The lights are on
Nearly four years after his triumphant return to gaming in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kid Icarus soars his way onto the Nintendo 3DS to deliver another fun-filled adventure for another generation of handhelds. With Nintendo’s Project Sora at the helm, Kid Icarus: Uprising delivers a fun and engaging 3D experience that fully realizes the 3DS’s potential and displays the best sense of visuals, action, and fan-service that the series has to offer. Not only does Kid Icarus’s re-imagining take the series to new heights, but proves to be one of the strongest 3DS titles of 2012.
Once again in the service of the goddess Lady Palutena, the angel Pitt returns to battle the schemes of a reemergent Medusa to save the heavens. Over the course of 25 chapters, Pitt flies and sprints across dozens of far-flung worlds to take on a Medusa’s variety of underworld minions and restore the balance of light among the gods’ divine realms along with more than a few new faces. Pitt soon finds himself in a plot of twists and turns, however, as he begins to slowly uncover the true mastermind behind Medusa’s sudden invasion.
Upon its very first level, players will immediately notice Uprising’s share of stunning visuals. Thanks in no small part to its impressive use of the 3DS’s three-dimensional display, the characters, enemies, and scenery provide a beautiful backdrop for the game’s beautiful flight scenes across Kid Icarus’s mythological universe. Though not able to be shown here, the size and scope of levels are given an admirable amount of detail and the in-game bosses seem to leap out from the screen. In addition, the graphics themselves are not bad either, being at least a cut above any Wii game and only adding to the enjoyment of flights over land, sea, or space.
Another worthy note is Kid Icarus’s exceptional music and voice talent. Legendary Tales series and Star Ocean composer Satoi Sakuraba adds to the game’s top quality soundtrack, lending a classic touch of drama and energy to bosses battles and cutscenes with its great orchestral sound. In addition, actor Antony Del Rio (Metal Gear Solid, God of War) and actress Ali Hillis provide excellent voice work with their performances of Pitt and Palutena, respectively, blending an appreciated amount of charm to the game’s cast of characters. Players may also note the clever amount of Nintendo series references throughout the game (i.e. Metroid) as well as some comical breaking of the 4th wall, both making for an amusing and charming twist to character dialogues and the final quick time event.
More complicated to review than its graphical presentation is the mixed bag of Kid Icarus’s gameplay. The battles, divided between Star Fox rail-shooting and land-bound melee combat, are fast-paced and exciting and enables a fair use of the 3DS stylus. Stylus controls are used for everything from Pitt’s targeting aim to camera controls and feel fine when they work. The flight missions, due to the cheap excuse of Pitt’s meager angelic abilities, are painfully short and mostly seem to end before they begin, unfairly squashing what could be the game’s best segments. More often than not are Pitt’s ground missions. Equipped with a mean number of heavenly swords, guns, bows, and angel brass knuckles, Pitt fearlessly pounds to dust every one of Medusa’s hench-monsters like a cute God of War and, like its game of comparison, faces bosses just as massive and intimidating to boot. Pitt’s moves here are alright a majority of the time, but his occasionally poor ability to properly face directions can be irritable. There are nine difficulty levels in all and even veteran players wanting a hard-core experience will no doubt be challenged by the intensely hard 6-9 ranges.
The game also boasts a fair amount of weapon customization, with Pitt being able to fuse any of the weapons he can buy in the game’s hub or locates in the field. Its sticky camera is unfortunately noticeable in intenser ground battles, specifically on higher difficulty levels, and remains a persistent thorn in the side of an otherwise good battle system. Many times dragging the camera across the screen with the stylus was terribly annoying and made bosses in particular somewhat frustrating.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Kid Icarus is its introduction of multi-player into the series. Through the 3DS’s wireless Internet connection, players can compete either with local 3DS users or worldwide audiences in combat arena style levels in either winner-take-all or team death-match rounds. These segments offer some benefits to their rules, allowing competitors to use any of the weapons collected in-game and upgrade themselves in battle as well, becoming angels after death for a time. Even if not as thrilling as the main-story, the multi-player felt fluid and engaging with its action-packed ground battles, albeit without any flying segments. Generally, it provided enough interesting competition to make me want to come back for more.
Joining its peers of Mario, Zelda, and Starfox, Kid Icarus helps to kick off the 3DS’s early life with a bang. While not without its issues of faulty camera control, Pitt’s latest adventure offers a substantial contribution to classic rail-shooting and the 3DS’s impressive 3D potential. It’s certainly Pitt’s guarantee for anther Smash Bros. appearance and one of my favorite handheld entries of 2012. Kid Icarus: Uprising gives me great hope for the franchise’s future and it's another Nintendo hit that shouldn’t be overlooked if you need to add another edition to your handheld collection.