Kid Icarus: Uprising Review

Kid Icarus has been on hiatus. For twenty years.

But Pit is back in the biggest adventure of the series: an on-rails, off-rails shooter for 3DS that impresses far beyond what you might expect in graphics, audio, and gameplay.

For all intents and purposes, this isn’t a revitalization of a series but rather a new one all together. Sure, we’ve seen Pit in Super Smash Bros., but we’ve also seen Koopa there and he still doesn’t have his own game. Kid Icarus: Uprising also happens to be just about one of the best reasons to own a Nintendo 3DS. This game will kill you with its charm and electrify you with it’s visuals.

With your first hour or so playing Uprising, you’ll likely find yourself hating the controls. We sure did. They begin as clunky, barely formed schemes that can’t be managed in your head at all. But at some point, magically, you’ll find yourself just playing. You’ll go from obsessing over which buttons are getting pressed and how the stylus is going to work alongside it to suddenly realizing that you’ve been playing for three hours and haven’t looked at your hands a single time. It’s a new control scheme, but it works, even if there is a slightly steeper learning curve than most portable games.

One thing you know we love at Eggplante is audio. It’s one of the most underrated pieces of most video games and can deliver some of the most emotion and charm. Well, we’re putting it front and centre here: this is the best audio we’ve ever heard on the 3DS. Voice acting in the game – yes, voice acting – is abundant and it is all delivered with crystalline clarity and snappy dialog. There are corny, cheesy lines, but they’re in the on purpose. They’re delivered with winks and snappy comebacks in some cases, and the game pokes a little fun at itself with its lines, too. The sarcasm in the game is a welcome relief from the heaviness of what you’re actually doing in the main battles.

Gameplay is surprisingly satisfying, although most of what you’re doing is aiming a stylus at the screen and mashing a shoulder button to fire. Air combat is nothing short of insanely fun, although the ground combat could have used another few weeks in the development labs. Taking to the skies is natural, not to mention expected from someone who has wings, but it will really test your ability to dodge and weave incoming attacks from massive bosses. Ground combat is a little more clunky, if only because you don’t have much of a third dimension to work with as you do in mid-air, but it’s certainly not broken by any means.

There is a stand that comes with the game so that you’re not constantly holding the game with one hand, risking a free-fall of your favourite (and only) 3D-capable handheld, but it’s not the most ideal. It works great for some stretches of gameplay, but if you’re the type who plays on their bed or looking up at the ceiling lying on the couch, or pretty well anywhere that you’re not in front of a desk, you’ll find some problems with the stand. It’s extremely well made for such a pack-in, but it just doesn’t accommodate every situation.

Luckily, any control problems you might have in ground combat and as a result from using the stand are somewhat mitigated by the fact that you can customize pretty well all the controls in the game.

Enemies in the game come in wide form as you might expect from what is essentially a platformer. You’ve got your typical armoured ones that you can’t actually attack without getting behind them, some that have only a specific weak spot, and others than you can just fire at and emerge victorious right away. However, some of the enemies don’t look like they belong in this universe. Why are there Spyros walking around in my Kid Icarus game?

One thing that is insanely bad-ass about Kid Icarus is his ability to hop into some vehicles and kick some series butt. We’re talking rolling mechs, vertical tanks, and speeders of sorts. They’re part armour, part weapon as is stated in the game, and they’re all awesome.

But what about normal weapons? Well, rather than a single weapon or a set of a few, there are actually nine weapon types in the game. They range from Staffs to Bows to Claws to Cannons, and they all pack a unique punch. Cannons are slower, but they’re our obvious winner because they are just so damn powerful. There is a great customizing mechanic here in addition to the weapon types in the game. You can fuse weapons to create brand new ones and they all become more powerful and useful in different ways. This kind of customization makes the game worth it all on its own, because you could literally play through the game a hundred times with a hundred different load outs and be playing a completely different game.

There is an interesting currency in the game: hearts. You can spend your accumulated hearts to lower the levels difficulty level, or gamble to win more by upping the difficulty by a certain factor. The risk and reward aspect here is great, but we found it just too hard to max out your gambled hearts. The game becomes virtually unplayable at those levels, though we’re sure someone will post a YouTube video of going through the level flawlessly on the highest difficulty setting.

Multiplayer is present in Uprising, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the main storyline. You’ll find yourself in the multiplayer modes if you’ve got friends you want to show off your weapons to, but beyond that, expect to be playing solo for much of the experience.

AR cards are an avenue Nintendo continues to try to go down with Kid Icarus and their 3DS. There are quite a few this time around – about a hundred or so – but the only thing is that you can’t actually get them all unless you’re willing to travel across the world to do so. Some are only given out at very specific events that you have to attend in person to receive. We’d imagine these will be on eBay in a few short years, but we’re not willing to pay the exorbitant amount they’ll likely fetch when that happens.

Overall, Kid Icarus: Uprising is an incredible way to not only refresh but restart the series and the team at Nintendo has given the franchise a great first step in the new era of the series. If history repeats itself, we’ll be waiting two decades before another game starring Pit, but if anything is to be said for Nintendo’s recent release patterns – that is, redoing series over and over again – we’ll be seeing another Icarus game real soon.