Kid Icarus: Uprising
Rail Shooter, Third-Person Shooter
March 23rd, 2012
Pit makes a triumphant return to video games after a lengthy 20-year absence (Super Smash Brothers Brawl notwithstanding). As Pit soars through the air, will his game soar to new heights as well? Living up to over a yearís worth of expectations just might evoke the old myth of flying too close to the sun and burning your wings, but Project Sora has done seemingly everything to ensure this game is one of mythic proportions.
In a world loosely based on Greek myth, the evil Medusa has been resurrected, once again filling the world with her dark minions. Lady Palutena, Goddess of Light calls upon her faithful angel Pit to combat the threat of Medusa's dark dominion over all life. Armed with the Power of Flight and more weapons than an ex-KGB black market dealer, it's time to make darkness remember why it fears the light! If only it were that simple though. Even with the help of gods and humans alike, Pit is in for a wild ride when villains from his past return to support Medusa in her scheme. If that wasn't enough the mysterious Dark Pit also stands in his way; will he be an ally or enemy in Pit's quest to prevent Medusa's reign? And who is behind the sudden reemergence of Medusa and the underworld army? Only time will tell as the fate of the human race hangs in the balance!
Kid Icarus: Uprising has been one the longest awaited flagship 3DS titles when the handheld was first announced. Thankfully they took their time with this title and it shows in many aspects, including the graphics. Now, the 3DS is certainly not the most powerful handheld graphically, but Uprising really demonstrates what the system is capable of. Pit himself is rendered very well, his movements are very fluid and even the cutscene animations are gorgeous. What is most impressive however are the "Power of Flight" sections of each mission. It is here that Project Sora really raises the bar and creates an impressive feast for the eyes. Don't think you'll miss a moment either, as the fixed camera during these segments conveniently highlights the best of the best for your viewing pleasure. Environments such as the underwater ruins of Atlantis (though itís not called that by name, how many other cities could Poseidon have sunk?) the Sea of Stars, complete with constellations (literally!), and the Underworld are all breathtaking. These even trump the ground segments of the missions in terms of level design and beauty and they aren't anything to laugh at either.
Of course the action happens on the top screen, but the bottom screen isn't left out when it comes to graphics. Many times, when characters are talking, the bottom screen will feature 2D artwork that represents each character as they are communicating to show the range of emotions you can't see during the action. These are drawn very well and it's a shame most of them will be missed due to the fact you will be focusing on the top screen (as to not die). These drawings really add on to the humor and feeling to the game, so make an effort to look down every now and then, you'll like what you see!
A special treat that many of those familiar with the older Kid Icarus games will no doubt appreciate also takes place on the bottom screen as well. Many of the bosses and special enemies in the game are of course hold overs from Pit's earlier adventures. So when Palutena is briefing Pit on the enemies he's about to face, many times the bottom screen will even display the old sprite of that villainís previous incarnation. This was very cool to see and even though I had never played a Kid Icarus title previously, I was still thoroughly impressed to see this included.
Being on the 3DS it is also fair to mention most times the auto stereoscopic 3D is amazing. The illusion of depth is awesome; more so than many other titles on the 3DS but there is an unfortunate problem with it intrinsically. Most times the 3DS will shift as you are trying to hold it in your hand while using the stylus to aim, or tap one of your powers, and this can skew the 3D image making everything blurry until you right it again. Thankfully Kid Icarus: Uprising does come with a stand to hold it (a godsend for those cramped hands) but if you find yourself playing on the go without your stand, you might want to leave the 3D off.
With a game like Kid Icarus: Uprising, there was a lot of expectation, especially in the sound and music department. Just as Other M was the first Metroid game with voice overs, Uprising too is the first time we get to hear Pit, Palutena, and the myriad of other characters that make a return in Uprising. Unlike Other M though, the voice talent for Uprising is completely top-notch. Pit, Dark Pit, Palutena, and each other character seems to have excellent voice work to bring them to life. It doesn't stop there either. The dialogue itself is incredibly hilarious. Many of the fourth-wall breaking, witty, tongue-in-cheek one-liners are instant classics. I want to allow you the magic of hearing these for the first time, but personally one exchange early in the game made it perfectly clear what I would be in for the rest of the game. Palutena explains to Pitt there is a treasure box to his left, and when Pit asks how she knows this she explains the laurel crowns they wear allow her to see what is in his heart and mind. This thoroughly impresses Pit and she continues to explain her better not have anything "naughty" in his mind or she'll be able to tell. Pit blushes and gets flustered and Palutena assures him she was just joking, and Pit tries to play it off but she doesn't buy it. Exchanges like this really make the game what it is and every time I play the solo mode I always have to have the sound turned up or my headphones in.
Even the music in Uprising is done well. The talented group of composers should be praised for creating a soundtrack that matches the light vs. dark theme of the game excellently while catching the ears. The only problem with the soundtrack is that it keeps you from enjoying the dialogue at times. I ended up turning the music volume down so I would never miss a second of the hilarity. Sound effects worked the same way, they're good as well but in the end they got adjusted to make room in my ear-holes for the dialogue.
Being a sequel 19-years in the making affords Kid Icarus the fortunate ability to completely overhaul its gameplay mechanics without so much as a second thought. The result is Uprising, which utilizes two main modes, Rail shooter, and a free moving third-person shooter. As any level begins you usually start off with the Power of Flight in a fast paced rail shooter high in the skies. These segments were the most challenging to me, because in addition to shooting enemies, most of these segments will also require you to dodge enemy fire and obstacles. Not being the "shmup" kind of guy they were fairly challenging but nothing you can't get past without the right weapon. Because the Power of Flight can only be maintained for five minutes ("Horrible fuel economy, I know." - Lady Palutena) you begin your ground mission directly after landing at your destination. The game becomes a third-person shooter that allows you to dash and roll to avoid fire and make your way through 3D environments full of enemies. These environments are noticeably limited, for all their shine and polish they are fairly linear, but that isnít necessarily a bad thing. One thing that I missed however is a jump command. There is a jump power you can equip, but it only let's you jump straight up to avoid fire. There still are jumping puzzles but they require jump lifts or trampolines to complete. Once you tear down enemies leading up to the end you'll finish the mission with a boss fight. These are actually the easiest part of the game sadly and unless the difficulty slider is cranked way up, are pretty easily conquered. Most of them are pretty fun though, like tackling the shape shifting Thanatos who becomes a rather large smelly foot that will try to squash or poison you (no doubt caused by some kind of fungal infection)! Occasionally you will also be able to pilot one of three vehicles to advance your mission progress. The Exo-tank Cherubot and Aether Ring all operate a bit differently and are fun inclusions.
Missions range from fairly short, to missions that take up to half an hour, but there are a few things that also happen between missions that are decent additions to the game as well. The first thing you'll notice is any hearts youíve collected or weapons or powers you've collected are displayed for you directly after the end of a mission. After accepting these you usually head to the Treasure Hunt screen where any feats you've achieved will unlock a reward such as a power, weapon, or Idol (collectable 3D models you can view from elsewhere in the main menu). Also as you unlock these they form a sort of picture in the background so accomplishing the entire grid will paint a pretty picture in addition to lining your angelic pockets! There are three treasure hunts in total for lots of challenge. Then you can find the main menu where you can do anything from tossing eggs to unlock idols (via Idol Toss), check or change your equipped weapons or powers in "Gear", buy, fuse, or sacrifice weapons for hearts in the Arms Altar, or practice your aiming in the Practice Range. Heading out of Solo mode will allow you to check out the games "Together" mode, StreetPass, options, or the Vault. From the Vault you can view your idol collection, Power Portrait, music gallery, Goddess Offering, or records.
The weapons in this game are in a league of their own. There are literally tons of weapons to choose from, falling into one of nine different weapons classes. From blades that are balanced weapons at long or short range but offer little else on their own, to staves that are long ranged weapons ideal for sniping and even features a double tap zoom feature, there is a weapon for every occasion. There are also claws, clubs, orbitars, palms, cannons, arms, and bows. Each one has specific strengths and weaknesses so players will be able to experiment and find the weapon that best suits them. Progressing through the levels at higher difficulty or meeting certain criteria will also allow players to get higher power weapons of all kinds expanding their collections and arsenal. Collecting these weapons is only half the fun though, as you can also combine weapons to make new ones from the Arms Altar menu. There is a handy dandy chart that will tell you what will be created from two weapons that you fuse together. This helps as another way to get a high powered customized weapon, or that hard to get weapon you need for your collection.
The multiplayer in Uprising is a very welcomed addition to the game. Called "Together" mode, multiplayer lets you participate in one of two kinds of six player action. The first is Light vs. Dark. In this mode two teams of three represent the dark or light faction and square off against each other. As a player is defeated, that team loses points based on the value of the defeated player's weapon, so stronger opponents will yield more points. Once a team's points are depleted the last player to die on that team becomes an angel with increased attack, health and speed, but once the angel is defeated itís lights out and the other team wins. It's pretty common for both teams to have an angel out at some point, unless it's a complete shut out. The other two members of that team still respawn each time they die too, so these matches can be very exciting and frustrating all at once depending on how tough the competition is. The other mode is free-for-all which is exactly what it sounds like. Six players all go toe-to-toe in a no holds barred brawl that is perhaps the most fun of the two modes. Points based on the enemy you defeat (or have a hand in defeating) are distributed according to how much damage you dealt to the opponent, and after time is up, the player with the highest points wins. When the match is over you can earn new powers or weapons, and on occasion even bonus items are given to a random player regardless of how they did in the match. The weapons you can obtain in multiplayer are just as good as those in the single player modes of the game too. After placing second in an online free-for-all, I snagged the Twinbellows Cannon with a 290 point value, which ended up being so awesome, I easily won the next match I played in!
Probably the best part of these multiplayer matches is they can be played both local and online, something sorely missed from many other 3DS games. Online mode even gives you the option of playing with friends from your 3DS friends list, or anyone over Nintendo Network. There are some who might complain about the fact there is no way to communicate with other players online, but with the way these games are structured it didn't seem to be a problem in the slightest. Not to mention there are no region specific servers either, so you may very well find yourself playing against people from all over the globe. So unless you are fluent in several languages, communicating may still be a problem even if there was voice chat enabled.
Of course regardless of what mode you choose to play, whether solo or together, whether online or local, the weapons and powers you equip and earn can be used in any mode, giving each aspect of this game a rather significant amount of replay value. Also, completing the various Treasure Hunts, Power Puzzle, and idol collection is something I find myself drawn too, though admittedly I am a completionist by nature. It can be a rather daunting task however, when considering the number of weapons, idols, and feats you must unlock to reach 100% completion within this game.
A game like Kid Icarus: Uprising really only comes around a few times in a console's generation. Aside from being the first game to use ALL of the 3DS's features (StreetPass, SpotPass, AR, Online, 3D, touch controls, and Play Coins), Uprising is truly a fun game to play. Whether it's the campy dialogue, impressive visuals, loads of collectible customizable weapons, or local or online multiplayer, there is a lot to look forward to in this Nintendo title. There are a few downfalls of course, such as the chief complaint of possible hand cramps/strain. To be frank on the issue, without the stand it was very difficult for me to play for more than an hour, but with the stand playing for lengthy periods was more far easier. I find the majority of the fault here not to be the controls themselves (which after adjusting in the menu I found to be very precise), but the size and shape of the 3DS itself, for which I find it hard punish the game for. This reviewer's only other negative observation is simply the slightly unbalanced difficulty between the bosses, ground, and flight game segments. Regardless, Uprising is a game no 3DS owner should be without for all its charm and enjoyment. I can only hope we don't have to wait another 19-years to see another Kid Icarus game like this!