One of the best aspects about the Kid Icarus revival on the 3DS is that you can tell the team behind it really had their heart in the game. It just oozes charm and has an amazing level of detail to it, enough so that it will most likely win you over despite whether you love or hate the control scheme. And trust me when I say you will fall firmly into one of those two camps when it comes to the non-conventional controls used here.
Kid Icarus: Uprising sees the angel character Pit return to a full-fledged adventure for the first time in over two decades, since the Game Boy sequel to the NES original in 1991. Pit was more recently featured in another game developed by Uprising’s designer, Masahiro Sakurai, the ever popular man behind the Smash Bros. series. This led to constant speculation about the possibility of a Kid Icarus revival project, which was eventually unveiled as this title around the time the 3DS was announced.
Uprising had been pushed back a few times from its original launch window release date, which would typically give consumers cause to speculate on how well the finished product would turn out. But I’m happy to state that the delay doesn’t seem to be indicative of the overall quality of Kid Icarus: Uprising, as I’ve had a lot of fun playing through the game for review.
The only real negative I’ll level at the title is that I do find the controls a little cumbersome, mostly when it comes to the on-foot sections of the game. Every stage is divided into two sections, an on air Space Harrier style rollercoaster that forces Pit along a path while you blast down bad guys that constantly pop up in your field of vision. The second half will see Pit on foot, offering up more control for the player but at the expense of a much slower pace.
Controls are handled using a combination of the slide pad, touchscreen, and left top button on the 3DS. The touchscreen controls targeting, allowing you to slide the aiming reticule around to aim, and while on the ground it doubles as a camera control. The slide pad controls movement, using it to strafe and circle while in the air, and actually move Pit in any given direction while on foot. Holding down the top left button auto-fires your selected weapon, which changes from ranged to melee attacks when you get close enough to an enemy.
The on-foot sections I find myself constantly struggling against, the added need to control the camera, in addition to having more direct control over Pit, feels cumbersome at best. Pit has the ability to dash in four directions on the ground, which will change up the style of his shots, making them more powerful or easier to lock on to targets. It’s a great idea but I’d often find myself dashing when I didn’t mean to, sometimes causing me to fall off of platforms or just force myself out of range of an intended shot. The camera control set-up, done by swiping against the screen with the stylus, forces you to sacrifice the ability to shoot for panning the camera around. There’s a small allowance here that lets you snap the camera behind Pit, but requires you to press the top right button the 3DS, which is almost useless while holding the stylus.
This is, of course, where the included stand comes into play. Using the stand to prop up your 3DS is absolutely the way to play this game. I scoffed at the idea of using a stand, but it’s far preferable to using my pinky fingers to support the systems weight while playing. It certainly makes for a better experience, but at the expense of keeping things portable, which causes me to wonder if Kid Icarus started out its life as a Wii game instead of a 3DS title.
Besides my constant fumbling with the controls, there are a lot of positives to speak of here. The game is filled to the brim with content, from the single player mode to the surprisingly fun multiplayer matches. A lot of that content comes in the form of constant unlockables, Kid Icarus has a massive inventory of weapons that can be found in stages, earned as rewards, and then fused into newer and better weapons. There’s an adjustable 9 point scale for difficulty on every stage, and increasing that difficulty will net you better rewards, unlock additional rooms and bosses on stages, and increase the number of hearts used to buy even more weapons.
Idols provide unlockables in the form of 3D models, representing nearly every enemy, character, weapon, and location found in the game, all of which are animated. The Idol system uses random unlocks, the equivalent of opening up a pack of sports cards and searching for rare finds, and can be quite addictive to collect. And then there’s the whole AR card battle mechanic, and the game comes with a starter group of cards for you to try out that neat little gimmick.
While Kid Icarus: Uprising does have a few shortcomings, overall it’s a great revival for a franchise I had little affection for in the first place. I was never a big fan of the NES title, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the experience so far. It looks great in motion and in 3D, the soundtrack is downright fantastic, and even the voice over work, featuring plenty of tongue in cheek banter between Pit, Palutena, and all of their foes, is literally top notch.
If you’re a 3DS owner you owe it to yourself to check this game out, even though its controls might not be your cup of tea. If nothing else I hope to see another, more refined attempt by Sakurai and company in the future, because this franchise definitely deserves to stick around a little longer.