3D Classics: Kid Icarus
Release Date: 03/22/2012
The truth is, I’ve never been a big fan of Nintendo first party titles. I’ve never liked any of the Mario games, and only liked a few of the Zelda titles. Metroid is hit or miss with me, as is the Donkey Kong franchise. Kirby has never done it for me and I’d rather play something like Shining Force or Ogre Tactics than Fire Emblem. Now that’s not to say that all Nintendo franchises have left me cold. I love Pokemon in all its forms and I keep hoping they’ll remake Pro Wrestling …or at least put it on the Virtual Console. I loved their Popeye game back in the day and I can never get enough of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Still, there’s one old school Nintendo made game that I played more than any other…and that’s Kid Icarus. Man I loved that game. Whether it was slowly working my way up through all the levels, or going gonzo with “Icarus Fights Medusa Angels,” I could spend hours with that game where otherwise I’d be engrossed with something like Wizardry or The Bard’s Tale on my PC. Now, a quarter of a century later, Kid Icarus has been re-released on the 3DS as a “3D Classics” pre-order bonus for when you purchased Kid Icarus: Uprising. Uprising was a game I knew I was going to get day one due to its being a cross of Contra and a rails shooter, and getting the 3D Classic was just icing on the cake. So while everyone else is covering the new game, I thought I’d first cover the original and see how it holds up as a 3DS title and what changes have been made.
If you were one of those kids who just put your old NES carts into the system and started playing, you probably wouldn’t have really thought there was a story to Kid Icarus aside from platform jumping, getting turned into an eggplant, and eventually killing Medusa. However, the manual actually gives you a bit of story, much of which is brought back in Kid Icarus: Uprising. It’s the old trope about two goddesses: one of light and one of darkness. A war breaks out and Darkness wins, trapping the warriors of Heaven into statue form and also stealing the Three Scared Treasures. Only Pit, a young angel whose wings aren’t able to fly yet is left to try and take back the heavens from Medusa and her army of evil.
In-game, of course, you’ll have to put the story together yourself. Most of the game has you engaging in platforming jumping while dodging enemies and trying not to piss off the Grim Reaper. Every fourth stage however is more akin to a dungeon crawl or The Legend of Zelda underworld where you try to find your way through to the boss while freeing your angelic brethren and avoiding the curse of the Eggplant Wizard.
Regardless of whether you read the manual or not, there really isn’t a lot of story here. It’s an older game where the emphasis was on the gameplay. What’s here is definitely memorable enough and the characters had enough personality to have Pit and Eggplant Wizard become characters in Captain N: The Game Master, but younger gamers will probably be looking for more of a raison d’etre as to why they should care about the game and its characters.
Story Rating: Decent
I love that Arika didn’t really mess with the visuals of Kid Icarus. The game still looks like it did back in the eighties…more or less. There are a few changes. The colours are crisper and clearer and pixels have been smoothed out for a less jaggy feel. Of course, the game is also now in 3D. Much like Excitebike, Kid Icarus proves that Arika does an amazing job at turning 2D 8-bit classics into 3D titles. The three dimensional aspect is very subtle and it’s less painful on one’s eyes than many other games for the system. I still prefer to play the game in 2D, but for those that get headaches from the 3D slider, you’ll find this game easier on your cranium.
Sure, the game isn’t a visual masterpiece for 2012. It’s a port of an old NES game. It’s a fantastic looking port, though, and the 3D on this free pre-order bonus looks better than what we’ve gotten in some full retail releases. All in all I’m pretty happy with the visuals here. The graphics hold true to their retro roots and yet really showcase what the 3DS can do gimmick-wise.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
I’ve always really enjoyed the two main tracks to Kid Icarus. That is the vertical platforming track and the one where you’re shooting a horde of floating nose-face thingies. The “you’re dead” MIDI and the track you hear in a boss dungeon are both pretty terrific too. The old really bad audio track is the one that’s now at the beginning of the game. It’s exclusive to the 3DS version, it’s horribly annoying, and thankfully only plays while you’re waiting for the game to start. Why they added this I have no idea. Overall though, the music is a lot of fun. It’s not as memorable as the theme from Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, but the main track will stick in your head.
The sound effects are rather fun too. I’ve never forgotten the shrill bleating of Death when it sees you and the horrid little swarm of “reapettes.” It’s one of those sounds like the “Oh crap, SCISSORSMAN!” like things that you never forget. I’m quite happy with how well the aural aspects of Kid Icarus have held up. Nothing hear will blow your mind, but you just may find yourself humming a track or two while in the shower or out for a stroll.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
4. Control and Gameplay
Like most early platformers, Kid Icarus is all about making jump after jump. If you miss the jump, you die. If you get hit by too many enemies, you can also die from that. So you need to time your movements and be quick with your bow. After all, if you hit them first, they can’t hit you back.
As a vertical platformer, you’ll be jumping up instead of from left to right. As you get higher, the floor that was once beneath you will disappear so even though there was something there before, you’ll still die if you miss a jump. It’s quite a punishing game, but all games really were back then.
Where Kid Icarus really stands out is how ahead of its time it was. It was almost like an early action RPG. With enough points, you get a longer life bar in the same way experience points net you more hit points in an RPG. You can purchase items from stores that do anything from giving you extra life, the ability to temporary fly when you miss a jump, or extra axes for a boss level. There are optional “sub-quests” like the lottery where you try to open jars without triggering the God of Poverty or battles that net you some big hearts (money). Compared to the actual RPGs of its day (which were almost exclusively PC until the battery for NES carts was invented), it’s nothing to sneeze at, but if you really only had gamed on consoles up to this point, Kid Icarus was light years beyond any other platformer of its era.
All of the original controls for the game are intact. You have one button for jumping and one for attacking. However, Arika has really changed some stuff if you only have played the American version of the game. First of all, you can’t enter passwords anymore so kiss goodbye all those neat little tricks from your old Nintendo Powers. A lot of the other Easter Eggs in the game have been completely disabled, such as lowering the prices of items in stores. This was really disappointing to me, as I wanted the authentic Kid Icarus experience and it was denied to me. It makes sense though as this 3D Classics title is based of the Famicon Disc version of the game. It still doesn’t explain the disabling of some tricks though. Now this isn’t to say that all the changes here are bad ones. Arika has made some positive changes as well. We now have a new control scheme called “Custom” and you can choose between it and “Classic.” I actually prefer the new controls as they let you do things like jump while aiming upwards, continuously shoot by holding the fire button down instead of tapping and your speed while jumping is slower, allowing for more accurate jumps. Arrows also seem to shoot faster and fly further, but that could just be me.
So you have the loss of passwords and Easter Eggs but controls that tighten up a lot of issues with the original. The game definitely plays better in custom while people who want a more “authentic” feel can use the original controls. It’s a shame about all the tricks and cheats being removed from the game, however. The game loses a little something because of that. The updated version of Kid Icarus is enjoyable, but you can definitely tell something is missing even while the controls are improved.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
Well, without the passwords and Easter Eggs, the game actually loses a lot of its replay value. Now you can’t start on any level you want as long as you have the password or with crazy abilities and cheats. Instead it’s just the start of the newest level you are on or going back to 1-1. That’s another big disappointment to me. I know some will say the password option is archaic, but it was also a big part of the original game and without the ability to access those tricks and cheats, you actually have less reason to go back after you’ve beaten the game.
Now the game is still fun, but then you get to the problem where, as an early platformer, the game will play almost the exact same way every time you start over. This is especially true once you memorize the levels. The only thing that will change is what you purchase or where the god of poverty lands in mini-games. Don’t get me wrong –Kid Icarus is still a fun game, but with some of the wackier content missing, it’s just not as fun. Kind of if they released NBA Jam without the commentary and all of its weird Easter Eggs too.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Kid Icarus is similar to a lot of old 8-bit era games in that is can be quite cruel at times. However, once you memorize the levels and enemy patterns (which doesn’t take too long), you’ll be able to do quite well at the game. It’s still going to challenge you every bit of the way and the more you risk yourself by attacking enemies like Death, the higher your score will be and then eventually, the higher your health bar will be. The risk/reward system is well done, especially for a game of its era.
Now there are sometimes where you’ll find yourself swearing because of a crazy set of jumps or the Reaper somehow saw you even though his back was turned. Maybe it’ll be an enemy that comes up under you giving damage even though you are in mid-jump or you’ll notice the brambles sometimes cause damage and other times do not. Those are all minor things though, so for the most part, Kid Icarus is a very solid, well-balanced game – especially compared to a lot of its ilk.
Balance Rating: Good
Even today, there’s nothing quite like the original Kid Icarus. When was the last time you saw a vertical platformer, much less a vertical platformer with RPG elements to it? The game has had a cult following for twenty-five years and it’s been one of the games Nintendo fans have been waiting to see revived. Now, we get a slightly updated 3D version of the original and a sequel at the same time. It’s a good time to be a fan of Pit. With an extremely unique cast of characters, a very unusual gameplay style, and a system that was years ahead of what anyone else was trying to do, Kid Icarus definitely stood out from the back, and it still does in the modern era. There’s nothing quite like it.
Originality Rating: Classic
I’m really not a fan of platformers, but there is something about Kid Icarus I can’t help but love. Even when I flub a jump or somehow die inches from the level exit, I find myself continuing. Sure I can’t do any of the neat codes, but it’s still one of early Nintendo’s best games and I love playing it. It’s challenging and rewarding. To me, that’s the best possible combination. Newcomers will be impressed by all the side stuff to do, as well as the bizarre cast and crew that populates the game. Once you start playing, expect to be doing so for quite some time.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
Kid Icarus has that “it” factor. It’s a blend of two popular genres and unique enough that if you hate one of the two (platformers or RPGs), you’ll still have a lot of fun with it. Again, I loathe platformers and I still can’t get enough of Kid Icarus. It’s one of those games people just seem to only have good things to say about.
Now that doesn’t mean the game is for everyone. It’s a lot harder than most modern platformers and the game can be unforgiving at times. Sadly, the game no longer provides the options to help less skilled gamers get through it, so unless your hand to eye coordination is spot-on, you might find yourself a little frustrated here – especially if you use the classic control scheme.
I’m sure Nintendo will eventually make this available to everyone stateside as it is in Japan, Europe, and Australia. For now though, it’s a pre-order bonus only. That limits the current potential audience, but once it is for everyone, expect to see this dominate the Nintendo e-Shop.
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
I can’t really complain about a free classic that comes with a $29.99 3DS came and a stand for said system. It’ll be interesting to see at what price point Nintendo puts this game at. I’m guessing five bucks ala the NES titles on the Wii Virtual Console. That’s an decent price for it. Again, I’m pleased by some of the changes and disappointed by others. It’s definitely a game everyone should experience and that most will really enjoy. I just wish they hadn’t cut stuff out in addition to adding a few new things. Long time fans of the game will miss what has been taken out, although honestly, most gamers won’t really notice it.
At the end of the day, this was a wonderful pre-order bonus for Kid Icarus: Uprising and getting two games for the price of one, especially when both are really well done, is something we don’t see a lot of in this day and age. Kudos to Nintendo.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
3D Classics: Kid Icarus is an updated remake of the Famicon Disk System game rather than a port of the American NES cartridge. It boasts smoother graphics and a new set of controls, along with the 3D visuals you would expect from the title. However, the game has been stripped of the password entry (for cheats) and all of its Easter Eggs, which makes the game a shadow of its former self. Make no mistake, it’s still a very fun game and one most people will have fun with, but I can’t help but wish we had been given a closer port of the NES original instead.