Egads! you cry. Could Soma have finally risen from the dead?
Well, not really. I just managed to get through a particularly busy point. But that matters not! For I have a review!
Oh, and SPOILERS AHEAD. And dragons. And the odd demon or two. But mainly spoilers.
So, Kid Icarus. A few of you older gamers out there may remember the original game for the NES; a semi-typical platformer with a few quirks. As with most games from that era, the plot was simple; you play as Pit, a garden variety angel. Serving Palutena, the goddess of light, Pit one day finds that the Underworld has decided to screw up mankind’s day as a whole by drying crops up and generally making life hard for everyone. Palutena decides to fight back (she’s kinda obligated, being the goddess of light and all) but, as expected, gets captured. She sends Pit a bow and arrows with the last of her powers, then resigns herself to becoming the prison bitch, presumably.
As is usual with games from ye olde 1980s, hero wins, Big Bad gets beat down, you get the drill. Fast forward 25 years…
In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Pit and Palutena return. Sporting the makeover from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Pit is once again thrown against the Underworld forces, led by Medusa and a ton of resurrected bosses and enemies. However, this time the Underworld is only the first enemy that they have to face. Other forces spring up throughout the game; even aliens. I kid you not. But I digress; review time!
The storyline in Uprising is surprising and quite quirky to me. Its composers have managed to make a game that both manages to keep itself linear, but also branches off into a ton of tangents and sideplots. Between the chapters of the game, one can go from a storyline which doesn’t feel quite finished to a completely different one which seems already half done. An example; Pit, in one chapter, defeats the aforementioned aliens. The mission ends and it seems like that’s that. Then, the next one comes up and somehow, Pit has managed to sleep for three years (he must take some SERIOUS medication) and get himself turned into a ring. Now I’ve had some rough nights, but if there’s a drink out there that turns you into jewellery, I want some. Jokes aside, these jarring segues between storylines definitely leave me feeling like they could have added a cutscene or something there to aid the transition a bit.
Now for the characters. There are a good few in Uprising; most of them gods or divine beings. In fact, there’s only one notable human character in the game; Magnus, the token normal badass. The dialogue between the characters is hilariously irreverent even in seemingly serious situations, and it’s quite refreshing to see. The fourth wall gets broken a lot in this game, and Pit is the main culprit; while he’s serious and righteous, he is also written as incredibly naive and almost inexperienced with his surroundings. In addition, other characters will join in with this kind of dialogue, and each follow a certain trope that usually wouldn’t be expected. For example, far from the haughty goddess figure Palutena appears to be, she behaves almost like Pit at times; slightly naive, with a sense of humanity, humour and vulnerability not seen in your average deity. Indeed, Hades (a major character introduced later) may be the personification of the words ‘Magnificent Bastard’.
However, one problem that I see is that characters who could have good effect on the story are instead used as ‘character-of-the-day’ material- they are used only shortly or sparingly, and they generally don’t have much effect on the story. A prime example of this is the aforementioned Normal Badass Magnus. While there is a lot of potential in his character, he just isn’t used enough; in my playthrough of the game I only saw him in two missions. This strikes me as a waste; he could have served as a useful viewpoint into how the mortal side of the world is suffering because of the war between gods. Instead, he’s used as a plot device twice and doesn’t appear again.
Gameplay wise, Uprising is pretty simple; you have two modes of fighting on two fronts, aerial and ground. In the average chapter, you will first control Pit in the air, in an on-rails shooting stage. For convenient plot reasons, Pit can’t fly for more than five minutes at a time; any longer, and his wings will start to burn up. Incidentally, this time limit is used for great effect in dialogue, and especially in a certain mission. I won’t spoil it, but let’s say it definitely puts the ‘Icarus’ in the title. Anyway, these stages consist of Pit flying with Palutena steering. Pit can move anywhere on screen except forward or backward; this is controlled with the Circle Pad, whilst the stylus is used to move the target reticule. You can use two methods of attack here- either you can move Pit into enemies and melee, or move him away and shoot. This control scheme is easy to get used to and is quite fun, and it feels satisfying too. There are a few drawbacks though; for me at least, I found the stages to be quite chaotic at times. You can easily be distracted by explosions and other flashy effects, and as a result lose track of where Pit is on the screen, setting yourself up for a beating. Still, as I said, it’s incredibly fun.
After you’re forced to land, you then battle on land. This is quite different from the flying, yet the gameply manages to keep the general flow and familiarity intact. On land, you are now in full control of Pit. The targeting remains fundamentally the same, but is now also used for 360-degree view via ‘flicking’ the stylus across the screen. Movement is controlled using the Circle Pad, with a similar ‘flicking’ mechanism used for dodging enemies. I have to say I found the camera control somewhat awkward; in order to face the way you want it to, you either have to do tiny flicks a lot, or do one big flick and stop it exactly where you want it to stop. It doesn’t feel quite comfortable and I often found myself facing in a different direction than I wanted.
Next, we have the weapons themselves. You get a veritable smorgasbord (heh) of weapons, from claws to staffs to swords. Each weapon type is made to fill a niche; while most of the weapons seem physically suited to melee, you can use ranged attacks with them too. For example, the Staff weapon type actually conforms to a sniper-type weapon. These weapons can be gained pretty much everywhere; rewards from missions, random treasure chests, and from playing the online multiplayer. There’s a surprising amount of flexibility present in the weapon system, and it really makes collecting and using the different types fun and challenging. In addition, weapons can be fused together using a simple system; get two weapons, stick’ em in a blender and hit frappe. The result often gives a weapon which has better stats than the two originals combined; and the fact that you get very strong weapons from multiplayer means that you’ll easily find a good weapon for your playstyle.
One more feature of the game which really gives it a challenge factor is the Fiend’s Cauldron system. Basically a glorified difficulty setting, the Cauldron appears before every mission and allows players to bet hearts to increase the difficulty. Higher difficulty means more hearts; succeed, and you get a ton of hearts back, along with increased loot and other benefits. Fail, and you lose the hearts you bet, and the game automatically lowers the difficulty if you decide to continue. And the game doesn’t mess around. The harder difficulties are hard. There are more enemies and they’re tougher, and while you get much better weapons to fight them with, boy do you have to earn ’em. And don’t try and set the difficulty right down either! The game also charges more hearts if you lower the difficulty right down, and you don’t get nearly as much loot, or any decent amount of hearts. You either keep it at a moderate difficulty and get mediocre loot, or turn it up to 11 and reap the benefits whilst getting completely pulverised. It’s a great system, and it really allows for players to find their comfort zone- unlike more conventional difficulty systems which can force players into situations which are too hard or easy.
(Personally, though my gameplay I had it set at 3.5 constantly, but that’s a secret between us, yeah? :P)
So, overall opinion? It’s a great game. It’s fun and flexible, and suited to lots of different people and playstyles. The story is funny, serious and irreverent in spades, and it really gets you involved in Pit’s universe. There are some areas that could use polish- characters like Magnus could use a bit of backstory, and the story itself could be smoothed together a tad- but altogether, even if you’re not a hardline fan of Nintendo and its more ‘kiddy’ target audience, this is a game full of action, laughs and fun that shouldn’t be missed.
All images above and any material mentioned is © Nintendo. Don’t mess with their copyright. 😛