"I can't believe I'm actually flying!" These are some of the first words that Nintendo's, once forgotten hero, Pit utters in disbelief during the opening moments of Kid Icarus: Uprising -- his long awaited return to the forefront of videogames. Sadly, it would almost be more fitting if he had instead screamed, "I can't believe they finally made me a proper sequel and it's going to released in the next few months!"
Twenty years have passed since the little dude, in a toga, last landed a starring role in Nintendo's catalog (Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters on Game Boy in 1991) and fans have eagerly been awaiting his return. Super Smash Bros. Brawl whetted the appetite of some, while introducing the mythical warrior to a whole new generation when he was added to the fighting roster, but it wasn't till the announcement of the 3DS that the Nintendo advocate was finally appeased.
It has felt like an eternity since that historic day, and though Nintendo has been fairly quiet in recent months, finally they are shedding some light on their first major release of 2012.
Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)
Developer: Project Sora
Release: March 23, 2012
I have to say, it felt a little surreal playing a near finished copy of Uprising earlier this week. While the game excited both fans and the press alike, all the way back in the Summer of 2010, it's sort of became Nintendo's version of Sony's Last Guardian -- a game that should now be titled the "Lost Guardian." Luckily, Nintendo fans have escaped the same fate with Kid Icarus: Uprising, and can finally take Pit on his much anticipated legendary adventure this March 23.
Without getting into too much the story, Uprising follows the events of the original NES game. The evil Medusa (who was destroyed by Pit in the first game) has been reborn and, like all evil villains, seeks to destroy mankind. This is where Pit comes in; he's a hero, so naturally it's up to him to save the world. It's a simple premise, but one that sets the stage for an adventure that hopefully is not as forgettable as his past endeavors.
Set in a world loosely based off Greek mythology, it only takes a fleeting moment to be captivated by the beauty that Kid Icarus: Uprising brings to the 3DS. There's a certain magic that Nintendo is known for and the team at Project Sora -- lead by Kirby and Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai -- has created a game that not only stands up to some of the companies most respected franchises visually, but also ushers in a new level of 3D fidelity that has yet to be witnessed on Nintendo's portable powerhouse.
It's kind of a shame that no video or screen can truly capture how gorgeous Uprising is -- as soaring the skies and blasting enemies (classic and new alike) is even more spectacular in 3D mode. From the lush vistas visited in the beginning levels to the spectacular, psychedelic-like flight amongst the stars -- battling space pirates -- it's hard not to be taken back by just how impressive the 3D visuals are in the game's flying sequences.
Where Uprising loses a little of its visual pop though, is in the land-based sections of each chapter. Every chapter in the game is broken up into two parts: flight and ground. While the ground levels are impressive in their own rights, they fail to capture the exhilarating intensity of the flight sections for mainly two reasons: freedom and chaos.
Having freedom is never a bad thing, and in Uprising's case this still holds true for the most part. It's just that the each flight section is an on-rails shooter (akin to Panzer Dragoon or Sin and Punishment) and because of that, Uprising guides its players through amazing set piece after set piece. A literal roller coaster of visual and shooting splendor, that is hard to replicate on the ground.
Chaos on the other hand, is the game's biggest visual detractor when it comes to the 3D department. In flight the chaos is controlled. The ground, on the other hand, opens up more complexity to the combat -- especially when the games difficulty, called intensity is turned up -- and (in my experience) causes the 3D's sweet spot to constantly shift with the frantic movement of one's hand. While I know, the 3D can be turned off, Uprising does such an amazing job with the immersive technology, it's hard not to want to play the game this way throughout, regardless of how intense the action is.
Increasing a chapter's intensity is by far Uprising's biggest gameplay hook. Ranging on a scale from 0.0 to 9.0 (2.0 is the game's default level) and adjustable in increments of one tenths, players can alter the difficulty of any chapter in the attempt to earn more of the games currency; hearts. The higher the intensity, the higher the rewards in chapter -- both in terms of hearts awarded and weapons discovered.
For players who just want play Uprising for the story, they can (for a price of hearts) drop the intensity below 2.0. I was told it makes the game a cake walk, making it perfect for the casual player or those who want to better understand a chapter's layout. I had a chance to play the game at intensity well beyond the 2.0 level and while I made it through the first chapter somewhat unscathed, I was easy fodder on later stages due to the increased and more relentless enemy AI. Those looking for a Nintendo game that will test all their reflexes should look no further.
So for those wondering how Uprising plays... well that is sort of a mixed bag. For the most part combat is relatively simple. The circle pad controls movement, the L button attacks, and the stylus aims. It can be a little cramping, but for those who prefer to game at home, the stand announced for Japan is coming with the US version and does alleviate some of the hand-numbing issues.
During combat, depending on the proximity of an enemy (regardless of being in flight or on the ground) Pit's attacks will alter. When enemies are far, his weapons act like a gun -- providing ranged attacks -- but when up close, he instead changes his tactics to melee strikes. Holding down the L button creates a rapid fire shot -- highly useful on the smaller airborne enemies -- but when the reticule is left to build, a powerful charge blast can be released to decimate larger foes.
Knowing when and where to switch from ranged to close attacks, as well as when to charge an attack becomes ever important in the games later stages and when the intensity is turned up to insane levels. In my travels through Uprising I came across a few enemies that were more than a handful if I tried to battle them with the wrong style of attack. There's a want to try to just blast everything to bits, but surprisingly there is actually a lot of depth to Uprising's combat, especially when playing the ground game.
Using the stylus to control Pits movement on the ground does come with a slight adjustment period, but after a level or two it all becomes second nature. Flicks of the stylus control Pits head and the camera, while the circle pad handles overall movement. For those who played Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS, there is instant level of familiarity in this setup. On top of the standard move set, quick flicks of the circle pad afford Pit with some useful dashing abilities and, like the Smash Bros. series, when timed properly with an attack create a much stronger offensive strike.
Helping to build Pits offense are nine different weapon types: blade, bow, cannon, arm, claws, palm, orbitar, club and staff. The blade is Pits standard, all-purpose weapon, but with the variety available there is a solution to be found for any of his problems. I got my hands on the lightning quick, melee focused claws; the tactile and powerful cannon; and the long ranged dual-blasting orbitars, but it wasn't until I got Pit's paws on the cumbersome club that smiting fools turned into a "guilty pleasure" for me.
With the Black Club (pictured below) fully charged, I was able to launch devastating cannon balls that were great for clearing out enemies. Having such a powerful weapon makes Pit nearly unstoppable, but there is a price for this unbound strength. Due to its massive size, Pit's agility and stamina are greatly reduced throughout the level. Often after dashing, I found Pit out of gas and in need of a moment to recuperate -- leaving him vulnerable to attacks.
Choosing the right weapon for a chapter can be tricky at first -- as only after death can one be switched out for another. Thankfully, Uprising encourages multiple playthroughs, due to its intensity level rewards and constantly improving weapon drops.
In my playthrough, I came across multiple variants of each type of weapon. Players will also find identical named weapons, but they will differ in their value and bonuses (i.e. 2X speed, or no fall back from enemy damage) making them unique in their own special way. When weapons start piling up they can be sold -- as well as purchased -- in what is called the Arms Alter. It's just one of the many ways to constantly keep upgrading Pit's arsenal.
Speaking of upgrades, weapons aren't the only way to improve Pit's prowess. Powers, which can be found during any given chapter, are perks that can give Pit the upper hand in his quest. There are a variety of powers ranging from the Sky Jump -- which lets Pit jump high -- to the Mega Laser -- which as it sounds shoots a deadly blast that can help the angelic warrior out of a tight situation.
What makes Pit's powers extra unique is in how they are quipped. Similar to Resident Evil 4's items storage system, each power comes in the form of a puzzle piece (varying in size and shape) and has to be carefully fitted in a confined equipment square. Up to four arrangements can be planned ahead of time, with one formation equipped at time. There is even an auto-fill that selects the overall best configuration for those who don't want to put too much effort into it. The auto-fill is fairly simple though, and does not allow a player, to say, choose an optimized offensive configuration for example.
I feel like I only scratched the surface with Kid Icarus: Uprising and to be honest I left a few things out. For example in some levels -- which I can't say which -- there are vehicles for Pit to pilot (though I can't tell you what they are like either). That being said, Uprising is one of the deepest games to hit the portable market in quite some time and should please gamers of all types.
Expect more to come in the next few months about Nintendo's much anticipated 3DS game that is set for March 23. I, for one, am definitely excited to find out more.