Since the 3DS debuted last March we’ve gotten the chance to take Mario on a new platforming adventure, revisit one of the greatest adventures of all time with Link and even go-kart whilst throwing shells, banana peels and the usual assortment of weapons with friends. But while these have all been great fun, they have also been somewhat familiar leaving many fans eagerly awaiting something fresh and new. Enter Kid Icarus Uprising, the game that not only sees the long anticipated return of a once forgotten hero but also the next big release for Masahiro Sakurai, the creative force behind the hugely popular Smash Bros series. Does his next project live up to the hype though?
Story focuses on a handful of ‘end of the world’ situations that begin with a reborn Medusa who seeks to destroy mankind. It’s up to Pit with the help of Lady Palutena to save the day. The narrative is mainly told through conversations that are always occurring during flight and land battle with Pit and Palutena bantering amongst themselves as well as with enemies. Like the gameplay, dialogue is fast and snappy, often light hearted and never taking itself too seriously. Uprising has a largely self aware attitude about it too with Pit constantly making jokes about video game concepts or retro images of characters popping up on the bottom screen as a reminder to players of the NES original. One particular moment for example has Pit asking Lada Palutena in the heat of battle if an enemy up ahead is a boss or merely just a mid-boss. Sometimes the problem occurs that with so much going on during battle, it can become a little overwhelming to juggle the task of avoiding gunfire whilst also listening out for Pit and others chatting away but most of the time it works as a great blend. Overall though, what at first could come off as cheesy and over the top soon becomes genuinely entertaining exchanges that not only help progress the story, but also give the game’s rich cast of characters thriving personality.
Each chapter starts off with an aerial battle not too dissimilar to a Starfox stage. You fly along a pre-determined path shooting and manoeuvring around the screen to avoid enemy fire. It’s fast paced and gets you into the action nice and quick. Sadly Lada Palutena can only grant Pit the power of flight for five minutes so the battle soon takes to the ground. In this latter half of a chapter you get the chance to move Pit around on foot. While you are given a little more freedom, the path is always very linear with splitting sections rare and usually straightforward.
The controls have been a bit of a sore spot for those who’ve tried the game and while they’re not immediately intuitive, they aren’t as unplayable as some critics may have you think. During flight the controls work fine with the slider moving Pit and the touch screen allowing you to aim where you fire. On foot however, using the touch screen to turn and aim doesn’t feel as comfortable and can leave your hand aching as you try to hold the console for a prolonged amount of time. Another area that suffers are the vehicles sections. The controls feel far too complicated and sensitive to function well. Fortunately these sections are few. This is the perfect example of a game that would have benefited from a second slider, and even though the game does support the add-on, it’s merely used as an alternative for left handed players. You can alter the configuration somewhat, but the default ends up feeling like the best.
Uprising features a huge amount of looting and customization that spreads over both the campaign and online modes. There are a total of nine different weapon types to find that include blades, staves, claws, bows, palms, clubs, cannons, orbs and arms each with several variations. Every type feels different with clubs for example handling heavily and performing best in close combat while the lighter blades offer a nice all-round ability. Even individual weapons have their own unique attributes and feel to them providing Pit with perks like healing, better defence or just a cool looking effect. The amount of options you have with your arsenal is ridiculous whether it’s collecting them by playing through chapters, purchasing through a shop, melding two weapons together to create a unique new invention or trading special gems via StreetPass.
Also just as useful are the abilities that give Pit extra advantages over opponents. These are selected before chapters in a Tetris-style manner that sees you fitting each power-up on a board with limited space (not too dissimilar to the inventory system in Resident Evil 4). These powers can be as simple as being able to jump and glide briefly or given the chance to earn more hearts during battle. The amount of different skills is staggering.
While the campaign doesn’t exactly hold back when it comes to action, the multiplayer takes it to a whole new level of chaos. Playing either against bots, with friends via wireless connection or over the internet, multiplayer is split into two different modes which focus primarily on ground combat. The first option sees you joining a team of three and battling another with every death resulting in a shared health bar depleting (the amount depends on how powerful your weapon is). Once all your team’s health is gone, one member spawns as Pit (or Dark Pit) whose main focus is survival. Should your team’s Pit fall though, its victory for the opponents. The second match type is your typical free-for-all for again up to six fighters.
Visually Kid Icarus Uprising is fantastic. Whether you rocketing above the clouds or sprinting through an underwater palace, the environments are nothing short of amazing. The 3D effect also feels just right with your eyes never suffering from strain even after extended sessions. Voice acting is well done with conversations having a natural flow to them while the soundtrack in a similar fashion is truly outstanding. Stages boast fast paced tunes that only heighten the excitement of battle while the menu melody along with its variations offer some of the most beautifully crafted pieces of music I’ve heard in a video game. The number of times I found myself casual browsing my weapon hoard just so I could hear the main tune play once more was numerous.
Kid Icarus Uprising is packed full of content that will keep you unlocking, progressing and generally collecting throughout your playtime. Whether it’s the surprisingly lengthy campaign, its adjustable difficulty, the multiplayer, idols, weapons, music or even the AR cards you won’t find another 3DS game with more content. What Sakurai and the team have managed to bundle in is nothing short of breathtaking.
It may handle like a dog, but tame this beast and you’ll uncover yet another gem to add to the 3DS’ expanding collection. As soon as you load up Uprising the amount of love and care that has gone into crafting this series rebirth is blindingly apparently. Stuffed full of addictive content and offering both an engaging campaign as well as an exciting multiplayer, Kid Icarus Uprising is a must for 3DS owners. Pit has awakened from his twenty year slumber and boy have we missed him.