Kid Icarus: Uprising
Developer: Project Sora
Genre: Rails-Shooter/Third Person Shooter
Release Date: 03/23/2012
As I mentioned on last week’s review of 3D Classics: Kid Icarus, Pit was always my favorite first party Nintendo character -at least Satoshi Tajiri invented this obscure little game called Pocket Monsters that I’m sure you’ve never heard of. Whether it was the 8-bit NES classic or watching Pit in Captain N: The Game Master, I always preferred the little guy to other Big N characters like Samus, Link, and Mario. I rejoiced when I could play as Pit in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and doubly so when Kid Icarus: Uprising was announced. I have been looking forward to this game for a long time, and it was one of the main reasons I picked up a launch 3DS.
Now, having played through the game I can honestly say it was nothing like what I expected when the title was first announced. From AR cards to multi-player madness, this is nothing like the vertical platformer we grew up with. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Read on to find out.
Twenty-five years after the first Kid Icarus Medusa has been reborn. She and her underworld army are back and it’s up to Pit, with the help of the goddess Palutena to save the world from everyone’s least favorite gorgon. As Pit, you’ll travel through several levels that are divided between rails shooting and third person shooting as you take old enemies that are now in 3-D along with some new ones. If you’ve played the original NES game, you’ll recognize all the classic antagonists and have a blast taking them out like you did when you were a kid. Oddly enough just when you think you’ve beaten the game…the actual story begins. This will happen to you several times. You’ll swear they couldn’t be any more story or plot twists but then – BAM! You’re nailed with so much more. The game does start to feel a little like the movie version of Return of the King with almost too much story when the game could have easily ended earlier, but you know what? It just means you’re getting the equivalent of several full length games on one 3DS cart and to that is awesome.
The story is well-written, characters are extremely fleshed out (especially for a first party Nintendo game) and the game is as witty as it is engrossing. I laughed quite a bit at the story, with all the in-jokes and references. I found myself really caring about the characters and honestly, I found this to be the best story Nintendo has self-published in years. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a game that needs to be experienced and the story may be the chief reason of them all.
Story Rating: Unparalleled
Kid Icarus: Uprising is by far the best looking game ever put out for the Nintendo 3DS. Now the system is only a year old, but the fact remains this is true. There have been some very well done visuals on the system so far, perhaps most notably were both Resident Evil games. Uprising however takes things to a new level. This game could easily be on the PS3 or 360 and one would still swear it was top of the line graphics for either console. The game looks that good. Character models are highly detailed and manage to be realistic while still capturing the feel and design from the original Kid Icarus Backgrounds are highly detailed and best of all, there was not even a hint of slowdown in the rail shooter segments, which I thought for sure would occur, although that was mainly due to the long history of Nintendo systems and slowdown with any sort of shoot ’em up.
The 3D graphics in Uprising look great. You definitely feel like there are several layers to the screen and this was one of the few games I enjoyed playing with the slider on – if only to see how things looked. That said, I still played the majority of the game with the slider off as it was hard on the eyes after a while, especially after very fast paced segments. Sometimes the game is too fast for the slider effect and so you get a bit of blurring. That’s animation or the hardware rather than the game, so I won’t hold it against Kid Icarus. Even with this one minor issue that only comes into play if you have the slider on, Kid ICarus: Uprising is above and beyond any game released for the 3DS so far – at least visually.
Graphics Rating: Unparalleled
This is yet another area, where Kid Icarus: Uprising managed to surpass my every expectation. The voice acting was incredible. Every character sounded great, and the actors’ performances really brought a lot to the game that would have otherwise been missed. If the game had just been words on the screen, much of the story would have been lost simply because the player would haven’t been paying attention to what was going on action-wise instead of reading. The voicework really fleshed out the characters and made everything come alive for me.
The score is where the game manages to outdo itself though. The game contains all of the original MIDI based music from the original Kid Icarus, but Project Sora has turned each track into a fully symphonic piece that is a feast for your ears. Whether it’s the familiar music of reapettes being summoning or the original main theme for the game, you’ll recognize it instantly and find yourself humming along with it. The all new tracks are equally awesome and the game is simply an aural masterpiece from beginning to end. This is a game well worth experiencing for the sheer quality of it all.
Sound Rating: Unparalleled
4. Control and Gameplay
…and here we come to the first road bump in Uprising. This isn’t to say that the game plays terribly by any means. In fact, it’s a very enjoyable game, but the controls may take a bit of getting used to and when in third person shooter mode, the game suffers from some bad camera angles (but at least you have almost total control over the camera) and the quick movement commands has some recognition and/or delay issues which won’t necessarily get you killed, but will get you hit when you shouldn’t otherwise be.
So let’s talk about how the game plays. The first few minutes of each level are set up like a rail shooter, and this is the best part of the gameplay by far. I haven’t enjoyed a rail shooter this much since the Panzer Dragoon series. You use the analog stick to move Pit around the screen and the stylus to aim. It’s like a twin analog game, but the stylus actually gives you more precise control. It is a bit weird to hold the DS while doing this though, so expect to have to put the game down every thirty minutes to an hour as your wrists start to hurt. The L trigger is how you fire. Hold it down for rapid fire regular shots and press it for powerful charged shots. Your flight path is completely controlled; all you have to do is aim and maneuver.
After the flying sections are done, the game switches to third person mode. This is still well done, but the controls get even busier and the fact the camera and swift ground movements are a bit wonky doesn’t help things. The controls are mostly the same, but now you have to move on your own instead of just flap around. Quick smashing the analog stick should give you a burst of speed and movement in that direction -a t least in theory. It only happens about half the time for me. The same is true with running, where you should hit the analog stick in the direction you want to go and then keep holding it. Unfortunately, as this doesn’t work very well, you’ll get hit instead of a successful dodge and you’ll also have to deal with not being able to outrun something when you really need to. There are enough health power-ups that you should be okay, but this is still a pretty big annoyance. You also will have powers that you gain as you go through levels. You’ll mix and match which ones you want to use based on a grid to contain them all. To use powers in the third person shooter mode, you’ll have to use the D-Pad and press left or right to get to the power you want. Then you press down with the d-pad or touch the icon on the screen with your stylus to activate it. All this is a little too buy for my liking as if I want to use the stylus to activate my power, it takes away from my aiming and if I want to use the D-pad, it takes away from moving. At least you have the option between the two I guess. I won’t say I’m happy with the controls and how awkward the game can play outside of the rail shooting bits, but it IS still fun in spite of itself and that’s what counts.
The place where the game is actually kind of bad is with the platforming (especially in 3D) and the driving bits. Wow. These both really drag the game down horribly, but I guess it’s a testament to the game that in spite of these two terrible bits that I’m still pretty positive about the gameplay as a whole.
That’s pretty much it for gameplay. The controls are a bit convoluted, but the game isn’t impossible to play through. Far from it. Unless you’re completely new to both third person shooters AND rail shooters, you shouldn’t have a problem unless you crank the difficulty up before you learn the nuances.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Decent
This is yet another area where Kid Icarus: Uprising shines. After beating a level, you can go back at any time and replay it, changing the difficulty setting. The default level is 2.0 but you can raise or lower it based on the hearts you are willing to spend. The minimum level is 0.0 and the make is 9.0. The higher from the default you set things, the better the items you will find and the more hearts you will earn, so there’s a nice amount of risk/reward going on.
Besides this, the game also offers co-op and free for all multiplayer battles, the ability to try out new gear in a practice range, an “idol Toss” which is similar to trophies in the Super Smash Bros game. You can earn chances for idols by beating levels at higher difficulty settings or using play coins. Another way is through AR cards. Collecting these cards (which can be found in numerous ways) nets you hearts and idols. You can also look at 3-D images of the cards’ characters in AR mode and weirdest of all, you can make cards do battle with each other by having them face each other. This doesn’t really do anything, but it’s a wacky idea that is good to fiddle with one or twice.
If all this still isn’t enough for you, there’s a music gallery, a picture that comes together based on how many powers you’ve unlocked, an “offering” that makes the goddess Paluenta come “closer” to you and a collections of hidden challenges known as the “Treasure Hunt.” Doing these secret goals nets you powers, hearts, music and more. Each challenge also unlocks a piece of a large picture to view. Finally, there’s the ability to exchange weapon gems via the 3DS’ Street Pass option. Whew! That’s a ton of content – and none of the above includes Story Mode! Seriously, you can spend weeks or potentially even months with Kid Icarus: Uprising and still have plenty of things to do. Just remember, don’t try for any lengthy sessions of you’re going to find yourself with some nasty hand, wrist or forearm cramps.
Replayability Rating: Unparalleled
The fact the game has a whopping one hundred difficulty levels should be enough for any gamer. The increase between say 2.0 and 2.1 are slight, but the higher up the scale you get, the more enemies there will be, the more damage you will taker and the harder things get. The reverse is true when you go down the difficulty scale as well. The game also pays attention to your performance and suggests a new difficulty level for the next level you play (old, new or same) based on how you did. This way, every gamer can get through Kid Icarus: Uprising and still enjoy the story while still giving them a challenge. It’s a great idea and something more games really should implement. Kid Icarus: Uprising is pretty much inviting to any gamer that picks it up – as long as the controls don’t annoy them first.
All in all, Uprising is pretty much the standard bearer for how a game’s difficulty should be both adjustable and accessible to anyone who picks the thing up. Whether you’re a six year old or a sixty-six year old that has been playing games since they’ve been invented, Kid ICarus: Uprising will have something to offer you.
Balance Rating: Unparalleled
There are a plethora of both rail shooters and third person shooters. Tons. You could probably go hoarse before you stopped thinking of some. However, I can’t think of any that combine the genre. In that respect, Uprising is definitely a one of a kind game. It takes the best parts of several genres and puts them together into one fantastic game. Everything in this game has been done before, but not quite in this way or to the degree Uprising does it. We’ve seen AR cards before, but not in a random collectable way. We’ve seen rail shooters, but not with this degree of character customization. So on and so forth. Sure Kid Icarus: Uprising is a piecemeal production akin to a digital Frankenstein’s Monster, but in this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps that makes Kid Icarus: Uprising more akin to Devastator or Voltron.
Originality Rating: Above Average
Kid Icarus: Uprising was a hard game for me to put down. I’d play it until my wrists or pinky fingers hurt (Damn ulnar nerve!). Then I’ d go do something else, but inevitably, I would be back to the game in a few hours, repeating the whole cycle over again. It’s a testament to the game that even though I can think of several ways that the control scheme could be so much better, that I still want to play the thing. I don’t even let out any mutterings or profanity when the camera ends up at a weird angle or when the dash in some direction simply doesn’t work. The game is just that fun. There’s so much to see and do that I could even melt down items or hearts or fuse things into new weapons while waiting for things to stop being sore. Checking my 3DS, Uprising is already the second most played game on my system, (Pokémon Rumble Blast is first). It’s the fourth most played game on my system and it appears I play it on an average of thirty-seven minutes a shot. All that for a game that’s a game that’s been out for less than two weeks. It’s all the more impressive when you realize I’ve reviewed thirteen 3DS games in the past year and have thirty-five downloadable titles on my console.
As you can see, I have a hard time NOT playing Kid Icarus: Uprising. It’s generally been other commitments, a sick pet, work and sleep that manage to keep me off of this game. If only the control set-up was so potentially painful…
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
It’s hard to argue that Kid Icarus: Uprising is Nintendo’s biggest title of the year – for either system. The Wii has Xenoblade Chronicles andThe Last Story, but those aren’t as inviting to a wide range of gamers and they aren’t getting the full Nintendo push. The 3DS has things like Spirit Camera, but people are still burned about NoA’s refusal to allow Fatal Frame 4 to be released stateside. We MIGHT see Animal Crossing or Luigi’s Mansion 2 come out this year, but neither will be as big as this game. Kid Icarus fans have been waiting for a new game for roughly two and a half decades and now – here it is. Best of all, it’s better than the original in every way.
Sure the control scheme might throw some gamers off while others will be upset that the story is light and comedic as well as being dark and ominous and yet others will stick to their erroneous mindset that “Nintendo only makes games for kids.” The majority of gamers however, will LOVE this. It takes a whole bunch of old, overdone things and reinvents them in a way that they manage to feel fresh again. This game is a perfectly example of why so many people stay loyal to the Big N in spite of regularly stupid decisions that it makes. If you’re a 3DS owner, you need to play the hell out of this thing, if not outright own it,
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
For only $39.99 (Or $29.99 if you pre-ordered it off Amazon.com like I did), you get a game that feels like a full franchise trilogy on one cart, a flimsy but somewhat useful 3DS stand if you need to use it to get used to the controls, a copy of 3D Classics: Kid Icarus and an insane amount of content. What’s not to love? Project Sora’s first ever game is an impressive first outing and it really raises the bar as to what all you should be getting in a 3DS game. With more content than any two games of similar genres, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a massive bang for your buck. It’s easily the best game for the 3DS I’ve played so far as well as the best game I’ve played in 2012. Only time will tell how this fares at the end of the year.
Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: Incredible Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Kid Icarus: Uprising is one of the best games of 2012 so far. The story is exceptionally well done surpassing any and all expectations I had regarding length, depth and character development. The game is easily the best looking title on the 3DS to date and with approximately ONE HUNDRED different difficulty settings, the game promises to challenge and rewards gamers of any skill level. The game’s not perfect though as the controls can be wonky, they are a bit convoluted and will eventually lead to a stiff or hurting hand, whether or not you use the 3DS stand that comes bundled with it. While this means the game is best in spurts under an hour, it’s still a game you’ll find yourself coming back to repeatedly.