Game Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising (2012)

Kid Icarus: Uprising was a surprising announcement, considering the most recent game in the series was released over 20 years ago on the Gameboy. Kirby and Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai was tasked with the development of a title that would showcase the features of the 3DS, and at E3 2010, Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first title revealed for the system. Uprising is a third person action/rail shooter, which is an odd choice, considering the previous two games were classic 2D platformers. Does Kid Icarus: Uprising take off and breath new life into a franchise once thought dead, or does it fly too close to the sun?

What Works:

Gameplay

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Each level in Kid Icarus: Uprising is a unique blend of third-person rail shooter, which then switches to third-person ground combat halfway through the level. Each level starts off with Pit flying to his intended destination while shooting down enemies using the weapon of your choosing. Once you land at your destination, Pit fights enemies on the ground using both melee and shooting attacks while navigating to the end of the level, where you then fight the boss. Each level follows this basic structure, and it works well and there’s enough variation in enemies, and level design that it never feels repetitive.

kiupic4As you play, you earn hearts from defeating enemies and you find new weapons and abilities in treasure chests and from defeating bosses. Hearts are used as currency to purchase new weapons, and used when you set mission difficulties to higher levels. There are nine difficulty levels in total, with nine being the hardest. The higher the difficulty is, the more enemies will appear and the more damage they deal. If you are defeated at any point during a level, you will lose hearts and you will restart at a checkpoint on a lower difficulty setting. Gameplay is fun, addictive, and thanks to the large amount of collectable weapons and trophies, as well as multiple difficulty modes, replayability is very high. I found myself replaying levels over and over because certain items, more powerful weapons and secret paths are only unlockable on higher difficulties.

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Story

kiupic12At the outset, the story is rather simple. Something has revived the Goddess of Darkness Medusa, and Palutena, the Goddess of Light, guides Pit on his journey to defeat Medusa’s henchmen and prepare him for their final encounter, with a few twists along the way. There’s plenty of friendly banter between Pit and Palutena, and even with your foes. Kid Icarus: Uprising is lighthearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously, as characters will often break the fourth wall and make pop culture references. At one point, Pit even points out that he noticed a loading screen halfway through a level and is scolded by another character for doing so. The quirky characters, the witty (and sometimes intentionally corny) dialogue, and well acted script prevent the game from ever having a dull moment.

Visuals

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As mentioned, this game was created to showcase the power of the 3DS, and the effort put into the visuals shows. While character models and and background textures aren’t as detailed as you would see in console games, it’s easily forgivable considering the sheer scale of some of the environments and the amount of enemies on screen.

kiupic6The art direction and settings are fantastic, and each level looks different from the last. You’ll go from flying above the clouds, to outer space, and even into the depths of the underworld itself. The 3D effect is excellent, and even with dozens of enemies on screen with 3D enabled, I never encountered a noticeable drop in frame-rate. Everything from the in-game visuals to the menu icons are highly polished and very clean looking. Heck, the menus are the most visually appealing menu screens I have ever seen in a game. A lot of time went into making this game look as good as it possibly could.

Music

The soundtrack has an orchestral style, featuring remixes from the previous Kid Icarus titles and plenty of new tracks as well. The orchestrated mixes suit the game well, especially during the on-rails shooting segments where the tracks are timed perfectly to match the events and scenery as you fly towards your destination. Most songs are memorable and it’s easy to find yourself humming them even after you stop playing. The in-game music is full of energy and suits the action well, and the menu screen themes are appropriately relaxing as well. It would have been nice however, if there was more variety for the boss battle themes. The same song is often used for boss battles (save for a few special exceptions) and it would have been great if each boss had a unique theme, considering how different each boss really was. A special mention goes to the Orne’s 8-bit styled theme, for invoking a feeling of dread and anxiety as the terrifying 1-hit-kill enemy approaches.

Online Multiplayer

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Uprising has two main multiplayer modes, three-on-three team battles or six person free-for-alls. You control a angel equipped with any weapons or items you have earned from playing Single Player and you fight against your opponents in land battles on multiple stages. In team battles, when you defeat an opposing angel the other team’s collective life bar will go down. Once their life bar is completely drained, the last angel to have been defeated will respawn and become either Pit or Dark Pit, depending on if you’re playing on the Light or Dark Team. Once Pit or Dark Pit is defeated, their team loses. In free-for-all matches, battles are timed and the winner is the one who has defeated the most opponents. I personally prefer team matches, as free-for-alls tend to be very chaotic. Bonus weapons are sometimes given out to random players after matches and the winner of each match wins hearts. Needless to say, having more powerful weapons earned in story mode or purchased with hearts will put you at an advantage in mutliplayer. Multiplayer is fun and frantic, and highly replayable. Finding the type of weapon and item setups that work for you is the key to victory.

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A Ton of Content

kiupic5On top of the highly replayable 25 levels and addictive multiplayer, there is a lot this game has to offer. There are over one-hundred weapons, and there are dozens of modifiers for each weapon ensuring that no two weapons will be the same, meaning there will be lots of weapon collecting and customization as you buy, combine, and even obtain weapons from Streetpass. You will also be collecting “Idols” as you play, which are essentially trophies similar to those in Smash Bros. They feature weapons, characters, and enemies with a description or bio.

kiupic11You can even buy Kid Icarus idol trading cards, which can be scanned with the 3DS camera for hearts and new idols. The trading cards also utilize the 3DS’ augmented reality abilities. If you set an idol card on your table, and look at it using the 3DS camera, the 3DS will render a 3D model of the character on the card on your table. If you look at two cards at once, you can even make the characters battle. It’s an unnecessary feature, but it’s a fun inclusion. Kid Icarus: Uprising even borrows the “Checklist” feature from Kirby’s Air Ride, where you are provided a huge list of challenges in the form of three different puzzles. For each challenge you accomplish, you earn puzzle pieces that eventually add up to make three different portraits. The game has so much to offer even after you beat the main game. If you are a completionist, this game will be lodged in your 3DS cartridge slot for quite a while.

What Doesn’t Work

Controls

You know there’s an issue with controls when the game comes bundled with a stand to hold your 3DS. To play, you’ll be holding the 3DS with your left hand, moving with the circle pad, and shooting/meleeing with the left trigger, while you use the stylus with your right hand to aim. For the most part they work, as aiming with the stylus is very precise, however your hands will most likely get tired after playing for a while. The whole setup is a bit cumbersome and it’s baffling why the game doesn’t support the 3DS’s Circle Pad Pro peripheral. It’s also worth noting that your ease with the controls will likely depend on the size of your hands and which model of the 3DS you are using. I have played the game on both the original 3DS model and the 3DS XL and I found it easier to hold the XL while playing than trying to claw grip the tiny original model. Although if your game came with the stand, much of the difficulty is alleviated. It’s also helpful that the levels are fairly short, and are usually only 15 minutes long at max, so being able to play in short bursts is helpful. Overall, the controls take a bit of getting used to and you may require a break once in a while, but it shouldn’t be a significant enough issue to ruin the experience.

Conclusion

LegendaryUprising is the revival this dead franchise needed. The replayable levels, great music, witty dialogue, and addictive multiplayer make this game a real treat. Uprising is clearly a labor of love and the amount of extra polish and detail that went into it really makes this game something special. It’s just unfortunate that the game is held back a bit by its controls, but Kid Icarus: Uprising is worth it. This is a must-buy title for the 3DS and is amongst one of the best original titles Nintendo has created in recent years. Now let’s just hope that Pit’s next return will take less than 20 years.

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