Kid Icarus Uprising was one of the first big 3DS game reveals, and with its release having finally come around last week, for many early adopters it represents the fulfillment of the handheld’s promise of new games aimed at the most dedicated Nintendo fans. With the retro revival comes a genre re-branding: from platform shooter to third-person action, with all the production values and voice acting many have come to expect from modern games.
But does Kid Icarus rise above the rest, or do its wings burn up before it gets its chance to soar? You’ll have to read our reviews to find out what we think of Pit’s first adventure in over two decades. First up is Alex, and then Erica gives a second take on the game for double the information.
I’ve actually never finished the original Kid Icarus. Yeah, it’s true that the game has a pretty well-earned reputation for being punishingly tough, and that has made it difficult to get very far, but I blame my in-completion more on other things getting in the way. I didn’t get a chance to pick the game up at all until a couple years ago for Wii Virtual Console, and amidst the slew of awesome games that have hit in the meantime - New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Skyward Sword, and so on - it’s just been hard to find the time. Still, something about Pit’s epic underworld adventures seemed like a worthy investment, so when Uprising was announced for 3DS, I knew I had to give it a try.
There’s been something of a controversy that’s emerged surrounding the game’s control scheme, and as I’m sure this is what most people are curious to hear about, I’ll dive right in.
Yes, what you’ve heard about the control options is true: the game’s designed for play with the Circle Pad and Touch Screen, the former used for movement while the latter handles aiming, and you’re pretty much limited to re-mapping movement or aiming to either the D-pad or face buttons or using the Circle Pad Pro in order to make things easier if you’re a lefty. As of now there’s no dual-analog support, which means that you can’t use the left Circle Pad to move and the Circle Pad Pro to aim. If this is problematic for you it might be a reason to stay away from this game.
However, I’ll submit to you that the Circle Pad-Touch Screen combination is just so heavenly that I almost can’t believe it’s a source of dispute in the first place. There’s a bit of a learning curve, sure, especially when it comes to flicking the stylus to rotate the camera, and I definitely recommend adjusting aiming sensitivity and other options to your liking before you set out on your adventure, but once I got settled in, something clicked. I don’t even want to think about playing Uprising any other way at this point.
I do agree with the critics on a few points, though. First of all, it’s definitely true that the controls seem much better suited to the air battles compared to the land sections, since you don’t have to worry about adjusting the camera. Just aim with the stylus and guide Pit out of the way of enemy fire with the Circle Pad. I also assent that the included 3DS stand is basically essential for long play sessions. Given the controls, there’s just no better way to hold the 3DS in place while you play.
Do I think either of these points is particularly problematic? Not really. It might not be the easiest game to play on the go, but I don’t think that makes it a lesser game.
I wasn’t really expecting much out of Kid Icarus Uprising‘s story given the mission-based dungeon crawl gameplay style, but in the end it managed to surprise me. It’s pretty evenly split between light-hearted and serious, with some pretty goofy writing and acting coupled with the occasional complex twist (I’m thinking Chapter 18 specifically) and some pretty advanced themes such as bio-terrorism and divine intervention.
Most importantly, the storyline is non-invasive, mostly conveyed through in-gameplay dialogue rather than cutscenes that break up the action. The cast of characters is limited basically to main protagonists and bosses, which means most cast members get a good bit of development and screen time. This definitely isn’t a game you should play in order to enjoy its story, but it does pretty much nail how storytelling should work in an action game.
This game is one of the prettiest 3DS titles yet, but I wouldn’t call it perfect by any means. There are still a few rough edges in places and a few sacrifices in the detail department, but overall this game’s style is consistent with the original, except given new polish and flashy 3D graphics.
Speaking of 3D graphics, this game’s use of the 3D effect is second only to Mario Kart 7 in terms of sheer quality, although I’ll admit that I vastly preferred to play with the 3D turned off.
Character designs and in-flight backgrounds are where this game really shines, though. I really enjoyed seeing some of the other gods and goddesses of the Kid Icarus universe, and a lot of the outer space stages have some of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The screenshot at left shows a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. Beautiful.
This is probably Uprising‘s strongest element among everything I’ve reviewed so far - which really says something given that I love pretty much everything about the game to pieces. The soundtrack is stellar, with a good blend of both classic remixes and brand-new tracks and solid instrumentation - exactly what you’d expect from its stellar cast of composers. The game includes a sound test feature that allows you to give any of the tracks you’ve unlocked a listen, and as is always the case with Sakurai’s games, the feature has good reason to exist.
As for the game’s other sound effects also, it’s hard to say they’re especially outstanding, but there are a few random moments where certain enemies will recycle sounds from the original Kid Icarus, such as the Reapers, who emit that familiar chirping noise as they chase you, complete with the Reapers’ song playing in the background. It’s a really interesting use of nostalgia that in a game this quirky doesn’t seem overdone or out of place.
But is it enjoyable? That’s the important part, after all. From the get-go, the single player campaign drives you forward. There’s no tutorial and relatively little hand-holding; you’re mostly left on your own to blast away at enemies and, once you hit the ground, search for secrets as you clear a path forward.
Because of the Fiend’s Cauldron system, it’s basically impossible for this game to be too hard or too easy, since you have a pretty high level of control over the difficulty. The game will recommend a difficulty level as you move through the story based on your previous performance. Sometimes it’ll push you to the limits, but generally it’s a pretty good guide to follow if you want a solid difficulty curve. Of course, the levels naturally get harder on their own as well.
Experimenting with various weapons adds a lot of charm and variety as well. This isn’t like many other action games, which hand you weapons suited to the area you’re in or the enemies you’re up against - you get to choose your weapon, and will stick with it for the entirety of the chapter you’re playing. They’re all quite different, some of them easier to use, others really really powerful; some suited to close range, while others work better at a distance. Right now I’m a huge fan of Bows and Palms.
Many have compared the multi-player mode to Super Smash Bros. in terms of the hectic chaos, and I think it’s an apt comparison. Both team battles and free-for-all bouts are really fast-paced and require careful use of both ranged and melee attacks, special powers and abilities, and the various stages’ unique features. There’s a bit of lag in the online modes, but nothing that broke the experience. Playing with others is also a great way to find high-level equipment and earn hearts.
As for the game’s volume of content, I’ve finished the single-player campaign and spent a good bit of time with extra content such as the extensive list of unlockable achievements, weapon trading and fusing, boss replay mode, and higher-intensity replays of older chapters, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ll be playing this game for a very, very long time before I even approach 100% completion.
Sure, a lot of that content revolves around playing older stages again, but it’s no lie that upping the difficulty and going in with various weapons makes a big difference in how missions play out. Suffice to say that if you enjoyed unlocking new stuff in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the extras this time around follow suit, in good ol’ Sakurai fashion.
Kid Icarus Uprising is easily my new personal top 3DS game and stands as one of the greatest Nintendo experiences ever crafted. That it’s part of a genre that’s so underrepresented on Nintendo consoles only makes it stand out even more. It’s a pity that so far the game doesn’t seem to have gotten very much attention on the sales side, since it’s probably the best new game to hit a Nintendo system in the last couple years. (That’s including Skyward Sword, whose control scheme I also adored beyond reason, mind you.)
Unlike Alex, I have beaten the original Kid Icarus. I like a difficult challenge, and the game definitely fits the bill for punishment. I can’t explain the frustration of being turned into an eggplant and backtracking gave me. I’m a stubborn girl though, so eventually I made it through and defeated Medusa. Although this is a review for Kid Icarus: Uprising, I really suggest giving the original a swing as well. Especially if you want a taste of what gamers in the past had to fight through.
“Sorry to keep you waiting!” is what Pit says when he dives into the game, and although we saw Pit in Super Smash Bros Brawl, I know this game was worth the wait. The game actually uses the twenty-five year anniversary from the original NES classic to the game’s story, which puts a bit of sentimental value to those that were alive and playing this game when it was first released. I’m not that old, but I’m sure I’m not the only one to appreciate it.
Like Alex said in his review, the controls are pretty controversial and are probably the biggest beef other reviewers have about this title. I managed to get my hands on a Circle Pad Pro from a friend, and I can agree with Alex that I actually prefer the stylus and Circle Pad combination. It is a masterfull option when in flight, and far outshines the other options. You might first think that land battle would be easier with a second Circle Pad, but I actually found myself struggling more with that than with the stylus. It wasn’t just because I was used to the other controls either. I tried it out when I first got the game, so I wasn’t accustomed to anything yet.
I’ve seen reviewers claim that this game was just proof that the 3DS should have had a second Circle Pad from the very beginning. Although I would enjoy a second Circle Pad, I think that this game’s controls shows that the 3DS can introduce different styles of controls for games that simply work. There is an initial awkward movement upon your first steps on the ground, but you will soon be running and dodging once you really get going.
I didn’t really use the included 3DS stand. It’s much smaller than I originally thought, which is good, but I simply wasn’t playing in a place that I could comfortably use the stand for an extended amount of time.
Kid Icarus: Uprising uses type of storytelling that isn’t seen very often these days in action games. It uses very little cinematic to tell the player what is going on, and the ones that are in the game are short. I wasn’t sitting there impatiently waiting for it to end so I could get back to the action.
Other reviews and gamers had me wary of the banter that goes on during the game. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I soon found myself laughing at a few of the things they say. It might have seemed weird to the people who couldn’t hear through my headphones, but I certainly enjoyed the exaggerated and cheesy dialogue.
Pit goes all over the place in this game, and like Alex said, this isn’t a game that you play for story. Yet, at the same time you will enjoy the story and characters that it has. The characters each have a sense of humor that is specific to their personalities. Of the characters seen in the game, I think I enjoyed Dark Pit and Hades the most. Hades really reminded me of Ghirahim, but Hades seems to have a less brutal hatred for Pit and often simply pokes fun at him and the other gods. Destruction is just his hobby. He is a very exaggerated character, and I also liked his character art. Dark Pit had his own spunk as well, and I fell hard for his theme song. It’s smooth and enticing, and I’ve already grabbed my own guitar to give it a few strums.
This game was MADE for the Nintendo 3DS. Normally I go back and forth between the 3D depending on where I am playing and whether or not I have a source of power for my handheld. For this game I found myself carrying a charger around just so I could play in 3D for as long as possible. I don’t get dizzy or have any bad effects from playing for extended periods in 3D, and quite honestly I’m so near-sighted I’m far-sighted as it is so I don’t really care.
The graphics in the distance are often gorgeous, but you will find a few buildings and other surfaces to be a little rough upon closer inspection. Still, the level designs vary to all sorts of settings so you get a little bit of everything in the game. It really uses the 3D when in flight battle, and you’re going to feel like you really are being shot at by the underworld army. I think it has the best 3D graphics so far, even defeating Mario Kart 7 (HA!).
I really like Hades’ character art. I said that already, but the different faces and expressions for the other gods and characters are good as well. I kept getting glancing at my bottom screen to get a look at their faces, and often found Pit face planted on the ground from my brief moment of neglect. Sorry Pit, but Thanatos is hilariously distracting.
The story is filled with twists and turns, and when you think you’re finally going to defeat one enemy once and for all, you turn around and have a whole new one to engage with first. It has some strong themes, but the execution for them is blended with comedy very well.
I’m not going to go into the sounds, since Alex gave a pretty good explanation that I can’t really add to. Music, on the other hand, I can rant about. I better be getting music requests for Kid Icarus: Uprising music in my Erica’s Ocarina Experience videos. I’ve found a new soundtrack to fall in love with, and I’ve already found myself humming them as my fingers go through the notes.
The ability to use the Music Gallery without the need for unlocking is a much appreciated gift. The famous composer’s lived up to their standards, and darn it I’m listening to the music right now. I enjoy the mix of new music and old, and with the Music Gallery feature I can listen to them at my hearts content. Thank you, Sakurai. I hope to be able to download the music soon for enjoyment in my car as well.
This game is fun. It is time consuming, but you probably won’t even notice the time flying by when you’re locked in battle. On my first play through, I found myself staying close to easier difficulty levels because I was eager to beat it. Now that I have beaten it, I am still itching to get back into the fray. That in itself shows the replayability that I crave for.
There isn’t much tutorial in the game, and it simply thrusts you into battle to either fall or fly. This is something that I particularly enjoy, because hand-holding is an option I often wish I could opt out of from the very beginning. The game even jokes about hand holding, and breaks out of the box by admitting it is just a game numerous times.
The Fiend’s Cauldron system is an awesome addition to the game, though I’ve only made the leap to higher difficulties just recently. I can say right now that I can’t even tell what the heck is shooting at me, and its description of White Hot and Infernal is pretty accurate. Still, it just shows that this game can be as difficult as you want to allow a flexibility for intense and relaxing gameplay.
Nate was a witness to my first experience on the multiplayer mode. I had just gotten the game, and figured I would see if anyone else was around for a match. They weren’t, so I went ahead and played on a global scale. I didn’t have any powerful weapons or abilities, and I was put into a battle with five Japanese people. Nate mostly got short, “What the heck was that?”, “DARN IT, I DIED AGAIN!” and so forth. It made him jealous to not have the game yet, and he probably found my desperation for survival amusing.
I’m still not sure what the heck kept killing me, and I got my rear handed to me. I’ve recently returned to the online play, and am winning this time and losing others. It’s a ton of fun, and you can score some rather awesome weapons.
Speaking of weapons, Pit is rather skilled in all sorts of weapons. He is great with vehicles too, and I can see how he is a one-angel army. I personally prefer blades and cannons, but the ability to fuse weapons is a fun way to grind out new toys. Speaking of toys, the vehicles are fun to play with in the Story mode as well and add new ways to crush baddies and find treasures.
There is plenty of treasure to search for as well, and Treasure Hunts allow players to achieve goals to gain items and idols to reveal pretty pictures. The idols are fun to browse through, and the similarities between Super Smash Bros and Kid Icarus: Uprising is sweet. I’ve battled out with my AR cards as well, though mostly just to see Poseidon drown Medusa. Players that enjoy pouring hours into a game for a 100% completion have quite a bit of playing to do!
This is a Zelda site, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is still a favorite for my 3DS. Still, Ocarina of Time wasn’t made for the 3DS. Kid Icarus: Uprising was made for this handheld, and it outshines all my previous 3DS games. If you haven’t bought this game yet, and you own a Nintendo 3DS, start saving. It’s worth every penny and was worth the wait.