This Angel Delivers
If you were to say that Kid Icarus: Uprising has been a long time in the making, you’d be absolutely right. In fact, there couldn’t be a more accurate statement. Not only was the title the preeminent showcasing of the 3DS’s capabilities prior to the system’s launch last year, but for the many aged fans of the series, it has been a quarter of a century since the last entry in the series. Pit’s return as one of Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s favorite character choices prompted Nintendo to bring this Grecian angel back with an epic adventure. The Big N certainly delivered with Uprising, treating us to a game full to the brim with content including a well-implemented multiplayer mode. This is also the first 3DS title to make proper use of nearly every hardware and software feature of the portable.
The story of Pit’s struggle against the demonic forces of Medusa paints an epic picture, but the whimsy of the exchanges and the casualness of the plot keeps it from alienating the younger audience. Once again, Nintendo shows how it can masterfully cater to its broad gamer base with clever design choices. Pit and Light Army leader Palutena don’t even shy away from shattering the theatrical fourth wall by acknowledging the 3DS control inputs, and will even make an occasional plug to past first-party titles, such as the aforementioned SSBB, or, as Palutena insists, “Super Bash Sisters.” The constant exchanges between our hero, his female general, and the rest of the cast are well-delivered, but can at times be overbearing. The ceaseless banter pervades nearly every second of the mission, even where silence could have spoken volumes.
The combat controls couldn’t be simpler, with the Circle Pad controlling Pit’s movement, the touchscreen aiming the reticle, and the left shoulder butting firing Pit’s equipped weapon. Yet with those few controls, many attack variations can be performed, each with strategic impact. Holding the trigger will maintain a continuous fire, which inflicts nominal damage, whereas holding off on the trigger for a few seconds builds a charged shot that seeks out the target and delivers a high-impact blast. A quick flick to the Circle Pad will make you dash, closing the gap for a melee attack, or when timed just before being hit will perform a slick dodge away from harm. Each directional dash attack also has a different effect, and most weapons will favor a certain attack style, keeping you familiar with every movement while you upgrade your arsenal.
However, the major drawback is that this third-person adventure begs for a second control stick. If you wisely picked up a Circle Pad Pro (despite its unattractive aesthetic), this issue is negligible, but those who must utilize the touchscreen will be left with an awkward and painful experience. It’s a good enough game to wince through the pain, but you’ll certainly require frequent breaks to give your hand a rest.
As already mentioned, there is a variety of weapons to play with from various categories, such as blades, bows, orbitars, claws, and several others. Certain types are better suited for melee, but all can perform ranged attacks. Some, like cannons and clubs, perform better when charged up or when used against multiple enemies, respectively, while the fine sights of the staffs are better for sniping enemies from long distances.
There are hundreds of different weapons to obtain throughout the course of the campaign, but the possibilities don’t end there. Defeated enemies reward you with hearts, the game’s currency, which can be used to purchase new weapons at the Arms Alter. Mundane weapons can be converted into hearts, and new weapons can even be created by fusing together two pieces already in your inventory. It’s a clever way to add an RPG element, and since each weapon type attacks different and all are interesting to play with, you’ll never tire of testing out different combinations. Gems can also be acquired to improve your arms, and trading with friends or collecting them via the StreetPass and SpotPass features are ideal ways to obtain freebies.
Finding the most formidable weapon won’t be easy, as the difficulty range can vary from tepid to diabolic, but this decision is flexible with each mission and the labor is yours to decide. A scale between zero and nine can be adjusted, with higher ratings yielding greater treasures, but at the risk of losing hearts wagered to partake in that particular class. Many levels also have sections sealed by a barrier, which will only open if you are playing at a specific difficulty, offering additional treasure after clearing a side challenge.
The levels themselves are divided into aerial and land sections. The limited flight battles are steered by Palutena, making them much more bearable by not forcing you to control the camera. The defense tactics are watered down to circling the edges of the screen, and the enemy attacks are very forgiving, except when playing on the hardest mode. And while the landscapes that whiz by are eye-popping—especially with the 3D slider cranked all the way up—they do become a little tedious and uninspired as you progress. The land encounters follow a very linear path for the most part, but have a little more substance in the way of combat tactics. However, the previously criticized control scheme makes these sections difficult to nail perfectly. These hindrances aside, the pacing of every level is swift but feels just the right length, and each of the twenty-five chapters is chock full of new and nostalgic enemies, power-ups to collect, and treasure chests to loot.
Like the weaponry, the power-ups are numerous as well, but have fixed uses. Customizing your loadout before each mission is a side game in and of itself, as each power corresponds to a Tetris-like shape (despite Pit claiming it being more like the Nintendo-owned Dr. Mario), which fills a square grid. Making the most out of your power set and stuffing every gap in the grid are essential for maximizing success as you journey on.
Other extras include a Treasure Hunt, which gives you a grid of 120 squares. These squares can be eliminated by completing certain conditions (the game’s own version of the Trophy or Achievement system), but success also grants rewards like hearts, weapons, and idols. Idols are the collectibles of the game, each presented with an individual description and an adjustable perspective to scrutinize at your leisure. There is also an extra side game called Idol Toss, which allows you to place up to five eggs in a pan to increase the success rate of discovering a new idol. If you have no eggs to spare, you can spend Play Coins (a 3DS currency gained by walking with the system in sleep mode) to produce an egg. It’s simple, but it’s yet another substantive piece of content in the game and another good use of the system’s built-in software.
Multiplayer is the final point of praise in this already jam-packed adventure. Like many of the other features, it is simple, lacking the depth and customization you’d find in current console shooters, but it still provides a means to showcase your skills against friends or unknown players around the globe. There are only two modes, free-for-all and Light vs. Dark, the latter being the most interesting. In this mode, you and two other players will team up against another trio, with each team sharing life bar. The player who depletes the gauge with a death then becomes an angel, the target the other team must destroy in order to claim victory. The action plays significantly different than the single-player mode, and the weapon rewards and hearts make victory or failure a worthwhile venture.
It’s hard to find much to complain about in Kid Icarus: Uprising. The game looks and sounds very good, but the pixels are extremely noticeable and the music score, while rekindling some classic themes, lacks a certain epic quality. However, with so much packed into this highly touted adventure, the cartridge’s forty-dollar price point will no doubt be deemed money well-spent.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
For the size of the adventure crammed in, the graphics hold up well. The 3D is still easy on the eyes, even with the frenetic action. 3.7 Control
If you have a Circle Pad Pro, it’s rather smooth, with simple but effective attacks. However, the stylus-on-touchscreen method is a pain, literally. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Plenty of voiced dialogue, delivered well but bordering on overuse. The music is nice, just not phenomenal. 5.0 Play Value
There’s so much crammed into this game that I could have expounded with a review twice as long. Just go discover all the goodies for yourself. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|