If I was to pick one game out of the entire line up on display at the Nintendo 3DS event in Amsterdam that best showcased the capabilities of the new handheld it would have to be Kid Icarus: Uprising. The developers of this game already seems familiar with the ins and outs of the system and their game is a good indication of what we can expect from 3DS in the future.
Kid Icarus Uprising is a direct sequel to the 24-year old NES classic where you played the part of Pit - and angel who jumped and shot his way past Medusa's army of monsters. Through the course of the game you expanded your arsenal and Pit's set of abilities - an innovation at the time. It was also a very challenging game.
There is no immediate resemblance to the predecessor. Developed under the supervision of Masahiro Sakurai, best known for the Super Smash Bros. series, it appears Pit is in for a lot more action this time around. Whether you fly or walk, you will be shooting down hordes of Medusa's monsters with the aid of Palutena. It's a third person shooter that mixes Zelda-esque boss fights with arcade sensibilities and upgradable weapons.
From a visual standpoint the game is an explosion of colours and projectiles. It is without a doubt one of the visually most impressive we've experienced on 3DS. In an over the top flight segment, a colossal Medusa towers in the background as you are attacked by her troops. This works perfectly with the 3D effect cranked up to max as Medusa fills up the background, while the monsters float in the foreground and Pit pops out of the screen.
Even with the 3D effects turned off, and they are a huge help when it comes to dodging incoming attacks, the visuals are on par with good looking Wii titles.
The controls are simple, but still lets you do a lot. While you are in the air, you use the stylus to move your reticule on the top screen, while Pit is controlled with the analogue pad. On the ground you move the camera using by swiping across the screen. Your index finger will be firmly place on the left shoulder button, and you either fire projectiles or use your weapon of choice in close combat, depending on your range.
The demo we tried included three weapons, each with its own set of advantages. There was a balanced sword, a short-ranged claw that lets you run faster and finally a weapon that lets you fire small balls of energy that causes an increasing amount of damage based on the distance they travel.
If you hold your reticule over an enemy for a few moments before firing, you will unleash a more devastating attack. This meant that my normal arcade shooter tactics of pressing the trigger constantly wasn't very effective. The game encourages a more tactical and careful approach to shooting, and it pays to think things through.
Keeping your eyes on the top screen while using the stylus to aim on the lower one, while controlling Pit's movement with the analogue, takes some getting used to, but after a while it feels natural. However, I'm not completely comfortable with using the stylus for both aiming and camera movement when you're on the ground. The short segment of the game I tried wasn't long enough for me to find out whether these two functions will create conflicts, and if it could affect the precision needed in more difficult areas.
Another question I'm wondering about after the demo is whether the full game will deliver as much variation as the demo did. New stuff was happening all the time, switching from a pure shooter, to action on the ground spiced up with power-ups, a boss fight and even a short rail grind.
The game is a perfect demonstration of the capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS. The visual experience gets more dynamic with the 3D effect, but it also aids the player with judging distances. As Palutena puts it when you hop onto the grind rail "jump on, it's fun!", let's hope the roller coaster ride continues like this when Kid Icarus: Uprising arrives later this year.