Flap Those Angel Wings – Kid Icarus: Uprising Review
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Fans of the original Kid Icarus have been waiting over 20 years for the next title in the series. Now, returning players and first timers alike can get in on the ancient Greek action with Kid Icarus: Uprising. Is the game worth the two-decade wait, or does it fly a little too close to the sun?
Our story follows Pit, an angel in the goddess Palutena’s army of light. Returning villain Medusa has broken out from her prison and is once again attempting to destroy all of mankind. Now it’s up to our winged hero to collect the Three Sacred Treasures to defeat her and lock her back up where she belongs. The tale isn’t entirely novel at first – something the characters even break the fourth wall to admit. There are many stereotypical elements standing out: the usual antagonist wants to kill everyone, our hero has only the purest of morals, players are guided by a celestial force to collect mystical objects, and there’s even a dark reflection of the main character featured quite early in.
As the story progresses, though, several plot twists occur which end up giving the story a new life. Things aren’t quite what they seem, and not everything goes according to plan for our protagonists. Pit also proves to be an imperfect hero, as he cannot fly without Palutena’s help (which is sad for an angel), nor is he an all-powerful savior. He can, and will, fail in his tasks and duties, requiring assistance in many cases. Factor in the narrative’s considerable length, and you’ve got a memorable plot that will leave a good impression on gamers.
Gameplay in Kid Icarus: Uprising takes two main forms: in the air and on the ground. At the start of each chapter, Palutena gives Pit the Power of Flight and the game plays as an on-rails shooter. While general direction is handled by Palutena, players are free to move their angel hero about the screen to avoid enemy fire. To attack back, the lower screen can be used to point a crosshair, and the L-button will shoot. Holding the trigger down will result in continuous fire, but waiting a few seconds between shots will charge up the blast.
This power only lasts a total of five minutes, but only in-game; in reality you have as long as you need. Eventually Pit does need to set his boots on the ground. Here, KI:U plays as a cross between a third-person shooter and a hack n’ slash. Controls are still the same: move with circle pad, aim with touch screen, and shoot with L. However, players are now able to freely move about the level at their own pace, no longer guided by rails. At a distance, players’ attacks act similarly to flight mode, but when within striking distance, the targeting reticule changes to symbolize a melee is available. Simply attack as you would at range, and Pit will go to town on the enemy with a series of physical combos.
Both aspects of play are entertaining, offering a good deal of fun, but they have their problems as well. For flight mode, there is no real challenge, even at higher difficulties. By simply strafing in a wide circular motion, gamers can avoid just about every attack. And since only a small amount of enemies or objects need to be destroyed, players can simply float in a circle throughout the aerial portions of levels, which removes all depth from aerial gameplay.
Ground-based gameplay suffers in terms of camera control, mainly due to the use of the touch screen. In order to turn, players must flick the screen in the direction they wish to rotate, and tap the screen when they wish to stop. The problem comes from the fact this style of control is incredibly inaccurate, often over or under turning the character if your movement isn’t perfectly precise, which becomes considerably harder when the same screen is used for fine aiming. Simply moving the stylus quickly to keep up with a moving opponent will cause the player to spin too far ahead, making for frustrating moments in gameplay.
Looking past controls, there is a great degree of customization available in terms of weapons. Many armament categories are available such as swords, bows, claws, and clubs to name a few, and each has their own general strengths and weaknesses. As players defeat enemies they will receive hearts, which can be exchanged for new weapons at the store. Each individual weapon has its own stats, as well as additional effects like poison attacks or knock-back defense.
To add further depth, weapons may be combined to create new, more powerful versions, which take on specific traits from its parent tools. This allows players to create their own personal arsenal, finely tailored to their play-styles and needs. The sheer number of weapons is staggering, and every item has its own unique look, meaning every gamer should have no problem finding the perfect fit for him or her.
Power-ups and skills are also available for use in ground combat, and come in a wide variety of forms, from adding special effects to attacks to allowing Pit to heal himself. Many skills can be equipped at once, with the total number determined by a grid and shape system. Players are presented a grid with a fixed number of squares, and each ability has its own shape. Gamers are free to fit in as many as they wish, so long as they fit in without overlapping or hanging off the grid. This system is a very nice feature that rewards the player for having a clever mind.
For those looking to take the fight to their friends, two online multiplayer modes are available: Light vs. Dark and Free-for-All. The latter is pretty self-explanatory: Six players go toe-to-toe in an all-out battle for the most kills. Players may bring any weapons or abilities they own in single player into this mode, which adds a degree of personalization, but also creates a terrible imbalance in gameplay. Veterans of the main story sporting crazily overpowered gear will wipe the floor with less experienced players, which will dissuade new gamers from getting further involved.
Light vs. Dark, however, is a team-oriented mode. Two teams of three (aptly named Light and Dark) fight across the battlefield, each with its own life meter; when a player is killed a certain-sized chunk will be removed form this bar, dependent upon the player’s gear. The more powerful your weapons and skills, the more life will be severed when you die, which gives a great sense of balance that Free-for-All sorely lacks. Once the life meter reaches zero, the last player to die becomes either Pit or Dark Pit, and if this player is defeated again, that team loses. Overall, this game mode is a riot to play and any online-oriented gamer will be spending a lot of time here.
Graphically, the title is quite detailed and polished, full of dazzling colors and diverse locations. Every character in-game, from the lowest enemy to the highest boss, has been crafted with care, creating a cast that stands out very well. During conversations, a hand-drawn portrayal of the participants is on display on the bottom screen, which can change to show the character’s current emotions and expressions. Vibrant colors are also used, from the shine of fireworks to the blaze of a fire. On the whole, the title is very nice on the eyes, with wonderful uses of Greek mythology and characters, which is also free of any visual glitches.
There are a few issues to note here, however, namely in repetition and placement. Since battles can become very fast-paced, and cutscenes often require your undivided attention, chances are the beautiful artwork on the bottom screen will go completely unnoticed, which is a considerable waste. While there is also a wide array of enemies and locations, you will be seeing a lot of the same few minor minions level after level, which will tire some players fairly quickly.
Audio in-game is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde story, featuring a wonderful soundtrack but a poor voice cast. KI:U has absolutely beautiful music, with long, sweeping melodies on strings and woodwinds, and well-timed brass strikes below, all while percussion adds wonderful accents overtop. Whether it’s a slow and gentle piece, or a dissonant and violet sting, the soundtrack delivers in strides, bringing the theme of ancient Greece to life in the form of song.
If only the same could be said of the voice-overs, which are fairly uninspired. Many actors give either a basic performance, as though they were just going through the motions, or take on an annoying, stylized tone that games imported from Japan are notorious for (such as the manly grunt of a grizzled mercenary). Pit himself is absolutely infuriating to the ears as well, either sounding like a complete whiner, or taking the arrogant, matter-of-fact hero tone that demeans or irritates other characters. All things considered, more time and effort on the actor’s accounts would have been greatly appreciated, instead of creating just another basic and annoyingly stereotypical performance.
When the Power of Flight wears off, Kid Icarus: Uprising comes crashing down hard. While the title sports some fun gameplay, awesome music, and polished visuals, it’s plagued with poor design choices, controls, and voice acting. If you’re a die-hard fan of Nintendo games, hold the original Kid Icarus dear in your heart, or just find Greek mythology interesting, you should take a peek at Uprising. Otherwise, I find it hard to recommend this title to other gamers.
Final Score: 3.75 / 5.0 and a melted set of weathered wax wings.
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