Developer: Project Sora
Review Context: I’m a fan of railshooters, generally in the arcade, but I have tested some waters with the Sin and Punishment series. I have tried the Kid Icarus for Nintendo (NES) , but never got interested in it compared to other platformers.
Date of Playthrough: June 1-9, 2015
The oddball of the original 3DS line up, Kid Icarus: Uprising was the rebirth of a once presumed dead franchise. Starting out as a 2D platformer, Kid Icarus gained mediocre praise for its weird design and difficult gameplay. Though it seemed like a cult-classic title for the NES, the game saw a surprising rebirth on the Nintendo 3DS with a continuation. It discarded its original play style for an entirely new rail shooter/third-person shooter game. This brings up the question, was this a wise decision or should they have just let Kid Icarus stay dead?
The story revolves around Pit and his goddess of light, Palutena fighting the Underworld forces. The story really fleshes out a lot of characters’ personalities beautifully as each voice performance stands out. This game has to be one of the biggest gems on the 3DS for its voice-acting and dialogue alone. Each character is witty and entertaining making the banter through each stage either helpful or enjoyable to listen to. While at certain points you wish you could just stop and take in this awesome dialogue, unfortunately these are usually moments when you are surrounded by enemies. The thought and care put into each personality is what makes this cast stand out. Palutena and Pit’s constant discussion about Pit’s inability to do things, or Palutena’s “help” is a constant plus. Where I usually find myself irritated by helpers in video games, much like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Navi, Palutena and the plethora of characters never seem to overstay their welcome. The ensemble cast and many other characters/bosses from each of the stages discuss with each other throughout, and it’s interesting to see the quips fly back and forth as you are more or less stuck in the middle.
Does Kid Icarus: Uprising reinvent the mold for rail shooting games? Not really. Does it reinvent the mold for third person shooter games? Not really, but that’s the beauty of it. The game found a near-perfect balance between this oil and water combination that makes it feel like the time is distributed evenly between the two segments. Each stage has a rail shooting segment to start it off as to race forward through obstacles and enemies to reach your main dungeon. You then trek through said dungeon in third-person as you aim to fight a boss who is an underling of the main god/goddess or just a random enemy that stands in your way. Each boss fight at times will feel easy, especially early game, but as time goes on the gimmicks and damage becomes harder to counteract. The difficulty can also be increased in the level select. You start off at 2.0 difficulty, and can raise it all the way up to 9.0 where the enemies will get harder every increase, but the loot will become more plentiful. You can also decrease the difficulty down to 1.0 to make harder stages easier. Some areas of a stage can only be accessed at a certain difficulty as well. In order to increase or decrease the difficulty you must pay hearts, which is the currency to do so. This gives a layer of depth to the replayability of a stage as the game challenges you to do the higher difficulties for better rewards.
The animations feel like they could be in-game; they just have more facial movement comparatively to the emotionless state they are during the game. The setting is always so beautifully detailed in the railshooter sections but seem to be more toned back for the third-person sections, which is a bit of a letdown. The designs on the other hand fit each character to a T. It’s expressive and detailed compared to other 3DS games of the time. Some designs of bosses like Twinbellows seem a bit unimaginative in comparison to characters like Palutena. We’ve seen a lot of interpretations before and they weren’t nothing to be in awe at. The music is one word, fantastic. It fits the stage beautifully especially with how many different songs are per stage. At times there is one for the railshooter and third-person segments. Character’ themes, much like Dark Pit’s and Magnus’, are much larger than life detailing their various personalities. I would gladly listen to the music outside of the game.
The railshooter segments of the game always involve Pit flying through the sky with the assistance of the goddess Palutena. You control Pit around obstacles and avoid enemies’ attacks while you shoot them down with your weapon. You have a limited amount of screen nukes accessible by the touchpad during this section. This function is completely underused, unless you are in harder difficulties, as you will almost never get completely overwhelmed. The obstacles at times are the hardest things to avoid due to the narrow passages and the speed of the obstacles down the line. The level design as a whole for the railshooter segments are the best of the game. Each one is spectacular in aesthetic, with the moving images and scenery at times being captivating. These are also the best sections to listen to the dialogue between gods/goddesses as you are given reprieves to listen. The problem therein lies with the controls. The left trigger is the firing button, while moving Pit with the analog stick and using the stylus on the touch screen to direct the fire. There is a lot for the player to focus on at points, especially in the later chapters, making not the stage the overwhelming aspect, but rather the multitasking. Even replaying stages, it is hard to dodge everything with this control scheme when you know what’s coming.
The third-person shooter segments have you traverse the area you reach after the railshooter segment. This is often in the form of a 3D dungeon you have to traverse, all the while hunting for various treasures along the way. The gameplay is certainly more complex than the railshooter segments with a lot more elements coming into play. You move around on a 3D plane, which should be obvious, and now your charge shots can gain a boost in attack when you are dashing. The problem is you can’t dash for too long or you’ll grow tired, as an icon shows up right next to your health bar. If you push past this tired icon, Pit will eventually stumble about and you will need to regain your breath before continuing. This particular feature allows for a more complex style, as you can’t dash everywhere during a fight evading enemies forever. You need to gauge your surroundings and focus on the task at hand. The thing is, during long hallways this mechanic becomes more or less a hassle as it slows progression down. It’s more like a double-edged sword; Pit, unlike the original Kid Icarus, can’t jump as well getting rid of a dynamic for evasiveness. The only way to access higher locations is through jump pads, which feels contrived ridding Pit of one of his core mechanics in his original game. The dodging rewards people who are daring, as you can dodge right through enemy attacks getting invincibility frames. This makes it easy to use the melee, which is used when you attack close to the enemy. The complexity really melds well with this style of play surprisingly making a unique third-person shooter formula that adds a layer of depth after the railshooter sections. I never used the Circle Pad Pro for this playthrough at all, and I never felt the need to really try alternative playing styles via hardware. The controls, while sometimes frustrating, weren’t even close to being bad enough to where I sought alternatives to it.
The exploration aspect of the third-person section makes me think back to the Metroid Prime trilogy of games. You need to search and grind and hunt for your weaponry and upgrades to use. The difficulty you play on can also affect whether or not you can enter secret areas through “Intensity Gates”. Despite the linear design of the stages, it does feel good to find those little hidden chests. but it is bare bones from an exploration standpoint, especially when I’m comparing it to other exploration games. The weapons you receive from the game are what is going to change up your playstyle. There is a variety of different types of weapons, ranging from bows to staffs to claws, changing up the distance and fighting style you implement. The club is slow moving, but does a lot of damage short range because its lack of long range accessibility. Even within each weapon type there are different variants which call upon unique styles of fighting on their own. The weapons alone give a sense of depth to the numerous ways you can fight both in the railshooter and third-person shooter sections. There are also abilities that you can find as well, which are accessible by the touchpad. These could range from a giant laser, to healing to lessening the tired mechanic. You can go through the entire game with just the healing ability, since a lot of the others aren’t a necessity for even making stages easy. They more or less seem to just be there. Every end of a level, of course, has a boss to it which get progressively difficult down the line. The bosses aren’t that difficult until the last third of the game, as many early ones can be spammed and beaten with relative ease.
Throughout the story you will come across various vehicles that Pit can utilize in the third-person shooter sections. The Exotank is like a motorcycle with clunky controls and a slippery feel to it. The speed boost more often than not is only necessary when you try to hit ramps for some extra lift. The Cherubot is a mech Pit can use which launches orbs at enemies. It certainly can take a punch, but there really isn’t anything inventive with it and it feels like a heavier version of Pit. And last but certainly not least, the Aether Ring, which is by far the most fun to use and is less situational than the last two. You can move fast with this ring-like vehicle, as it hovers in the air using the same weapon the Cherubot uses, but is faster with less health. The only vehicle that truly feels different than the regular gameplay is the Exotank, so much that the other two just feel like an extra bar of health than a power up.
The main menu has various other things besides the adventure mode. There are collectible trophies, much like the Super Smash Bros series that can be obtained through a simple egg toss game. You can turn various weapons you have collected into hearts or currency to either change the difficulty of a stage or to use in the shop. You can also meld weapons together to create new weapons with the abilities of the weapons combined. The only other major thing gameplay wise was the multiplayer. Now the multiplayer was hard to access for me, as I would wait a long time for nothing. It could easily mean the multiplayer is dead at this point though. I did manage to play a match once with friends, with a limited amount of lag the game ran pretty well. Essentially you are fighting on different stages using weapons you’ve obtained in the game to take on your opponents in a team deathmatch style. Once your bar has been reduced to 0, one of your members becomes the angel for your team, which is your last line of defense. Once the angel is defeated, the match ends. With the third-person elements to the game it certainly gives a unique experience to the multiplayer’s bland set-up. The thing is, the multiplayer pales in comparison to how well designed the singleplayer is.
Kid Icarus: Uprising was a well needed revival of the franchise and certainly put it back into people’s thoughts. The story and characters are some of the best on the 3DS, up there with such titles like Fire Emblem Awakening. The amount of love the voice actors gave in their performances shows in every bit of dialogue. The depth of gameplay shows how dedicated Masahiro Sakarai was to this game. To be able to find a good balance between both sections of the games is hard, especially if one part of the game bogs down the others much like Sonic Adventure with its multiple character sections that didn’t make sense like Big the Cat. Never have I seen something executed well with these oil and water genres, and I’m glad this game managed to make something grand out of it. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a unique and inviting hybrid experience, making it one of the gems of the 3DS at a time where it was in dire need of them.
Similar Games Liked:
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (Wii)
Time Crisis 4 (Arcade)
Similar Games Disliked:
Playstation Move Ape Escape (PS3)