Pit’s back for another winged adventure.
Developer: Project Sora
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Score: 4.3 / 5
There are those who may remember the original Kid Icarus game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was a simple, yet difficult platformer that not many have mastered. It also had a charm about it that many found endearing, so much so that the game has had a cult following. Now Project Sora, who is headed by Masahiro Sakurai of Super Smash Bros. fame, takes a stab at the franchise.
To begin, those who share games and/or systems with others may want to note that Kid Icarus: Uprising has three save slots. This is handy as well for those wanting to experience the game from scratch all over again without losing progress. Once in the main menu, the game is divided up into sections: Solo, Together, Vault, StreetPass, and AR. There is also the standard options menu, but also interesting are the “How To Play” tutorials. These help describe all the controls and gameplay functions that are important to the game, and are a great primer for those just getting started.
After perusing the videos, I decided to jump right into Solo. Before starting each level in Solo mode, there will be a gauge that is labeled zero through nine. This is the Fiend’s Cauldron and the Intensity, otherwise known as the difficulty setting. It’s more complex than what’s found in other games, however, since you can bet Hearts. Setting it to a higher Intensity will crank up how hard the level is, but you’ll also get better rewards and more Hearts throughout. The opposite is true for a lower Intensity setting.
Solo is divided up into two sections, air and land battles. In the air, you’ll be zipping all over the screen, flying in every direction shooting enemies down as they zoom past. Palutena, the Goddess of Light, is only able to maintain Pit’s flight for five minutes, so the sections tend to be shorter than their land counterparts. Controls in this section use the Circle Pad to navigate Pit around, while using the stylus to aim and L to fire. Firing can be done continuously by holding down the L button, or Pit can perform a charged shot that does much more damage and is useful on higher intensity ratings. There is also a melee attack that vaguely feels inspired by Sin & Punishment. It works, but since you can’t control the depth at which Pit goes in the environment in air battles, you can’t walk up and melee just any enemy. If you feel you’re becoming overwhelmed with enemies, the touch screen has two blue power balls that you can tap to zap and destroy everything on the screen, aside from bosses.
On land, Pit skips along the ground to move around. He’s able to dodge and run up to enemies to get into melee range, unlike in air battles. Since there is a bit more room to maneuver on the ground, my attacks were split fifty-fifty between using whichever weapon I had equipped to fire from a distance, or running up and pummeling them. I did find that when I would advance, at times the draw distance was fairly short. This meant that enemies would appear suddenly before I was ready since I wasn’t able to spot them. Land battles also have one thing air battles don’t: Intensity Gates. These gates have numbers on them that represent what level of Intensity you’ll need to have set the Fiend’s Caldron at in order to access them. Generally the gates contain enemies that are slightly more difficult, but not impossible than regular ones. You’ll also be rewarded with random loot once you clear the room.
The controls at first are awkward to use, though with time and patience, it becomes quite intuitive. Dodging attacks and hitting fleeing foes becomes as easy as a thumb flick. There was one major drawback I experienced, however. This was the fact that no matter how I held the Nintendo 3DS, whether in my hands or on the stand that was included in the package, my hands would cramp severely after an hour of play. It would’ve been nice to be able to use the Circle Pad Pro to control the action as a backup method, but that was strangely reserved just for those who are left handed. If you’re left handed you may want to consider picking up the accessory to experience the game with your dominant hand. Be aware, however, that it will feel slightly different because the Circle Pad Pro circle pad isn’t as tight as the one found in the Nintendo 3DS.
Throughout the game, Pit will earn Hearts as he collects them from chests or destroys enemies. These act as the currency throughout the game. They enable Pit to snag better gear through the shop or gems. How many you collect primarily depends on the Intensity gauge, though weapons that aren’t needed anymore can be ground into hearts. If you’re looking to get a decent weapon with high stats, saving is essential. This is due to the high prices in the shop, though to the credit of the developers, there is the occasional sale on products. The shop itself will not get new weapons in stock until you play the main game or multiplayer in some fashion. Once you do get back from completing a level, the stock will change though, so you can’t rely on a certain weapon to always be around.
As for the weapons themselves, this is truly where the game shines. There are all sorts of varieties from cannons, to bows, to claws; it seems there’s something for everyone to try. For those who enjoy collecting in games, there is no shortage of that with all the various types of weapons there are up for grabs. Each weapon has a value assigned to it, though in single player this number doesn’t matter much. In multiplayer however, it’s important to pay attention to it. Other stats such as Speed and Defense are randomly assigned to a weapon, be it positive or negative. If a weapon doesn’t have the particular stats you’re after, there’s always the option to fuse it with another. The fusion system present in the game works by taking two weapons and combining them into another. It is represented by a grid that inventories all your weapons which then can be sorted by various categories. This doesn’t necessarily mean the weapon will be better, it just will be different and will mix the stats from both into one. Fusing doesn’t cost Hearts while performed in the regular Arms Alter section. Only the StreetPass area has costs for fusing weapons from gems.
With the StreetPass and SpotPass feature of the game, you’ll be able to gain weapon gems from others. Weapon gems are exactly the same as weapons, except they’re only accessible through the StreetPass menu and must be broken free or fused with another weapon gem to be used. Gems can be created by the user to share with others, with the added bonus of it making a copy for others to snag from your system. Unfortunately, unlike the actual shop in Solo mode, there are no sales anywhere to be seen, which makes getting weapons out of gems quite expensive.
Also important to the game are Powers. Powers are abilities that help the player do more than just use a standard attack. There are numerous abilities to choose from including offensive, defensive, and single player options. To limit the amount of Powers a player can use, a grid was put in place. Each Power has a Tetris-like shape next to it and must be able to fit in the 6 x 6 grid along with the other Powers selected. If you can’t decide on what Powers to use, there is an option to Autofill Powers. The downside to this method is the fact that it will use the list of all Powers you have to make up the grouping. Fortunately, once the autofill is done, going back to edit it is a cinch.
For those who enjoy a decent challenge, there’s always the Treasure Hunt to explore. These grids act as unlocks and achievements for the game. When you complete an objective, a square will be revealed and generally something will be unlocked. If a challenge proves to be too tough, there is the option to unlock it via a feather. These feathers are limited however and should be used sparingly. The unlocks aren’t limited to powers and weapons either. Music and Idols also make up a decent percentage of the grids. It’s a nice addition to an already content heavy game.
Like the trophies in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kid Icarus: Uprising has a similar item, Idols. Idols are unlockables that are gained through Solo mode, Treasure Hunt, Idol Toss and AR card scanning. They don’t provide anything except eye candy in the Vault section of the game, but they’re fun to read the included fact about and pose in different ways. It’s fun to be able to unlock Idols as there seems to be an endless amount to find in the game.
When wandering through so many levels, you begin to notice that many seem plain and similar. Luckily there are enough levels in the middle and towards the end of the game that cut the drab decor. Also helping the situation are the variety of enemies Pit will need to dispatch in order to advance. The foes come in all shapes and sizes along with different abilities each that provide a nice change of pace when it’s needed. As for the main villains themselves, their dialog can be cheesy and annoying at times, but for the most part are amusing and add more interest while playing through levels. This is especially true when our heroes, Goddesses and company included, carry on with their banter back and forth.
If you need a break from playing alone, there’s always multiplayer. There are two ways to play with others in “Together”, Nearby and Far Away. Nearby is local play, while Far Away uses an internet connection to connect with friends and anonymous players. Both require that everyone has their own game card to play. When the connection type has been decided, there are two types of game modes. Free-For-All is exactly how it sounds with the fact that you’ll be battling for supremacy against all other players. Light Vs. Dark is a team-based battle mode where your goal is to eliminate the other team’s angel. Team health points will go down according to weapon values, so it’s important to have a good balance if your team isn’t so experienced. No matter which mode you choose, you’ll earn points depending on how many opponents you defeat. Unfortunately, this isn’t based on how much overall damage you’ve done to an enemy, so there is a bit of defeat stealing. Occasionally at the end of each round, an item, be it power or weapon, is awarded at random to a player. With how many different play styles everyone uses, both modes keep the game fresh and interesting.
For those card collectors out there, you’ll have fun collecting the AR Cards of Kid Icarus: Uprising. The term “fun” is one I use loosely, mostly due to the fact cards will not be sold at retail and can only be obtained through events Nintendo is present for. The cards themselves are nice quality, with decent art in full color, and are used in the AR Mode. With AR Mode, cards can battle each other if they’re put together with the Nintendo 3DS cameras aimed at them. Characters will appear and duel it out. Unfortunately once a battle has been decided, that is how it will always play out. At any time during a fight or when a card is standing alone, you can take a photo that will be saved for later viewing. As a bonus for scanning the cards, you’ll receive an Idol in the Vault and 100 Hearts for your trouble. Overall the AR Mode seems somewhat half baked and tacked on with a bit of wasted potential.
The presentation of Kid Icarus: Uprising for the most part is solid. Viewing the game in 3D can be an annoyance at times, especially in heavy action areas. That’s not to say that the visuals are bad, but almost the opposite. It’s a pleasure to view when possible and is easy on the eyes. What truly stands out though is the music. With an all-star sound team consisting of Motoi Sakuraba, Yuzo Koshiro, Masafumi Takada, Noriyuki Iwadare, and Yasunori Mitsuda, it’s hard to find a fault. Each piece fits nicely with the level or section for which it was intended. To fully appreciate all the talent and their creations, there’s the music gallery which allows players to listen to what they’ve been able to unlock.
Thanks to Nintendo for providing a copy of the game for review purposes!
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