Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising (Better late than never, right?)

60506-icarus-thumb-480x288-60505.jpg

“Kid Icarus: Uprising” is the
first Nintendo release to bear the Kid Icarus moniker in more than
two decades and its blend of humor, mythological references, dynamic
visuals and old-school sensibilities are almost enough to make the
title one of the great ones.

The only really big problem – and it is
a big one – is the game’s control scheme. The unfortunate fact is
that although the Nintendo 3DS handles Kid Icarus: Uprising’s visuals
just about perfectly, the game’s controls are about as unwieldy as
can be. It’s telling that Nintendo included a special stand with the
game so players could set the game on a table instead of twisting
their wrists into an unnatural position in order to handle the 3DS’
buttons, circle pad and stylus at the same time.

It’s a shame the control scheme mars
Kid Icarus: Uprising’s gameplay, because this could be an ideal game
for anybody who grew up on the Nintendo Entertainment System and
still appreciates Nintendo’s zany approach to game design. Kid
Icarus: Uprising has enough wacky dialogue and flashing lights to
entertain just about anyone who doesn’t need all of their video games
to be grimdark and ever so “mature.”

On the whole, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a
good game and the game holds promise that Nintendo may produce a
better sequel for its new Wii U console, which is scheduled to be
released later this year.

But that would require Nintendo to be
much quicker in developing the next installment of the Kid Icarus
franchise, which is vaguely based on Greek myth. Nintendo released
the original “Kid Icarus” game for the NES in 1987 for U.S.
customers. A Game Boy title, “Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters”
followed in 1991 and then the series took a break until 2012.

The original, Kid Icarus was hard as
Hades and among NES games, most resembled Metroid in its combination
of shooting and platform mechanics. Kid Icarus: Uprising is perhaps
most reminiscent of Star Fox 64, at least during the game’s many
air missions. Playing as a heroic angel named Pit, players spend
about half of the game in flight sequences in which the essence of
gameplay is to shoot and dodge as quickly as possible. Most levels
begin with a flight sequence and end with a ground battle climaxed
with an old-fashioned boss fight.

Most of the game’s levels follow the
above pattern, and the game can feel a bit repetitive after a while.
The self-referential banter between Pit, the goddess Palutena and
even antagonists like Medusa and Hades adds humor to a game that is
already silly enough to include among its villains an “Eggplant
Wizard” who as his name implies, can turn Pit into an eggplant.
The characters frequently break the fourth wall and speak as if they
know they are in a video game. Kid Icarus: Uprising is probably not a
good game for players who would find lines like “I don’t want to
be an eggplant again” too cringe-worthy to be funny.

The dozens of weapons that can be found
in the game also add needed variety to the experience. All weapons
have ranged and melee functions, and players can experiment with
staffs (best for long-ranged shots), bows, blades, cannon, clubs and
even weird stuff like a “Bowl Arm” that fires bowls at
enemies. (Why not?) Players can try the various weapons in
single-play and online multiplayer battles.

So far, so good, but as mentioned
above, the controls do prove to be a problem. If the Nintendo 3DS had
two circle pads to control movement and aiming, the game would play
perfectly. But since the handheld only has a single circle pad on its
left side to control Pit’s movement on handheld’s upper screen, a
right-handed player must use a stylus on the 3DS’ lower touchscreen
to aim. This results in the player having to twist one’s left wrist
into an uncomfortable position to support the 3DS’ weight while also
using one’s left hand to control aiming and press the left shoulder
button to fire Pit’s weapons. It’s virtually impossible to play the
game for a long period of time without ending up with a sore wrist.
The included tabletop stand makes the game easier to play, but takes
the handheld aspect out of handheld gaming.

Nintendo had a good idea to bring back
the Kid Icarus franchise and possibly re-establish Pit and friends
and the company’s comedy team. The control problems are not fatal,
but do show that Nintendo’s devotion to unconventional control
schemes does not always lead to success. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a
promising, if flawed, return for the series and this reviewer sees
considerable opportunity for a more polished installment for the Wii
U.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Nintendo

Nintendo 3DS

Rated E10+ for Everyone 10-plus