REVIEW: Kid Icarus: Uprising

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

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When Nintendo unveiled the 3DS at E3 2010, the first game they showcased for the new system was Kid Icarus: Uprising.  The announcement marked the revival of a franchise long thought dead.  The last Kid Icarus game was Of Myths and Monsters on the GameBoy.  Fans were overjoyed to see the hallowed franchise making its return.

In Uprising, as in the previous games, players take on the role of Pit, an angel in the service of Palutena, the Goddess of Light.  Twenty-five years after her defeat at Pit’s hands, Medusa rises from the grave to wreak havoc upon the world.  Palutena sends Pit to stop Medusa’s forces and save the world from her dominion.

Judging from the synopsis, the game may sound melodramatic.  However, Uprising is anything but melodramatic.  The game never takes itself too seriously as characters are constantly bantering with each other and even with the game’s cast of villains on occasion.  The exchanges that pass between them are quite humorous.  Unfortunately, a vast majority of this dialog occurs during battle, so it can be easy to miss it in the heat of the action.

In addition to having light-hearted storytelling, the main campaign is surprisingly lengthy.  Even when players think they have reached the final battle, some sort of clever plot twist occurs to keep things interesting.  There are over twenty individual chapters to play through, all of which can be played again at greater difficulty settings.

When I saw the first footage of Uprising during the Nintendo E3 2010 conference, the graphical presentation was so polished I thought it belonged to a Wii game (as a handheld game with console-quality graphics was an incomprehensible thing for me at the time).  This was the game that showed the world what the 3DS was capable of and it looks great even today.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

He’s back after 25 years.

The art design in this game is fantastic.  Every environment is created with an exotic aesthetic.  Players will find themselves soaring through celestial oceans, in the depths of the sea, and through lunar fortresses.

The music in Uprising is exceptional and that is saying a lot for a game made by Nintendo.  Most of the music is orchestrated, but some of it has a decided Mediterranean vibe to it that matches the Grecian setting.  The voice work is well done, though some may find it grating after a while.

Uprising‘s gameplay is divided into two parts: Air Battles and Land Battles.  In Air Battles, the game plays like an on-rails shooter.  The game will control Pit’s flight path while players aim, shoot, and evade using the stylus, L button, and circle pad.  These sections are where the game truly shines.   The 3D effect is amazing as Pit rockets towards his destination at breakneck speed, hurtling past enemies and obstacles.

Land Battles take place after Pit has flown to his objective.  Once he lands, the game takes players off the rail and gives them a 3D environment to navigate and a horde of enemies to vanquish.  Although Land Battles are just as fun as the previous segments, they do suffer from spotty camera controls.  On land, players have to control the camera by flicking the stylus around on the bottom screen.  This may sound easy on paper, but it is a bit clunky in practice.  Getting the camera to its ideal position can be a pain and players will often be pummeled from behind because of that.  Some players may be turned away from Uprising by its less than ideal control scheme and that lack of dual stick controls, but those that manage to muscle through it will be pleased with what lies at the core.

Uprising‘s most innovative aspect has to be its difficulty system.  Before playing a level, players can  bet a certain number of hearts to adjust the game’s difficulty, making it easier or more difficult depending on their preferences.  The higher the difficulty, the greater the rewards will be.  Should a player get Pit killed, they will lose some of their wagered hearts and the difficulty will decrease, making it easier to get through the level.

There are a lot of things to do in Uprising.  In addition to the main story, there are achievements to collect, statues to unlock, and an arsenal of weapons to build up.  Better yet, the game also sports multiplayer.  There are two modes to choose from: Free-for-all and Light vs. Dark.   Free-for-all needs no explanation, but Light vs. Dark is a unique mix of Team Battle and Manhunt.  In this mode, two teams of three players face off against another team.  As each team member is taken down, the team’s health bar will be depleted according to the value of their equipped weapon; the more powerful the weapon, the more health that will be lost when the player using it is exterminated.  When a team’s health bar is depleted, the last player on that team to be K.O.’ed will become Pit.  When this happens, players on the other team have to take down their opponents’ Pit to claim victory.

Kid Icarus: Uprising was originally planned to be a launch title for the 3DS.  Even though the 3DS’s launch could have used a high-profile title like this, it is for the best that it was delayed.  With the extra time, Sakurai and the team managed to fill it up with content to the point of overflowing.  Sadly, the controls still needed a little work or a dual-stick option with the Circle Pad Pro.  In spite of this, Kid Icarus: Uprising is still a great addition to the 3DS library that any player willing to look past its flaw will appreciate.

Review Score

About James Best

James Best is a recent addition to the oprainfall staff, joining just before E3 2012. Primarily a video game critic, he also reports on news occasionally. He hopes to become a professional critic sometime in the future. While he does enjoy a good RPG, he can appreciate a wide variety of genres from platformers to shooters.