Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo 3DS)

Kid Icarus: Uprising: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo 3DS 5,769 views 0 likes 38 comments
Reviewed by Lily, posted Mar 26, 2012
Kid Icarus is the very first game I ever played for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Little seven year old me spent many hours dying in those complex labyrinths, desperately searching for the room that would cure that blasted eggplant curse. It sparked my love of the action/platformer/rpg hybrid style of game, which ignited when I found Metroid and burned ever eternal with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The release of Uprising is very special to me, because it feels like I’m a kid all over again – except now I have twenty more years of experience under my belt, and my expectations for my favourite forgotten Nintendo hero are through the roof. I wonder if “ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS” will still be the key to victory…
Mar 26, 2012
  • Release Date (NA): March 23, 2012
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Genres: Shooter
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
I could barely contain my excitement when I discovered that Pit was being allowed off his dusty shelf at Nintendo Headquarters to battle Medusa’s army once more. Twenty years worth of Nintendo hardware has come and gone, each system more bitterly disappointed than the last at the absence of my favourite bow-wielding hero. Nintendo’s games from the NES era are fondly remembered for their fun factor through the rosy red tint of nostalgia, and not so fondly remembered for their high level of difficulty. Kid Icarus is no exception – Pit was the veritable poster boy of frustration for Nintendo. How many Nintendo published games can lay claim to a built-in cheat code that brought the player directly to the final stage with invincibility? The rumours of a complicated control scheme and a plastic stand accessory included right in the box sound ominously promising. Pit’s new adventure comes with the modern trappings of online multiplayer arena matches and a collectible set of augmented reality cards numbering in the hundreds. Do they matter? Does Pit? Should we even care about this franchise resurrection, or is Pit better left as roster padding in Super Smash Bros.? Let’s take to the skies using Palutena’s Power of Flight and find out.

Pit's Pedigree

We were first introduced to Pit in one of the most difficult games Nintendo ever signed their name to. From unidirectional scrolling levels to challenging caves to complex labyrinths to the final stage of full-on flight, there was plenty to challenge even the most persistent of players. Pit’s upgrades couldn’t be used unless his health was over a certain level (if you were even good enough to obtain them), and Eggplant Wizards were lying in wait in every labyrinth to turn him into a walking vegetable. Video game difficulty today is merely a shadow of what it once was, and Nintendo leads the pack with their hand-holding “Super Guide” feature for players that have trouble mastering even the watered down levels of today. Thankfully, there’s no super guide here – you can only bet against yourself. That’s getting ahead of myself though.
I will take a moment here to be completely honest. I used to be a slobbering Nintendo fan. I would only buy Nintendo hardware, and I bought every first-party game release at launch. The Wii era was where I began to suffer real disappointment. Too many franchises strayed away from their roots – I never thought I’d see a linear Zelda game for example, or a Mario game with 8 worlds worth of tutorial levels. To say that the 3DS has felt like a waste of money thus far would be an understatement. I have enjoyed games on it, without question, but barely anything from the masters themselves.
Kid Icarus: Uprising changes things. This is the game that unequivocally makes the 3DS worth owning. This is the game that raises the quality bar. It doesn’t raise my expectations for future Nintendo titles, it merely satisfies the high expectations I already have. If you’re still reading at this point, stop what you’re doing right now, and go out and buy this game. It’s that good.


A World Without Dual Analog

It’s only fair to address the potential negative of the game right up front – the controls. Yes, the game comes with a plastic stand accessory in the box to hold the 3DS. As you would expect from Nintendo, the stand is high quality, and has little feet that prevent it from sliding around while in use. It holds the 3DS at an excellent height and angle that takes the stress of holding it away from your hand, so you can spend less time in pain and more time enjoying the game. Players may find that the stand is useful for other games as well, especially games where the 3D effect is hard to enjoy while the system moves around.
By default, the system is intended to be held. The left hand controls movement and shooting, and the right aiming via the stylus. Those familiar with DS games such as Metroid Prime Hunters will be right at home here. (It wasn’t so long ago that the control scheme of that game was being reviewed poorly as well.) What separates Hunters from Icarus is the weight of the 3DS. It is significantly more uncomfortable to hold up one-handed for periods of time without some support. However, the controls are fully customizable – face buttons can be mapped to aiming or movement, the Circle Pad Pro accessory can be attached for the lefties, and the sensitivity of the touch screen can even be adjusted as well.
I did not find the controls to be an issue, though I do find I prefer to use the stand accessory. Your mileage may vary based on your previous experience with older DS models, and/or how comfortable you are holding the 3DS in one hand. I feel that the controls should not be a barrier to entry for anyone. They're easy to pick up, accessible, and customizable to suit different preferences. What more could you ask for?

No Guts, No Glory

Each chapter of the game begins with a five minute on-rails shooting spree. In true deference to the Icarus myth, Pit cannot fly. The “Power of Flight” granted by Palutena only lasts for five minutes before his wings burn up and he must continue the adventure on foot. These sections are similar to the gameplay in Sin & Punishment 2, only much faster and more action-oriented. Uprising is all about the action, and it never throws something like a cutscene in your way to take you away from the adventure. Shooting, dodging, melee, ranged attacks and charged attacks are all deceptively simple, all with a huge number of different weapons at your disposal. Each class of weapon has different effects on your speed and attack, each individual weapon has its own random bonus, and two different weapons can be fused together to create entirely new weapons! Your play experience is truly customizable – and there’s no shortage of risk vs. reward for those who love to shoot ‘n loot.
Before each chapter, I get to set my own difficulty level via a sliding “intensity” scale. In order to so though, I have to wager hearts that I have earned so far. The higher the intensity, the greater the rewards at the end of the chapter. I love it! I can lower the intensity to get a feel for a particular level, and gradually increase the difficulty as I get more confident, all the while being rewarded with even better gear to tinker with and more hearts to wager on the next level. “Just one more level…” has never been more of a problem than in Uprising. There are plenty of enemies to eradicate both in the air and on the ground, providing ample opportunity to adjust the minutiae of my equipment as much as I like. As if that wasn’t enough, Pit can equip a variety of consumable powers as well.
The different modifiers that various weapons bring to the table have actual noticeable effects during combat. They aren’t just meaningless stats for the sake of looking pretty on your status screen. Much like the original Mario Party for N64, your 3DS’s poor analogue stick is going to get the most intensive workout that it has ever had. Flicking and slamming the stick is very Super Smash Bros.-esque, and mastery of this is essential in order to successfully navigate the ground-based sections, especially when you get the intensity slider up towards 9.0. The intensity slider alone gives Uprising replayability in spades, and that’s without ever touching the multiplayer component. The control scheme is a little more challenging on the ground, as the stylus is in charge of the camera, but once mastered it's tough not to want to sit back in awe and watch the fireworks unfold on screen.


To The Moon, Alice!

As they say in those television infomercials – “..but that’s not all!” There are so many unlockables that I don’t even think I can pin down a definitive number. For starters, there are loads of “idols” to collect through scanning augmented reality cards, or playing multiplayer matches and minigames. There are tons of powers to unlock. There is an in-game achievement system called “Treasure Hunt” that challenges you to perform actions that you would normally be rewarded with trophies or gamerscore for. For example, complete a particular level on a certain intensity, or within a set time period. Completing these challenges rewards you with even more powerful gear, fueling the desire to tackle levels on even higher intensity settings to earn even better gear. I’m afraid finding a used copy of Uprising is going to be a challenge, because there is simply so much content squeezed onto this little cartridge that most gamers are not going to want to put it down!
As I mentioned earlier, there are no cutscenes anywhere to be found. The game instead constantly peppers you with dialogue and jokes and banter between characters. It even breaks the fourth wall at times, with jokes regarding other Nintendo franchises that I won’t spoil, but are sure to bring a smile to your face. Unfortunately, the dialogue never stops, and some players will likely find themselves wanting a rope in Pit’s arsenal so that they can hang him from the closest rafter. The worst part about the dialogue is that you’re not going to want to mute the stunning soundtrack. It is as epic and varied as the game itself, and those that tire of the constant quips will find themselves missing out on some of the best music in a 3DS game to date.
Speaking of the fourth wall, there is a fabulous amount of reverence not only for the original Kid Icarus, but other Nintendo games as well. Each time you encounter an enemy that was in the original game for example, the bottom screen will show you how they looked and sounded using their original 8-bit sprites. There are many references to its unspoken sister title, Metroid, including some pretty hilarious enemy parodies. The attention to detail and love for the past is hugely rewarding for someone like me, who played the original game as a child and deeply loves the Nintendo of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s also hugely rewarding in general, as even through the gorgeous cinematic presentation and engaging story, the game has the chops to poke fun at itself again and again. It offsets the challenge level a little to know that at its core, this serious game is not always so serious.


All By Myself

The single player experience is one thing, battling against yourself and wagering your hearts against increasing intensity levels. For many gamers, that alone will be a complete experience, and there’s no denying that it’s one of the most robust single player games in years. True unlockables (i.e. the kind that aren’t sold to you after the fact under the guise of DLC), near infinite replayability and an attention to detail that would satiate even the most rabid of Nintendo fans. I did say that I felt it was going to be difficult to find a used copy of the game on store shelves, and if I felt that way solo, the multiplayer experience all but guarantees it.
Uprising’s multiplayer can be accurately described as “Super Smash Bros. Lite”. Being that the same man has been in charge of both games, it comes as no surprise. Up to six players can battle it out in an arena, and everything is customizable from the game type to the item drop rate. The sheer variety of combinations and options create an online multiplayer experience unlike any we’ve seen to date on a Nintendo console. Mario Kart is the closest competitor for your online hours, and the small track selection compounded with glitched tracks have pushed players away in droves. Unlike the “you either learn it or you don’t” aspect of snaking, there seems to be no particular weapon combination or fighting technique that will give any one player a clear advantage. It will take continuous learning and adapting, i.e. actual skill to succeed on a regular basis in arena matches. Your character’s stats are chosen entirely by the powers and weapons that you choose to equip – every single player will choose differently, and therefore adopt different strategies that are beneficial to their style of play.
Players with high level equipment and players with entry level equipment can play together at the same time based on the point values assigned to each player. Those with high level equipment are assigned more points, and therefore hurt the team more when they perish. This simple but essential balancing ensures that the game remains fun and accessible to players of all skill levels. The most fun that I’ve had in multiplayer so far is in “Light vs. Dark” mode. Each three player team has a group life bar, which depletes accordingly as every member of your team is killed. When all players on a team are killed, one team member is resurrected with fresh equipment as Dark Pit. He must be defeated for the other team to win.


Final Thoughts

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a stunning accomplishment on the 3DS. Its cinematic presentation, the lush graphics, the epic score and the incredible customizability coupled with the near infinite replayability all combine together to create the first true “must own” 3DS title. It sets the bar higher than any title that has come before it, and would be an excellent addition to any 3DS library. I find it hard to fault any aspect of the game, as it stands head and shoulders over Nintendo’s other offerings. Some gamers may find the control scheme awkward, but I don’t feel it’s much of a problem, especially for the seasoned DS gamer. The included stand alleviates any awkwardness those new to the controls might feel, and is actually a handy accessory to have around for other games. My only real complaint is in regards to the dialogue. By the time I was approaching the endgame, I was searching for an option to shut the voices off. However, it’s a small price to pay to not have the pace of the game interrupted by cutscenes. Ever since Nintendo began updating the Mario games for the Game Boy Advance, voices, love ’em or hate ’em are here to stay.

I have mixed thoughts about the augmented reality card portion of the game. AR games are usually throwaway diversions, and Uprising doesn't do much to change the status quo. As a collectible, completionists will be driven mad because it appears to be impossible to acquire a complete set. Nintendo hands out exclusive cards at industry events, other exclusive cards in game magazines and still others to Club Nintendo members. I received a handful in the box with the game, three from Club Nintendo, and five additional cards exclusive to my pre-order! In Europe, a special pre-order pack with 30 cards was available. It appears Nintendo is planning to sell randomly distributed packs, and give away even more exclusive cards via various means in the future. I'm not much of a collectible card person, so this doesn't bother me so much -- until I realize that there are many unlockable idols within the game tied to scanning certain cards. I hope that these cards don't go the way of Nintendo eReader cards. Super Mario Advance 4 eCards were challenging to collect because Wal-Mart USA managed to snag five exclusive cards, and a certain Mario Party-e card ended up being distributed by one particular magazine. Uprising cards are spread so thin already as to take the fun out of collecting and trading. Hopefully I'm wrong, and Nintendo eventually puts all the cards into more mainstream distribution for everyone to enjoy.

Uprising pays homage to the original, both in presentation and in difficulty. The unique adaptive difficulty system allows you to ratchet up the difficulty for a game more reminiscent of days gone by, or to dial it back in favour of fun. There is something for everyone here, and Nintendo didn't even miss a beat with their online component. If this is what Nintendo has in store for us in the future, and you don't already have a 3DS, there has never been a better time to join the party.

+ Deep weapon and power upgrade system.
+ User selectable adaptive difficulty.
+ Robust, customizable online multiplayer.
+ Risk and skill based rewards.
+ Original 8-bit renditions of enemies.
+ Achievement system linked to tangible rewards.
+ Stunning audio & visuals.
+ Loads of unlockables.
- Constant chatter eventually irritates.
- Learning curve for controls when on the ground.
- Collectible AR cards hard to find.
9 Presentation
This is easily the most beautiful game to grace the 3DS so far, with a gorgeous cinematic flair and action that doesn't quit until the final boss lies dead at your feet. A single point is docked due to the dialogue, which will offend even the most stalwart ear by the end of the game. An option to mute the dialogue but not the music would have been welcome.
9 Gameplay
Simplicity is beauty. It may seem that Pit does not have much available to him in the way of movement at first, but the combat system is deep and varied, with a near infinite amount of weapon and power combinations to work with. The on-rails segments are as stunning as they are fun. A single point is docked due to the surprise learning curve of adapting to the controls in ground segments.
10 Lasting Appeal
A picture of Uprising's box art should be next to the word replayable in the dictionary. There are loads of unlockables, and tracking down unique AR cards to scan in order to unlock idols is sure to drive completionists crazy. The online component is robust, and customizable enough to make every session unique.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Currently the best that the 3DS has to offer. The humour, reverence to the original and adaptive difficulty system make it a game that is almost impossible to put down. Uprising raises the quality bar for Nintendo published titles, and sets the standard for everyone else.

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