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Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) artwork

Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) review


"Somehow, the most appealing aspect of any chapter is the game's strong learning curve. Even though you receive a great deal of guidance from the Goddess of Light, that advice only tells you how to interact with your surroundings (such as when she instructs you to grind along rails or explains what activating certain switches might accomplish)."



When people reminisce about older video games, they often reflect on just how difficult they used to be. Kid Icarus on the NES epitomized this. Sure, it may have only had four levels with four sub-levels each, but those stages presented some of the greatest challenge offered in any platformer of that era. Monsters spawned into existence every second, hazards had to be crossed with the utmost precision, and life-saving healing springs were few and far between. Kid Icarus: Uprising, the 3DS update to the classic series, remembers that challenge and brings it to the forefront.

Once again, the story centers around Pit, an angel child whose ability to fly relies entirely on his goddess's power. As in the original, you're tasked with destroying the Underworld forces that have suddenly plagued humankind. Unlike the original, however, this game goes far beyond the evil Medusa and her chaotic ambition.

Stages are divided into sections. The first half of a stage consists of an air battle that plays out like a fast-paced rail shooter. You must simultaneously dodge incoming fire and avoid ramming into obstacles, all while maintaining your own ferocious assault. The second half of a given stage takes place on land, where secrets await discovery and platforming segments breaks up the action and provide enough variety to keep things from growing too repetitive.

Somehow, the most appealing aspect of any chapter is the game's strong learning curve. Even though you receive a great deal of guidance from the Goddess of Light, that advice only tells you how to interact with your surroundings (such as when she instructs you to grind along rails or explains what activating certain switches might accomplish). Occasionally, when you are fighting a new monster or boss, the goddess will tell you about the beast’s weak point. You'll be thankful for the advice when the monster kicks your butt even after you know how you’re supposed to defeat it.

The toughest boss I ever fought was the possessed sun god, Pyrrhon. His attacks were frequent, furious, and incredibly difficult to dodge. Many of them I could only avoid by leaping into the air, a skill that must be timed just right because it can only be executed after stepping on a special jump pad. Pyrrhon also has a thick energy shield surrounding him that absorbs every attack. I knew from the beginning of the battle that I would have to destroy his shields, and I knew how to do so, but the sheer chaos of the confrontation still made for a thrilling and challenging experience.

The learning curve presents itself in much subtler ways, too. I distinctly remember a level where I had to climb to the top of a spiral tower. The journey was long and full of hazards. Enemies swarmed every room and various electrical traps sought to hinder my progress. But one particular room tried my patience the most. Though my task seemed simple – all I had to do was cross from one side to another on three occasions – it proved more difficult than I anticipated. A horrific windstorm choked critical crossing points, pushing me to one side as I tried to walk. Countless times, the gusts got the better of me, pushing me so far that I fell off the ledge. While falling into a bottomless pit doesn't kill you instantly in this game, it does damage you slightly. The winds were so strong that I actually died (more than once) after taking too many falls.

Such deaths were primarily my own fault, part of the learning experience. See, even though the above events occurred fairly late in the game, I had yet to fully grasp the impact that weapons have on speed. For the longest time, I had been using a club, which was rather slow and unwieldy but made up for it by offering a gloriously destructive charge shot and wicked melee strength that smashes foes to bits. I had never stopped to consider just how much it slowed me down. When I eventually made it through the gale, I did so because I had finally switched to something more maneuverable.

That's the sort of challenge that Uprising brings to the table. It requires a level of strategic consideration that doesn't exist in most other games within the genre. If you want to succeed, you need to carefully consider which weapons and abilities you bring into each battle.

There are tons of options available in that regard. Eight categories of weapons provide seemingly countless combinations with which to experiment. You have basic weapon types like bows and clubs that focus primarily on long range and melee combat respectively. However, there are also a large number of unique weapons such as orbitars, which hover above Pit and enhance his mobility. Cannons fire long range shots that annihilate enemies but are very slow to wield and charge. Arms and claws have short-medium range capabilities and serve the cherubic hero better in close combat. Palms are great for long range and have phenomenal homing ability, but lack close-hand strength.

Further enhancing the game’s variety is your ability to fuse weapons together to create better ones. Matching weapons together is easily done – just follow the graph. Choosing the best ones to fuse, on the other hand, is another matter. Do you want to give up your best homing weapon for one that does more damage? Or do you want to sacrifice strength for versatility? You can stack a properly fused weapon with up to six abilities, and any of those abilities can improve charge time, shot speed, defense attributes, or even inflict status ailments such as poison and paralysis when striking.

You can also add special powers to your arsenal. These powers are activated on the touch screen whenever you like, so long as you haven't exhausted your supply within a given level. Such abilities can save your bacon in a tough spot, particularly the health recovery and super armor abilities. You can also equip skills that damage foes in a given radius, deal elemental damage, or just do something random like launch a firecracker. Choose wisely; you can only carry so many with you at once, and you'll need all the help you can get for the most trying parts of the game.

If the general chaos of standard play isn't good enough for you, you can always crank up the difficulty on a previous chapter and see how you fare then. Monsters will flood the screen, raining bullets with even more intensity than before. Shots will eat your health away within seconds. But you'll also gain more rewards. Enemies drop more hearts, and better loot can be found in treasure chests. Just don't blame the game if you get overwhelmingly frustrated.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is more than just a remake of the classic NES version and it's more than a safe sequel; it's a completely new envisioning of the series, one which I expect will continue to impress players for years to come.

Rating: 9/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Freelance review by Leslie Paul (March 30, 2012)

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zippdementia posted March 30, 2012:

Bravo! Makes me wish I had a 3ds
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zippdementia posted March 30, 2012:

To go a little deeper on this, now that I'm properly awake, I think this is a continuation of the successful style you displayed in your YS review, WQ. You identify very quickly what makes Icarus special for you, which is that it captures that sense of old-school challenge. Your review is focused around showing this and you manage to. You also manage to entice me with those descriptions. You're doing a lot of things right with your writing these days. I'm enjoying the newfound maturity.
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wolfqueen001 posted March 30, 2012:

Thanks, Zipp. I'm finding that just being more personal with my style is both a lot easier and sounds a lot better when I'm trying to convey my thoughts. Not sure how long it'll continue with it, though I hope I can and still vary it enough to where the style doesn't somehow grow old. But, I also know it's dependent on the game how I ultimately end up writing about it.
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zippdementia posted March 30, 2012:

Absolutely. I'd agree that you've been choosing good games for yourself. That in itself is a good tactic, if you have the leeway to do it.

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