KID ICARUS: UPRISING REVIEW
KID ICARUS: UPRISING REVIEW
Kid Icarus is a bit of a peculiar series. The first game, Kid Icarus, was released on the NES in 1987. It was received with mixed reviews, but developed a cult following that never quite died out. Four years later, a sequel was released, “Of Myths and Monsters”. This was received with slightly better reviews, but it has been mostly forgotten. After that game, there was no more Kid Icarus. For years and years, it was a dead franchise. Then, out of the blue, Nintendo announced “Kid Icarus: Uprising” for the 3DS; the first Kid Icarus game in 20 years. So, the question is, does this game follow in the footsteps of its not-so-impressive predecessors, or does it soar to new heights, reviving this dead franchise?
The story of this game is focused primarily on two characters; the angel, Pit, whom you play as; and the goddess of light, Palutena, who serves as your guide and mentor. Together, you go on a quest to stop Medusa, the goddess of darkness, from taking over the world / enslaving humanity / etc… The plot seems a little bit cliché at its core, but it works. However, there are several redeeming factors that make this plot go from being cliché to being absolutely great.
First of all is the world in which it takes place. In many ways, it is a spoof of Greek mythology. Along your adventure, you will encounter many gods and goddesses found in Greek legends, you will visit the underworld, and fight monsters such as Cerberus. There are, however, many, MANY things that don’t fit in the “Greek mythology” genre, such as machine guns, hamburgers, space aliens, robots, tanks, sushi, eggplant wizards, and, well, lots more. The bizarre world is bursting with charm and creativity, and will intrigue you through the whole game.
The second redeeming factor is the plot twists. The plot seems shallow and without substance when you first start playing, but every once in a while, the game will throw a plot twist at you that will make you realize how wrong that notion in. In particular, there is one twist that literally made my jaw drop when I encountered it. On the flip-side, I feel like some of the plot twists, while awesome, didn’t really lead anywhere. I occasionally found myself saying, “Is that…it?” at the resolutions. Overall, though, they were very well-done and made the game much funner.
The third redeeming factor is the dialogue. The dialogue is absolutely brilliant. As you play, you will frequently hear Palutena, Medusa, Pit, and/or other characters commenting on what’s happening, arguing with each other, and often just joking around. Some of the dialogue is a bit corny, some is completely epic. But it nearly always managed to make me laugh, or at least crack into a smile. I enjoyed every line throughout the game, and I feel like the dialogue alone makes the story and the characters some of the best out there. By the end of the game, I had a definite feel for each character—how they behave, how they joke, how they handle situations, etc. The characters, setting, and plot twists combine to make an otherwise mediocre plot into a story I’ll never forget.
I have mixed feelings about the graphics in this game. Certain things, such as the environments, are beautifully made and make your jaw drop when you see them the first time. Other things, such as certain weapon textures, are just plain ugly. Overall, I feel like the graphics are pretty mid-level—not amazing, but certainly not bad, especially for a handheld. The art style is great. As aforementioned, this game is filled with many bizarre sights to behold, and all of them are either bright and colorful, dark and scary, or some wacky mixture of the two (which this game proves IS possible). Everything is very well done when it comes to design. As for the 3D effect, I have to say that this is the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen on this system. I tried playing without the 3D, and it was actually more difficult! The depth provided by the 3D screen GREATLY helped me judge distance, making it much easier to avoid enemy attacks and deliver my own with accuracy.
The music of this game is great. The tracks always felt very fitting to the situation, and I didn’t dislike a single one. Then again, I didn’t absolutely love any of them, either. The sound effects are…you know…sound effects. I don’t have much to say there. They worked fine, and they didn’t ever annoy me, so that’s a win in my book. Also, the voice acting of this game is top-notch. Each character’s personality is perfectly reflected by the way they sound. Pit sounds care-free and fun, while Medusa sounds dark, sarcastic, and often downright scary. I have zero complaints about the voice acting, it felt flawless.
The meat of any game…how fun it is to actually play. This game is a sort of weird smash-up of genres. I would classify it as a 3rd person shooter/action/adventure game with on-rail segments and RPG elements. The game is divided into chapters, each of which is divided into three segments.
During the first segment of each chapter, you are sent flying through the sky on a pre-made path (‘on rails’). As you fly through the path automatically, you move around the screen while shooting at enemies and obstacles that pass by. If you hold down the attack button, you sent out weak but rapid shots. If you wait in between attacks for some time, they charge up, making your shots more powerful. During the flights, you will not only attack, but get attacked. You have to avoid lasers, missiles, bombs, giant tongues (don’t ask), and more as you try killing the attackers. The flying segments are some of my favorite moments in the game. It is easy to learn, and nearly impossible to master. The locations through which you fly are as varied as they could be. You will find yourself going through volcanoes, outer space, the underworld, the sky, the ocean (again, don’t ask), and more. Each area felt fresh and exciting, and I was always eager to get to the next level to see my next flight. These segments last about 5 minutes each.
During the second segment, you are dropped off on land, at locations as varied as the flying paths. You steadily work through the area, defeating enemies, searching for loot, and exploring. The gameplay is always getting spiced up. Sometimes, you may have to work your way through a big maze, while other times you get to ride a battle tank while you destroy floods of enemies. Usually, you will just run through each level trying to kill, and not be killed. The land portions also felt very exciting and skill based, but they were marred slightly by the controls, which I’ll get to later. These portions last about 10-15 minutes.
The third segment is a boss fight (land-based). The bosses are usually creative and fun to fight, though they rarely blew me away. Every once in a while, I would get to a boss that I flat out didn’t like. More often than not, however, they’re good tests of your skill, and require you to play your best if you want to survive.
Each chapter, with a few weird exceptions, plays out like the above. As you fight monsters and explore, you’ll be collecting weapons, which is where the fun really begins. There are 9 types of weapons in the game—Blades, Staffs, Clubs, Orbitars, Claws, Palms, Cannons, Bows, and Arms. Each one has a completely different feel. Blades are good, basic weapons with medium stats all around. Staffs are equivalent to sniper rifles, and are great at long-distance, but stink at close quarters, Clubs are the complete opposite of staffs. Cannons cause explosions, Claws rapid-fire, and so on. Doing the same level twice with different weapons each time feels like you’re re-experiencing it. If 9 types wasn’t enough, each one has 10 sub-types. There are 10 blades, 10 staffs, 10 bows, etc. And if THAT wasn’t enough, there is a virtually infinite amount of variations for each one. Weapons can be found in different strengths, they can boost defense, they can freeze enemies, and over a dozen other perks. Collecting new weapons is extremely fun and addicting, and is the backbone of the game. You can also find and collect powers. These are less varied and exciting than weapons, but are still fun to find and use. At chapter one, you’ll be attacking enemies with a sword. By the end of the game, you’ll be creating magic barriers while you attack baddies with flaming arrows and eggplant grenades, all the while healing yourself and blasting the closest enemies with lasers. If that isn’t epic, I don’t know what is.
The difficulty system is one of the highlights of the whole game. Why do I say that? Because there are about 90 different difficulties to choose from before playing each chapter. Using a tool called the “Fiend’s Cauldron”, you throw in hearts (the game’s main currency) to change the difficulty. There are 9 primary degrees of “heat”. At 0, your baby cousin could beat an entire level. At 9, you will most likely die within 3 minutes. You can adjust it to every 10th-digit decimal between 0 and 9 (0.4, 5.8, 8.7, etc.). The higher the intensity, the better the loot. It’s a gamble because you are also (obviously) more likely to die. If you die in a level, you retry at your last save point, and the intensity is reduced by 1 level. Pushing your limits to see how hard you can set each chapter is extremal fun and adds HUGE amounts of replayability to the game.
So far, I’ve just covered the story mode. There is also an online, 6-player, land-based battle mode. There are two sub-modes of this; the first is Light vs. Dark, which is team based; the second is Free-for-all, which isn’t. They play very similarly—kill the bad guys, don’t get killed. All the weapons and powers found in story can be used in online, and vice-versa. Each round generally lasts 5 or so minutes, and those few minutes are VERY intense. Instead of fighting hordes of weaker enemies, you will be fighting angels of equal power and ability. To make matters more awesome, items of mass destruction are dropped throughout the battle, such as the much-sought-after Daybreak, which has to be assembled by collecting 3 pieces. The insanity of online is awesomely fun, and it pretty much never gets old. However, online does have its cons. For example, I found that, at least on my 3DS, it can be pretty buggy. Connecting usually takes multiple attempts, and I occasionally lose connection between rounds. The balancing could also use a little work; I felt like sometimes my deaths were simply not my fault, but rather the result of someone running through the battlefield with an over-powered club. Luckily, stuff like that isn’t very common, though it still exists. Online isn’t as well-polished as story mode, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun.
Added to story and online are some other dinky little features, and in this corner the game fails, in my opinion. There was a big deal about the included AR cards. In theory, you could use these cards to display characters in the real world using your 3DS camera, then have them fight each other by making the cards face. In practice, the feature stinks. The cards are buggy and hard to use, and the “battles” are the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen. The characters don’t even change poses, they just keep doing their normal animations until one of them vanishes from your camera with a sound effect. The other dinky feature is the streetpass. Streetpassing is pretty rare, and in this game, it’s not even worth it. You are able to exchange your favorite weapons with players you pass, which sounds kinda cool. But IF you happen to streepass somebody, and IF they happen to own this game, and IF they chose to use the streetpass feature, then you’ll get a weapon. IF the weapon is even good, then you have to pay a ton of hearts to actually keep it. Overall, the extra features really are lame. Of course, it doesn’t matter very much at all, as they’re only very tiny features.
Up to this point, I have had barely anything except praise for Uprising. Well, now for the ugly aspect of the game—the controls. In flight missions, the controls work pretty well. You move your character in the air with the circle pad, and aim with the touchscreen. ‘L’ (the left shoulder button) is attack, and other flight powers can be used by clicking buttons on the touchscreen. Performing a quick-dodge in the air is way harder than it should be. You have to click your circle pad in one direction then quickly do it again in the opposite direction. Considering you have about 1 or 2 seconds to react to basic attacks, quick-dodging is basically pointless because of how hard it is to do precisely. But as a whole, air combat controls well enough.
On land, things go downhill pretty fast. You use the circle pad to walk (pressing it more quickly makes you sprint). You use the stylus to flick around the camera in a manner the game describes as “like spinning a globe”. ‘L’ is used as attack, and powers can be activated by tapping them on the bottom left of the touch-screen. If you already own a 3DS or DS, you can easily see why this setup is awkward. It works fairly well once you actually get used to it (which takes awhile), but it never feels comfortable, and it often gives you hand cramps if you play too long. I feel like the controls are by far the weakest major part of the game.
The final question—how long does it last? If you rushed through, and really were awesome at it, you could beat the story in roughly 6-8 hours. Yeah, not very long. However, rushing through the story is NOT the way this game should be played. Replaying missions to improve scores, playing online, collecting weapons, and completing the hundreds of achievements takes a very. Long. Time. I have clocked in about 50 hours so far, and I’m only just beginning to get a little bored of it. You will definitely get your money’s worth if you enjoy stuff like that.
In all, I could barely recommend this game more. If you can deal with the awkward controls, you will be given 40 or 50 hours of intense, well-polished fun. Kid Icarus: Uprising proves that there is no such thing as a dead series, and I can’t wait to see what this angel will be up to next. If you want a great plot, fantastic gameplay, amazing music, and an overall epic mash-up of extreme weirdness, go buy this game. If not…I don’t know, go read Twilight or something.