Crazy, stupid fun.
Sakurai’s latest game experience is a real lesson in how to make an action game for the 3DS and how to revive a franchise. The game is set after the original and sees Pit team up with Palutena in order to stop the Underworld army’s destruction and invasion of the Earth, for the sake of the population and to restore order in the Gods.
Throughout you see the whole host characters and enemies from the original NES game, with a huge host of new creations as wonderful and crazy as the last. In fact, character is what the game is full of, each of the speaking characters converse with Pit throughout each and every level (usually it is just Pit and Palutena, when other characters are in levels they will speak with Pit), and these conversations are fun, funny and really add to the whole crazy Saturday-morning feel of the whole game. These conversations could wind some black-hearted people up, but they act as the narrative’s lifeblood and are as such a key ingredient to the games winning recipe.
These conversations constantly break the fourth-wall, invoke nostalgia and are sometimes just plain stupidly funny. Nostalgia is what the game bases itself on throughout the opening levels when the story is still simple and usually images and music (re-mixed to perfection) from the original NES game turn up, showing Sakurai knows that fans want the past remembered, not destroyed or forgotten.
Gameplay-wise Kid Icarus is split into two completely separate sections in pretty much every single level, the all-action flying sections and the ground sections that take a slower pace and actually fill the majority of the time spent in-game. The flying sections are controlled by moving Pit around a single plane (hopefully avoiding enemy fire) and aiming with the touch-screen, firing long and close-range shots by pressing L, these sections are an absolute blast to play (particularly on the higher difficulty settings when things really liven up) and control fantastically, contrary to popular belief. The ground sections again see you aiming your shots with the touch-screen and pressing L to fire these shots, but this time, Pit moves in a 3D plane which takes a little while to get used to, but it’s not a problem. However, I can see why the controls could put some people off and in all honesty there should be the ability to play the game with the Circle-Pad pro, but the majority of players will have no problems with the controls beyond a bit of a learning curve. What impresses the most is how these two separate playing styles completely complement each other instead of causing a split in the balance of the game; it does not feel like two games stitched together badly at all, it creates an opportunity to play brilliantly diverse levels that are each a feat of excellence and fun.
Each level contains a boss battle, some of which completely fill the screen, and some that zip around you, making sure you speed up your reflexes in order to beat the boss to finish the level.
There are hundreds of weapons to buy, find, craft or receive in the game, and each one is as unique as the last. What’s especially impressive about these weapons however is the fact that they each change based on whether you were flying or on the ground; luckily there is a practice range for both the flying and ground sections so you can test out how the weapon works before heading out into a level. There are several different classes of weapon, each has its own benefits and downsides, it probably won’t take long until you find your preferred weapon class, but there are so many different weapons for each class that you may find a lot of favourites; even then, each weapon is different from its own as each weapon is individual and has its own set of stats. Essentially there is a crazy amount of weapons to collect and choose from, and each one has its own trophy.
Collectibles are so many, there are trophies to collect for each different weapon, enemy, character, boss, level and item – it would take hours to collect every trophy. And that’s just the start: there is music to collect, achievements to fulfil (too many of the things) and powers to find and collect. Most players however will complete the game on around 70+% in a time of around 12-14 hours, but I honestly don’t know how long it would take to absolutely everything.
On top of this, you are allowed to play each level as many times as you want, trying for higher scores and to fulfil the achievements, of course, it really helps that you can change the difficulty to whatever you like for every level. In fact Kid Icarus: Uprising has what is the smartest difficulty system ever to grace the Earth; you can completely alter the difficulty from 1.0 all the way up to 9.0 (too easy or too hard) in .1 increases, what’s clever still is that it’s literally a gamble to change the difficulty, the higher you opt for, the more hearts it costs you (hearts are the currency for the game). The higher difficulties come with better rewards, more hearts, points and better weapons and treasure, however, any difficulty setting above 4.7 can prove too hard (I haven’t managed to do a level on anything higher than 6.0), when the difficulty is higher than 3.5 the game really livens up and shows you it’s true potential.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is an absolute joy to play from start to finish and is one of the finest action games I have ever played, thanks to its stellar production and graphics, fantastic score, awesome difficulty settings, exciting gameplay, genuinely funny banter and the huge amount of stuff to do topped off with a fantastic multiplayer both online and off that is either team based or free-for-all.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is perhaps the greatest showcase for the 3DS and one of the finest action games I have ever played.
P.S. There is also an AR card mode which I have not tried.