Games with mythological elements have been around for as long as the majority of us can remember, most of which end up becoming a celebrated series (see: God of War, Tomb Raider). Before now the Kid Icarus series has fallen through all seven rings of hell, only to rise again with the release of Kid Icarus: Uprising on the Nintendo 3DS.
Just like before, you play as Pit, a magical being with just one simple goal: to battle Medusa, an evil woman with snakes for hair, with the help of Palutena. However, seeing as Pal is the one giving you all of your powers, it’s a mystery why she can’t just get off her lazy arse and do the deed herself. It would undoubtedly save the young child a lot of psychological harm later in life. Things aren’t as simple as strolling up to the evil entity and blowing her to pieces though and along your journey; you’ll meet all sorts of creatures out to get you, including one that looks strangely familiar…
There are two ways of travelling along your dangerous path, that of flying and that of running around abandoned streets, the former of which plays like the on-rail shooters that everyone tried so hard to forget about. Only this rail shooter is different from the majority of others in that it’s swapped the challenging button bashing and in its place is the ability to hold down the attack button and stream endless amounts of electricity into the enemy’s lifeless body. Does that make you feel powerful? Feel good about yourself? Well it probably would if you actually had to make an effort to kill monsters. As it is, you don’t even have to lift a finger. The real skill of these kinds of battles comes in the evading of attacks, but only if you really consider running the circle pad in a clockwise direction challenging, which it most definitely isn’t.
The more human way of battling (feet firmly planted on the ground) is undeniably the better of the two, probably because the developers have first-hand experience in this type of movement. For the most part, it’s just like flying, in that you aim with the stylus and hold down the attack button, hoping to hit something in your ravenous release of power, but there are more features to fighting. For example, if you really want to mock the monster you’re murdering, you can stroll right up to it and throw some powerful melee attacks right in its ugly face (which is usually just a large eyeball on a mound of fat, but let’s not make fun of the poor thing anymore.). Occasionally, you’ll come across a treasure chest or a dark, unexplored corner of the area which you can gallop on over to and investigate, creating a false sense of freedom in a very linear game. The animation is slightly bizarre as well, because although Pit is an angelic boy, he gallops around like a horse or like one of his legs has already been mauled and he has an awful limp constantly reminding him to not get cocky about his powers again.
To begin with, the game may feel like a stroll through an abandoned city, but never fear as the developers have already considered the hardcore fans among us and included a nice little feature. At the start of each level, you can adjust a difficulty slider from 0-10 which essentially translates to ‘getting your cat to sit on the 3DS to play’-‘see how long you can last before you reach your impending doom’. To change the slider, you either bet hearts or spend hearts which are collected as you travel through the levels, so it adds a real element of gambling and knowing when to hold back. A neat little addition that adds a good deal of depth, the intensity slider is a real innovative feature of the game.
Helping you to trawl through the higher difficulties is the equipment and abilities at your disposal. As you complete levels and dig through the many hidden chests, you’ll stumble across new weapons, which fall into two categories; those which magnify your melee attacks and ones which augment your magic abilities. The fact that you can improve both at the same time is a welcome change from other games that offer this RPG element; usually you have to decide which will be more important along your journey, but not this time. No, Kid Icarus would rather you forget about those important decisions that made other RPGs a little more taxing and concentrate solely on your button-bashing techniques. At least it gives the young ‘uns a chance. Not that you care about them.
Although the weapons equip in the same, monotonous way that you’ve been dealing with for the whole of your life, the abilities bring a much more unique element along with them. Rather than having to chose just one or two to use and swap around when need be, instead you’re given a grid to work with. Each skill has its own shape and in order to allow lots of them to be used at once, you have to play a sort of static Tetris, maneuvering your blocks around in order to squeeze in as many as possible. The numerous amount of hours that could be spent in front of this screen is what really drags this game from the depths of the dullness it’s been trapped in up until now.
If you get tired of the main story, you can always head over to the multiplayer mode, where you can either battle in teams or engage in a free-for-all with your friends. Before you begin your match, you can change the amount of time available, the arena and who can join in, all of which give you a feeling of control, allowing you to manipulate the game to everyone’s preferences and providing something for everyone. Each arena seems great in size, letting you run from combat, stealthily picking people off or run straight into the midst of the battle, whichever choice you make everything around you moves at an incredible pace. One second everyone could be fine, charging towards one another and just a few flashes of light and flying fists later it could all come to the climatic end. This is what multiplayer battles are all about – running forward, head held high and beating the heck out of one another, it really brings the 3DS into its own and hopefully sets an example for games to come.
But is fighting just too much effort for you right now? Well there are plenty of extras to work through, including a very notable one which plays like a slightly advanced Street Pass Puzzle. Whether you want to give your hard earned hearts away or just want to relax with your free packet of AR cards, there are plenty of options for you and anyone else that may want to play during your next ‘family day’. Extras are what stops the game being just another action/on-rails shooter and makes it a range of almost anything you could think of, something you can show off to people, both young and old, letting everyone get a taster of the Uprising before diving in head first to the twists and turns of the main story.
Looking at the game, you wouldn’t have guessed that it came from the latest Nintendo handheld (apart from the 3D part of course. But don’t get cocky.), the models and textures are so detailed and smooth that it looks on par with some console games available on the market at the moment. Colours almost pop out of the screen towards you, putting you straight into the game next to Pit. Animations run extremely well and if it were on anything else, there would be no complaints about the graphical aspects at all. One nice feature is shown on the bottom screen, where you move the camera around (if you choose the stylus option). Take a quick glimpse down as you do so and you’ll notice that you’re dragging the background around too. Don’t get too mesmerised by this as anyone looking over your shoulder may think that Pit is easily distracted by anything moving in the distance and you’ll most likely send him to his doom.
Unfortunately, this isn’t on anything else, it’s released on the 3DS so there’s bound to be the cheap gimmick of three dimensions, omnipresent throughout the game and they don’t add anything to your playing experience. Quite the opposite really, it distracts you when you’re in the midst of an important battle, causing your attacks to go slightly askew. You see, when the 3D is on, the picture you see isn’t always where it is on the screen – one slight movement of your hands and the aiming reticule will be a crucial few degrees out, essentially becoming the difference between life and death. Sure, over time you’ll become used to it but it’s that hour of doing so that could completely put you off the game forever.
Voice acting in this game, although not a very important part, can become quite grating quite quickly. At the start of the game, you sit through large conversations explaining your abilities and how to use them which, by the end of it, makes you want to fill your ears full of acid. It’s not terribly bad, the acting itself is mediocre but the voices themselves sound fake and almost forced, giving a grating feeling. Other than that, the music and sound effects are nice, working hand in hand with the game and really setting the mood of each area, giving a real sense of effort in order to connect the player with the game in ways that others often fail. Definitely worth keeping the volume turned up for, just maybe be ready to turn it back down each time a person talks.
Overall, the game offers many hours of enjoyment, whether it’s fighting, exploring or engaging in mini-games. No matter your age, it has enough content to keep you entertained and is aesthetically pleasing, which is always a bonus. A few aspects bring it down though, mainly the 3D that is supposedly all the rage at the moment. It didn’t need it and would be far more fun to play if it didn’t feel as though they added gimmicks to try and win fans over.
Worth a try at least, but probably won’t be the best game you’ll play this year. 6/10.
If you’ve read this review and are on the verge of punching your computer screen, hoping that it’ll somehow reach my face, try venting your emotions into the comments and tell us why this game deserves a much higher than average score.