Ah yes I remember when the Nintendo 3DS premiered at E3 a couple of years ago, the ones you saw it there thought it was the best thing ever especially after playing Kid Icarus: Uprising. In fact many people pre-ordered the 3DS just to play Uprising at launch. Well sadly the game didn’t make it at launch nor did it make for the holiday season last year, leaving the handheld to gather steam on its own (and it did according to me). Finally, however, Kid Icarus: Uprising is out and available to all now. So the question is: is the game all that or just E3 fluff that should go back into hiding.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is actually the latest sequel to the original Nintendo Entertainment System game Kid Icarus; where the main character, who is not named Icarus (or ‘Kid’ for that matter) but rather Pit. He serves the goddess of light Palutena, keeping order in Angel Land and protecting humans from Medusa the dark goddess of the underworld and her monster horde. At the end of the first game Medusa was put down, but only 27 years later she returns swearing vengeance against all of Angel Land. So once again, guided by Palutena, Pit goes into the breach and faces down the underworld. And that’s it on the story front; it may seem a little light but trust me they make up for it in other ways.
This game is a part rail flight combat, part third person shooter in which the controls are highly customizable to individual players (from movement to targeting and so forth). In combat Pit can attack at range or melee depending on distance (of course) and the type of weapon he wields. That’s right; players can equip Pit with nine different weapons this time around each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Also goddess Palutena grants Pit various powers to make his mission easier, but he must equip them to use them and since there not a lot of pockets in his tunic players must pick and choose which powers would help them best. I mean a huge death beam is nice but healing is just plain smart. Outside of saving the day and cracking skulls players do battle with the demonic forces for hearts… Serious, hearts. Don’t worry it isn’t anything touchy-feeling, no; hearts in Uprising is cold, hard, cash, and have many different uses within the game. And of course the Nintendo fanboys (in which I am a lifelong card carrying member) would have a serious cow if multiplayer didn’t make it into the game (seeing how it was a major selling point at the beginning). It only comes with two modes, team and free for all, but playing multiplayer can net you special weapons, abilities and extra hearts for your use in single player.
Action: Now people don’t get me wrong I like the modernization of video games; how they tell a story, how they make us as players identify with the characters we play and interact with, and so forth. The one thing that more and more current games seem to lack is constant action (meaning from a start of a level to its end is nothing but putting down enemies). It’s not exactly as bad when games like Mass Effect or Gears do it correctly, but too many games follow the formula of:
- A little action
- A long cut scene
- Repeat til boss cut scene
- Fight boss
- Long aftermath cut scene
This formula can be so plotting it’s like watching a movie (a very slow paced movie) where all you want to do get down with your bad self. Uprising doesn’t do that; oh sure they have their unique way of filling in exposition (more on that next) and make use of cut scenes as well, but their cut scene are no long than ten seconds long. Everything else it straight, unhalted action and combat – it’s like playing a small arcade game right in the palm of my hand. What more, the action can be ramped up or down by the power of heart(s). See in addition to using your hearts to buy things, you can also use them to ‘gamble’ in stage difficulty. The harder the stage the better the hearts you earn, weapons you find, and treasure you collect. However if you lose your life, you lose your hearts (which seems backwards) you betted on. Consequently players will have to pay hearts to take the stages to its easiest level as well. So yeah Nintendo well done.
Single player Characters and Voice overs: By all that is good I love these characters! You wouldn’t think an over 20 year old cast would be interesting, but they are – and surprisingly Meta. While Palutena & Pit stay on task defeating the evil forces of Medusa; their off topic conversations and hi·jinks throughout the stages range from hilarious to heartfelt. Who would have thought an angel and a goddess could be so down to earth. Often they compare the standard gaming conventions (slyly might I add) in relation to their opponents, obstacles, and even the first game. The other characters are also just as unique in their personalities whether they’re allies or enemies of Pit. After all it’s one thing to have a three-headed hydra attack Pit just for the sake of being evil; it’s another thing entirely to have that same hydra have three different personalities (a brute, genius, and stoic respectively) depending on the head who’s talking – and they hate each other as much as they hate pit. Awesome.
Multiplayer: Yes people you can relax, multiplayer is pretty good. Like I said before there is only two modes: Team battle (Light vs. Dark) or Free for all. Basically in these two modes players take on ‘Fighter’ forms and use the weapons and abilities from the single player to beat the crap out of your opponents. Each stage has their own little quarks to them as well as interesting temporarily weapons that’ll make someone’s day unpleasant. In LvD however if you beat the life bar out of the enemy team; one player from that team will spawn as a ‘pit angel’. Pit angels are powerful and have twice the heath as a fighter does, but if they go down the team loses and its game over. Admittedly the multiplayer still uses the Nintendo friend codes to a certain agree, but if you have a wireless internet connection you can play against one in the world for five minutes. And trust me, you can dish out a lot of pain in that short amount of time.
3D Graphics: Do I really have to say anything about the graphic superiority of the 3D graphics of this game? Ok I’ll say this: remember how I said that it was impressive that the 3rd party game Tales of the Abyss 3DS used the 3D in a creditable way. Well I still stand by that statement, but there is a reason why Nintendo games are some best games in the business. Uprising is the best looking, most colorful, handheld game to date; I dare you to play this game and call me a liar.
Controls: Even this they tried, they gave players all sorts of options to control Pit and his targeting reticular. D-Pad, thumb pad, touch screen, heck even the ABXY buttons can be co-opted; but at the end of the day the controls are still a sore spot. The 3DS control scheme manipulated in the they need is awkward at best; they know this and even included a desk stand for stability, but for a handheld that doesn’t make sense. If I go to the bank for example and I wanted to play Uprising I don’t want to whip out a plastic stand just to play it – I would look like a dork. The killing part is that it wouldn’t be so bad if they added a target lock function to the controls and not be just a power to active (and find might I add) – very lame Nintendo. As it stands the learning curve on the controls is very high and almost brought the score down I’m sorry to say, but you can’t keep a good game down.
Since the release of the Nintendo 3DS, which is a year old now, there have been games that properly show off the goods of the system but none I would call an icon title for the system (outside the Mario clone games out there). Well no more, Kid Icarus: Uprising will now and forever be synonymous with the 3DS as the very face of its lifecycle – it’s that good. Difficult controls aside the game has enough under the hood to keep 3DS owners entertained for a very long time. Go. Buy. NOW!