When my childhood hero returns after in a new adventure of his own after 25 long years there is little time to lose. The oversized box contains a stand that I've read is designed to make playing the game more ergonomic. But who has the time to bother with that sort of thing when Pit is finally back?
We're here to shoot arrows, flirt with Palutena, and most importantly listen to wonderful music while hopefully transform into an egg plant at some point. Everything I've been expecting to do in a true Kid Icarus sequel. And they have succeeded. I want to make it clear from the start that this is the most fun I've had with the Nintendo 3DS since its launch.
Unlike the original side scroller Kid Icarus: Uprising is made up of two parts, one on foot and one flying. Each level is made up of both parts, even if more time is spent on foot rather than up in the air, where the more spectacular action takes place. Using his wings Pit is equipped with lots of speed as he travels along a predetermined course much like on rail shooters such as Panzer Dragoon Orta or Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies.
The action is frenetic and free of any unnecessary features you have to learn. Nintendo have put in the effort to create a basic gameplay concept that is strong enough that you can play it over and over again without growing tired of it. Pretty much the same concept used back in the old days when games were generally much shorter than they are now. These days we complain when an action game is 5-6 hours long, while most action games back in the day lasted 2-3 hours at most. But then they came with far greater replayability, and that is something that is also true for Kid Icarus: Uprising.
No efforts have been spared and the game is filled with great content. Despite the great sense of speed, you're always in perfect control of Pit as you down opponents with arrows and fly spectacular backdrops including a pirate ship in space. It brings a constant smile to my face as I progress through the brilliantly designed levels.
The on foot segments have a completely different air to them, but are almost as enjoyable as the flying sections. Here you control Pit with the analogue pad, and take aim with your stylus. The greatest difference is that the action is slower and more tactical. There are secrets to find, cover to seek out, and the combat is more varied. Therefore the stylus also has a secondary function as it allows you to control the camera.
At first it strikes me as an unbelievably stupid set up, but then I start to get a hang of it. But even is a hardened veteran gamer it soon starts to take its toll as my hands start to cramp from the awkward way you hold the 3DS. At this point I release that the handy stand that is included with the game is not just for show.
In Nintendo's defence it should be said that they have given us lots of options to simplify things and allowing the player different control set ups including a lefty version that owns Circle Pad Pro. The only control method missing, and the one I would have considered the most logical is one that uses both analogues.
It's obviously a choice Nintendo have made on purpose, Kid Icarus: Uprising is meant to be played with the precision of the stylus. And it works splendidly it must be said, and the only issue here is ergonomic. There is some pain to be had, but it's pain we're happy to endure as the game is so much fun.
Kid Icarus: Uprising contains more than 100 weapons to unlock, weapons that can be upgraded and combined with other weapons and abilities. That special Pokémon feeling appears and you really want to find everything and as you do you replay levels on higher difficulty levels to unlock better gear. In addition to this there are 360 achievements to master, and each of this give you an extra perk you can use with weapons, and all in all it becomes something of a game within the game.
There are also unlocks through Street Pass, and the scope of the system is just massive, and it has obviously been built in order for players to enjoy the game over an extended period of time. And as all of this is applied to a wonderfully playable basic concept it dawns of you just how great this is. It really takes some of the best elements of modern games and apply them to the basic principles of old school fun without making it inaccessible or overly complicated.
But there is more to it to what makes Kid Icarus: Uprising such a great experience. Sakurai and his team constantly challenge the fourth wall by referencing previous Kid Icarus titles, and other games as well. The voice acting keeps me from handing out what would otherwise have been a perfect score in the sound department, but for the most part they do a good job delivering jokes you sometimes have to be a real hardcore gamer to grasp.
As if all of this wasn't enough Nintendo have included a multiplayer mode with surprisingly agile and well functioning network code. And the multiplayer is actually quite decent and adds another layer of variation to the game. There are two versions on offer, straight forward deathmatch or a team based mode.
The deathmatch quickly becomes messy and the controls just don't seem to measure up with the hectic action, and the frame rate also suffers as a result. The team based mode, however, is less hysterical and puts teams of three players against each other where you have a health meter per team. The player who empties the health meter is turned into an angel that the other players then have to protect. When the angel dies it's game over. It's a different concept that works out really well.
Kid Icarus: Uprising is simply put a great game. It's Nintendo magic at its best. It's playful, fun, and suits both complete newcomers and Japanese super players alike. It is also perfectly suited for gaming on the go, as you can quickly boot up your favourite level, unlock a few new items, and be done with it. Kid Icarus' comeback is the best reason this year to pick up a Nintendo 3DS.