“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Those are the words angelic hero Pit greeted us with at the moment of the first ever 3DS game announcement. It was an appropriate thing to say on many levels. Think the wait for Duke Nukem Forever was drawn out? A full two decades, an eternity in the video game industry, separated Kid Icarus Uprising from the previous game in the series, the Game Boy game Of Myths and Monsters. In fact we would have to wait another two years after Pit’s apology to play his new title. So here comes the obvious question; was it worth the wait?
Medusa the Goddess of Darkness has returned and is unleashing the wrath of the Underworld Army, something Palutena the Goddess of Light isn’t too keen to allow so she sends her baby-faced captain Pit, an angel who cannot fly without her assistance, to take her and her generals down. The single-player campaign unfolds one chapter at a time as Pit embarks on a new mission. Each chapter begins with an on-rails flying section in the style of Star Fox or Sin and Punishment in which you must blast enemies while avoiding their attacks. Then the action moves to on-foot action segments in which you must guide Pit through a mostly linear level battling any monsters you encounter before tackling the traditional boss.
The gameplay is simple enough in concept. You have three inputs; move Pit with the circle pad, aim the targeting reticle with the touch screen and attack with the L trigger. This move, aim and shoot routine works just fine in the flying sections; the problems creep in during the on-foot sequences which feel very similar to Metroid Prime Hunters and sadly share the control issues that crippled that game. Action can be intense and relentless which is no bad thing but turning the camera round to get a view of what you’re supposed to be attacking is awkward. The game helpfully likens the action of sweeping the touch screen to rotate the camera and touching it to stop it again to spinning a globe and stopping it with your finger. To a certain extent it feels intuitive but in practice it never sits well with the speed and intensity of the action. You will frequently find yourself blind to enemies behind you and there will be many occasions where you will be frustrated by damage you could not possibly avoid because you can’t see what’s attacking you. With practice you can make the best of it and develop strategies to get round the issue but the truth is the difficulty of the control scheme and the painful way it makes you hold the 3DS does detract from the experience which is a real shame because everything else is fantastic.
Every chapter features an extensive amount of chat between Pit, Palutena and various other characters, all of it fully voice acted. The script is knowingly cheesy and very comic, with occasional moments that break the fourth wall including references to other Nintendo games. It’s excellently entertaining even if the intensity of the action sometimes makes it difficult to follow the banter properly, the writing is witty and the appealing voice work is top quality. The story itself doesn’t expand the game’s universe so much as enliven it with a confident spirit that brings the series into the modern era very capably. Combine this with the detailed graphics, surprisingly rousing score and cinematic scope and you have one of the best presented handheld games Nintendo has produced.
And the content doesn’t end with the single player campaign. Masahiro Sakurai has crammed the title with additional things to keep you playing. There are trophies to earn, innumerable weapons to find, buy or create by fusing two together and that’s before you even get into the multiplayer. The single-player campaign features a unique difficulty structure which can be adjusted by a slider. As the number on the slider increases so does the intensity of the action but you must pay hearts (in-game currency) for the privilege. On the other hand you can also pay to make the game easier than the 2.0 standard. Playing through previously beaten chapters at harder intensities will extend the lifespan of the game for those who enjoy playing enough but be warned the highest difficulty level is absolutely insane. If you’re so inclined you could probably play KIU for weeks without seeing everything the game has to offer.
Kid Icarus Uprising is enormous fun to play, especially the on-rails flying levels which don’t suffer the control issues of the on-foot parts but those problems do detract from the overall experience quite considerably. The result is a game that feels less than the sum of its parts, well with playing but it comes with the regretful knowledge that if it had been made for home consoles with dual analogue controls or even Wii pointer controls it could have been so much better.
Design – 7
Gameplay – 6
Graphics – 8
Sound – 8
Content – 8
One of the most significant first party 3DS games so far, the amount of thought and attention that has gone into Kid Icarus Uprising is clear and there is a huge amount to be enjoyed about it but the awkward control scheme is not.