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Kid Icarus: Uprising – 3DS

Kid Icarus: Uprising – 3DS

Kid_Icarus-Uprising_logo

     Platform: Nintendo 3DS

     Developer: Sora Ltd.

     PublisherNintendo

     Release DateMarch 23rd, 2012 (NA)

     Genre: Rail Shooter, Action/Adventure

     Rating: 8.0 out of 10

 

“Pit: (…) before we get started, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. 
Palutena: And what’s that? 
Pit: Who is this ‘Icarus’ guy this game is named after? Can I meet him? 
Palutena: Uhm…Actually, no. But let’s not worry about that. 
Pit: …why not? What happened to Icarus? 
Palutena: Let’s just focus on you right now.”

Space pirates, angels, demons, Greek mythology, anime, eco-terrorism, possessions, deceptions, concessions, and play sessions. Lots of play sessions. 89 hours worth, last I checked. I’d say I got my money’s worth. What are we playing? Is this Metroid? Doom? True Lies 2: The Truthening? Nope, it’s Kid Icarus: Uprising.

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing this review, as previous drafts were less of a review on the game and more of a review on the game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the game, but I want to make one thing very clear: Sakurai’s influence, for better or worse, is visible in every single stitch of Uprising‘s cloth.

First, a little history: Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first game unveiled for the 3DS, and as such serves as something of a tech-demo. Though it isn’t a launch title, it sets a benchmark for the bells and whistles of the 3DS, showcasing its aural and graphical power, its 3D muscle, its touchscreen, its WiFi and Street/SpotPass functionality, and even its long-neglected AR capability. About the only 3DS feature that the game doesn’t flaunt is the gyroscope function (a decision that Sora Ltd. perhaps should have rethought, but more on that later).

Uprising also serves as the first Kid Icarus game in over two decades. The franchise’s revival is a personal labor of love from Sakurai, as he formed a development team exclusively for the project (Project Sora was dissolved shortly after the game’s release), oversaw game design, and wrote the game’s story himself. If we’re lucky, maybe he’ll use that influence for Star Fox and F-Zerobut I digress.

Point is, it’s a Sakurai game, and if you played Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a lot’s going to feel familiar. The games have similar aesthetics for the menu screens, both feature an in-game “wall-and-tile”-based achievement system, both are jam-packed with collectible figurines (and lottery-based methods of acquiring said figurines), both revel in their own ridiculousness, and both manage to bend over backwards for player customization while simultaneously neglecting some common-sense options. Hell, they even both have a practice area to play around with in the interim between multiplayer sessions.

Dat consistent design language.

Dat consistent design language.

The thing that mystified me about Brawl, and thus continues to mystifies me about Uprising, is that the games go out of their way to cater to the player’s whim, yet stop just short of addressing the most nagging gripes. In Brawl, you could tweak everything from the probability that a certain song will play on a stage to the amount of gravitational influence exerted in multiplayer matches–the game literally lets you change gravity. And yet, players are not given the option to disable tripping, and characters still don’t have alternate costumes (save for Wario).  Likewise, Kid Icarus offers 91 (!!!) difficulty levels, the ability to adjust touchscreen sensitivity, 9 different weapon classes, a complex (and addicting) weapon-crafting system, customizable skills, and a variety of control options, yet has no real solution to its clunky controls. The controls are the biggest make-it-or-break-it, but before we talk about those, let’s talk about the game itself.

rsz_1pitandpalutena_5928

The stars of the show.

Like in the previous games, you play as Pit, servant of the Goddess Palutena. Pit’s job is to fight back the encroaching forces of the underworld and ultimately stop the return of the evil Medusa (the series’ primary antagonist). From there, the plot goes completely bonkers, and it’s in the absolute best way possible. Full disclosure, no exaggeration, Uprising is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. Its plot is charmingly ridiculous, taking you through absurd plot twists and turns and tossing you everywhere from the bottom of the ocean to a star ship. The game’s usage of Greek mythology is fast and loose (to put it mildly), but it has all the elements of a classic myth at its core. Put another way, the entirety of the plot (and most of the dialogue) can be summed up as a bunch of deities squabbling and petulantly arguing with each other, all at the expense of mankind. And it’s wonderful. Stupid, stupid, and wonderful.

The best writing ever.

The best writing ever.

Uprising‘s characters aren’t anything original, but they’re clever. Almost everyone (with the tentative exception of Pit) is a sardonic, sarcastic, subversive jackass. Dialogue consists of back-and-forth quips, rapid-fire insults, and allusions to other games–this is a world where the fourth wall is more of a guideline, not a rule. I’d say 80 percent of the dialogue is banter, especially between Pit and Palutena, and its littered with intentionally stupid jokes, subversive humor, and the occasional (and surprisingly poignant) observation on human nature. The script is bolstered by some stellar voice work (including the ever-amazing Cree Summer) and lush production values.

For starters, the entire soundtrack is orchestrated, and it sounds fantastic. The visuals really show off the 3DS’ graphical muscle,  and there’s a lot to be said for the anime-inspired character art and the wildly varying monster designs. Playing with 3D doesn’t add anything essential to the experience, and I experienced some slight ghosting when turned all the way up, but it’s not an issue at a lower setting. It’s at its best in the game’s flying sequences and some of the more spectacular boss fights, otherwise it’s just another element of the presentation–one that isn’t necessarily good or bad. Whether you play with 3D on or off ultimately comes down to personal preference (duh).

By the way, the boss fights are fantastic.

By the way, the boss fights are fantastic.

SPEAKING OF THE GAMEPLAY (he says 76 paragraphs into the review), it’s…well…it’s good. Most levels follow a basic 2-part structure: part 1 has Pit flying around, part 2 has him grounded. Those who know the Kid Icarus series know that Pit can’t actually fly on his own, so the flying segments usually have Palutena “guiding” Pit through an area using her powers, which only last for a limited amount of time. I bring this up because the flying segments are inevitably shorter than the ground segments, so if you’re wondering why…well…yeah…there you go.

Basicallythis.

Basically this.

Anyway, Palutena “guiding” your overall path means the flying segments are on-rails shooting segments. Think of these as a cross between Space Harrier and Star FoxSpace Harrier in that you’re a little guy flying around shooting stuff, Star Fox in that the shooting segments are actually fun. You’re given some screen-clearing bombs, the ability to charge shots, and powerups to pick up from fallen enemies, so it’s a pure rail shooter. A really good one, at that. These segments are easily the best in the game, offering brainless fun with enough challenge (stemming mostly from unique enemy types that require more strategic approaches to defeat) to keep things from getting boring. Default controls have you moving Pit with the Circle Pad, aiming with the stylus, and shooting with the L-button. It works, but longer play sessions tend to end in numb fingers and/or cramped hands, at least for me. That said, I have pretty big hands, and I played on the original 3DS. Had I used an XL, perhaps I wouldn’t have this complaint. Even so, I would have liked the option to control firing and shooting with the stylus, and considering the amount of control options offered, I’m surprised it wasn’t included.

Shootin stuff

So the flying segments are fun, but what about the ground? Well…that’s where things get…polarizing. Most of the criticism for Uprising comes from the controls for the ground segments. Aiming, moving, and firing are all on the same buttons, but now they serve a double-duty. Since Pit now moves in three dimensions, the stylus now controls aiming and camera positioning. You adjust the camera by quickly flicking the stylus in the desired direction, then tap the center of the touch screen to stop. The tutorial level likens it to spinning a globe then putting your finger on it to stop. Surprisingly, it works. Despite all odds, the camera controls fine and you’ll very rarely run into any issues.

The problem is that it’s awkward. You’re controlling direction and orientation with one hand and moving and firing with the other–all while holding the 3DS. Worse still, Pit’s moveset expands on the ground. In addition to aiming and orientation, the touch screen now also has a list of special powers for you to scroll through and activate; quickly moving the Circle Pad twice in a row in a direction controls Pit’s ability to jump, dodge, roll, and sprint; and pressing the fire button when next to an enemy will launch a melee combo. It’s a lot to remember, a lot to manage, and murder on your hands for long play sessions.

Ground segments are a little clunkier and rely more on out-maneuvering the enemy. Also, SPACE PIRATES.

Ground segments are a little clunkier and rely more on out-maneuvering the enemy. Also, SPACE PIRATES.

That’s really the game’s biggest gripe: the controls. The developers know it–the game comes with a stand to mount your 3DS on while playing. It doesn’t do much for the flying segments, but it makes the ground segments a bit easier on the fingers. Further, there are a lot of control options. You can go as far as to map player movement to the face buttons and cursor moment to the Circle Pad, if you’re so inclined. The game even offers Circle Pad Pro support…but only so left-handed players can use the stylus with their left hand. That particular point is especially frustrating–the game would benefit immensely from dual analog support. It may lack the precision of aiming with the stylus, but it’d at least be another option for people who don’t feel like getting carpal tunnel. Hell, even a gyroscopic control option could have some use. It’s the biggest thorn in the game’s side, and it’s enough for some people to write it off altogether. I personally didn’t mind it until I started playing on higher difficulties, but even I can acknowledge that they’re awkward. The game itself plays like a dream, it’s just the layout that’s frustrating.

Yup, you fixed it. Great job.

Yup, you fixed it. Great job.

Outside of the main game modes, players have the opportunity to spend the hearts they collected from fallen enemies on different weapons in the game’s store. The best way to earn hearts is by playing through the levels at higher difficulties, as the enemies drop more hearts, and the jackpot (the hearts given to you for beating a level) is worth more. However, there’s a catch: the higher you set your difficulty, the more hearts you wager. If you die, you lose hearts, and the difficulty is lowered. Do a bad enough job, and there’s a chance you lose several thousand hearts. Whether the risk is worth it or not is up to you.

The weapons themselves are divided into nine categories, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are 108 distinct weapons in total, and each of those weapons have base traits. However, Uprising‘s weapon system functions similar to Borderlands in that weapons are randomly generated with different abilities/stat bonuses, so in reality there are thousands of different weapon combinations and attributes available. Further, players can fuse different weapons together to create different weapons with different traits. The result is a deceptively simple but addicting weapon crafting system. Players can also collect different skills from in-level treasure chests and other opportunities. It’s another layer to the combat system, allowing you to temporarily increase your stamina, or give yourself brief invulnerability, etc. etc. Equipping skills is a puzzle game in itself–different skills have different “shapes”, and you have to rotate and adjust those shapes so that they all fit together on a small grid. Sound confusing? Well, I’ll put it this way: it’s a slightly more organized version of the sticker system in Brawl.

Basically, Uprising is packed to the gills with content. If you can get past the controls, you’ll find a charming, funny, original game with a long single-player campaign, a decent multiplayer mode, and a ton of replay value. Thing is, the controls really do define the experience for you, and it’s a matter of taste and tolerance. Some people can’t stand it, some people merely put up with it. I’m more of the latter, but I understand the former’s perspective, and that’s the ONLY reason the game doesn’t have a higher score than what I gave it. If you were to ask me personally, the game’s an easy 9/10. Really though, the score can range anywhere from 4/10 to 11/10, depending on how much the controls work for you. Regardless of what I think, Uprising is still a solid experience, and it’s the reason why I (and any 3DS owner worth their salt) will have terrible arthritis ten years from now.

/fin.

/fin.

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon

 
 

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6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Wii - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. Pingback: Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo Direct April 8th, 2014 - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  3. Lady Russell says:

    I totally understand. While I love the great sense of humor this game has, I did not love how my hand kept cramping up. I do think it was worth the suffering. I never got to play online though, and I kinda wish I had. Heard some great things about it.

     
  4. Nike Halifax says:

    Aw shucks, I’m flattered. This was the hardest one to write so far, both because there’s SO MUCH STUFF in this game and because I really like it despite some significant flaws.

     
  5. Lady Russell says:

    Great minds think alike! I was thinking of reviewing this game, but I’m glad you did. You put everything I wanted to say (and some things I wasn’t thinking about, but totally agree with) and said it way more eloquently than I could have. Great article!

     
  6. Pingback: Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy - 3DS - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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