Kid Icarus Uprising Review

After 362 days of one of the shakiest launches in recent video game history, and some of the most overly dramatic reactions, the Nintendo 3DS received the first title shown for the system, Kid Icarus Uprising.  Does this successor to a series that has been dead since 1992 soar into the heavens, or does its wings catch on fire, causing it to descend into the bowels of the Underworld?  Click the jump below and find out what mixture of A and B it is.

Kid Icarus Uprising Review
Release Date: 23/3/2012
Platform: 3DS
Price I Paid: $29.99

The game centers around a flightless angel named Pit, a walking and flying death machine who assists the Goddess Palutena in defeating other gods who wish to destroy humanity and the world at large.  It is a very simple plot, although I felt as if I missed the first five minutes of it since I was just given a tutorial, sent out a door in the sky and fed dialog to. But the dialog is far more interesting than the plot.  After all, this is the kind of game that acknowledges the fact that it is a game, that there are Metroids in it, and that the economy is crap right now.  It also mentions Wikipedia, Laser eye surgery, and the notion of going green.  It is very perplexing why this game chose this route, I do appreciate that it is light hearted rather than being dark or just dull, but I think that it is too light hearted.  

Let me explain, this is a game that debates whether or not it is right for mankind to exist, since they are selfish and greedy creatures that do not respect nature.  You could base an entire game on this idea alone, but the game never really ends up giving a solid answer, or at least very little development, since there are a total of 3 humans in this game, who of which are only given a minute or less of screentime.  This is just something used to make the game seem mature, but this game has Troy Baker as the Sun god, who fights robots that appear for a bit, and then disappears with the robots about 3 chapters later after becoming half a Cyberman.  Calling this mature would be like calling a child’s pencil sketch high art.  Yet it is probably one of the best stories of any Nintendo game, even though it rips off a plot element from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which is not that surprising since the menu system is almost identical to the game.  

There is also the fact that the game cannot keep a consistent storyline.  After the ninth out of twenty-five chapters, the main adversary changes after a horribly obvious false ending, which I’ll get to later.  You are introduced to a new one at chapter 11, 15, and the entire game jumps ahead 3 years for no real reason other than to make you question how hard it was to keep a consistent storyline for 25 episodes.  

This is topped with voice actors who, while good and bubbly, are still delivering dialog that sounds like its from a good writing staff who had to adapt a script for a show that was targeted towards 6-10 year-olds.  There is more voice acting in this game than any other Nintendo Licensed game with the exception of Conker’s Bad Fur Day and it can get annoying, but it holds a charm that would worsen the game by a long shot if it were not included.  The entire storyline is a bit of a mess, but it is at least different and fun if you are the kind of guy who can forgive a story for being stupidly light hearted and bloated like a hog to increase its length.  But the fact that the voice acting is fairly amazing and dialog has more ham than a pig slaughterhouse makes this game’s narrative extremely memorable.

In terms of gameplay, this game adopted a unique control scheme that I first thought up back in 2009, where it is a third person shooter where the Circle Pad moves your character, the stylus aims your reticle, and the L button fires.  On paper this makes sense, but in reality requires one to recline in a chair, raise their legs, and play the game in their lap.  Or in other words, requires a chair and for one to not be wearing a skirt whilst playing.  I suppose that one could use the stand they give you with all new copies of the game, or just try to hold it.  But all of those felt awkward compared to my sitting position that cannot be performed by those with a huskier or less flexible body type than my own.  

Once you adapt to the controls, you will encounter two gameplay types, type one has you flying through the sky for about 5 minutes, shooting things with relative ease, gliding whilst avoiding enemy fire, and enjoying some often lovely scenery that works beautifully with the 3D.  It is a simple yet enjoyable aspect that is much akin to Sin and Punishment and also reminiscent of Star Fox 64.  After the better five minutes of the level, you are sent to the ground where everything is worse.  

Let’s begin with the camera, which can be hard to cooperate with since you aim and turn the camera with the stylus and you are easily disoriented after an attack that leaves you in a corner, which lead to you getting attacked yet again.  It is not the worst camera, but a wider view would have been appreciated, since the game loves throwing tons of baddies at you, meaning that it can be hard to know what you need to dodge.  On the subject of dodging, it is an act performed by flicking the Circle Pad in a direction as you are about to get hit, it is a good idea for creating a nimble character, but when the camera isn’t hiding energy balls or the animations are not being hard to read, Pit will run out of stamina and will be helpless for 4 seconds.  Might I ask why an invisible stamina gauge was needed, would Bayonetta be better with a stamina bar, or any flashy Japanese action game, no they would not, so why does Kid Icarus Uprising get one?  I think that my complaints might stem from the fact that you are running from enemy group X to enemy group Y ad nauseum, and therefore need to stop to make sure that you have stamina for the fight.  Or perhaps it’s because of the fact that enemies feel like they do too much damage.  I might just feel this way since I played the game on a slightly higher than standard difficulty setting, but the game basically said that I was too good for those, or maybe it is just encouraging you to gamble in hopes of getting better treasures and weapons.  Which sounds like the work of a passive aggressive computer that wants you to kill it if you follow its advice of playing on what amounts to a hard mode during your first run through a level.

Weapons are one of the two ways of differentiating oneself in the game, there are multiple type of weapon, from Blades, to clubs, to claws, to staves that are held like guns, but it really just depends to the type, the stats, and the bonus powers.  This game follows the Borderlands approach and has a near infinite number of randomly generated weapons, there are two base stats of melee and ranged, which can often result in gloves that are good at ranged attacks and hand cannons that are good at smacking, assuming that the game decides to recognize Pit’s position.  But the bonuses are what you really care about, since they can increase your health, defense, add a status effect, increase a certain shot, and more.  I like this in theory, but I am not fond of hoping for a really good randomly generated blade with Paralysis, Health boost, overall defense boost, a ranged rating of 5 stars, and a melee rating of 3 stars.  And while you can fuse weapons into new weapons, it’s like a poor man’s version of Persona fusing, but with twice the combinations, half the quality, and a near absence of a desire to experiment due to both a lack of a compendium, and the fact that you don’t know how a weapon will fire.  

This happened to me when I made a powerful staff that boosted my defense, paralysed my foes, but fired with an awful range and in a very low burst of three shots.  It took me half the game to find a better weapon that I could afford, but that;s due to the fact that the shop randomizes itself after every chapter, meaning that if you see an amazing weapon, but are 5000 hearts short, you can either forget about it, clean up your stockpile of weapons, grind in the training room for an hour, or buy some trading card that give off 100 hearts a pop.  And I don’t even want to begin with how stupid it is to make hearts anything but health.  I do not care if it was in the original, that game was tripe and the idea was dumb even before designers knew how to make a fun game that does not age like milk.

There are also power in the game that serve as little boosts that you collect at random, and use by ignoring the enemies that you are currently fighting, look at the bottom screen where the action is not taking place, and tap an icon in the lower left hand corner.  The assists provided from these powers are life saving, or life destroying depending on how quickly you can adjust from the frantic action that you are avoiding to a small sliding bar.  These things just do not flow into gameplay well, if you had an L2 button and used that for items and kept the D-pad option for selecting powers, then this would work fine, but still feel like a cheap way of adding balance.  

I suppose that the visuals are the best aspect, since they look grandiose and are memorable unless they involve purple-gray rocks or stone cities.  Featuring nearly every kind of local you could want, from volcanoes, inside of a nuclear forest, outer space, Tron with pastel coloring, or underwater, level variety is the least of this game’s worries.  Although the ground levels look notably worse than the aerial levels due to the lesser scope.  That’s the problem with this gameplay, you are more powerful and have more fun at the beginning of every stage than you do when you are playing the majority of the stage.  And while the bosses add some variety to every ground stage, they lose their sense of intimidation once you go through the easiest boss rush that I have ever played.  It’s not like I am very good at this game, I just got lucky and won on my first try.  

There are also the shoehorned in vehicles, all of which make you feel like a god.  And I mean it when I say god, I do not even think that you can get hurt in them.  All you do is shoot, move, and learn that you cannot just hold down the button that uses a vehicle’s special power, you need to tap it, which you never need to do in the main game, you hold the stylus to aim and only lift it up to readjust it after flicking the camera.  It suffers from the same awkwardness as the Powers that you get.

Overall, I’d say that Kid Icarus Uprising is a bit of a mess.  The narrative cannot maintain a solid threat without introducing one antagonist and removing another.  The dialog sounds like it was written by someone with talent who was told to make a delightfully hammy script.  Beautiful and fun flying sequences almost clash with clunkier and blander looking land sequences that suffer to too many extra bells and whistles that are poorly implemented.  A crafting system that offers too much quantity of weapons, but not enough quality.  It is a dumb, jumbled, mess of a game, but everything has an inconceivably  smooth coat of polish on it.  By all reason it should be broken, but it just remains a nifty little romp, but one that can just as easily be avoided and forgotten about in a month’s time.

There are evident flaws, however they happen to be fairly tiny.  As a result,the game still manages to remain fun and is competent in its execution.  It is the best game out there, but is not going to win any awards anytime soon, except maybe a 3DS award, due to the lack of shown titles for the system.

//I really have not touched this since early April, but I stand by what was said here.  However, the fact that there are trading cards for this amazes me, who would have asked for them, and what could they possibly do for another series, since they captured every possible thing within the game?  Or why did some people play this game until it got to the hellish difficulty mode, did you just lack anything else?  As for the multiplayer, I never tried it, and never will, because I simply do not care

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