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Kid Icarus: Uprising

by Aaron Kaluszka - January 22, 2012, 4:12 pm PST
Total comments: 25

Pit packs a punch... and a staff, and a club, and a blade, and a...

Taking place 24 years after the original, Medusa has returned to torment humankind, and Palutena calls upon Pit to take down the snake-headed goddess and her Underworld Army. Though it's populated by many of the same monsters, Kid Icarus: Uprising is nothing like the original games, but it's a huge mish-mash of several types of games. I played Uprising for over two hours at Nintendo's offices, and had a chance to play through chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8. What I found was a unique highly polished title featuring great gameplay, lots of unlockables, a ton of character, and some carpal tunnel.

Chapters in Kid Icarus: Uprising are split into airborne and ground-based sections, culminating in a boss battle. The on-rails sky sections are highly reminiscent of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, where players move with the Circle Pad, target shots with the touch screen, and shoot with the L trigger. Dodges are performed by moving left and right in quick succession. On the ground, you move around with the Circle Pad and the touch screen is used to target and turn. Flicking in a direction allows you to turn quickly, which is especially necessary if enemies are attacking from behind. You can dash and dodge by double tapping the Circle Pad in the desired direction.

One major concern with the game at E3 was the controls. They've been tuned and now work very well, including turning while on the ground that many had trouble with in the past. The trick here is to flick and then tap to stop turning and re-target. Once I understood the controls, they quickly became second-nature, and are pretty optimal given the available controls of the 3DS. That isn't to say you won't end up with cramped hands after playing some of the intense sections of the game. Fatigue can set in, making it particularly hard to perform the quick dash type moves.

I did get a chance to try out the game with the included 3DS stand, however, I actually preferred playing without the stand. While the stand alleviates some stress from holding the 3DS in the air, I couldn't find an angle to hold it that felt comfortable. Despite using the stylus, I found it best to support the 3DS with not only my left hand, but my right pinky. Unfortunately, due to the dimensions of the dev cards, I wasn't able to try left-handed play with the Circle Pad Pro.

Sakurai's influence is heavily felt in the game. For instance, the menus and atmosphere are extremely reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Kirby Air Ride. There are an absurd number of weapons in the game, much more in line with an RPG. There are the nine base weapons classes (blade, bow, cannon, arm, claws, palm, orbitars, staff, and club), each of which include many types. But each individual weapon has its own unique stat boosters, meaning that even two weapons of the same type are different, providing an practically innumerable number of armaments. Each weapon has three modes of operation, a longer range projectile attack, a close-up melee attack, and charged projectile attack, which charges automatically with non-use.

The varied weapon types significantly alter gameplay since each weapon has different speed and range attributes and special effects. Players will have to carefully balance the pros and cons each weapon in both air and ground combat. You can only change weapons at the beginning of each chapter or after you die. What works well in the sky may not work well on the ground or in the boss battles. This was made especially clear to me during the Dark Pit battle where my slower cannon weapon made the battle difficult, but after dying and re-equipping with orbitars, I decimated my opponent in seconds. In another case, though I equipped a slow, close-range club, it had the ability to reflect enemy fire, which proved even more useful than homing shots.

Treasure chests contain a number of special items that will last for a limited time such as auto dodge, a back shield, and a centurion that will assist you; however, some chests may contain enemies. In addition, Pit can use specific powers such as a mega laser or health recovery from a menu on the touch screen or using the D-pad. These powers can be used a limited number of times. The game also includes various vehicles that can be commandeered.

Outside of the weapons' stat modifiers, there is another system where collected artifacts can be used to boost stats and provide powers. Each modifier is represented by a puzzle piece reminiscent of Tetris's. These pieces can be moved and rotated to fit into a grid and any that fit will become active. You can request Palutena to automatically fit pieces into the grid, and she will do so randomly. You can lock pieces into place before the randomization as well. On top of this, you can store up to four different configurations to easily switch between the ability set of choice. The RPG-like system certainly adds an interesting twist.

The first three chapters were previously shown in a timed format, but that was only for trade shows -- the final game will not have a time limit. Chapter 6 changes up the pace where Pit must face off against Dark Pit, who attacks throughout the level, both in the air and on the ground. Unlike some of the more orchestral tracks of other stages, Chapter 6 features a Spanish guitar. Overall, the music is varied and excellent and worthy of a soundtrack release.

Chapter 8 goes in a completely different direction, taking players into space to infiltrate the Space Pirates' ship. It reminds me strongly of portions of the Subspace Emissary both in its bright and colorful presentation and off-the-wall story. Somehow, the Space Pirates have taken the Three Sacred Treasures (which Pit needs to fight Medusa), and Pit must recover them. Here, Pit battles mechanical soldiers, who hold no allegiance to the Underworld Army. In fact, in certain areas, the Army and Pirates fight each other, instead of choosing to engage them, you can sit back and let them take each other out.

Sakurai was apparently trying to incorporate elements of anime, interspersing humor and absurdity into what seem like they should be serious moments. Voiced dialog takes place on the bottom screen almost non-stop with Pit, Palutena, and even Medusa frequently chatting it up, and occasionally providing tips. These scenes are better experienced on lower difficulty settings, as under more intense difficulties, it's pretty impossible to pay attention to. The story itself is a giant bowl of Velveeta, with cheesiness oozing out at every moment. Pit, far from a glorious hero, is pretty dense and can't even fly without Palutena's power, and even the bright and youthful-sounding Palutena can be a bit mischievous, for instance, using monster pheromone on Pit to get monsters to attack him. There are also a number of references to the original game, complete with NES graphics.

The game plays on RPG stereotypes with chapter two introducing the rough and sarcastic human Magnus, who wields a giant sword and Dark Lord Gaol, the stage's boss who turns out to be a young woman under the armor. The third stage introduces the serpentine Hewdraw (one of the many re-introduced enemies from the original game), but this time he's giant, can fly, and has three heads. Comically, these three heads bicker with each other in an English accent.

One very cool new feature is the Fiends Cauldron, which serves as a difficulty modifier for the game. Here, the difficulty meter runs from 0 to 9 in 0.1 increments with 2 as the base difficulty. Higher settings have more enemies, but also better weapons and treasures to find. Some stage sections are also blocked off below a certain difficulty level. For difficulties above 2, players bet hearts (the game's currency), which are dumped into the cauldron for the chance at those rewards. If you die, you lose some of the hearts and the difficulty drops by 1. At difficulties below 2, players can directly pay hearts in order to breeze through the stage. After completing a chapter, the game will recommend a difficulty level for the next chapter based on your performance, and it also keeps track of the highest level at which you've beaten a chapter. Overall, it's a pretty ingenious difficulty system, which nicely caters to players of all types so that anybody can play, but the challenge keeps people coming back for more. The higher difficulties are absolutely brutal, where it can be challenge to stay alive for even a minute.

From what I've seen so far, the game packs a ton of extra content, fun rail shooting sequences, colorful scenery, an excellent sound track, and humorous dialog -- and there's a lot I didn't see yet. The Fiends Cauldron is perhaps the best difficulty adjustment mechanic I've seen, and it should greatly increase replayability. A welcome and long-awaited new entry into the franchise, Kid Icarus: Uprising went from not even being on my radar to a must-pre-order.


Sounds like S&P lovers will get plenty out of this; however, it sounds more and more like a game I personally do not want to play. Sakurai's single-player games have never fully impressed me, except perhaps Meteos, and I probably couldn't stick with online multiplayer due to the controls.

AdrockJanuary 22, 2012

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Sounds like S&P lovers will get plenty out of this; however, it sounds more and more like a game I personally do not want to play.

Agreed. I'm glad the game exists as it will make tons of fans happy. However, it just doesn't seem like my cup of tea.

You have no idea how happy this makes me.

Watching the conference at E3 2010, I remember them bringing up Project Sora, something I believe I read in an EGM rumor mill two years before. When they unveiled that dream project, and that part in the trailer where Pit goes "Sorry to keep you waiting!", my excitement was actually verbal.

Reading website impressions over the past year, however, were not great. There was either camera issues, formulaic gameplay, or the 3DS being generally uncomfortable to hold. The fact that this is a rail shooter with a boss at every level made me think we were getting a 3 hour game with some light replay value. In fact, I still sort of think that. But when you said its comfortable to hold and that the game is much more polished, I have hope about the final package. Not as much as I thought I would, but at least there are no more second thoughts about cancelling my pre-order.

Chozo GhostJanuary 22, 2012

I wish Gunpei Yokoi was still alive so he could see this.

CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterJanuary 22, 2012

Sounds like a blast to me! Can't wait!

Gunpei created metroid as well right?

I wonder if this is how the series is going to progress from here on out? I would love to see a console version with a different direction as well.

SundoulosJanuary 22, 2012

Based on the videos, the dialogue seems as if it will be an internet meme goldmine.  I wonder if it will reach Starfox 64 levels?

I have yet to play a S&P game; I'm looking forward to giving this a try.  I'm actually a little excited for this.

EnnerJanuary 22, 2012

A rival duel with a Spanish guitar playing in the background? I wonder if any one in Sakurai's team really likes Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.

It's probably fair to say that Gunpei Yokoi co-created Metroid with Yoshio Sakamoto. I believe the conventional wisdom is that Yokoi drove the game design, while Sakamoto was more involved with the character design and atmosphere.

Luigi DudeJanuary 23, 2012

Technically, the real co-creator of Metroid is Makoto Kano who thought of the original concept for the game, while Sakamoto designed the game around that concept.

In the case Kid Icarus, it was also Makoto Kano who once again thought of the original concept, while Toru Osawa who responsible for the game design of that one.

Makoto Kano still works for Nintendo but hasn't worked on any games since the 90's.  The last Nintendo related things he appeared in was this Iwata Asks on the Game & Watch devices since he actually helped make games for those.  Dudes one of the oldest Nintendo employees.


xcwarriorJanuary 23, 2012

This games sounds a lot more appealing and better made now. I might have to pick this one up after all.

KDR_11kJanuary 23, 2012

I didn't think it was bad when I played the demo at CeBit. Probably the biggest weakness of the game was how little we knew about it. With Mario or Zelda we know what the game is like and the demo is only a tiny part of our knowledge but this is practically a new IP and nobody knew what the game was like outside the demoed parts.

Replaying levels at higher difficulties for better loot is one of the main driving factors of Sandlot games so I hope Kid Icarus does it as well.

CericJanuary 23, 2012

I went from couldn't care less when we first heard about this game to pretty excited to at least watch a play through after the first 3DS Video to Picking up day one after reading these impressions.

How difficulty done sounds neat especially blocking sections from lower difficulties.  Having chatter going on is something I can easily enjoy.  That is actually one of the things I like to see in a new Fire Emblem.  I'm a little wary that the weapon system may get to complex for its own good but we'll see.

Over all I'm ready for this dense type of experience.

NinSageJanuary 23, 2012

Can't wait! This is my most anticipated 3DS title!

Mop it upJanuary 23, 2012

Quote from: Adrock

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Sounds like S&P lovers will get plenty out of this; however, it sounds more and more like a game I personally do not want to play.

Agreed. I'm glad the game exists as it will make tons of fans happy. However, it just doesn't seem like my cup of tea.

Same here. I don't really see how this game relates to the original NES game, so I have to wonder what the point is.

Luigi DudeJanuary 23, 2012

Quote from: Mop

Same here. I don't really see how this game relates to the original NES game, so I have to wonder what the point is.

So you don't see the game has the same main characters from the NES game, enemies and bosses from the NES game, remade music from the NES game, area's similar to those found in the NES game?

Not to mention the original NES game was a linear level to level action game as well.  The gameplay to this game is basically what would happen if you made a 3D Kid Icarus.  Instead of a 2D action game, it's now a 3D action game.  Yeah there's some new features that are added but that's no different than how 3D Mario and Zelda have new features over their 2D counterparts as well.

E3 Hype Train EngineerJanuary 24, 2012

darn megabyte, always getting the mad hookups.

Mop it upJanuary 24, 2012

Quote from: Luigi

Yeah there's some new features that are added but that's no different than how 3D Mario and Zelda have new features over their 2D counterparts as well.

The 3D Mario and Zelda games still have the same type of gameplay, though. I just feel that Kid Icarus had more potential as a platformer/shooter hybrid than an on-rails shooter, a genre in which Nintemdo already has two other franchises. Though it's possible there is more to this game than I've seen, so I'll be checking out what the full game is like once it's released.

More than half of the game is a third-person shooter. Only the flying parts are on rails.

Mop it upJanuary 24, 2012

Ah, perhaps I misinterpreted, as I was under the impression that the majority of the game was like that. Hopefully it's more like the NES game than what I've seen so far.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)January 25, 2012

It is quite curious how the information was handled regarding this game. Nearly two years after its announcement, I'm still not sure I've got a handle on it.

My main questions are about what you actually do during the ground sections, when you have full, direct control of Pit's movements. Is it a linear path full of enemies or a more open-space to explore freely? Are there environmental puzzles to solve, akin to a Zelda dungeon?

It's mostly a linear path, though there are some branches and a tiny bit of backtracking. I didn't see any significant puzzles, nothing more than hit the right switch to open up the next area/treasure room.

Super Leary LandJanuary 31, 2012

I really can not wait for this game. Before Christmas I was not to bothered about Kid Icarus, but now I can't wait! Bring on the 23rd of March!

New trailer tries to explain the Fiend's Cauldron:

cubistFebruary 03, 2012

Quote from: Chozo

I wish Gunpei Yokoi was still alive so he could see this.

Gunpei would say that this is what he wanted Virtual Boy to be in terms of 3D gameplay and he'd be all about the new Kid Icarus.

CericFebruary 03, 2012

9 looks fun.

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Game Profile

Kid Icarus: Uprising Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Sora

Worldwide Releases

na: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Release Mar 23, 2012
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Shin Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami
Release Mar 22, 2012
eu: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Release Mar 23, 2012
aus: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Release Mar 29, 2012

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