Kid Icarus: Uprising
Medusa, Queen of Darkness, once wreaked havoc on the land—only to be defeated 25 years ago. Now she has returned with her Underworld Army to mount an invasion. All that stands in her way are Palutena, the pure and benevolent Goddess of Light, and her servant Pit, the commander of the guard. Pit is our hero, a strong-willed angel who receives the gift of flight from Palutena to descend from the heavens and eradicate the dark hordes. Will he emerge victorious from the great challenges ahead?
The Kid Icarus games (of which there were two) were probably one of the last series people expected to see a revival of. While they had a following back in the day, it wasn’t to the same degree as Mario or the Legend of Zelda or Metroid. What’s more, the games were mostly clones of the latter two, thus there didn’t seem to be a point in reviving it. But after Pit’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, fans wondered if this was the prelude to a possible sequel. Not long after, they got their answer in the form of Kid Icarus: Uprising, with the first trailer showing Pit, the protagonist of the games, running on screen while shouting “Sorry to keep you waiting!” But did the game give the series its due or did it plummet to the earth? Speaking as someone who hasn’t played the original games, I feel that it was a fun game on its own.
If you haven’t played the previous Kid Icarus games, don’t worry. While this game is a sequel to the first game, the story is simple enough and you’re given enough info right at the beginning to know what’s going on. Uprising opens with Pit and Palutena, the Goddess of Light whom Pit serves, discovering that their enemy from the first game, the Goddess of Darkness Medusa, has been resurrected after twenty-five years (both in game and out) and has resumed her attack on the surface world with help from the Underworld Army. It’s up to the two of them to stop Medusa while also finding out how she came back. As for gameplay, it’s also completely different from the original. While the first game focused on platforming and exploration, Uprising takes a more action-oriented approach. The main story and the bulk of the game is divided into levels or chapters. Each chapter is further divided into three stages (with some exceptions). In the first stage, you control Pit as he flies through the sky towards his destination while shooting enemies. It’s a rail-shooter style game, as Palutena controls where Pit flies to, but players can still move him around the screen to dodge enemies and obstacles. Once he reaches his destination, the second stage begins. Here, you have more control over Pit and can move him around the ground level to reach the boss while fighting enemies and collecting treasure. The third stage is a boss battle that has most of the same mechanics as the second stage (again, with some exceptions) and requires Pit to defeat the boss in order to complete the level. After completing a chapter, you can go back and replay it to unlock achievements through the treasure hunt maps or to gain more hearts and items.
The set-up for the main game is simple enough, but your also given options to change up the gameplay as you wish. The first is through the Fiend’s Cauldron; before starting a chapter, you can bet hearts (the game’s currency) to increase the chapter’s intensity up to nine. The more hearts you bet, the harder the chapter is and the greater the rewards. Dying in the chapter will result in the Cauldron spilling hearts and possibly losing items you’ve collected while also lowering the difficulty. On the opposite end, if you’re having trouble with a chapter you can also use hearts to lower the difficulty down to zero (two being the neutral intensity, with no hearts spent), though aside from using that to complete certain achievements I’ve never found a reason to go that low. Along with the Fiend’s Cauldron are weapons and powers. Pit is adept with a variety of weapons which affect combat. For example, clubs are heavy and cumbersome and are terrible for range attacks, but they pack a punch and are perfect for melee. Staves, meanwhile, are the weakest weapons for melee, but their shots’ damage increase the further they travel, making them perfect for sniping. Each weapon also has its own unique characteristics, such as the Guardian Orbitars creating a shield when a backwards dash shot is used. Weapons can be found while playing through chapters, as rewards for clearing a chapter or achievement, bought from the weapons shop using hearts, or through trading weapon gems with other players using Street Pass. You can also fuse weapons together to make new, stronger weapons, though it can be difficult to get the one you want. Finally, there’s the powers which Palutena lends Pit to use in his adventures. Like weapons, you can find these by playing through chapters and completing them, though there’s no way to buy or trade for them. Powers give Pit different abilities the player can trigger during gameplay and have a range of effects from healing to inflicting status effects to firing giant lasers. To equip them, you access a Tetris-like screen where each power is a different shaped piece that you need to fit onto the screen. Only a certain amount can fit, which limits how many powers you can use. What’s more, stronger powers are larger and often more weirdly shaped, meaning you’ll have to strategize and pick out which ones you’ll want to take with you. They also can’t be used more than a set number of times in a chapter, so you need to be careful how you use them.
Aside from gameplay, the characters have also gotten an update. Instead of just being a silent protagonist like Mario and Link, Pit has plenty of personality in this game. He’s hyperactive, but has a good heart, a strong sense of right and wrong, and an intense loyalty towards Palutena. He’s also a complete goof ball and a ditz whom other characters tend to mock. He actually reminded me of Vash the Stampede from the anime Trigun, though minus the tragic backstory. Alongside Pit is Palutena, who acts as mission control. Like Pit, she cares a lot for humanity and strives to protect them. And while she does care a great deal for Pit, she’s also not above teasing him, often to the point of trolling (albeit benevolent trolling). Other characters like the vengeful Goddess of Nature Viridi or the all-around weird and somewhat campy God of Death Thanatos have diverse and colorful personalities, so even if they only appear in one chapter you’re sure to remember them. A good amount of my enjoyment for Uprising came from the characters’ in-game banter; periodically throughout chapters, Pit and Palutena (as well as any other characters) will talk to each other. Sometimes it’s about the chapter or story while other times it’s silly fluff like discussing weapons or Pit musing about what life would be like as a goldfish. The English localization team included Mike Drucker, who writes for Saturday Night Live and the Onion, and it really shows. The dialogue is witty and often humorous, with more jokes hitting than missing. But the character that shines the most for me when it comes to humor is the real villain of Uprising, the Lord of the Underworld Hades (and this isn’t much of a spoiler since he appears less than half-way through the game). Oozing smarminess and contempt, Hades is one of the most enjoyable villains I’ve encountered. Even when he’s mocking or trolling (not as benevolently as Palutena) the heroes (especially Pit) or even the player, he’s a joy to listen to. Hades knows he’s the villain and is enjoying every second of it; from the way he’s acted, his voice actor sounds like he’s enjoying it as well.
Along with the main story is multiplayer mode, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would. There are two modes players can choose. The first is Free-for-All, where players are pitted against each other in an all-out brawl. It’s fun enough, but the real gem is Light vs. Dark. Here, players are sorted into two teams: Light and Dark. The object is to wear down the opposing team’s health bar by defeating players from that side. Once it’s depleted, the Angel for the team is summoned. Whoever defeats the opposite team’s Angel wins the game. Aside from being more cooperative, Light vs. Dark also balances gameplay. Since you can equip weapons and powers you’ve gained in single-player, the game keeps players with stronger weapons from dominating by increasing damage to the team’s life bar when those players are beaten. Both multiplayer modes also give you the chance to win weapons and powers even if you lose by way of lottery.
For all the praise I’ve given to Uprising, there’s still one thing that keeps me from recommending the game to everyone: the controls. You move Pit around using the circle pro pad, aim the reticle using the stylus and touch screen, and shoot using the left shoulder button. This means you’re holding the 3DS in one hand while using the stylus in the other. Even if you change the controls up, there’s no getting around this. This puts a lot of strain on one of your hands, so you’ll often have to take breaks or you’re in for some cramping. What’s more, they become even more problematic when you reach land battle. At that stage, you also use the stylus to move the camera around and if you’re not careful it’s easy to get blind-sided by an enemy. While I’ve gotten used to the controls and even somewhat mastered them, not everyone will be able to do the same.
Despite the controls, I’d still recommend at least giving Kid Icarus: Uprising a shot. The characters are entertaining, the gameplay is fast-paced, the graphics are beautiful (this is the one of the few games I turn the 3D on for), the music is awesome, and it’s a game that offers hours of entertainment even after you finish the story. If you can get the hang of the controls, you’re in for a lot of fun.
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