Review: Kid Icarus Uprising
Posted 07 Apr 2012 at 13:09 by Sam Gittins
Assuming the form of an arcade style on-rails shooter set in the sky spliced with land-based combat sections it would seem initially that this is completely the opposite of what the original game was about but care to look a little deeper and you'll soon see that the spirit of Kid Icarus lives on in more ways than one in what can only be described as a fitting homage that just happens to double-up as an incredible title in its own right.While the 3DS got off to an initially slow start there was never any doubt that great games would be coming out for the system it was just a question of when. At E3 2010 it was teased by Nintendo that Kid Icarus: Uprising would be reigniting the flame of an almost long since thought burnt-out franchise that hadn't see the light of day for many decades; now with this titles release the flame has been officially rekindled and it burns brighter than ever in three dazzling dimensions. It may be true that the original game was a purely platform-based adventure title – more akin to a certain title beginning with 'M' that shall not be mentioned – but a new challenger has appeared in the form of 'Masahiro Sakurai' – who's most famous for being at the helm of the Super Smash Bros series – as it has fallen upon him to reinvent the franchise which is fortunate as it seems that heaven has truly smiled down on him if the end result is anything to go by.
For those unaware you assume the role of 'Pit' who is an angel sworn to the Goddess of Light named 'Palutena' to protect all that is good so naturally he opposes the recently resurrected 'Medusa' the Queen of the Underworld who enjoys nothing more than to terrorise humankind, this of course means that it's your job to stop her and her troops once more by smiting them with your arrows of light. The power of flight is Lady Palutena's gift to you – as you're an Angel who can't fly – but it can only be maintained for five minutes at a time, after that Pit's wings will burn up as he falls to the ground below, because of this following each short but sweet on-rails flying section you take the fight to the ground as you then work your way to the boss of that stage; this is the basic flow of the game and it works wonderfully well.
Things start off simple enough as the first stage acts as a training exercise in addition to providing an excellent introduction into the world of Kid Icarus which will have fans of past games gaping in awe at seeing Pit taking down classic enemies in stunning 3D while newcomers will simply be blown away by it all. One of the first things you'll notice – after the striking visuals – is the clever use of dialogue between Pit and Palutena then between many other characters throughout the course of the single-player mode as there are constant references not only to the past of the series but also other Nintendo games, chatter on in-game contradictions, real-world comparisons... basically stuff that doesn't just break the fourth wall but instead smashes it down entirely making for an in-game experience that's not only self-aware but actually genuinely inspired; it's so good that it'll make you wonder if the script was even written by Nintendo as it's so refreshing for them to finally break with conventions while still remembering their roots.
Over the course of what's a rather sizeable solo mode you'll do battle with many gods and goddesses alike, while I'm not going to disclose anything that would spoil the story all I will say is that the main story is suitably epic, setting the scene beautifully for the mind-blowing madness that this game has in-store for you which includes dozens of deviously designed set-pieces even including vehicles sections which actually work well and a whole load of other stuff which I'll let you discover for yourself. Amazingly nothing ever feels out of place either, it's basically just 'there' so you learn to deal with this instantly just enjoying each moment while it lasts before it's onto the next wonder of this extraordinary virtual world. You'll rarely find yourself questioning any of it but just enjoying every second for it's a title that doesn't subscribe to having to do things a particular way but instead does things the 'Sakurai Way' which as it turns out makes it infinitely more interesting.
Clearly inspiration has been taken from Super Smash Bros Brawl for the menus as not only is each icon colour coded but they are even similarly shaped, better still you can actually move them around like puzzle pieces before letting go which returns them to their original position... naturally their main purpose is ease of navigation but all of these nice touches certainly don't go unnoticed. This title easily contains a similar wealth of content to that of SSBB which is amazing considering this is a portable title, as a result there is always something to do; be it obtaining weapons from either the main game or buying/making them, equipping powers on a grid that you must fill with Tetris-like shapes or even just enjoying the various obtainable items that you have acquired via the 'Vault' which is heaven if you enjoy obtaining virtual collectables.
Idols can be obtained by simply playing the game or by 'Idol Toss', where you place special eggs in a catapult which you then fire thus breaking the egg earning you an idol, as you earn more the percentage will go down so you can opt to add more eggs to boost the percentage determining whether you get a new collectable or not. It's also possible to exchange Play Coins for eggs giving you more reasons to take your 3DS out with you, not to mention the ability to trade weapon gems in street-pass mode. There are of course many more things to discover and all I will add to this is that if you enjoy tracking your statistics or even earning in-game achievements then you're going to be very satisfied by what this title has to offer especially when you take into account that there are literally hundreds of optional tasks that you can fulfil in the 'Treasure Hunt' which will keep you busy for weeks or even months should you get sucked into it.
Now it would be amiss of me to neglect to mention the controls especially as the game comes packaged with a stand designed specifically for it which I must add definitely feels necessary if you're intending to play the game for particularly long periods of time which is more than likely; being that whether in the air or on land you'll always have an on-screen reticule to control it's plain to see that the stand offers you precision which is definitely needed here. There are alternative control schemes for left-handed players though no dual analogue controls if a Circle Pad Pro is used which may seem like a missed opportunity but it soon becomes apparent that this is a game built around use of the touch-screen though a glimmer of hope for those of you who might have one of the old 'Thumb Straps' from the original DS lying around as this seems to work fairly well if you can adjust to it.
During single-player one of the more interesting aspects is the 'Fiend's Cauldron' which lets you adjust the intensity with a slider that ranges from 0.0 all the way up to 9.0 which means that technically there are no fewer than ninety individual levels of difficulty so you can tailor the experience to your play-style. The clever part of it is that the higher levels of difficulty require you to wager more hearts so if you succeed you'll acquire more as well as being able to obtain better rewards but if you should die then the cauldron will tip over spilling half of the hearts that you bet which then lowers the difficulty should you choose to continue. It's a brilliant risk versus reward mechanic which works amazingly well even offering extra doors within certain levels that only unlock on specific intensities, it's also worth noting that this is the first game of its kind to offer this unique user-tailored difficulty setting so it will be interesting to see if other games try to adopt it in the future because it really is a rather special selling point that many other games might benefit from but for now it works very well indeed in the game it was created for.
But this game doesn't end with the single-player for there is a fully fledged multiplayer mode playable either locally or online for up to six players featuring two distinctly different modes of play, the first being 'Light VS Dark' in which you're split into two teams each of which has a combined life-bar and depending on the strength of your weapon you'll take up more or less of that bar so if you are defeated that amount will deplete, when complete depletion occurs one player will either become Pit or dark Pit with the object being to take out the other teams angel so the longer you can make that initial life-bar last the better you're likely to do so consider your weapon choice carefully. Powers also come into play here as there are many which will assist you during battle – some are for single-player only though – for instance if you have health recovery then you could use one of those during battle to keep your individual life-bar topped up which would delay you from taking a chunk out of your teams life-bar too early on in the game; there is also a weapon called 'Daybreak' which comes in three separate parts and if your team can assemble it then this will likely give you the edge.
There's also a 'Free For All Mode ' which pits you against everyone else in what essentially feels almost like a 3D version of Super Smash Bros but even more frenetically paced if that's even possible, in fact it can be so fast at times that you may have trouble keeping up, but once you get used to it there's a lot of fun to be had here. Whichever way you play you'll most likely find that the unique style of multiplayer will keep you coming back for more in-between playing or even replaying the solo mode but no matter how you look at it there is an amazing amount of replay value to this title; there are even AR trading cards to collect – you get one pack for free with the game – which are pretty awesome in their own right and add yet another reason to keep playing if you feel so inclined to collect them. It is admittedly rather fun to watch characters spring to life out of cards or even battle each other for your enjoyment.
Visually there really isn't anything else that compares in the same way as not only is the game flawlessly presented but it has many stunning set-pieces sprawled out like stars across the games unbelievably well constructed universe that features many stunningly designed locales, characters and even enemies brought to life like never before in impressively immersing 3D that easily sets the standard. Keeping the bar raised is the astounding audio which not only features a fully orchestrated soundtrack with some beautiful renditions of past pieces like the fantastic main theme amongst many other new classics but the sound samples used are also top quality helping to add that extra layer of immersion that will elevate your enjoyment of the title to new heights.
What little there is to not like about Kid Icarus: Uprising is barely worth mentioning for there is so much to love about it that it's easy enough to forgive its few flaws in favour of just simply enjoying all that it has to offer which as it happens is rather a lot. Personally I find it hard to believe that so much entertainment has been crammed onto one tiny game card as it's something that could easily be enjoyed on a home console but at the same time doesn't need to be. This is a title which takes full advantage of everything the hardware has to offer in an attempt to entirely entertain the player and it not only succeeds at this but in the process it outdoes every other title available for the system to date, if you've been looking for that one 'must-have' title that makes owning a 3DS worthwhile then this heavenly title is most definitely it.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Pit's triumphant return doesn't just represent another classic that Nintendo should be proud of it also raises the bar to truly heavenly heights. If this monumental title represents what the 3DS is capable of then owners should consider themselves blessed
Fantastic fullorchestral soundtrack
Sumptuous 3D visuals
Unfathomable amount of unlockables
Controls might not suit everyone