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REVIEW - Kid Icarus: Uprising

Posted April 11th 2012 by Adam Grayson.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

"Sorry to keep you waiting!"  It's been 21 years since the last Kid Icarus game came out on the Game Boy and 25 years since the original on the NES.  Kid Icarus: Uprising on the Nintendo 3DS is a triumphant return of the classic Nintendo franchise.  I suppose "rebirth" would be more appropriate than "return" in this case since the only two things Kid Icarus: Uprising has in common with its predecessors are the characters and the fact that you shoot enemies.  Masahiro Sakurai, most recently known for his work on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and his team at Project Sora really created a fantastic game here, folks.  The graphics, the music, the gameplay, the sheer amount of content, and the overall quality of the game is truly worthy of admiration.

So why has our main character, Pit, finally returned to the surface world after all these years?  The answer is simple enough: The evil Queen of Darkness, Medusa, has been resurrected and is out for revenge on the Goddess of Light, Lady Palutena, and Pit, the two responsible for banishing her to the Underworld and subsequently defeating her and her army all those years ago.  However, no one, not even Medusa herself, knows how she was revived.  Perhaps there's more to this uprising (get it?) than meets the eye...  Regardless, it's Pit's job as captain of Palutena's personal guard to vanquish Medusa and her underlings to protect both Skyworld as well as the land of the humans.

The characters and the story are presented in a very light-hearted and often comical manner.  Throughout the game, characters talk back and forth to one another with beautifully recorded voice overs (yes, the whole game is voiced).  As Pit goes through the levels, he and Lady Palutena converse with each other, they converse with the bad guys, and the bad guys even converse with each other.  While some might find the constant dialog annoying, I for one adore it.  It's relieving to have such high quality voice work in a first-party Nintendo game, and so much of it too!  But for those who do find the voice overs annoying, they can always turn the dialog's volume down or off in the game's settings.

There are also many bits of dialog that are in-jokes and/or break the fourth wall.  For example, Lady Palutena seems to remember a certain item looking a lot more pixelated 25 years ago, one of the game's bosses compares Pit's escalation of a castle to Donkey Kong, and Lady Palutena jokes about receiving a botched laser eye surgery.  So again, thanks to this kind of writing, the dialog creates a very pleasant atmosphere while playing even when you're throwing the 3DS across the room in rage quit-fueled fury.  All in all, the story and characters are presented in a way that's very reminiscent to a similarly light-hearted and comical anime.

Apparently Pit's a big Nintendogs fan.

Similar to the top-notch voice work, the game's music is simply outstanding.  The majority of the soundtrack is, get this, orchestrated, which is quite a rarity for Nintendo games (though one that is fortunately becoming more and more common).  The orchestrated songs are not only beautifully composed, but many are also timed to correspond with the events happening onscreen.  Songs have moments of serene tranquility while Pit gracefully soars over large, open landscapes, but they also have moments of turbulent chaos when enemies start pouring onto the screen, and things start to get more hectic.  These gorgeous songs only add to the already great experience of playing by making things feel more momentous and grand.

To help Pit save the day, players will guide him through a myriad of different levels that are separated into two distinct parts—air battles and land battles.

Stages begin with Pit soaring through the air shooting down baddies as an on-rails shooter that's very similar to Star Fox and nearly identical to Sin and Punishment.  While Pit's flight path is controlled by the game, or rather, by Lady Palutena, players can move Pit around the screen with the circle pad and move the reticle with the touch screen.  Players use the L button to shoot and can either hold it down for continuous fire or wait for Pit's weapon to charge and fire a large, devastating charge shot.  If enemies get close enough, players can perform a melee attack.  The system works very well and is easy to control.  It's very helpful to be able to move Pit and the reticle independently of each other.  This way, players can stay on the defensive by evading attacks while still retaining full offensive abilities.

After soaring through the air, most levels have Pit land in a nearby area and proceed through the rest of the stage on foot.  Land battles let players control Pit via a third-person (by default) or first-person camera.  Again, players move Pit with the circle pad; however, because Pit can move in three dimensions, the touch screen not only controls the reticle but also the camera, much akin to how Metroid Prime: Hunters controlled on the DS.  By combining continuous and charge shots with dashing (done by tapping the circle pad in a direction), Pit can release a number of different attacks suited for different situations.  Given the basic controls, fighting and moving during land battles is surprisingly easy and effective.

There are nine types of weapons (shown above) and 12 of each type.  On top of that, each individual weapon, even two of the same, will have different attributes, creating a seemingly infinite number of weapons for Pit to use!

One of the most incredible features of Kid Icarus: Uprising is its ability to satisfy both gaming novices and hardcore, masochist gamers.  At the beginning of every level, players can adjust the game's "intensity" (difficulty) from 0.0 to 9.0, and the differences between these are like two completely different games.  Levels set at 0.0 should be beatable by all with the few onscreen enemies hardly ever attacking while 9.0 will flood the screen with enemies and enemy fire giving Pit, at times, no room to budge.  By default, levels are set to an intensity of 2.0, but players can increase or decrease the intensity by spending hearts (the game's currency).  The more the difficulty is adjusted, the more hearts players must pay.  However, while harder difficulties cost more to play, they reward players with more hearts, better weapons, and better powers upon completion.

In addition to getting more hearts and better weapons and powers on higher difficulties, it is extremely satisfying to beat a level at a 9.0 intensity.  It will take a lot of work, and you will die a lot, but in this case, practice really will pay off.

The comparison in the video is only the first level.  The differences between intensities become even greater as the game goes on.

On top of everything else, Kid Icarus: Uprising has a ton of collectibles for players to earn.  Perhaps the most notable collectibles are the Idols.  Idols are 3D models (with a few exceptions) of characters, weapons, items, and levels that players can freely rotate, zoom, and pan around to see all of the glorious detail of each.  Idols also come with a brief description about themselves.

There are a number of ways for players to acquire Idols, but the coolest way is with Kid Icarus: Uprising's AR cards.  Included with the game are six AR cards to start players off.  Scanning these cards will not only give players hearts and display a 3D model of the item or character on the card, but it will also reward the player with that card's Idol.

On top of giving players the Idol on the AR card, the cards can also be used to create interesting 3D scenes full of the cards' items and characters much like the AR cards that come with the 3DS.  Lastly, the AR cards can be used to battle each other Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Duel Monsters or Eye of Judgment style.  Each card has a small arrow on the bottom.  By pointing two cards' arrows at each other, players can initiate an animated battle between the two cards.  While the game only comes with six cards, many more will become available throughout the year.

It's time to duel!

As if all of this single player-oriented content wasn't enough, Kid Icarus: Uprising also features a surprisingly fun and reliably working (big for a Nintendo game) multiplayer component.  Players can decide whether to participate in a free-for-all or team deathmatch style game called Light vs. Dark, each of which can be played either locally or online with friends and/or random people around the world.

Both free-for-all and Light vs. Dark matches consist of up to six participants and allow players to choose their weapon and powers before the match begins.  In custom matches, which can be played with friends and (optionally) friends of friends, players can set a number of different game settings such as time limit, number of computer players and their difficulty, and handicaps.  There are 11 vastly different stages that vary in both style and size, as well as a number of items that drop from time to time that give players additional abilities or stat boosts.  Perhaps the best part is that it's all lag-free.  The multiplayer, like the rest of the game, is a very solid experience.  It does, however, highlight the game's one true flaw—the control scheme.

As previously stated, the game's controls are fairly basic, really only using the L button, the circle pad, and the touch screen.  Despite this, there are two things wrong with the control scheme which are accurately controlling the camera and the way players must hold the 3DS.

During single player, the camera controls aren't really that much of a problem because most enemies tend to stay relatively stationary and do not move quickly around Pit.  In multiplayer, however, this is not the case.  Players are running, dashing, and evading all around each other constantly.  This quick movement makes it hard to keep the camera focused on players you're trying to attack/avoid.  Additionally, you're going to be doing just as much dashing and dodging as the player(s) you're looking at, so that only makes things harder.  The closer players get to each other, the more they need to move the camera, and the worse the problem becomes.  The good news is that everyone will have this problem, so at least you're all playing with the same handicap (that's good news, right?).

The second problem with the controls is the way players will hold the 3DS.  By default, players will grip the system with their left hand and hold the stylus with their right hand.  The continuous movement of the thumb and the constant holding/pressing of L with the index finger combined with the weight of the console on the remaining three fingers (and no support from the right hand) can very quickly lead to strenuous hand cramps.  This is why Project Sora decided to include the 3DS stand that comes packaged with the game.  Thankfully, it does alleviate stress on one's hand (for the most part).  While continued gaming may still result in one's hand cramping, it is nothing like the quick onset of a cramp without the stand.

To offset the faults of the controls a bit more, players have the option to customize just about every aspect of the controls (reticle/camera sensitivity, button mapping, etc.).  Despite all of the possible controls customization, it's a shame to see such an otherwise perfect game hindered so much by the layout of the system's controller inputs.  At least Sakurai and team recognized this and gave players such a wide array of options to help lessen the problem.

The included 3DS stand makes playing the game much more comfortable, and it does a good job of holding the system in place.

Righties will feel right at home with the default controls, but since there's no circle pad on the right side of the 3DS, lefties may have to be creative with customizing controls.  Fortunately, the game's compatibility with the Circle Pad Pro gives lefties a more viable option.

"But what about the graphics?" you ask.  Put simply, the game looks incredible.  Maybe I've just become too used to seeing pixelated textures and jaggy models on handheld platforms, but Kid Icarus: Uprising's graphics and visuals are just phenomenal.  Without much (or any) added effort, Uprising's graphics could easily stand their own against those of many of today's console games.  The models are surprisingly detailed, the textures look flawless, the characters' movements are smooth and fluid, and I've never noticed a drop in frame rate.  All of this is in addition to the vast, vibrant, and hugely differing environments players guide Pit through.  These characteristics alone are more than enough to give Kid Icarus: Uprising a marvelous visual design, but let us not forget that this is all in stereoscopic 3D which enhances the visuals even further.  The potential of the 3DS' 3D effect is highlighted in this game thanks to the huge environments and the many, many enemies moving around the screen at varying distances from Pit.  The game looks consistently amazing throughout the many hours of gameplay.

Just a taste of the very different places you'll guide Pit through on his adventure.

Speaking of which, Kid Icarus: Uprising will last you a surprisingly long time.  The campaign (called "Solo" in-game) alone took me 11-12 hours playing on medium intensities.  I was very pleasantly surprised when the game kept going and going and going.  It was so much fun, I didn't want it to end, and it didn't!  Then, of course, you have practically every other aspect of the game, which adds an enormous amount of replay value.  Increasing level intensities, battling in multiplayer, and collecting all of the Idols and other various collectibles will keep you gaming for a very, very long time.  While it only took me a dozen hours to beat, I've clocked in over 40 hours (and counting) of gameplay.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is an incredible game stuffed to the brim with content and features that will keep players gaming for hours and hours and hours.  The story, accompanied by light-hearted and comical writing, high-quality voice overs, and beautiful music is a pleasure to play through and listen to; the gameplay is fun and easy to understand; the multiplayer is solid and lag free; the models and textures are superb; the levels showcase a beautiful diversity of environments; and the small details found everywhere just make the game that much better.  Everything about this game is just good, polished, and fun.  Its only hindrance is the controls, which aren't really a fault of the game but rather are a fault of the system.  The game does everything it can to overcome this obstacle.  Readers, $40 for the 3DS stand, six AR cards, and this amazing game is well worth it.  I urge you to go out and pick up this great game.

  • System game is available on: Nintendo 3DS
  • Game reviewed was a RETAIL COPY of Kid Icarus: Uprising

Tags: Uprising, Pit, Palutena, Nintendo, 3ds, 3D, on-rails, shooter, Medusa, Sakurai, Kid Icarus

Posted in: Reviews, Entertainment, Gaming

Comments (3) | Permalink | Digg | Reddit

User Comments


The controls are difficult and do hinder the experience, but you're right that it's still worth picking-up. The online mode is a great addition making the game easily worth the price-tag. Adam, you chose good pics and videos for the review, very helpful.

Wednesday, April 11th 2012


The controls are strange but I find it hard to have any complaints after playing it so much. Even in multiplayer where it tends to get frantic, its not too bad after playing a couple of rounds. Good review though. The game is really astounding, and I hope more and more people give it a chance.

Wednesday, April 11th 2012


Yeah, I'm glad you put the pics with the stand. People need to see that. Good review. Glad you liked it! It's another fantastic game from Sakurai, awkward controls and all. I look at it as the sequel to Star Fox 64 that we never got. In a lot of ways, it's even better than that classic.

Monday, May 14th 2012

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