Nintendo, for all their franchise perpetuating and apparent fear of trying new things, is still one of the few developers who make games that I actually look forward to with the exception of the Zelda and main Mario series, which just aren't my cups of tea. Nintendo can be generally relied upon to make fun games that'll keep you occupied for ten or so hours and will not have you leaving depressed, unless it's Metroid: Other M, which doesn't exist. It's just a shame that they continually milk the udders of dead cows; I, for one, would love to see them make a new IP, partly because it would be a refreshing change of pace but mostly because we'd have a new first/second party character for any upcoming Super Smash Bros. games. In any event, Kid Icarus: Uprising was released late last month on the same day that Blades of Time came in the mail so I only got it a short while ago.
Kid Icarus: Uprising, developed by a company called Project Sora or perhaps Sora Ltd., is by no means a remake of the original Kid Icarus although the method of progression is rather similar; the latter was a 2D platformer in which you continuously climbed upwards and collected hearts from enemies. The former is a 3D rail-shooter in which you continuously fly forward and collect hearts from enemies. The gameplay mechanics are different but the progression is essentially the same. Also, only half of Kid Icarus: Uprising is a rail-shooter; the other half is a 3D beat-'em-up in which you continuously walk forward and collect hearts from enemies.
The plot feels more like an animated TV series than a book or movie as most games do. Medusa's been resurrected after 25 years (yes, these callbacks are everywhere) and is waging war. Pit and Palutena are out to stop her and they do so by killing as many bad guys as they can and beating up bosses. However, this is not all. In fact, the story gets turned on its head many times in ways that you wouldn't expect from a Nintendo game that has no fourth wall. To put it in perspective, this game rivals Xenoblade Chronicles in its number of WHAM moments. This is surprising because the plot is very hard to take seriously. I don't even think it takes itself seriously; it's very inconsistent and it seems to jump from one plot to the next without much warning, like we're going to the next episode of a TV series. For instance, the characters- who I should mention are in the middle of this big war- decide to, for three chapters, call a truce in order to combat invading aliens. I did not make that up.
In contrast to Kid Icarus, which was Greek mythology through and through, Uprising just has the whole Greek Mythology thing as a common aesthetic and setting. Pit does have bows and arrows but he is just as easily capable of acquiring bladed beam weapons and cannons. Also, there are space pirates that go around stealing constellations. Also, there is a base that is a moon. All of your attacks look like lasers and you even pilot some sort of motorcycle and a mech at several points. It feels like some guy from the Skyrim modding community with a craving for a cheesy sci-fi kids cartoon decided to crack Uprising and have a heyday before it hit shelves and Project Sora just went "Sure, why not?". I don't have a problem with this because the game is lighter and not very serious. This is, after all, a game about having fun.
What in Palutena's name is that thing doing here?
This also carries over to the dialogue when the characters talk throughout the gameplay. The voice acting's decent and, with the exception of the corny serious parts about things like natural and unnatural things, the dialogue's okay so I welcome it but something always kept bugging me; Pit is often beating up someone or something when others speak. He can hear them, despite being so far away from all parties that they'd need a crystal ball to see him. I can't describe it well here but the circumstances make telepathy the only reasonable form of communication. This is fine with Palutena, being Pit's goddess and all, but what are Medusa and her generals doing in Pit's mind? Can they always talk with him while not being in the same room as him? The game hangs lampshades on many things but this always goes unexplained.
Yeah, the game hangs lampshades on many things. However, unlike most games in which lampshades consist of the character pointing out something stupid and then never bringing it up again, the characters in Kid Icarus: Uprising seem to react as I would if any of these things happened in real life. Also, it's actually funny. On one occasion, Palutena remarks about Pit eating "questionable things" off the ground with a tone of voice indicating that she finds this incredibly questionable. Pit responds with "Floor ice cream gives you health". Also, Pit asks where the food comes from and Palutena says that she thought he could use a snack... wait a minute; that directly contradicts her "questionable things" line. Huh. Anyway, there are a bunch of other jokes, either based on game development ("That is a known issue; it will be fixed in the next version of the tower"), outright shout outs (a monster that looks like a Metroid is sometimes called a Metroid look-alike) or others.
Actual dialogue from the game:
Pit: You know, Komaytos look an awful lot like little Metroids.
???: No! Shhh! Stop right there!
So that's the plot and rather amusing commentary out of the way so let's talk about the gameplay. I'm just going to jump to the aspect I hate the most; the controls. I remember reading that Jim Sterling of Destructoid rated Uprising 5.0 primarily because of them. Frankly, I don't blame him. In both ground and air combat, you shoot with L, move Pit around with the stick, move the targeting reticule with the touch screen or use powers by pressing the arrow pad. As Uprising's more staunchly defenders have made very clear, it is possible to change these controls around in the Options menu. However, trying to move the targeting reticle with the letter buttons is like trying to turn a bike by having bystanders throw beach balls at the front wheel while a bear is chasing you. God help you if you're left handed. I know this might sound exaggerated but I'm not kidding when I say that the controls are actually physically painful to use. This is, without a doubt, the worst control scheme I have ever seen in a game thus far.
Bad controls are very bad to have in a game because they can cause you to lose even when it isn't your fault. It's the same reason delays in motion controllers are such an anger factor; when your victories and failures aren't decided by finesse and skill but, rather, something resembling luck, then something has gone horribly wrong somewhere. There are about three segments in the game where you have to use the analog stick to align Pit with some object in a limited time. While I managed to do them all on the second or first tries, they are annoyingly hard because moving Pit and keeping him steady on the object is like trying to play soccer/football on a field of ice and you're wearing shoes of cement. Not that the ground gameplay is any better; the controls are rather sticky and unresponsive and you'll often die because you're wrestling with the camera, trying to figure out where the next attack is going to come from. As you can probably tell, finesse and skill are more recurring customers than anything else.
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow.
The air combat is essentially a bullet hell shooter. I have to say, it's surprisingly well done and I wouldn't mind playing a whole game of it on the PS3 or PC. Project Sora have demonstrated quite thoroughly their ability to make cinematic shots through gameplay rather than cutscenes; many shots are done quite well and show off story elements to great effect. Also, it feels rather fast most of the time, which is good for immersion; nothing's worse than a flier that moves at nine miles a year. As for controls, you can fire rapidly, you can stop firing for a moment to build up a charged shot or, if the enemy is close enough, you can melee them. Also, you charge up special area-clearing attacks as time goes on. There isn't a lot of strategy but, when you're trying to manoeuvre your way through bullet hell while killing as many enemies as you can, strategy is not something to be emphasised on. Of course, one thing I wouldn't mind is the toning down of the particle effects which makes discerning what's going on difficult at times. For example, Pit essentially creates mini-galaxies every time he fires his weapon, which might explain the Super Mario Galaxy games.
Ground combat is much different; the only things that remain the same are the control scheme and attacks. Your area-clearing attacks have been replaced by your selected powers, Pit is no longer on rails (for the most part) and you can move him however you like in order to find secret areas and the like. I have two complaints about these sections; firstly, as you go through more levels, they get insufferably long, "insufferably" because of the accursed controls. Secondly, you can't jump. You can get powers that let you jump but they only work four times a level at most. This is especially infuriating when you want to go backwards but you're stopped by a knee-high wall. Oh, yes; as you progress through levels, you may have translucent orange knee-high walls appear behind you to stop you from backtracking. You cannot jump over them. You cannot climb over them. Hell, they're short enough to step over but you can't do that. I find this both hilarious and annoying.
Click click BOOM, you pieces of trash! Sorry, I couldn't find an image of a wall.
As I said before, you can have powers for ground combat ranging from small doses of healing (and I mean small), offensive powers like lasers and so on and so forth. You use these powers by assembling different blocks in a 6x6 grid in a matter befitting of a designer like Masahiro Sakurai, designer of the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series. Anyway, while most of the powers are actually kind of useful, this system was a bad idea in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and it's still not a good idea now. For one thing, even if you come up with a system approved by God, someone's still not going to be able to have the power set they want purely because not everyone is a master with Lego. The point system from Kingdom Hearts II worked much better so why not use that?
Another feature is the weapons. All weapons have Ranged and Melee stats that can go up to six stars each and six possible passive abilities of varying scales to grant. In addition, no two weapons are the same; you start off with a pitifully weak First Blade (not the bow that Pit uses in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which kind of threw me off) but, if you're committed enough, you can make a First Blade via weapon fusion that would make the final boss cry in fear. Weapon Fusion is kind of annoying as trying to transfer the stats and abilities you desire is like trying to breed a goose that lays golden eggs. Also, there are eleven types of weapons including magic hands, clubs, staves and more. Each weapon type has a bunch of specific weapons (you have First Blades and Optical Blades, for example) that all do different things. As I'm not patient enough to experiment with all these possibilities (especially after a rather disastrous level where I had a staff with slightly longer shot range than a melee attack), I just stuck with 4-star ranged, 3-star melee Beam Claws when I got them.
No In-peril autododge? Pfft (my personal tastes).
Something that might surprise you all is the addition of multiplayer in the form of arena combat with either Team Combat (called "Light vs. Dark") or Free For All playing modes. I'm more of a team player so I never touched Free For All. In Light vs. Dark, both teams of three players have a gauge that decreases every time one of their team members dies. Upon the complete depletion of a team's gauge, the last person that died will come back as the super-powered Pit or Dark Pit. The winning team is the one that takes out the opponent's Pit first. I will admit that I had fun with this mode, putting my weapon, powers and skills against those of other players. If the heart and weapon rewards were higher, I'd play them a lot more.
Kid Icarus: Uprising has definitely got the right mindset and has indeed been made well, as such is to be expected from Masahiro Sakurai. The only thing stopping this game from being good is the horrible control system that left my arm and hand hurt a few days after finishing it. Mind you, if it was on the Wii, I probably wouldn't have such problems and it would probably be one of the best games of the year. One thing I do hope for is that no one bugs Sakurai into making a sequel for the game; even after he declares his distaste of sequel expectation, he's still making a fourth Super Smash Bros. game. I wouldn't wish that fate on anyone (not making a Super Smash Bros. game; being forced to do something you don't want to do). Still, maybe I'll check out Sin and Punishment. After all, it's a Nintendo-affiliated rail shooter but without the cramped controls that the 3DS offers. What's there to lose?
Here are the rest of my reviews.
Hello everyone. I used to be known as "Some Random Tosser" on these forums before I decided to change to something slightly less unfamiliar. I used to post my reviews exclusively on deviantArt (which I'm unsure if anyone reads) and HotBloodedGaming (you know, that place with that guy that sent SEGA the email and got the hard reset response). However, I got some advice from some good friends to branch out a bit, so I decided to take such advice and apply it. Please tell me what you think.
EDIT: Many thanks to DeadpanLunatic for informing me about my practices. Rest assured that I will not do the same thing again.