Kid Icarus: Uprising is the long-overdue revival of a 25-year-old Nintendo franchise starring the heroic angel Pit, the goddess Palutena, and the evil Medusa.
Aside from Pit (who starred in Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii), those names may not ring any bells. But in the glory days of the NES, the angelic protagonist was famous for dodging eggplant wizards and leading the charge against the Underworld.
Though it has been over two decades since the last installment, there was plenty of hype and anticipation leading up to this release. Fortunately, Masahiro Sakurai and his team at Project Sora have dealt with that kind of pressure before, and once again have responded with something brilliant. Kid Icarus: Uprising ultimately transforms the classic platforming action of its predecessors into a hybrid of exciting gameplay styles, going the extra mile to offer what is arguably the deepest and most content-heavy 3DS title to date.
“Steaming the Sacred Buns”
From the moment you see the menu screen in Kid Icarus: Uprising, it is obvious that the game was lovingly crafted by the same team that built Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The interface is nearly identical, and many of the extra replay value-extending features are also included in the game. I’ll discuss more of these things in detail later. First, I would like to break down each of the game modes offered in Uprising and explain some of the depth of the game before providing my critical opinions.
1. Solo Mode
The bulk of the single-player in Kid Icarus: Uprising is played in “Solo Mode,” which tells the story of the game throughout 25 stages, each serving as a chapter in this 10- to 12-hour tale. The start of each stage begins with a flying section that lasts around five minutes (there is a reason for the time limit that is explained in the story). These parts feel a lot like Star Fox 64 3D, with enemies and obstacles bombarding Pit as he flies through the sky. Using the stylus to aim and the circle pad to move, your goal is to shoot as many bad guys as possible. There is actually an “auto-fire” option that makes the aerial combat much simpler, if not too easy.
After a few minutes, Pit lands on the ground of each level and begins fighting the Underworld enemies on foot. At this point, the game changes completely from the controls to the methods you use to battle each foe. The on-foot areas of the game are generally linear, sometimes throwing in the occasional puzzle or platforming challenge to keep things interesting.
The game starts to feel a lot like Ninja Gaiden or God of War – nothing like the aerial segments but still a satisfying challenge nonetheless. You’re forced to learn the various enemy patterns and find their weak points, not to mention the wide variety of weapons – from bows and blades to claws and staves. There is a lot of depth and strategy, far more than simply blasting away at the on-screen enemies in the flying segments. This split in the gameplay styles is important to keep in mind.
Each level concludes with a confrontation against a boss character, testing your skill one final time before the end-of-stage progress screen rewards you with the hearts and spoils for your efforts. The levels in Solo Mode can be played with an adjustable “Intensity” setting that ranges from 0.0-9.0. As you increase the number, the quantity of enemies goes up along with the speed of the game.
On the other hand, the rewards are also better. Players snatch up better weapons and powers, earn more hearts (in-game currency), and find more power-up items throughout each level if they actually test themselves with the higher settings. You can even find special areas in some levels that are only accessible at certain difficulty levels; each is generally loaded with goodies but also prove to be a tougher task than the normal path. All things considered, the original NES Kid Icarus was notoriously challenging and unforgiving; playing Uprising on its higher settings does a very good job of imitating the brutal difficulty.
2. Together Mode
“Together Mode” is the nickname for the multiplayer in Kid Icarus: Uprising, which is actually loaded with a lot of options for those who choose to invest in it. The game can be played via WiFi or locally, with friends from your 3DS Friend List or even just random players from anywhere in the world. In addition to a 3- versus-3 deathmatch mode, the star of the show is the Light vs. Dark mode. In this game, players on Light and Dark teams try to take each other out and earn points until one combatant on each team turns into Pit or Dark Pit. From there, that player is the “VIP,” and the winning team is the one that protects him/her the longest.
In general, the multiplayer content in Kid Icarus: Uprising is almost like another whole game on its own. It plays mostly like the ground-based combat portions of the Solo Mode and doesn’t include any aerial action, but it ultimately extends the replay value to a very large degree. It is easy to connect with friends, set up groups, and play games – everything you want from the online multiplayer experience is here, and it all works very well. Along with Mario Kart 7 and Resident Evil: Revelations, Uprising proves that there is plenty of fun to be had playing the 3DS online with other players. Nintendo is finally “getting it right” with online gameplay, and the depth provided here – customized loadouts, player stats, a variety of game modes – is indicative of that.
3. Extra Content: SpotPass, AR Cards & More
In addition to its Solo Mode and the variety of game types in Together Mode, Kid Icarus: Uprising boasts a deep amount of extra content. First, it utilizes the 3DS’s SpotPass and StreetPass functions to give players the ability to create, share, and fuse “Weapon Gems” using weapons from Solo Mode. Sometimes, when you turn the game on, you will randomly have a new weapon gem from a SpotPassed player. This is always a treat that can even lead to some of the game’s most interesting weapon fusions.
Uprising is one of the first games to make use of the 3DS’ “Augmented Reality” feature and comes packaged with a handful of AR Cards that can be used to play a special little game based around the AR Camera. The idea of playing with the AR Cards is pretty novel on its own. I have always wanted to see 3DS games use this feature to a greater extent, and it is nice to see someone finally making that push.
Finally, Kid Icarus: Uprising offers some of the most extensive bonus content yet on the 3DS. In addition to all the weapon-purchasing and weapon-fusing that can be done with the hearts you earn throughout the game (or the SpotPassed weapon gems you collect), you will gradually unlock more weapons and goodies through the “Treasure Hunts.” These in-game Achievements reward you with everything from hearts and weapons to tracks from the music gallery and “idols,” which are a lot like Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s “trophies” and provide more detail on virtually every character, weapon, stage, and enemy in the game. Even the 3DS “Play Coins” are integrated into the game. You can use one Play Coin to purchase an egg for the “idol toss,” which is a mini-game that randomly rewards you with more idols.
“You’re Not Ready Yet!”
Up to this point in my review, I have done my best to avoid critical opinions, sacrificing subjectivity for the sake of breaking down the huge amount of content loaded onto the Kid Icarus: Uprising cartridge. Now it is time to change all of that. Not only would I like to point out some of my criticisms, I feel that I should also touch on some of the impressions I have heard from fellow players or counterpoints I have found in other reviews of the game.
1. The ground-based areas in each level are great – perhaps even better than the flying parts.
As I mentioned earlier, the gameplay splits between flying and ground segments after about five minutes of mindless (but exciting) aerial combat. This seems to be the top criticism of Kid Icarus: Uprising in many different reviews, and I think it is completely obnoxious. Although there is definitely a learning curve associated with the ground combat, such as mastering the stylus-based camera controls and the touchy dodge/dash abilities with the circle pad, I had almost no trouble playing the on-foot portions of each level. After admittedly struggling with the ground controls for a few minutes in the very first level, I adjusted the camera sensitivity settings and slowly got more comfortable with the circle pad, and had absolutely no issues for the remaining 24 chapters.
The ground portion of each stage is where the depth of Kid Icarus: Uprising really begins to shine. With all of the different weapon types, the wide variety of enemies, and the focus on weak points and attack patterns, there are so many different ways to play and master the game. If you enjoy long-range attacks, you can equip a staff, bow, or blade and enjoy racking up the kills from afar. If you like up-close-and-personal combat, claws and clubs are perfect for wreaking havoc at short distances.
The fact that the game offers so much depth is great, but actually providing a reason to dive in and explore the content is even better. The flying segments of Kid Icarus: Uprising are no doubt fantastic – some are the most exciting parts of the game – but the combat on foot is what made me fall in love with the game, and I think the critical response to this little learning curve is pretty unfortunate.
2. The in-game chatter between the cast of characters is a brilliant way to unravel the surprisingly intriguing plot.
Another big topic when discussing Kid Icarus: Uprising seems to be the back-and-forth bantering between the cast of characters in the Solo Mode. Pit, Palutena, Medusa, and plenty of other god-like characters and wacky figures come into play throughout the game – there are actually quite a few names to remember, and plenty of events that happen over the course of the adventure. I will try to avoid spoiling any and all of those special tidbits for you in my review, but let me say this: I think this form of plot exposition is absolutely genius, and not only works well in Uprising but should be explored more often in other games.
Rather than breaking up the action frequently to hassle the player with cut-scenes, Kid Icarus: Uprising channels most of its details to the player in real-time. Although some critics have called this “distracting”, I think it works wonders for bringing out the personality of each role, not to mention it keeps the time you spend “watching” rather than “playing” to a minimum. It is the opposite of Heavy Rain or Metal Gear Solid 4; the developers of this game seem to have been very intent on keeping you focused on the action, rather than draining your 3DS battery life with CG scenes that can’t be skipped. All these things considered, the cutscenes that do pop up throughout Solo Mode are done very well, using the 3D effect of the handheld to its full potential.
Ultimately, the story in Kid Icarus: Uprising ended up being one of my favorite parts. I was attached to the cast, engrossed in the universe, and excited about the franchise like never before. I think a lot of this has to do with the charming, light-hearted wit and sense of humor, not to mention the plethora of references to the Kid Icarus franchise and plenty of other classic Nintendo titles (Mario, Metroid, Donkey Kong).
3. The multiplayer is another huge step forward for Nintendo and the 3DS.
Mario Kart 7 might have been the first big step for online multiplayer on the 3DS, but Kid Icarus: Uprising is possibly the biggest achievement to date for any online Nintendo title. I already mentioned that the Together Mode and its various game types are a major part of the package, but just thinking further about the depth and amount of content, I feel like Uprising makes a pretty bold statement about how the Kid Icarus franchise can evolve and continue to innovate.
Remember, the online multiplayer is based around the ground combat, and all of those variables from Solo Mode come into play – from the dodge mechanics and various weapon types to the special powers equipped in each player’s customized loadouts. The way you play really determines your role in each match, and players can begin to form strategies based on their abilities. Having the option to play against CPU opponents really helps you learn the maps and familiarize with the fundamentals.
Finally, I feel like I would be committing some kind of crime if I didn’t mention the mini Practice Mode that pops up between each multiplayer match. Rather than waiting for a loading screen, Uprising allows you to blast away at a training target, which keeps you sharp and “in the mode” during those intense, extended playing sessions.
“Floor Ice Cream Gives You Health!”
Kid Icarus: Uprising is without a doubt the most “fun” that you can currently buy for $40 (or even $60). I would go further, even putting it among the ranks of a “system-seller,” a game that should firmly convince anyone on the fence of buying a Nintendo 3DS to finally do so without any hesitation.
Although it is by no means a new franchise, Uprising feels fresh and endlessly intriguing from start to finish. The Kid Icarus franchise has been so long forgotten that it almost feels new again on the 3DS. For years, I wondered when Nintendo could finally step up to the plate with another name alongside its ranks of Mario, Metroid, and Zelda. With this installment, I think Kid Icarus serves as the perfect choice. The brand has been injected with depth and life that it never had before – from the intangibles (charming cast of characters, compelling storyline, creative art style) to the most fundamental mechanics (balance between flying/ground combat, variety of weapons/abilities, a plethora of enemy types).
Ultimately, Pit’s universe is begging to be explored, and by all means, Uprising serves as the very best launching point for Kid Icarus to take flight once again. I would really like to see the series expand. Regardless, I am completely satisfied with Pit’s return to form on the 3DS and highly encourage you to play it.