1987 was a great year for video games. That was the year that beloved franchises like Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear, and Mega Man all debuted. One of the other big releases came in July, when Nintendo released the mythologically rooted Kid Icarus for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States. Separating itself from the countless other 8-bit games in the marketplace, Kid Icarus stood out with its unique concept (an angel trying to escape the Underworld), interesting gameplay (both vertical and horizontal platforming), and an overall wacky universe (two words: Eggplant Wizard), and has forever remained in the hearts of its fans. However, as beloved as the NES game was, it only saw one sequel, in 1991 on the Game Boy. It wasn't until 19 years later, when the 3DS was announced that Nintendo decided to revive the franchise and hand it over to Mashahiro Sakurai (Super Smash Bros., Kirby's Dream Land) and his development team to bring Pit to a new generation of gamers in Kid Icarus: Uprising.
In a very similar manner to the original Kid Icarus, Uprising puts you in the sandals of Pit, an angel who has been chosen to do the bidding of the goddess Palutena. Unlike the original, this time around Pit's adventure begins in the heavens, as opposed to the Underworld, but he still has hordes of monsters to take down. Uprising's story begins with Medusa once again emerging to try and take over the Earth. Armed with an arsenal of weapons, Pit must take down the worst of the Underworld as the plot twists and turns, but ultimately leaves him as humanity's last line of defense.
Each level in Uprising is split into two parts, the first of which plays out like an on-rails shooter, as Palutena can grant Pit the gift of flight for five minutes at a time. The second half of each level is a more traditional 3rd person shooter/brawler, where Pit must battle the Underworld monsters on foot. In addition to the lengthy single-player, Uprising also includes a robust competitive multiplayer experience and takes advantage of the 3DS' camera via a collection of AR cards based on the characters and in-game items.
A Love Letter To A Classic
It's pretty clear that Mr. Sakurai was a big fan of the original Kid Icarus, as there are call-outs to it at almost every turn. From the game's music, to the original NES character art that pops up on the bottom screen when a new classic character is introduced, Uprising knows where its roots are, and flaunts them. Longtime fans will delight at seeing the return of the Reapers or The Eggplant Wizards as they signify that, even though this sequel took 25 years, both the originality and overall weirdness of the original are not lost; instead, they're celebrated.
Uprising was the marquee title when the 3DS was originally announced, and because of that, it's quite possible that it is also the 3DS game that has spent the longest time in development. Whereas that can both work in favor and against a game, Uprising most definitely benefitted by being under Mr. Sakurai's microscope for an extended period of time. From the weapons customization to the gameplay itself, Kid Icarus offers an exceptionally deep and fulfilling experience on every front.
A Pleasure On The Ears
While the visuals in Kid Icarus: Uprising are nothing short of impressive, the game's score manages to steal the show. A treat from beginning to end, both the music and the sound effects blend sweeping orchestratral soundscapes with retro bleeps and bloops, culminating in one of the most auditorially pleasing games released in a long time. The music is so good that the near constant dialog between the characters, although entertaining and important to the story, takes a backseat.
As you adventure through Pit's world you'll encounter hundreds of different types of enemies, and battle them with tons of different weapons, the only problem is that repetition gets old after a while. Each level is set up the same way; flight first, then ground battle, culminating in a boss fight. While each section feels like a unique experience, the overall gameplay from level to level is extremely similar, and doing it over and over again gets a little old as you get further into the game.
On The Ground
It's clear that a lot of thought and effort went into perfecting Uprising's controls, and adjusting them to take advantage of the 3DS' unique touchscreen layout. However, while it works exceptionally well for the flight-based sections of the game, as soon as Pit's feet hit the ground it all kind of falls apart. On the ground, the touchscreen functions as a both a targeting mechanic as well as camera control. It's a fine combination when nothing is going on, but in the heat of a battle, where Pit is fighting for his life and being attacked from all sides, trying to spin around while lining up enemies to attack can be both frustrating and detrimental to a particular angel's health bar.
There's a good possibility that the majority of the people that own a 3DS can't remember the original Kid Icarus because they weren't born yet when it was originally released, and that's okay. Kid Icarus: Uprising serves as a great introduction to the series, and one of the best games on the 3DS. From beginning to end Uprising is the most expansive 3DS title, besting even Super Mario 3D Land, making it a must have for every 3DS owner. It's well designed, well composed, and offers hours and hours of gameplay, making it hard to ask much more from Pit's first game since the early 1990s.