Kid Icarus Uprising Review

The Nintendo 3DS may be turning into a powerhouse, but like many consoles, it went through a bit of a drought for the first year or so. It had some pretty stellar re-releases of beloved games, but little in the way of fresh, new experiences. Super Smash Bros. Brawl saw the addition of Pit, Kid Icarus’ starring protagonist, thus propelling the franchise back into relevancy, if not popularity.

My first experience with Kid Icarus was actually quite some time after its release, mostly out of curiosity. If the game had been any good, I thought, surely I would’ve heard more about it by now? What I got, however, was an experience that was not only deeply satisfying, but completely changed my expectations for what the 3DS is capable of.

Icarus fighting Metroids? Works for me.Now, let me get this out of the way first; the game is greatly improved when playing on a 3DS XL model, or using a larger third-party stylus (preferably both). The game, like Metroid: Hunters on the Nintendo DS, relies on using the touch-screen to mirror the function of a second analog-stick, and for the most part, it does so admirably. It never quite feels totally ergonomic, but it works.

Launching into the game itself, you’re immediately thrust into the action. The game’s first level is the example of which the rest of the game follows suit. You usually begin with a flying segment, which plays much like any corridor-shooter you’ve played, but with the caveat that your angelic hero is also on the screen, allowing you to dodge oncoming attacks and hazards. Holding the attack button will pepper your enemy with fast, weak shots, but releasing for a short time with charge up a specialized attack, based specifically on your current weapon; a mechanic that transfers over to the second portion of the game.

Once your character touches down, you’re then thrust into what the game refers to as “Land Battles”. It plays very much like a third-person shooter, but with more emphasis on your (hopefully) nimble feet, dodging and weaving in and out of range of your enemies’ attacks. All weapons in this game feature both ranged and close-quarters attacks, switching automatically depending on the distance between you and your target,  though the effectiveness of each is dependent on your weapon.

Speaking of the weapon-system, it presents a fairly interesting take on things. At first glance, it is reminiscent of Diablo and other such loot-fest games, but you are also treated to a “Weapon Fusion” system, allowing you to sacrifice two weapons of your choice, making some sort of amalgamation of their stats in a bid for even greater power. While the system makes it a bit confusing to fine-tune your favorite stats, the game thankfully shows you what the result of any given fusion would be, without having to sacrifice your most precious weapons to find out. It takes some getting used to, but it adds a lot of replay-value to the game.

Making  things even more interesting is Uprising’s approach to a difficulty system. Eschewing the traditional “Easy-Normal-Hard” setup, you’re instead presented with a cauldron which you can offer hearts — the game’s currency — in order to decrease or increase the game’s difficulty, or “Intensity” as it refers to it. It’s a strange choice, and I was never quite certain how to feel about it, but it does play well against the game’s solution to death; instead of losing one of a limited number of lives, dying simply lowers the game’s intensity, and subsequently rewards. There is great incentive to playing on higher intensity, but the game is forgiving enough to be beaten by even the most novice of players, provided you are willing to spend hearts to ease the difficulty.

Surprisingly, the game’s story was a high-point for me. It’s written largely in the same vein as a child’s Saturday-morning cartoon, but it had the snappy dialogue and clever plot-shifts to make it work. The initial levels are pretty by-the-books, but a few hours in, and I was laughing along with the cast’s clever banter, all the while guessing what might happen next. The game is equally ambitious visually, as well; I was often taken aback by how grand the scale of some levels were.

If there was one element where the game really shines, however, it’s the audio. Elegant, orchestral scores are complemented beautifully by Spanish guitar pieces, and the occasional guitar-riff. The voice-acting is solid, particularly for such a whimsical tale, although I don’t foresee it blowing anyone’s minds (save for a brief, but poignant appearance by Troy Baker).

All of these things culminate in a fantastic experience, but one marred slightly by the 3DS’s control limitations. I could absolutely see a Wii U port alleviating that issue, but sadly, there has been no word of anything regarding Kid Icarus as a series. Not surprising, given how little fanfare the game seems to have received up until this point, but definitely a bitter-sweet note for such an innovative title to end on.

I highly recommend any 3DS owner check this game out, as it’s perhaps the most unique title on the 3DS so far.

 

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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About Jared Kane Corbett