Reviews// Kid Icarus: Uprising

Posted 6 Apr 2012 09:54 by
Welcome back, Pit. Weíve missed you. Itís only been twenty-one years since the Kid Icarusí last outing on the Game Boy, and a whopping twenty-six years since his debut adventure on the NES. And yet, the plucky angel hasnít aged a day. It must be his choice of moisturiser. But, while Pit has stayed the same, Nintendo has decided to change almost everything else about the Kid Icarus franchise.

Eschewing its retro platforming roots for a modern, third-person shooter approach, Kid Icarus: Uprising - re-invented by Super Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai - is a delightfully inspired handheld game that every gamer with a Nintendo 3DS should own.

As Pit, a young and feisty angel under the command of Goddess Palutena, your mission is to vanquish the armies of the Underworld that are attacking the cities of the land and sea. It seems that Pitís old nemesis, Medusa, has gotten all cocky again about taking over the many planes of existence, and fancies ruling over the human world a bit.

As a guardian, Pit is summoned to stop her - but as he cannot fly, he must rely on Palutena to grant him this power for five minutes at a time. Otherwise his wings will shrivel up and heíll plummet to his doom.

On the flip side, this limitation allows Sakurai and his Project Sora team to explore multiple gameplay styles for Kid Icarus: Uprising. Most stages in the single-player campaign are split into halves - both use a combination of stylus-based touch screen control and navigation with the Circle Pad, with varying results.

In flight segments, the game plays like an on-rails shooter, like Starfox. While you dodge attacks from familiar enemies with the Circle Pad, the stylus is used to aim. The L button can either be used for rapid fire when held down, or as a charge blast when used intermittently. Charge-blasting clusters of smaller enemies will clear the screen, while rapid-fire is best when trying to take out incoming fire and quick foes.

While the action is engaging and the eye-popping 3D effects make for a rather intense experience, the ground-based segments take a little more getting used to. These areas give you full control of Pit as he shoots, dodges and melees bad guys three times his size. While moving, aiming and firing are mapped to the same buttons, the touch screen doubles as camera control.

By flicking the stylus on the bottom screen, you can rotate the viewpoint around Pit to get a better view of your target. In the heat of battle with multiple enemies, it can be slightly frustrating at first - and even when you get the hang of it, it still feels slightly clumsy - but the level design does its best to compensate. Indeed, the interesting environments and maps really keep you engaged, as does the variety of retro-inspired enemies on show.

As you explore dungeons and fly through the skies, you get a running dialogue between Pit and Goddess Palutena about your current situation or mission. Normally, this would drag, but much like the banter between Arwing pilots in Starfox, this actually adds an extra dimension to the experience (as if the 3D wasnít enough) - and the light-hearted jokes between the pair (and guest characters such as bosses) are always entertaining.

Speaking of bosses, these can be found usually at the end of each ground-based section of a stage, and are all updated versions of foes found in the original Kid Icarus on NES. Uprising is a game that really goes out of its way to respect its roots, and itís brilliant to see 8-bit renditions of bosses show up as Pit remembers them during dialogue.

Along with the voice acting and cutscenes, the music is absolutely enchanting. The presentation and sound direction of Kid Icarus: Uprising is simply stunning, and truly what weíve come to expect from the luscious talents of Sakurai. You can see how his previous title, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, has somewhat influenced the appearance of this modern remake - the menus being the obvious clue.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is packed with a tonne of extra features and game mechanics that will keep you coming back to it, though. Following the Smash Bros. Brawl inspiration, a mode called Palutenaís Treasure Hunt tasks you with satisfying game conditions to open panels of a picture. Hints will appear next to opened panels to help you unlock more of the picture as you go, and you can even use feathers collected to open tricky parts of the picture.

You can also change up Pitís weapon of choice too, by collecting new items in the ground sections and equipping them inbetween stages. Thereís a multitude of different categories of weapon - from blades to bows to palm-based attacks and even cannons and staffs - and each can be road-tested before you commit to them. Which is handy because each weapon has their own accuracy and power values to consider. Weapons can also be fused together or converted to Hearts - the gameís virtual currency.

Hearts can be used to spend on weapons and power-ups (which can also be equipped to be activated in a pinch during stages), or they can be placed in bets to see if you can tackle higher difficulties of the single-player campaign. The default difficulty - or Intensity - value is 2.0, but you can crank it all the way up to 9.0, decimal point by decimal point, if youíre feeling brave and have the funds. Playing in harder Intensities also opens up locked doors and nets you greater rewards.

The introduction of Pitís doppelgšnger in the single-player campaign - Dark Pit - allows for some rather nice competitive multiplayer modes to be offered in Uprising too. Here, you can modify your weapons loadout and do battle against a selection of fellow players - to the death, apparently. In team-based battles, each side has a number of lives which, when depleted, will call forth either Pit of Dark Pit to rescue their chances of winning.

Itís a nice idea, and implemented really well with some impressive netcode, but the fast-paced nature of the mode really highlights the difficulty you might sometimes experience with the touch screen based camera control.

Kid Icarus: Uprising comes complete with a stand, so that you donít have to develop RSI in your left hand whilst holding the 3DS up - and for lefties, the Circle Pad Pro can be used for movement. In a rather amazing oversight, thereís no configuration option to tweak camera control settings to a second stick, though.

When you swallow that little bitter pill though, you will find a game that will utterly command your 3DS gaming time. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fantastic modern re-imagination of a much-loved retro classic. The fanservice for a franchise in hiatus for so long is staggering, and the action will delight gamers old and new. Highly recommended.

+ Stunning presentation and sound direction
+ Engaging gameplay and entertaining dialogue
+ Mountain of extra features and fanservice.

- Can be uncomfortable without 3DS Stand peripheral
- Steep learning curve with touch screen camera controls
- No Circle Pad Pro configuration

SPOnG Score: 9/10

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