Posted by: tirkaro | July 10, 2013

Kid Icarus Uprising Review- In the Upperdash Arms of an angel

Don’t adjust your computer set just yet, MYM faithful! You’re now in a new section of the Bunker, so prepare to step into the tirk zone! That’s right, I’m ditching my old blog and spreading the love over to the Bunker from now on. I’d like to thank everyone for making this possible, and hope this’ll be the beginning of a wonderful new age of irrelevant writings, stories, and reviews for a new era. For now stay awesome and enjoy a review I wrote about a week ago for my old blog, and stay tuned for my in-progress impressions of Touhou 13.5, among other silly things.

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Like a true hero who always arrives late, I only just recently got my Nintendo 3DS, mostly due to deciding to go with the Vita (and all the lovely Kat-related booty that entails) instead. So as it seems, while I was busy lamenting over the fact that I couldn’t afford any Vita memory cards, I missed out on one of 2012’s most standout gems. Kid Icarus Uprising is a difficult game to properly put into words, so first off, I’ll provide a bit of context.

Uprising is very much the brainchild of the father of Kirby and Super Smash Bros., Masahiro Sakurai. While this game came hot off the heels of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game I could probably spend 10 blog posts alone detailing the truckloads of glaring issues I had with, I can thankfully say very little of that game reflects in Uprising. Even if it’s an entirely different genre that probably isn’t comparable, Uprising is very much the antithesis of Brawl; It’s fast, frantic, energetic, deep, and (assuming you’re playing on a higher difficulty level for more rewards) tough as nails. And oddly enough, despite how many times Sakurai goes on with his “OH MY GOD THINK OF THE CASUALS” train of thought, Uprising is astonishingly casual-unfriendly. Many of Sakurai’s games tend to take a genre and shake it up to the point that it’ll probably confuse and anger many gamers accustomed to a “traditional” experience. In Kirby’s case, it was being able to fly indefinitely, Super Smash Bros. took the concept of fighting games and turned them on its head with a system based on simple attack commands and ring-outs, and Kirby’s Air Ride simplified racing games to its bare basics while throwing in some of its own (sometimes all-too-gimmicky) twists. And keeping up this tradition of non-tradition, Kid Icarus Uprising utilizes a rather awkward control scheme revolving around using the touch screen to aim and move the camera. It’s a system so jarring, the game even comes with a 3DS stand to give you an easier time with it. (Though I mostly found myself using the stand to keep 3D function’s finnicky sweet spot in place.)

Unlike those other games though, Uprising’s controls doesn’t break tradition to make things easier for newcomers. No, instead, it just makes far more complex than need be, especially during those pesky ground levels, where your reticule is also your camera. It only takes a bit of getting used to, but I can easily see some people being turned off pretty hard by the wonky controls, even if it means they’ll be missing out on a genuinely amazing game in the process.

In case the name wasn’t enough of a ringer, Uprising is a long-belated sequel to the original Kid Icarus on the NES, way back in an age when ground-breaking entertainment like The Oprah Winfrey Show and Takeshi’s Castle were making their grand debuts, swallowing everything in their path. As a way to counter the reign of terror brought upon by the combined powers of Oprah and Beat Takeshi, Nintendo unleashed their advanced thermonuclear weapon in the form of The Legend of Zelda, where Link only just barely turned the tides of Oprah’s free car givaways by revolutionizing open world adventure games forever. Oh, and also Kid Icarus was released somewhere in between this, but nobody really cared.

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But for the few that did care, they were graced with the weave and flow that comprised Kid Icarus’ DNA, almost too much for the average mind to handle in 1986. Because man, Kid Icarus was a bizarre game. The basic gist of it is that you’re an angel who can’t fly, then jumps out of the underworld in order to go into dungeons while getting turned into eggplants and fighting tomato-metroids. The whole game ran through this bizarre setup which started in an unusually tough vertical platforming segment, before heading off to an absolutely brutal labyrinth maze, and then pussying out with some easy-ass horizontal skyworld levels, before dicking you about with more labyrinths, and then you’re in a hori Shmup fighting Medusa and shit. It’s sorta like Metroid, if Metroid was a collaboration between Ron Clements and Masami Kurumada and were both forcibly fed cursed Egyptian methamphetamines and had to make a game with Gunpei Yokoi or else the voices wouldn’t stop. And man, it was fucking awesome.

The name of our flightless angel is Pit, named presumably because he don’t take no shit, and that sorta rhymes on occasion. Pit is the errand boy for this green haired bitch named Palutena but then Medusa comes along and locks Palutena in her basement and banishes Pit to the Underworld, a horrible place reserved only for people who talk at cell phones at a store counter and are responsible for the fragile edges on CD cases, rendering them fucking impossible to open and close once they break. If it wasn’t obvious enough, this is a game all about Greek mythology, and so likewise, you’ll be combattling with all kinds of classic foes from ancient greco-roman myth like Metroids, flying Groucho Glasses, Eggplant Wizards, The Rolling Stones’ logo, Frosty the Snowman, and baby seals. After making your way through this baddies, you had to gather all of Palutena’s bling bling in order to stand one eight of a chance against Medusa herself. Oh and you had to free some midgets from statues, but fuck them, they’re useless. It’s not really all that great looking back on it, but there was nothing quite like it at the time, and its unusual charm gave it a decent cult following for the longest while.

Sadly apart from some Game Boy game nobody remembers, Kid Icarus was completely forgotten after its initial romp on the NES. Then finally after over 20 years, Pit was reborn and radically redesigned in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. After that little stint, there were many rumors flying about of a Kid Icarus revival on the Wii, which finally took shape when Uprising was revealed for the 3DS in an ever so glorious fashion.

ImageAnd the reason why I had to provide so much context you probably already know about is because I just wanted to emphasize just how Uprising is a prime example, along with Punch Out!!! on Wii, of how to pull off a truly amazing retro revival game. Well okay, it doesn’t really share THAT much in common with Kid Icarus, gameplay-wise, but perhaps that’s for the better. The gameplay in Uprising takes more after Treasure’s Sin & Punishment than any Kid Icarus game, and has a rather huge emphasis on crafting and using special weapons. These weapons are surprisingly varied in nature, and are tons of fun to use. You have your standard bows, giant clubs, stylish gunblades, and even energy-firing tattoos. There are nine different types in total, and I’d recommend trying them all out, although some of them feel a bit more situational than others.

The game structure is split into two different gameplay types: Flying sections and land sections. The flying segments, based loosely on the shmup segment at the end of the first KI, is where the game really channels its inner Sin & Punishment. It’s a 3D rail shootin’ good time, think Star Fox, and are easily the best parts of the game. Like S&P, you aim using a reticule while dodging enemy fire, and sometimes using melee attacks to deflect enemies and bullets. While the game never gets -quite- as good as S&P overall, and certainly never reaches even a sliver of the mind-meltingly complex cleverness of Sin & Punishment 2, it’s still a highly competent rail shooter in its own right.

The real star of these segments however, has to be the presentation. The environments are stunning and creative enough, but in 3D, they look ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AMAZING. The Space Pirate Ship battle made my jaw figuratively drop with its sheer majesty, and Pandora’s lair gives me some real flashbacks of Star Fox. The 3D is used to it’s absolute finest here, creating a stunning feeling of depth all on a tiny 3DS screen. Spy Kids 3D, eat your red and blue heart out.

The ground sections are the “main” sections of the game, but they sadly don’t quite stack up compared to the flight sections. This is where the awkward control scheme really starts to rear its head, but it’s not all that bad either. As long as you can handle the somewhat restrictive nature of the camera, you’ll find that the combat here has a surprising amount of depth. You have your basic melee combos, twitch-based dodging mechanics, and some sweet third person shooting action with nary a single piece of pansy-ass cover in sight. On higher difficulty levels, it’s gonna take total mastery of the controls and your weapon to get anywhere in these levels, some of which drag on for a looooong time. But even with these, it’s impressive just how varied the level design is in its own right. Even late in the game, these levels still keep throwing new gimmicks and new enemies at you from every angle. Even if some of the levels have a bad habit of dragging on for too long, the game never begins to feel overly repetitious, which is always a plus.

ImagePredictably, some of the best moments in grounded combat come from the multitude of boss battles in the game. A noticeable step up from previous bosses in Sakurai-ian games, who are mostly content with just standing around taking a beating while occasionally jumping about and unleashing an easily avoidable attack, the bosses here feel far more dynamic than just stationary damage sponges. They’ll keep you on your feet at all times, assaulting you at every possible moment, and are overall a total blast. My only complaint is that even if they are a step up, they could have probably made the fights just a wee bit more complex, and the bosses themselves tend to be far too short-lived.(At least at lower levels.) Sadly the only way to challenge them again at a higher level is to dredge through their entire stage as well.

Speaking of difficulty, I should probably go more into that. KIU uses a unique method of dealing with difficulty levels; before each chapter, you can choose to bet hearts to increase the difficulty level of the stage, going through levels 1.00-9.00. Levels 1-3 are fairly easy, while 4-6 are where things really start to heat up. Meanwhile, 7-9 is utter fucking masochistic insanity, especially 9.00, which is like if Touhou and Demon’s Souls had a demonic baby that refused to be aborted and only ended up aborting 15 unknown people from around the globe from existence upon its arrival from Dirty Sanchez’ bowels. Of course, beating a chapter on a higher level grants you with more rewards and hearts for your trouble. It’s tough, and reeks a bit of artificial difficulty here and there, but it’s still one heck of a challenge. There is ONE aspect I really dislike though; upon losing, you’re forced to dump a bunch of hearts and go one level down. So that means if you did some sort of stupid mistake, you can’t restart at the checkpoint at the same difficulty level. Nope, if you want to retain your level all throughout the stage, you can’t die at all. This gets especially devilish during some of the longer chapters.

ALSO, I must point out one really annoying issue I had. Your dashing, whether you’re running forward or dodging, runs on an annoying stamina system. Unlike other games with these annoying forced stamina systems, KIU doesn’t even have the kindess to give you a visible meter for your stamina. Nope, you have to sort of guess it out. Now, I have nothing against stamina when it’s used correctly, but in here, it just becomes far more annoying than it needs be, especially when Pit’s twitchy as all hell controls while dashing is enough of a drawback.

But enough about the crunch, how about the fluff? Well, It’s been 25 years since the 1st game, and Medusa is back in black from the sack, let loose from the noose, and its up to Pit to yet again get out of the way to make his play. Or at least, that’s how it appears initially. While the world of Kid Icarus was simple and a bit barebones on the NES, here the lore has been GREATLY expanded. The role of gods and their underlings in this wacky version of the Greek myth world is far more fleshed out, and these once mostly-silent pixelated characters are now bursting with tons of character.

Speaking of, that’s one thing I really feel the need to gush about. The characters in this game are soooooooo good. Every single one of them. In the process of re-imagining this psychedelic fantasy world, Uprising gave way to what has to easily be the greatest ensemble of friends and foes in any Nintendo game, ever. If KIU must be followed up upon, I demand it be some sort of Dissidia-style fighting game, or I dunno, a Kid Icarus Air Ride or something, I just want some excuse to play as all these other characters in some environment.

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I may be just a wee bit obsessed with Viridi

This is all mostly due to Uprising’s top-notch writing. The story is generally told not via cutscenes, but with constant banter that goes on during the gameplay, mostly between the various gods. The dialogue cheesy, witty, and most of all, actually funny while never getting too obnoxious, even when it’s just being used to point out obvious hazards. (I want you to take some long, hard notes here, Skyward Sword devs.) There are also loads of shout-outs and references to the original Kid Icarus as well as other Nintendo games too.(And thankfully restricts the pop culture references to that.) The translation and voice acting is also top of the line, though I really would have liked at least the option of being able to switch to Japanese VAs.

If you thought Kid Icarus’ setting was strange before, Uprising completely blows it away with its plot. What appears to be a simple enough retread of the first game devolves into complete and utter fucking insanity later on. You have new characters being introduced left and right, explosions, alien invasions, timeskips, and sweeping battles that reach Gurren Lagann levels of over-the-top absurdity. I don’t think anyone could have possibly asked for a better follow up to Kid Icarus than this, and it would be a crying shame if the amazing universe crafted here isn’t used in more games later down the line. (Hell, now that I mentioned it, I now REALLY want that Kid Icarus Air Ride. Oh my god it would be perfect, just imagine.)

A special mention also has to go to the music, which is also fucking amazing. Awesome orchestral rearrangements of classic tunes blend together with some totally jamming original tracks to create one hell of a score . It’s especially marvelous during the flying segments, where the music even times itself with what’s going on in the stages. And there’s no shortage of tunes either, save for the boss battle theme, which gets reused a bit too often, but it’s rockin’ enough to get away with it.

ImageIt may not be perfect, but Kid Icarus Uprising is still an utter delight to play. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It’ll provide you hours upon hours of deep hair-trigger shooting action as well as plenty for completionists to sink their teeth into. And I haven’t even gotten into the multiplayer features. (and most likely will never due to my awful wireless connection) Is it one of the best games of 2012? Most definitely. Is it one of my favorite games ever? Eh, well maybe not, it depends. All I know is that if you own a 3DS, you owe it to yourself to try this game at least once. And if you’re at all a fan of Kid Icarus, Uprising absolutely exceeds expectations on every level. And when my biggest gripe was that the ending felt too abrupt and left me wanting more, you know Nintendo has something truly amazing on their hands. I don’t think I can handle another 25 years; whatever this whole child of the Íkaros business is, I want more of it, and it’d be a crying shame if this series becomes anything less than a legitimate franchise after this first-class revival. But until then, I’m glad this far too overdue sequel was allowed to exist in any capacity, and I hope at least one or two more members of this ragtag ensemble (M-most certainly not just a certain specific one, no, w-what could have possibly given you that idea?) has the chops to show up in the shockingly-promising-looking 4th Smash Bros. game.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’M FINISHED! D:

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Responses

  1. You already know this tirk, but great read bro! I always love your writing style when it comes to these reviews.

  2. Obviously moved over to the Bunker from a different site – but still a delightful read.

  3. I really should get this game for 3DS since I only have Black 2 right now, even though I Youtube’d my way through the entire game like so many others. It’s easily my favorite Nintendo franchise alongside Pokemon, if not more so.

    Also, since this is posted on a site related to MYM and Super Smash Bros, I might as well bring up that I really hope you make a set for Viridi in the near future (you have all those pictures on this article, after all) since she’s my favorite character in the game (partially because she has the same English voice actress as Yutaka). You’re not the only one who’d die of joy if she was included in the next SSB4 game (she is, in fact, the only Nintendo rep I genuinely want included really badly).

  4. This article reminds me how I wanted to make a Viridi moveset…

    • I’d do anything for you to still want to.


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