Masahiro Sakurai is a developer given to excess. His Super Smash Bros. fighting games are some of the most feature-packed, info-dense videogames ever attempted, filled to bursting with characters, stages, musical tracks and trivial references to Nintendo’s gaming past. It’s practically absurd just how much he crams into each one of them. Should we have imagined, then, that Kid Icarus: Uprising would be any different?
Nintendo showed a playable version of this 3DS shooter, loosely based on the cult classic 8-bit game, at E3 last year. But that small sliver of a demo didn’t even begin to convey the staggering cornucopia of options that will be packed into the final game, which is to be released on March 22.
In the original game, the little winged cherub hero could shoot arrows at enemies. In Uprising, you can choose from Blades, Bows, Cannons, Arms, Claws, Palms, Staffs, Clubs or something called “Orbitars.” And that’s not the half of it. Let’s say you want a club. Well, you could have a Babel Club, a Halo Club, a Black Club, an Ore Club or a Skyscraper Club, and that’s just what they put in the demo version. Who the hell got all this Skyrim in my Kid Icarus?
I exaggerate: It’s not my Kid Icarus. It might be yours, but then you’d be in the rather small group of diehard fans who have been patiently waiting for the last 20 years, each E3 expecting that a new game in the “series” was right around the corner. It’s been so long since a Kid Icarus game that the name is a total blank slate. And Sakurai wants to fill every single square inch of that slate with miniature writing.
At a recent demo of the game, I played Chapters 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8. Nintendo representatives, with their characteristic reticence, did not tell me how many chapters total will appear in the game. Using simple logic we can deduce that it is greater than 8 and fewer than ?. Sakurai, of course, wants us to play each of the game’s chapters approximately ? times each.
Sick of bows and arrows? How about a gigantic drill instead?
Kid Icarus: Uprising does not have a difficulty switch. It has a difficulty slider, which goes all the way from 0.0 up to 9.0. Before you begin each level, you can make minute adjustments to the difficulty. This has a wide variety of effects. As you make the levels more difficult, you will get more Hearts, the game’s currency. You will find better items and weapons in the treasure chests. And you will also get your ass kicked.
To raise the difficulty level, you need to wager a small amount of your Hearts. If you die, the difficulty level will go down by 1.0 and you will lose some of those Hearts. For instance, I tried Chapter 1 with difficulty cranked to 9.0. I died almost instantly. By the time I finished the level the difficulty had fallen to 6.0. But it was still a net benefit for me, since I won a great deal more Hearts than I would have on the 2.0 standard setting, and won better weapons.
I was also able to enter an “Intensity Gate,” which are doors in the levels that only open if your current difficulty setting is equal to or higher than the number on the door. In the case of Chapter 1, behind the door was a massive tank with a weak spot on its back. The Nintendo representative helpfully let me know that he had sent me in there with a heavy Cannon weapon, which would cause Pit to move more slowly and thus make it much more difficult for me to circle-strafe the tank.
You may find miniature centurions in treasure chests to help you out.
Each level is divided into two segments. The first is flight combat, in which Pit takes down enemies while soaring on a controlled path through the air. The second is on land, which gives you the freedom to run around and shoot in a less linear environment. It’s a complex game. You have to move Pit out of the way of enemies with the circle pad, aim your shots with the stylus and touch screen and fire shots by pressing the L trigger.
If you’re left handed, you’re probably SOL unless you buy the helpful Circle Pad Pro attachment, which will let you control Pit with your right thumb. (But it doesn’t allow for dual-analog play, Nintendo said.)
But even for the right-handed, this may quickly become a painfully crampy position. Hence, Nintendo is including a plastic stand with every copy of the game that will let you prop your 3DS up on a table. I played both with and without the stand. I can go either way, although I should point out that without the stand I just ended up resting the 3DS on my leg.
If you can get past figuring out how exactly you’re going to play it without developing carpal tunnel, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fun and funny game. The graphics are gorgeous, the writing is surprisingly amusing. Pit and the goddess Palutena, along with a variety of supporting cast members, keep up a running chat during each level which is also displayed in text on the lower screen.
There seemed to be many different features in Kid Icarus which we aren’t even able to discuss at all yet. So whether people fall in love with it or are turned off by having to prop their 3DS up on a stand to play it, one thing is for sure — people who really like Kid Icarus will play it for a long, long time.