Title: Kid Icarus: Uprising
I went into Kid Icarus: Uprising with pretty low expectations. Sure, I enjoyed the original Kid Icarus on the NES, despite its crippling difficulty. But rebooting a franchise that hasn’t seen a new entry in over 20 years can be risky. As an adult gamer, I was concerned that they had made this newest entry into more of a kid’s game than its predecessors. As it turns out, those fears were completely unwarranted. It has many flaws, but at the end of the day, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fantastic and innovative game.
Uprising introduces a novel method of gameplay where you aim your weapon by using the touchscreen while controlling character movement with the left circle pad, using L to fire. If this sounds simple, that’s because it is. If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is.
Yes, it can be difficult to operate even these simple controls. If you’re playing it on the go, you’re going to have to figure out a new way of holding the system to make it all work. The game comes packaged with a little stand; since I bought it used, I only had the game, but thankfully the Wii U gamepad stand serves as a good backup. I played mostly on the go, but I used the stand when at home, and it was helpful.
There are many customization options available, which would be great except for the fact that apart from allowing you to mirror the control figuration on the right side for lefties, you cannot use the second pad on a Circle Pad Pro or the new C-stick to control your aim. This is very unfortunate, as it would have helped tremendously with control while on the ground.
Each chapter is broken down into two sections: One on-rails shooting section where Pit flies through the air, and one on-ground combat section. The on-ground sections are always longer. I actually feel like the touchpad works really well as a novel concept while playing the on-rails sections, and I applaud the developers for trying out this new style. However, it’s atrocious on the ground. I can’t tell you how many times I ran off a cliff or did something else stupid just because I never got the hang of using the controls on the ground. Halfway through the game I found a configuration in the options menu that worked better for me (making the four A, B, X, and Y buttons aim the reticle), but it still never felt very good.
That’s a big problem, especially since it seems like those ground sections make up about 75% of your gameplay. Another big issue with ground combat is the stamina system. When you run for a fairly short period, Pit gets tired, and doesn’t just slow down, but literally comes to a dead stop. This is incredibly annoying, and frustrated me on many occasions. You’re already dealing with a character that has a ton of super powers, why make them fatigued after running for 5 seconds?
Yet another problem with the ground combat sections is the item selection screen. There is a ton of space on the bottom touchscreen, yet they found it fit to make you rotate an insanely tiny dial in the bottom left corner to cycle through your items. I know some people will use the touchscreen to move, but it really didn’t make sense to me to make the items so difficult to select. I often selected the wrong one at the wrong time because of it.
Last in this growing list of complaints is the weapon fusion system. You can combine weapons to create new ones, but it’s never really explained how this process works or why some fusions work so much better. I never understood it through the entire game, and just kept fusing for the sake of fusing.
On to the good stuff. In addition to the controls, I was also originally worried about the dialogue. Story isn’t necessarily super important to me in games like this, but if the characters are going to maintain a regular dialogue, then having it be interesting is a must.
Thankfully, I loved listening to Pit regularly converse with Palutena. In fact, it was one of the highlights of the game! There is some genuinely witty and fun banter transpiring throughout the campaign, and the characters regularly break the fourth wall by poking fun at aspects of the game itself. I wasn’t ever laughing out loud at things, but I found myself constantly smiling throughout the campaign. The dialogue sequences were a huge plus.
The flight segments are exceptionally crafted and thoroughly enjoyable. I really enjoyed using the touchpad to aim; after a brief adjustment period, it becomes second nature. My only complaint about these sequences were that they were too short in comparison to the ground combat; I wanted more time in that section of the world.
The game is gorgeous, and makes excellent use of 3d visuals. The “New Nintendo 3ds” stabilization feature makes a huge difference in being able to enjoy the game in all its glory. It has a vibrant color palette and interesting enemies; the way they rehashed some of the enemies from the original game was the delightful, and I couldn’t have asked for a better presentation.
Each level allows you to pick a difficulty a la Smash Bros, and it is a welcome addition. Being able to adjust the challenge for each level based on how well you’re doing is a great addition, made even better by virtue of the addition of gambling. By selecting harder difficulty levels, you are betting more “hearts” (the currency in the game), which results in higher gains if you win, but significant losses when you die.
My one final stickler on this game is the boss fights. I felt these were way too easy compared to the rest of the campaign; I would die usually about once/level, but I never died on a boss fight. Many times, they were over well before I even had a chance to hear all the dialogue exchanges. The difficulty level was not in line with the rest of the game.
All being said, this game had the potential to be one of my favorites of all time. However, the many missteps, especially with the ground combat sections, keep this from being an exceptional game. I still really enjoyed it, and highly recommend playing it, but it’s bogged down by jerky controls and some poor design choices.