Underrated Games: Kid Icarus Uprising

Back in the olden days of gaming, many gaming characters and franchises were established, especially by Nintendo, in different genres for all manner of people to play and enjoy. Enter 1986, the year of the birth of the Legend of Zelda and Metroid series, two franchises with colossal fan bases across the world, almost rivalling Mario and Pokémon. Another, more obscure character shares his birthday with Link and Samus Aran: Pit, protagonist of the Kid Icarus series. The first game, simply titled Kid Icarus, was built on the same engine as the first Metroid game, and therefore at first glance has a similar look and feel to it. The aim of the game was to travel from the Underworld to Skyworld, traversing platforms and destroying minions of the Underworld Army as you go, before a climatic battle with the Goddess of Darkness, Medusa, in order to rescue Pit's leader, the Goddess of Light Palutena. A game with many quirks and alternate endings, it was deemed one of the hardest of the NES era, as stated by many gamers and nostalgia-fans alike. However, the series and mythos was left to fester in Nintendo's library for 2 decades, except for a spin off title in 1991, Of Myths and Monsters, which was never released in Japan, despite Nintendo's roots. Almost 25 years after the original game's release, enter Masahiro Sakurai, creator of Kirby and Super Smash Bros., who took it upon himself to form Project Sora for a "mystery project," revealed at Nintendo's E3 conference in 2010 as Kid Icarus: Uprising, the revival and continuation of the story, partly from the popularity of the appearance of protagonist Pit in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, reviving people's interest in the series. The new game plays very similarly to Starfox, with air and land battle segments in every chapter. The game was also created, according to Nintendo, to fully demonstrate the graphical, portable and control capabilities of the new 3DS, such as using the touch screen for camera movement, and relatively short chapters for consideration of the 3DS representing gaming on the move. 

Despite the individually short early chapters, the length increases considerably later into the game and the replay value of each unique chapter is astounding. All of the chapters feel unique, with a huge menagerie of Underworld nasties and other foes, and a wonderfully distinct setting for each, such as exploring an underwater temple in one chapter, and flying into space the next. And yes, that is literally how the game progresses. The game allows you to choose between hundreds of weapons, with encouragement for the player to craft by combining weapons you obtain from chapters, and with unique stat upgrades, and effectiveness in ranged and melee combat. Weapons are split into different categories, so that choosing a weapon is easier based upon your preference and playstyle; no one type is significantly better than the other, they all have their own unique mechanics and benefits, as well as minor draw-backs in order to make the player think about what to use as you progress through the game towards completion. 

Every chapter also uses a very good risk and reward mechanic, allowing you to 'bet' your in game currency, hearts, to play on harder difficulties, ranging from Effortless (0) to Nothing Harder (9), which have increasingly stronger enemies, and in greater numbers. You are rewarded for not dying during the chapter with extra points, and dying costs you a portion of hearts every time, and knocks down the difficulty by 1 stage. In addition, rather than bet hearts and quickly earn them back on higher difficulties, playing any lower than Standard (2) will force to to simply pay up, and those hearts are likely impossible to make back in a single play through. You also receive better loot throughout the chapter and as reward at the end of the chapter. Playing at harder difficulties is also mandatory for fully completing the game, since most levels have 'Intensity Gates,' which can only be entered at minimum difficulties, since treasure chests throughout the levels are required to have been looted in order to count towards that chapter's completion.

For the game to remain fluid, all story and exposition play out as you are playing the game, with conversations between characters on the touch screen either discussing the current events of the narrative, or making jokes and references as certain characters bond and clash with each other. The characters themselves are easily one of the best aspects of the game, with characters based upon Greek mythology and original ideas being turned into anime characters, and all with loveable distinctions from one another, and aren't as simplistic as you might think, despite the set up being cheesy and self aware at times. For example, Pit is your typical happy-go-lucky protagonist, who also has fears, aspirations and sometimes is an idiot, much to the chagrin of others, and his own obliviousness. Unfortunately, some of my favourite characters I feel as though I shouldn't talk about since that would be entering heavy spoiler territory as they don't appear until a fair way into the story, but both each have some of the best quirks and lines not just in this game, but in any game I've played. However, I can talk about another favourite of mine, Palutena. According to Divinipedia (one of the best jokes in the game), she is the Goddess of Light, and protagonist Pit is the captain of her centurion army. People new to the game would see her as a typical wise woman character without any sense of fun. However, this is not the case by any means. She is actually very goofy, and genuine. She has her flaws and misunderstandings, but because of her demeanour she takes it upon herself to work upon them, and while she does seem to make many risky and dangerous choices especially with Pit always being on the receiving end, she shows genuine affection toward her captain, and acts like a sisterly mentor to him.

Another point to make about this game is the soundtrack. I do not believe I have ever heard a better soundtrack to a video game outside the works of Nobuo Uematsu and Yoko Shimomura. The music is fully orchestrated, and unique tracks are used for every chapter, with a shared and kick-ass boss theme to boot. Multiple genres and styles of music are used in the game, but the most common would have to be orchestral, giving the game a truly epic feeling despite the loveably silly circumstances. The voice cast is also nothing to sneeze at, with seasoned veterans Troy Baker, Hynden Walch and Fred Tatasciore joining the fray for the English version as just an example.

The game also has a multiplayer mode, for battling other players either locally or globally, with the items and abilities you have obtained so far. There is either a team battle, Light vs. Dark, which pits teams of 3 against each other for victory. The other is a simple free for all battle; every man and angel for himself. The multiplayer doesn't add anything significant to the single player, but feels like a good and worthy addition to the game- just as all games should be. Single player should always be the priority, and then multiplayer can be built upon.

The main and perhaps only criticism this game seems to receive is in regards to the control scheme, with reports of potential hand cramp issues due to how the 3DS needs to be held in order to play efficiently. Your dominant hand is used for the stylus and touch screen, and your other hand is used for moving and attacking. While the controls can be changed, the lack of compatibility with the Circle Pad Pro peripheral seems to hold it back greatly for left handed players, although despite being right handed myself I can't comment much further on this issue.

All in all, Kid Icarus: Uprising is an amazing experience from start to finish, and then beyond, with countless unlockable items and achievements to entice you to continue playing for hours on end.

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