Kid Icarus: Uprising Review: A Flight of Fancy
|Game Name:||Kid Icarus: Uprising|
|Release Date:||March 23, 2012|
When recalling Nintendo’s broad catalog of game characters, Pit of Kid Icarus fame is not usually at the top of that list. It’s not uncommon for Hollywood to go back in time in search of inspiration, but the video game industry tends to mostly push forward or make sure people never forget about American football, hot bodies and shotguns. Kid Icarus is a series that has sat dormant for over 20 years and yet here we are with Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. While the original was a trial-and-error affair of platforming and archery, Pit’s newest outing is more action-packed, explosion-filled and coated in saccharine charm. My hands may have gone slightly numb in the process, but this has been my favorite experience yet on the 3D portable.
Kid Icarus: Uprising (or Uprising from now on) kicks things off with so much energy that it’s hard to imagine that these characters have been out of the spotlight for so long. After being brought up to speed about the resurrection of Medusa, the goddess of darkness, and the role of Pit as the battle-ready servant of Palutena, the goddess of light, projectiles are filling the top screen and the proverbial poop gets closer and closer to hitting the fan. What starts off as a war between the heavenly and hellish forces grows into something more complicated as new and interesting characters, such as the goddess of nature, join the fray and continually flip the script on our angelic protagonist. Before you know it, Uprising is juggling so many unique and memorable characters that the story begins to feel like a true epic adventure.
Barbecued hot wings
The level of present-day characterization to this universe inspired by Greek mythology easily held my attention. Watching the usually-comic interactions between Pit and all of the higher powers is the most entertained I’ve been while playing a handheld lately. Uprising could have been a game that took its tale of gods and war seriously, but instead offers up something more light-hearted and humorous. Pit is teased about not being able to actually fly on his own, Palutena cracks a joke about an eye surgery procedure gone wrong and Medusa reintroduces herself to our hero while acknowledging that it’s been 25 years. The attention to detail here is mind-boggling and appreciated, making it desirable to replay the many chapters just to listen to one of the many conversations a second or third time.
The meat and potatoes of Uprising comes from Pit partaking in intense aerial battle and on-foot ground skirmishes, usually punctuated by a showdown with a boss. Due to the aforementioned fact that poor Pit can only be kept aloft through the aid of a goddess like Palutena, flight sections are regulated to being five minutes or less in order to spare his wings catching fire. Air battles are on rails, automatically guiding Pit through sweeping and varied vistas while tasking the player with dodging incoming attacks and dispatching enemies within range. Things can get pretty hectic as the screen fills with baddies and environmental obstacles, but these segments are the most exhilarating part of the package.
Once Pit’s sandal-clad feet touch solid ground, the mood shifts to that of a third person shooter. Pit is able to walk, run, dodge and occasionally platform his way through a mostly directed environment in pursuit of the big bad tucked away at the end. There is some incentive to explore in these areas as secrets are hidden by destructible walls and locked doors, but the need to press on remains as the top priority. While these longer sections do provide their own fun, they also shine a heavenly light upon the main issue that Uprising fails to hide: the controls.
Ache ‘n Bake
Relying heavily on precise aiming and shooting, it’s no surprise that Uprising is built around using the stylus. Pit moves with the Circle Pad, fires his weapon with the left trigger and aiming is as simple as pressing the stylus against the touch screen and drawing from target to target. While in flight, movement is all about controlling elevation and horizontal placement. However, on land, things become a bit more involved as the pad moves Pit around a 3D space filled with a variety of savage enemies and inconveniently-placed pitfalls. The dilemma comes from getting Pit to walk forward, as moving the pad too quickly forces Pit into a dash or run animation that can lead to an untimely death. Getting used to the pressure takes practice, but I still found myself accidentally dashing from time to time.
Camera controls are mapped to the stylus, as is the aiming. While not as finicky as basic movement, aiming at enemies that attack from all angles can become overwhelming as the camera begins to rotate left or right. Thankfully, I found myself subconsciously adjusting my aim if this ever happened. If this becomes a problem for the player, Uprising does come with a variety of sensitivity-related control options that tackle most concerns. It’s amazing the depth and options in which any given player can make the game work more in his or her favor, but it’s just a shame that no scheme ever felt absolutely right.
A packed-in stand for the 3DS is meant to further fix the handling, but it’s a laughable shame when a game designed for a portable suggests that you prop it down on a table. Finding the sweet spot when playing is practically essential to minimize hand and wrist discomfort, but Uprising is still a blast to play in spite of these frustrations.
A battle buffet
For those who find themselves fond of the land combat, Uprising‘s multiplayer modes offer interesting takes on those combat scenarios against human opponents. Free-for-all is a basic 6-man deathmatch where players take on the roles of generic Skyworld warriors to see who can get the most kills before time runs out. The variant of team deathmatch, Light versus Dark, is a little more noteworthy, splitting the warriors into two teams of three. When one team has been defeated enough times, the last member of that team to fall takes control of either Pit or Dark Pit, his alter ego. At that point, it becomes a scramble to protect your team’s VIP while continuing to destroy the other side. These modes can be played either locally or online and are definitely worth checking out.
Apples to oranges
Whether blazing toward a moon-sized base or trekking through a bomb factory, Uprising is a visual spectacle. It’s amazing that I never lost track of the white-robed Pit amongst all the colors, flashes and explosions that happened over the course of the adventure. The bottom screen houses an assortment of character portraits during dialogue scenes, adding extra personality and flair to what is essentially just the area that controls the aiming. The 3D effect is also put to good use here with visual trickery abound as enemies and obstacles rush into the foreground at high speeds. Those familiar with the Super Smash Bros series will be right at home navigating the menus, which tend to borrow heavily from that game’s layout. This is definitely one of the most quirky and visually-appealing games on the system.
While the eyes are busy taking in the sights, the ears are getting their own workout as a grand soundtrack sweeps and roars behind every set-piece. Every time the main theme would play, I would question why it even took 20 years to get a new entry in this series. It’s THAT infectious. On top of that, all of the dialogue is voice-acted in such a cheesy and delightful way that it was like playing through a longer Saturday morning cartoon. Pit has been re-imagined into such a heroic dork that it was hard for me not to root for his victories.
A cornucopia of fun
Kid Icarus: Uprising is packed nearly to the brim with carrots to chase, ranging from a multitude of achievements to unlock, hearts to amass, weapons to hoard, secondary powers to equip and an ingenious gambling mechanic to attempt tackling higher difficulty levels. It’s crazy to imagine such a tall order of entertainment is available on a handheld. As much as I enjoy Uprising, it’s hard not to question the control scheme and be let down that my enjoyment had to be constantly interrupted by breaks to recuperate. With frequent reminders to rest, it would have been nice if there were mini-games available that didn’t rely on the stylus controls. As is, I cannot recommend this game enough to 3DS owners looking to get a lot out of the portable and to those on the fence about the 3DS altogether. I might not have thought to spend a lot of time with the Kid Icarus series before, but now I can only hope the goddesses keep Pit around for good.
For the amount of content available in Kid Icarus: Uprising, the retail price of $40 is worth it. The production values are through the roof, playing it is a blast and the game is charming to the moon and back. Being able to play against friends and strangers locally or online is a nice inclusion if that aspect pulls you in. The only minor downside is not knowing if the controls will ultimately be of major concern hours into the game, but I accepted that risk and enjoyed my time with it. While I find the included stand to be next to worthless, its inclusion didn’t seem to affect the price at all. Experience some fresh Kid Icarus! Value score: 4.5/5
Giant Bomb (images)