Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kid Icarus: Uprising Review

There's something I need to get off my chest before I begin. Pit and I have never been in good standings with each other. That's not to say that we've always been in bad standings. In fact, I was indifferent to the point of ignorance of his very existence, let alone his NES gem, Kid Icarus until he was included in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (which was the brain-child of Masahiro Sakurai, who just so happened to be the brains behind Kid Icarus. The more you know...) and, boy howdy, did I hate that little pansy. There was nothing redeeming about him: his easily spammable move set, his annoying bitch-voice, and even his stage was annoying to play on. Yep, there was no way in hell I'd ever lik-

ZOMGZ, I have to get this GGAAAHHH!! This hyperbolic reaction, of course, did not surface until the release date of the game was a couple months away and Nintendo started to hype this thing so much that I got video messages sent to my 3DS so that the president of Nintendo of America, Reggie “Goddamn” Fils-Aime, could tell me to watch promo videos highlighting unique mechanics and the like for this new game. That's basically the gist of my journey from hating Pit to being pumped to all hell about his new game. And man, oh man, did this game deliver. I can honestly say that this is the first game (unless you absolutely needed that fifth release of Ocarina of Time) that would drive a person to buy a 3DS. Now that I've wet your lips with my pre-release reaction hors d'oeuvres, let's get to some [food metaphor].


Kid Icarus: Uprising's controls can be jarring at first, but are pretty solid once you get used to it, which happens relatively quickly, at least for me. The stylus and touchscreen are used to aim your weapon, the circle pad is used for movement/dodging, and the L button is used to range/melee attack (depending on how close you are to your target). This setup could be awkward to some and painful to others (I hold it pretty stupidly so the 3DS tends to dig into my palm), but the game comes with a little stand to hold your 3DS while you play. I only used this fantastically free piece of equipment once and I found it to be more cumbersome than just simply holding it. There is a way to change the control scheme to be more button intensive, but I haven't felt the need to change my controls so I can't really compare the two, but the game definitely supports a multitude of play styles. Alright, you're a master of the controls now it's time to play the game.


Gameplay is split, as far as single player is concerned, into two factions: air battles and land battles. An air battle and a land battle, respectively, make up a level and, although there are certain levels where the order is switched, there are few exceptions to this set up (off the top of my head I can only think of one exception).

Air battles are on-rail shooters where you are killing wave after wave of enemies while dodging projectiles and occasionally picking up power-ups. And yes, astute reader, air battles have been compared favorably with Star Fox 64. Even though I think the latter is better (mainly because that's all of what Star Fox 64 is, so it very damn well should be), it's still a very enjoyable experience. The controls are responsive for the most part and it's fun to glide around and kill things. They add simple mechanics like if you don't shoot for a couple seconds your next shot will be a bigger, more powerful charge shot and that you move around more freely when you're not shooting, making it easier to dodge enemy fire. I really like how these two deceptively simple mechanics add an extra layer of depth to these sections increasing the variety of ways to play the game. Do you rapid fire hoping to kill every enemy before they shoot, which leaves you more open but giving you more chance to increase your heart count (currency)? Or do you spend your time dodging and strategically unleashing charge shots when necessary, you may not kill as many enemies, but you'll have a better chance of staying alive? Gives you a little more to think about, huh?

On the higher difficulties, these parts can be pretty much impossible to complete without dying at least once. It's probably because I don't have the right weapons to fit my play style or just a plain o' lack of skill (lol, nope), but at least some of the blame can be put on the back-assward way you dodge. You have to start moving in one direction and then quickly jam the circle pad in the opposite direction. It's pretty difficult to pull of on its own, let alone in the split second you need it. There also seems to be a delay that prevents me from pulling off consecutive dodges and you can't dodge while shooting, so it's pretty worthless. Other than that minor gripe, I really enjoy these sections, but not more than the land battle sections (though there are people that like the air battles better). Bottom line: if you like Star Fox, you'll enjoy these sections.

Land battles are a little different. For one thing, you have full control of Pit, which makes actions like dodging and spacing yourself between enemies a lot easier to pull off. The camera is adjustable and can rotate 360° by sliding the stylus across the touchscreen. Land battles are where you can use “powers” such as shields, adding elemental damage, and even shooting a mega laser at enemies. Powers are formatted outside of battle. The powers look like tetris pieces and each power has a specific shape (better powers having bigger shapes) and you can use has many powers as you can fit in the grid. It's a lot like Resident Evil 4's inventory system in the sense that you try to fit as much stuff as you can in the allotted space. If you feel overwhelmed by have to allocate space strategically then you can have the game randomly set up your powers. So you can just sit there until you get the combination you want. This section is also where the 9 different categories of weapons (bow, blade, claws, orbitars, arm, palm, cannon, staff, club) actually make a difference. Each weapon has a specific range where's it's most effectively and you're actually able to position yourself in the range that best fits your weapon type. These sections also features secret areas where you can get yourself some extra weapons and hearts.

The most interesting feature outside of the actual game is the weapon customization. There are a totally of 108 weapons (12 weapons in each category), which can be obtained through buying weapons in the store or simply finding them in the land battle sections, with better weapons being found more easily at higher difficulties. Weapons come attached with specific attributes that can either improve or hinder your weapon (+4 Range is an example). It's very likely that you can end up owning two of the same weapon, like 2 Darkness Bows, and one is better than the other because of these random attributes. Another cool feature of the weapons system is the weapon fusing. When two weapons are combined the new weapon will take some attributes for the weapons (sometimes taking all of one weapon's attributes and ignoring all of the other one's). You'll want to be careful with your higher level weapons because if you fuse it willy-nilly with a pretty shitty weapon, you lose your high rank weapon and will be left with something mediocre. There's no undo. I really like this system. It brings relevance to the weapons I collect and keeps me perusing the shop for good weapons to fuse.

This game also has a pretty good online multiplayer experience. The two modes that are most notable are Light vs. Dark and Free-for-all, which are basically land battles in teams or against everyone. You can use any of the weapons that you acquire in single player and equip powers to compliment the weapon type you choose. In Light vs. Dark, it's a lot easier to strategize because you can delegate tasks to your group members and overwhelmed your opponents like they weren't even playing, in theory anyways. In my experiences, the results of the match are highly volatile and everybody kind of works on there own. I can be on top, owning everyone, one match and then the next match, with the same people, I'll be like 5th. Free-for-all can seem like it's more chaotic because it's harder to determine the standings during the match. There have been times where the fact that I can in 1st place is a complete shock to me and there have been just as many instances where I'm surprised I didn't come in 1st place. I don't know much about the logistics of internet connection so I don't know if the rare problems I've encountered (slow starts to matches, laggy opponents, etc.) originate from my end or what. As I've stated, though, these have been pretty rare and are usually gone by the next match. The trick to having a good multiplayer experience, is finding a good balance between weapon type and powers. If you're going to be up in someone's face, chose more offensive powers, and so on and so forth with “hit and run” and support weapons. One thing I wish they would've added is a way to add people to a friends' list, even if it was in-game. Inevitably, when playing in mulitplayer, you start forming bonds with the people you're playing with. Whether it be a mutual rivalry in Free-for-all, or a solid “I've got your back” system in Light vs. Dark, these connections shouldn't be just a one time deal. And on that note, I'd like to dedicate this sentence to my Free-for-all rival, Juan: “you sure knew how to use that club. Here's to you!”

What Makes the Game Feel Nice:

“Whoa, whoa! What kinda category title is that??” Well, I'm doing this because you should have already heard enough to go out and buy this game because people base what games to buy off my opinions. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people closed this review already in order to purchase the game, which makes the section completely superfluous. For the few of you that are still reading (by which I mean my friends and family that I have locked in my basement to read and appreciate my online written work. APPRECIATE IT!), I want to breakdown things like visuals and story that help add to the spectacular experience that is Kid Icarus: Uprising. Granted, these may come off as vague descriptions, but you should take that as a measure of how good it is.

If you're still here, let me tell you about the graphics. This game really shows off what the 3DS can do, graphically. The character models are stunning and the animations are smooth. The environments are so amazingly vast and beautiful, especially the flight sections, that I played some of these sections on easier difficulties so I could appreciate the background without having to worry to much about dying. The land battle sections are just as beautiful in the detail of the close quarters. Simply put, the game looks fantastic.

The music of the game has an incredible emotional range spanning hopeful optimistic tracks to ominous boss music. The modern day remixes of tracks from the NES game sound great and fit seamlessly into the game. There's really not that much else to say about it, other than that I think they did a great job.

If you're a story junkie, then I've got a game for you: Mass Eff–? No, Kid Icarus...were you even paying attention? Well, you can really tell that a lot of time and effort was put into the writing of this game and that the people involved had a lot of fun with it. All of the characters have personalities that are believable and, dare I say it, likable?! This makes the fun little banter between characters during the action actually enjoyable rather than annoying. Even getting exposition is fun in the hope of hearing the clever quips between characters. And I actually care what happens to these characters, which makes the story that much more engaging. The progression of events is believable and creative. I didn't even have to question anything when the aliens showed up. I don't want to say anything in particular (my alien comment, notwithstanding) because I want my experience to be emulated by everyone that plays this game. It might seem like a cop-out, but if you want to spoil it that badly I'm sure a quick Google search could help you.

Overall this game is one of the best on the 3DS. And if you're like, “that's not saying much!” First of all, that is saying a lot even if you don't want to believe it. And secondly, why did you even read this far into the review if you're just gonna be dismissive. This is a really fun, unique game with a great amount of depth when it comes to play styles, weapon systems, story, and online experience just to name a few things. You're doing yourself a great disservice if you pass over this game if you have the chance to pick it up and play.

Pit may still be a little bitch in Brawl, but his game sure as hell isn't(it's a pun, 'c-cause he's an angel, I guess):

A/23 (Prooty Good!)


Mike McGee