We're a little late on reviewing the latest Kid Icarus title for the 3DS, the first game in the series in 19 years and only the third entry, not counting Smash Brothers appearances. Our hero Pit has always been something of a nostalgia character without any real history as a unit-selling commodity, but he acquits himself well in Uprising.
The game is fast and frantic, somewhere between a rail and a first-person shooter. You control Pit as he is guided by the goddess Palutena against the force of the underworld. Typically, play involves a fantastic flight through fantasy skies taking out enemies before descending to the ground in order to hunt the boss through various fortresses. You control Pit with the circular pad, aim with the stylus and fire with the L trigger.
We're going to get this out of the way real fast. Being forced to use the circular pad hurts. We gave up pretty quick on the Ocarina of Time re-release specifically because of it. Maybe it's the fact that the high placement of the pad throws off the weight of holding the system, or maybe we just have big hands not designed for using the pad, but if you power through the pain like we did and play for three hours straight (For the record: Nintendo does NOT recommend you do that), you are going to feel the pain.
That being said, the quest is addictive as all get-out. The graphics detailing the world that Pit flies through rival PS2 with their depth and the scale of their intention. Also, Nintendo is getting steadily better and better at harnessing the 3-D capabilities of the 3DS. This is the first game for the system that we kept in full 3-D mode for most of play.
The flying levels are easy as pie to navigate, but we never quite got the hang of exploring the dungeons and using the dash features. The game tries to replicate the camera abilities of a dual-stick controller with the stylus, but what comes as almost second nature on one of those controllers is somewhat harder to acclimate to in Uprising.
The difficulty curve, though, is frankly ingenious. Things start out pretty simple, but each level gives you the ability to revisit it by wagering points earned in the forms of hearts. Wagering more hearts increases the difficulty, but also increases the rewards you gain for completion and even opens complete secret areas. We highly recommend you revisit early levels often on higher difficulties as attaining new weapons and other treasures is going to be of utmost importance to success.
Uprising is very aware of its roots, and goes out of its way to hearken back to Pit's original NES adventure. The 8 bit illustrations of bosses and enemies are used as references on the dialogue box between Pit and Palutena, and the in-game appearances of the classic enemies come to life like someone painstakingly bringing to life one of Lovecraft's insane descriptions.
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Before you ask, yes, there are Eggplant Wizards, and yes, somehow they are badass. We don't know how they did it, either.
Speaking of the dialogue boxes, we're not entirely sure who this game is aimed at. Your entire quest is narrated by a constant conversation between Palutena and Pit (illustrated and subtitled, too, but you can really look down to see it without opening yourself up to attack). The two maintain a strangely flirtatious connection throughout, in addition to offering numerous helpful tips on gameplay.
It's all delivered in an over-the-top, Rumiko Takahashi sort of style. Humorwise we'd compare it to the old Tiny Toons cartoons. It's actually a lot of fun to listen to, and never really gets old, but, coupled with the lighthearted graphics, it kind of makes us wonder who the target demographic for the game actually is. At one point Palutena makes it pretty clear that she knows Pit is thinking about her naked, which was not really what we thought we were going to hear.
Nonethless, it's engaging the way your first beloved anime series is engaging, and once you've gotten used to the controls, it's not bad at all. Pit has steadily grown in nuance from a more or less faceless 8-bit sprite into something a bit more fun to be around. Think of him as somewhere between Kingdom Hearts' Sora and Link from the Legend of Zelda. Hopefully Uprising will have the sales numbers to get Pit back in the big leagues on the Wii.