I’m not one to over-romanticise old Nintendo properties, but I can’t help but notice when there’s fan-demand for a revival, and “a new Kid Icarus” is something that I’ve heard time and again. A revival of this magnitude is also a tricky stretch, since the genre that the original fell in to is (in this case, old-school 2D platformer), best case scenario, very different to how it was then. Kid Icarus makes two significant leaps, from home console to portable; from 2D to stereoscopic 3D, from 8-bit to ‘lots of bits’…
The first thing about Kid Icarus, and I mean ‘before the cartridge goes in’ first thing, is that the game is bought with a kind of stand/mount thing to sit your 3DS on. There’s a pretty good reason for this, see, Kid Icarus is played by using the the left thumbstick, the left shoulder button, and the stylus on the touch screen. What this means is that you’re both holding the 3DS in the left hand and articulating the index finger and thumb at the same time. I found this to be pretty cramp-inducing, thus making the stand a must. It’s a weird thing, that a game available on a handheld system practically requires the use of a stand, which requires a desk and table-like surface, but if you can get past it, Kid Icarus is worth the hassle.
The level of content on some 3DS titles is impressive, and KI:U is amongst good company. There’s something to spend your play coins on, a myriad of weaponry to collect, and an assignable powers puzzle with pieces to unlock to fit into a grid. All this on top of the solo campaign and multiplayer mode.
The single player campaign features the angelic protagonist, Pit, questing his way to stop the underworld forces of Medusa. The levels are broken up into two parts, first a flying on rails section where you move Pit with the stick to avoid incoming shots, and shoot enemies. Poor Pit can’t actually fly on his own though, he’s only able to do it by way of the goddess Palutena for a few minutes, at which point the other part, the land battle comes into play. On the ground, Pit isn’t quite as graceful as he is in the air, and it can largely be attributed to the camera control. There’s some ‘flick and stop’ mechanics with swiping the stylus to spin the camera, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the kind of precision to make boss battle and other close-quarters fighting to go without hassle. Every time I saw an enemy get in behind my field of view, I felt like I had to make a lose-lose decision on whether to spin the camera to face them (putting others behind me or potentially not directing the camera well enough, or simply run back towards the camera until they were in view.
The writing in KI:U is a surprising strong point, and all of it voice acted, too. Most of it is banter between Pit and his patron goddess, Palutena, and it’s at a level on par with good Saturday morning cartoons. You know the sort, they won’t have you rolling on the floor with hysterics, but it’s charming and endearing, and there’s often a little something worth a chuckle or at least a smile that will keep you paying attention to what’s being said.
With the Saturday morning cartoon theme, the enemies all fit in with the Nintendo cast of cartoonishly menacing like the standard floating eyes and spheres with a mouth, and the downright weird, such as the Specnose, which, as the name implies, is a pair of glasses and a nose, which can blow bombs out of its nostrils.
The Bottom Line
While the gameplay can vary from being a graceful contender to Panzer Dragoon’s throne of on-rails shooters to a brutal crap-fight with the camera during land battles, Kid Icarus: Uprising is so packed with features and a top notch presentation that it’s at times had to believe you’ve playing a portable game. The fact that you won’t be playing it in some of the contexts you’d commonly associate with a portable system due to the practically-required stand does mitigate this recommendation slightly though.