Kid Icarus: Uprising review
Finally the revival of a long dead series! Kid Icarus was a great game on the NES, featuring good challenge, fun gameplay with a lot of variety (both horizontal and vertical scrolling levels, plus zelda-style dungeons and a shooter level), great music, great enemy design.. overall a really fun game, with the only down point being the leveling system requiring some grinding (if you want health and weapon upgrades). The sequel was much on the same, but on game boy! Okay, I’ve only played a very little bit of that one as a kid so I don’t really remember it… But I did hear good things about it.
So a whole 25 years after the original (and 21 years after the game boy sequel), it’s quite an event to finally see Pit on the screen again…. well, not counting Brawl of course. So does he live up to his old standards, or should he have remained in obscurity?
Developer: Project Sora
Date of Release: March 23st 2012
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10
Can I just write “amazing” and go on to the next part? No? Dammit…
Well, this game looks REALLY good. By far the best graphics on 3DS, and I’d argue that it trumps most games on the Wii in the technical aspect. In actual design, there’s really nothing to complain about. Pit looks just like he did in Smash Bros Brawl and I honestly think this is a great design for him, so nothing to complain about here. A lot of the enemy designs are taken straight from the NES game and look amazing in their transition to 3D (even that weird… nose… thing), and the new enemy designs fit right in with the old ones. Every area you travel to looks amazing, may it be an underwater palace, a weird illusion world, a split sea, a volcano-filled area, a Colosseum, a space pirate spaceship… everything looks awesome, and every level looks different so thumbs up to that. I also love certain aspects of the presentation, like the bottom screen displaying the old NES rendition of certain enemy sprites when you see their new 3D versions, very cool.
Sound-wise it’s perfect. Project Sora seems to be one of the few developers that understood that using an orchestra to make a game’s music doesn’t mean that the game should sound like a movie trailer. The orchestrated music here is really good, and it sounds like video game music, something most games fail to do (mostly because modern devs have no clue what they’re doing). A lot of it is actually remakes from the NES Kid Icarus soundtracks, or some are inspired by those tunes, and those sound amazing, but everything else sounds great too. The actual sound design is also really good. Each weapon has its own shooting sound, and each different type of shooting sounds different. The enemies and their attacks have their own sounds which makes it fairly easy to follow the action on-screen since you get a lot of audio cues. The game also features great voice acting. You’ll hear Pit and the goddess Palutena a lot so it’s a good thing that their voices aren’t annoying, but every other character also sounds great.
Story-wise, well, it’s pretty simple. The underworld army is attacking after Medusa gets revived somehow, and Pit has to stop them. This time Goddess Palutena isn’t trapped so she can give Pit the power of flight at all times… sort of… Only for a limited time, which actually goes well with the gameplay idea of every level starting with a flying segment and ending with a ground segment. Throughout the levels Pit and Palutena will not only talk to each other, but also to either NPCs they meet in the level or the level bosses, and the dialogue is great fun. A lot of teasing between the characters, or just jokes being thrown around in addition to actually advancing the plot.
Just a quick mention as always with 3DS reviews. The effect isn’t really used that effectively here, but it still looks amazing at certain points. Overall it’s just there. It doesn’t detract from the experience, but it doesn’t do that much to enhance it, unlike what I thought when I saw the 3D trailer that was available during last year’s E3.
Kid Icarus: Uprising has 2 gameplay style, so let’s talk about both… and a couple other things.
Each level starts you off in air combat. It’s on-rails and plays something akin to Sin & Punishment. You concentrate on shooting enemies and avoiding their attacks, and you advance through the level automatically (controlled by Palutena and her power of flight). You aim with the stylus which is super fast and super precise, you move with the slide pad, and you attack with the L button. In regards to movement, you have a sort of dodge move, done by flicking the slide pad in one direction and then right away flicking it in the other, but it’s rarely useful. The are 3 different attacks. You have a rapid-fire, a charge shot which is done by waiting for around 2 seconds and then shooting, and a melee attack that you can do when enemies are super close from you. Killing enemies gives you hearts (which act as currency) and sometimes the Happy Trigger item, which charges up your charge shot really fast for a limited amount of time.
These level segments are REALLY fun. The enemies come in and attack FAST, so your reflexes must be good. Dodging enemy attacks can be real tough especially in later levels when the game is just throwing everything at you.
Ground combat is actually quite similar to air combat. You have the same rapid-fire/charge/melee attacks and you aim pretty much the same way as in the air. The differences are that you actually have to walk around (and you sometimes even have exploration!), you have to control the camera (more on that later) and you get a few new attacks. While moving around, you can flick the slide pad in one direction which will make Pit dash in that dirrection (and then he’ll start running if you hold the slide pad). Properly timed dashes can make you invincible for a moments.
Either during the dash or while running, pressing the attack button will generate a different attack than if you were walking around normally or standing still, generally stronger. So you have dash rapid-fire, dash charge attack and dash melee attack added to your arsenal, but the fun thing is that dashing in different directions change the effect of the attack slightly (like a forward dash charge attack is really strong). You can also pick up items at certain places on the ground (such as grenades) and use that to damage enemies.
You can’t jump normally (unless you have an item that enables you to), but the game does feature jump pads to get to higher levels, and there’s a few of those that can be used in fun and original ways.
The game is still really fun here. The challenges are different than the air level due to more involved dodging, and the minor exploration aspect and different types of enemies to fight is still really fun. This is also where you’ll fight most (but not all) of your boss battles, which are all really well done and really fun.
This game has 91 difficulty levels… seriously. It goes from 0.0 to 9.0 and everything in-between (my preferred difficulty right now is around 6.5). You select your difficulty before a level starts by donating hearts to the Fiend’s Cauldron. Higher difficulty comes in the form of more/stronger enemies and more projectiles to avoid, but there’s also the benefit of better rewards (more hearts, better weapons). And let me tell you, this game is quite tough at higher levels (and a whole point of difficulty does a HUGE difference). Starting around 7.0, the game gets brutal, and I’ve only finished a few levels at 9.0 so far. Why only a few? Well, when you die, you return to the latest checkpoint, sure, but the difficulty level goes down by a whole point (so if you die at 9.0, you go down to 8.0), you lose hearts and you get lower-level rewards. So if you want to actually finish a level at high difficulty, you must not die. Good luck!
This game enables you to find and buy weapons. Those weapons have a base value (which I suspect means attack power) and extra stats attached to them (range, defense, damage, fire/poison damage, better dash attacks, etc.). You can actually fuse weapons together, forming a completely new weapon, with some of both weapons’ characteristics, seemingly at random. There’s some customization possible, but since you have no choice over which stats will transfer to the new weapon it can take a while to find good matches. I really like this system since it pretty much forces you to experiment with different weapons. I like the guns, staves and bows, but it can be fun to try out claws and clubs too.
You also have an item grid. That grid can be filled up with items which take a set amount of spaces (you can rotate them), and these items become useable in ground levels (in air levels you get bombs, represented by blue spheres). Healing, adding properties to your attacks, jumping, random buffs (transparency being quite useful at parts). There’s some customization here for sure. The problem comes with using the items. You can use them with the touch screen, but only 3 of them are displayed at a time, so you have to scroll through them to find what you want, which is slow and works badly. You can also switch between them with the d-pad and use them by pressing down on the d-pad, but that makes it impossible to move while using items. It’s still useful to have, but a bit underused due to the items being badly assigned in the controls.
Yeah, I definitely need to discuss this, since this is the point where many people will bash the game without even trying it.
The air levels control great, no problem there. I don’t think anyone would argue that and… well… if they would, they’d be dumb, no ifs or buts here.
The problem comes in the ground levels. The controls here are… kinda tough at first. It comes down to camera control. You rotate it by swiping the touch screen, which is hard to do precisely and makes aiming at the same time really tough. You can also adjust the camera just with normal aiming (ala most shooters), but it’s MUCH slower and not as useful, especially when fighting fast enemies. This is really the biggest problem of the game, getting used to the controls can take time. Even I still have trouble with it at some points. It becomes manageable, and eventually you just get used to it, but getting to that point can take a while (for some people it’s just a couple levels, for others it’s the whole game, but either way you will get used to it).
A lot of people say it would work better with dual analog sticks…. May I ask how? It would be much slower and less precise than a stylus, and, as such, the whole game would have to be slowed down as a result. Yeah, the camera would move around better, but is that really a good reason to sacrifice a big element of what makes he game fun (the fast and frantic pace)? Fuck no. Just get used to it, it’s not hard at all.
Another complaint I’ve heard is that people get cramps in their hands while playing the game… That’s actually false. You see, the control scheme in Kid Icarus has nothing to do with that. The actual culprit is the 3DS itself. It’s very small, and features mildly strange placement for the slide pad, and so your hand cramps up. It happens with ALL games, no matter if you’re using the touch screen or not. I will say though that the stand that the game comes with is actually useful, as it makes it take a bit longer for my hands to cramp up so… there’s that!
Well, to put it simply… If you have a 3DS, get this game. It’s really good. One of the best on the system. I’d even say it’s the game I’ve enjoyed the most so far on the 3DS.
You have super fun gameplay, a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT of content (25 levels, each taking a good amount of time to finish, and then replaying them at higher and higher difficulties to get better equipment/higher scores, and then there’s online play which I have yet to try since my equipment sucks, BUT I’ve heard good things about it), amazing presentation, good music, good voice acting… good everything, really. The first few levels are an insanely fun and cool nostalgia trip, and the rest remains just as solid.
If you’re able to get over the really weird learning curve of the camera controls for the ground levels, you have a very solid experience waiting for you here.
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