Kid Icarus is not a new kid on the block. He’s been around since the 80’s, but he’s been on a longer break than Princess Peach’s security team. Few thought Pit would ever get another outing, but it’s happened now and no one could have expected that this was to come. Kid Icarus Uprising (KIU) is perhaps an acquired taste, but it’s a AAA title that is rammed packed with content and endless impressive touches. Its gameplay might not be the apex of originality but there’s no doubt KIU is defiantly ignorant of gaming trends and in every regard does its own thing, and it does nothing by half. This game is full of delightful surprises.
What’s it about? (Minimal spoilers)
Our hero Pit, an angel of light bursts back onto our screens at the command the Goddess Palutena. The underworld is causing havoc on earth, Medusa their old foe from the 80’s has been resurrected, and it’s up to this duo to once again take her down! You embark on an homage to the original game, where classic enemies are faithfully recreated and big bosses return with full personalities and everything is given a deeper and broader context. But Medusa turns out to be just the beginning and the game moves on to create a whole new story based on new characters and plotlines. The game plays heavily on Greek Mythology with the overall theme being one of various Gods with Diva-like egos fighting among themselves and the world of humans suffering as consequence. Pit and Palutena end up fighting not only the underworld but the forces of Nature, the True Lord of the underworld, Invading alien forces, a mirror copy of Pit and each other.
What’s it play like?
Just about all of the 25 missions follow a 3 part structure. First is an on-the-rails flying shoot-em-up segment, all a delight to play. Next is a 3rd person ground-based free roaming A to B shoot-em up mission, these have a fairly tough learning curve. Last is a boss fight, and most of these are quite fun, diverse and dramatic.
The sky based part is undoubtably the most fun aspect of the game. The on the rails gameplay has been exploited to create a truly cinematic feel and sense of action. The ground based missions are something of comedown, but there’s a lot to appreciate once you get in the swing of them, they are far from being half-baked. There’s plenty of secrets to find and the combat system is rock solid.
Complimenting the ground based missions is a vast array of weapons based across 9 different types including Staffs, Clubs, Swords and Claws. Each plays differently and you’ll have to figure out which works best for you. The weapon options in this game aren’t just a bit of fluff. You’ll have plenty of fun testing and upgrading weapons. You also acquire dozens of power ups that include things like super jumps, health boosts, auto aim, bombs and speed ups. You can only carry so many and the more powerful they are the less you can carry, but you again choose based on what best suits you and the level you’re playing. For example invisibility on levels with Reapers makes a LOT of sense, but invisibility elsewhere is a bit of a waste. It all adds up for some very thoughtful and experimental gameplay which adds to the genuine to desire to replay the games levels many times over.
Both power ups and weapons are acquired through gameplay, as is the games currency, hearts. The harder the setting you play on the bigger and more numerous the rewards. There’s a whopping 90 difficulty settings for each level from 0.0 to 9.0. The harder the setting the more it costs to play, but careful how much you gamble! The harder the setting the bigger the chance of dying, and each time you die your gambled and newly collected hearts half in amount and the difficultly drops by 1.0. Get too cocky and your heart collection will shrink very fast. Most gamers will find considerable challenge complete every level at 5.0-6.0, aiming above that is ‘Nintendo-hard.’ It’s up to you really, the lower difficulties cater to casuals gamers well, and the hardest settings will tax all seasoned gamers.
Then there is the online and local 3v3 multiplayer using the on ground combat system. The combat system weapons and powerups are truly seen for its worth in multiplayer. Online play can be hardcore and a lot of work for some but it works very well if you’ve got the skills and keeps you entertained for quite some time.
- AR card viewer with collectible card sets.
- A weapons fusion system that allows you to fuse 2 weaker or unwanted weapons into a better weapon. (You spend a lot of time tinkering here!)
- Shop to purchase weapons with earned hearts.
- 360 achievements with rewards to be unlocked.
- A Library of ‘Idols’ representing just about everything and everyone in the game, collected over time.
- A full record of game stats.
- A broad range of options to customise gameplay and a full music library.
Telling the story
The entire story is fully and impressively voiced acted. It’s 25 missions are like a 25 part TV series with an ongoing theme but each episode/mission its own story. But it doesn’t get trapped in making the game fit a story you might not be interested in. But if you ask me it’s a great story with a fantastic sense of humour. Its 4th wall breaking antics remind you this game is out to have a laugh and isn’t taking its storyline seriously, but it still tells it’s story well allowing you to enjoy the point of it all and get caught up in the tension.
Gameplay is hardly ever stalled for the story, it’s being told as you play, and if you don’t like it, it can be turned off. But the story is a perfect execution of what it wants to be and I for one loved it! Egotistical gods, an unconventional hero, humans portrayed as hapless pawns in the games gods play and a regular laughs. It ticks all the right boxes for me. Pit, it should be noted, has not become a clone of Link or any other hero, he’s now well and truly his own man, well Palutena’s anyway.
Visuals and design.
KIU isn’t state of the art visuals it’s on the 3DS after all, but it’s a game of vision and imagination executed as best as can be expected on 3DS. It seemingly goes that extra mile at every point in the game in a way that you seldom see in any game on any games system, and while it’s not the easiest game to use the 3D effect with, the 3D feature is fantastic and turned on everything looks so much more impressive. There are basically 50+ different locations none of which look remotely the same and the various art styles do not go unnoticed. Kid Icarus is visually ambitious always and sets the mood perfectly. It matters little that better visuals exist on other platforms, few games go to the lengths that KIU does.
There’s no doubt on the higher difficulties KIU hurts your hands. It is a very demanding on your hands throughout and you will be taking breaks whether you like it or not! I will insist the controls do work perfectly and once used to them they do work well, but KIU can be taxing. Still it didn’t put me off, but I can see why people would have liked a dual analogue option. I also blame the ergonomics of the 3DS more so the game its-self, but the controls once mastered are incredibly accurate.
Kid Icarus has the best soundtrack of any Nintendo game, and therefore of any game. There I said it, shoot me. I know this is a very positive review but I won’t listen to any other argument on this matter. It honestly might just be the best game soundtrack ever. Most importantly of course, each song perfectly fits the level it belongs to. The role the music plays in making this game feel epic cannot be understated. There’s a great sense of variety and the remastering of original tunes is brilliant. Nintendo were wise to go for a fully orchestrated soundtrack and the talent they have pulled in have contributed scores that are worthy of a Hollywood movie. I’m sure all Classical music fans, gamers or not, will find several tracks to delight them.
Needless to say I couldn’t have been much happier. Kid Icarus Uprising is glorious. It’s no surprise that Nintendo have said it will be a very long time before we see Pit and company again, because Nintendo pulled all the stops out for Kid Icarus Uprising and to try to go one better requires more than just next-gen visuals, it’d be a mammoth undertaking. This is the whole package, nothing was left out, nothing feels cut short.
Kid Icarus Uprising might not be for everyone but it was the most joy I have got out game perhaps since the days of Nights into Dreams and Mario 64. One thing cannot be disputed, this is game full of so much content and effort that if its your cup of tea or not you’ll still recognise it’s worth every penny and then some.