Kid Icarus: Uprising Review
Absolutely the only way to start a discussion about Kid Icarus: Uprising is with this simple observation: It is about damn time. Newer gamers might not recognize the Kid Icarus pedigree like those of us who are older than dirt, so here's your history lesson. It was TWENTY-SIX years ago when Kid Icarus and its hero, Pit, first made the scene on the original NES. The clever platformer chronicled the half-angel's struggle against the evil Medusa and was deeply loved and revered by many an 80's gamer. Then... nothing. Pit got a semi-sequel an the Game Boy a couple of years later, and then promptly fell of the radar. Link, Samus, Mario; they all got their time in the sun while Pit languished in complete obscurity. Now, after fans like myself have groused for decades, Nintendo has FINALLY resurrected the series on the 3DS. The final product of all that waiting, Kid Icarus: Uprising, not only lives up the decades-old anticipation, its one of the largest, deepest and most entertaining games Nintendo has produced in quite some time.
I'm going to start the review with a closer look at the game's control scheme, a serious point of contention from as far back as when the game was first shown in demo form. Players control Pit using the 3DS circle pad, L trigger and the touch screen in both mid-air and on-land combat. The circle pad moves Pit, the L trigger fires and, here's where it gets tricky, the stylus aims an on-screen reticule. The controls are cumbersome to say the least; Nintendo even packed in a special 3DS stand with each copy of the game to assuage any issues.
I'll level with you: Stand or not, you are going to HATE this control scheme - at first. It took me until about the third stage before I fell into the swing of things. After that, the controls were still not the greatest, but I felt I could (and did) succeed in the game. Sadly, even after you do get it down, you'll probably only be playing Pit's adventure in short bursts. Why? When not using the stand (I found it ultimately useless, by the way), holding your hand in the appropriate position for playing HURTS. Like, a lot. I could get through 2-3 stages in a sit-down, but cramping forced breaks I really didn't want to take. The Monster Hunter "claw" ain't got nothing on the Kid Icarus hand contortion act.
Finally! We can get to the game itself! As you may have already figured out, Kid Icarus: Uprising is an equal parts mix of on-rails shooter and third person beat em up; each stage is separated into these two parts. The airborne portion the opens each level plays like a healthy mix between Panzer Dragoon and Nintendo's StarFox. These segments, even at the lowest difficulties, are amazingly intense and a ton of fun. The following on-land segments are just slightly less fun, mostly due to the stylus control of the camera. The best way to explain it is like spinning a globe; swipes on the touch screen rotate the camera 360 degrees around the circle pad-controlled Pit. It really doesn't work too well, but the land battles are usually redeemed by some enthralling boss fight. These are numerous, varied and always a challenge, and seeing just what the game throws at you next is a big part of the fun. Though the two segments of each stage don't always "flow" together very well, they usually combine into a cohesive action free-for-all that screenshots just can't do justice.
The consistently solid, if somewhat difficult to control, action is made even more frantic and exciting by some pretty impressive visuals and sound. The game looks nearly as good as last year's Super Mario 3D Land, and the 3D is used to some pretty effective ends in-game. Perhaps the best part of the game's visual presentation won't even be grasped by more than half the audience, I imagine. As enemies from the original begin popping up, the bottom screen cleverly displays the foe's 8-bit sprite from the NES game, upping the already-tangible nostalgia factor at work here. Old school fans will get a big kick out of seeing their old enemies redesigned (oh, Eggplant Wizard, how I love thee) and the bottom screen historical refresher only makes it more fun.
Additionally, the soundtrack is stuffed with tunes you'll be humming for days, some of which are retakes on the NES classic's original chiptunes. There is also a TON of voice acting between characters; so much so you might even wish they would just shut up for a second so you can concentrate. Pit and Goddess Palutena (who guides Pit and grants him the power of flight) banter back and forth through nearly all the game's action and though it can be genuinely funny at times, it gets to be a bit much. Still, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a visual and auditory showpiece on the 3DS, the kind of game you use to show off the system to friends.
Aside from nostalgia, my favorite aspect of Pit's return is the staggering amount of content smashed into this teeny 3DS cart. There are a ton of unlockables here, from weapons to powers to statues to puzzle pieces to... you get the picture. Beyond all that, there is a surprisingly deep weapon fusion system, an interesting StreetPass gem trading feature and even some AR functionality using a few cards packed in with the game. Playing on higher difficulties yields better rewards, so if you catch the collecting bug, the game will force you to up your skill to amass all the unlockable odds and ends. It's no stretch to say Kid Icarus: Uprising has more to do and find than a lot of bigger console games, and believe me, this one will keep you busy for a while.
The game also boasts local and online multiplayer with all the requisite options and modes, but ultimately, it feels tacked on and unnecessary. Uprising sadly falls into the same Sarlacc Pit that swallowed Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Dead Space 2, Mass Effect 3 and BioShock 2; including multiplayer just doesn't make sense in this type of game. I suppose developers keep shoehorning in online deathmatches to keep the slobbering masses happy, but c'mon guys, leave it out when it defies logic. Please? Either way, the "globe" camera and awkward controls that are passable in single player are dealbreakers when playing with others, online or off. At least give the online one shot, though; it unlocks something you'll need. Other than that, just skip it.
Despite a difficult (and painful) control scheme and the infuriatingly-present multiplayer, Kid Icarus: Uprising is another shining Nintendo masterpiece. Pit's return to battle the resurrected Medusa had a lot of people worried. I was one of them. What if the return of one of my top five NES games wasn't up to snuff?! What then?!?!? Well, with a sigh of relief and a general unclenching, I can happily report that the return of Kid Icarus is a triumphant one. Uprising somehow manages to live up to 26 years of anticipation and discussion and will hopefully propel Pit to his rightful place among the all-time greatest Nintendo characters. If you've got a 3DS, you should have this game.
Final Rating: 91%. Pit makes a long-awaited and welcome return, but you might want to make a sacrifice to the god of carpal tunnel syndrome before playing.