms Altar" is the weapon section, where I can equip, buy, and even fuse weapons. I equip my Burst Blade, and the game lets me try it out on a practice range. This blade is stronger than my first one, and it can even cause confusion in the enemies it strikes.

12 - Another section of the Arms Altar is the Powers section. Powers are special abilities that can be activated during battle. One is a short jump/glide, another turns enemies into Idols (like the trophies in Super Smash Bros, I guess). In order to equip them, I have to arrange them in a grid, like in Resident Evil 4's item briefcase. These powers are shaped like Tetris pieces, though...

13 - Okay enough management, let's move out. Chapter 2: Magnus and the Dark Lord. Before I head out, I can set an Intensity Meter. Like the Level Slider in The World Ends With You, it's a spectrum of difficulty (from 0.0 to 9.9) that I can set before each stage. The default is 2.0, so let's try 3.0 this time.

kid Icarus Uprising Intensity

14 - Time to fly. The sunrise style of the first chapter gives way to stormy skies for chapter two. Pit and Palutena talk about how played-out the whole Dark Lord thing is. Pit must be good at multitasking if he can be silly while dodging and shooting stuff.

15 - The storm ahead looks particularly dangerous, so Palutena directs my on-rails path downwards through the mountains. There are definitely more enemies on-screen than in the last's a little chaotic with the 3D on.

16 - Flying through a canyon now, enemies are setting up laser traps for me to fly through. These are much more dangerous than the enemies themselves, as I'm having a bit of trouble dodging them.

17 - What's this, a miniboss? Some kind of giant manta ray with a potbelly is chasing me now! I'm flying backward, trying to shoot its minions and keep it at bay. It gets caught in a tight corner of the canyon as Pit is flown up to the dark lord's palace.

kid Icarus Uprising Canyon

18 - There's a huge land battle going on underneath the clouds between the humans and the forces of evil. There's nothing Pit can do to help them, so Palutena flies Pit to the castle gates to go after the dark lord.

19 - Time for land combat again. I head into the castle and shoot up some enemies. A treasure chest: "Impact Amplifier." I'm glowing now, but I'm not sure why.

20 - It seems Pit gets winded if you run for more than a few seconds, making him vulnerable. There's a big skull spider guarding the door, and Palutena warns me that it will retaliate if I shoot it. So I just smack it with my blade instead, and it goes down easy enough.

21 - Palutena brags about her near-omniscience, and warns that she can see what's in Pit's heart. She implies that he has dirty thoughts...

22 - A treasure chest in the middle of an empty room. It's clealry a trap, but I want it anyway. Sure enough, the room populates with enemies as I approach the chest. One of them is a giant nose that shoots bombs out of its nostrils. Yeah.

23 - Hmm, this wall looks strange...I can go right through it! Inside is some kind of teleporter, it leads to a Sagittarius Bow. I'll bet that's a good weapon to have.

kid Icarus Uprising Magnus

24 - Pit finds a buff-looking human attacking the enemy with an enormous sword. He looks and sounds like he eats gravel for breakfast. His name is Magnus, and he's apparently here to get some treasure; we decide to team up and take on the enemy. He doesn't seem nearly as strong as he looks...his sword isn't exactly pummeling the enemy. It falls to me to clean them up, I guess.

25 - Some kind of giant serpent is flying through the air. I can't tell if it's attacking, though. I kill it anyway, and it drops a lot of health for me.

26 - Hey, I found a hot spring. Pit is so excited that he goes right in with all his clothes on. An angel has to be ready for battle at all times, apparently. As in the NES game, the hot spring refills my health.

27 - Another unguarded treasure box. Magnus warns me that it's a trap, but I go for it anyway. He's not happy with my decision as a dozen enemies spring from nowhere. One of their attacks turned me I poisoned?

28 - A small enemy put up a force field that I need to break in order to attack the enemies inside. Reminds me of those orb shields from Halo 3.

29 - Time for the boss battle. The dark lord Gaol and Magnus apparently know each other. This guy's way smaller than the first boss, but his attacks are tougher to dodge. One is a black hole that I need to dash away from, and his smaller size makes him tougher to hit.

30 - But not much tougher. He went down pretty quickly, just like the first boss. Pit and Magnus approach Gaol, and his armor breaks to reveal...a woman? She's unconscious, but alive. Magnus tends to her, and Pit is teleported back to Skyworld at the end of the half-hour.

kid Icarus Uprising Fusion

My Thoughts

- The action begins one minute in and never really stops. Aside from a couple boss and character introductions, everything happened entirely within gameplay. I like this approach quite a bit.

- For better and worse, Kid Icarus: Uprising feels bigger than a handheld game. The grand music, the sweeping 3D landscapes, and an overflow of extra modes and features add up to a game that seems determined to stretch beyond the tiny 3.5 inch screen. On the other hand, I can't imagine playing this game on the go: it's actually painful to play without the included 3DS stand and difficult to do so while keeping the system in its 3D sweetspot.

- It makes sense that the game would feature the Kirby Air Ride checklist grid, considering both games were headed by Masahiro Sakurai. I am also delighted to also see the Intensity Meter, a sliding difficulty setting much like the Level Slider in The World Ends With You. Leave it to Sakurai to support his core games with great ideas.

- Maybe I was too eager to compare Uprising to Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. The gameplay style is the same, but the creativity and insanity that pushed Star Successor to the top of my 2010 pile isn't quite there. At least, not yet.

- I can already tell that this game will have plenty of content. I've already collected five or six new weapons, as many special powers, and even a few trophies. The achievement checklist is mostly bare, even though a dozen have filled in already. And I haven't even touched half of the menu options, including the online multplayer battles. I get the feeling I'm going to be sinking quite a bit of time into this game over the next few months.

- Would I keep playing? Yes. I still need to get used to the stylus controls, but they're already proving very accurate, even if they're a bit awkward. And otherwise, Kid Icarus: Uprising is already the most interesting and fun 3DS game I've played.

- In 3D? Yes. Staying in the sweet spot can be difficult, but it's worth the extra effort to see the misty cloud layers and the land battles that seem to stretch all the way to the horizon.

- With the stand? Unfortunately, I think the stand is a requirement. There's just no way I could possibly play this game for more than fifteen minutes at a time without it.

kid Icarus Uprising Colosseum