Kid Icarus: Uprising
Pit Flies High...and Low in This Adventure
Kid Icarus: Uprising is a combination of a high score shooter and 3D action adventure which contains several great elements and one pretty bad one. Pit, the flightless angel, is back after a long hiatus. After the first game of the series came out on the NES and one more on the Game Boy, we haven't seen a Kid Icarus game for a couple decades. With that being said, I had high expectations for this game, which were satisfied . . . sort of.
The story in general is quite charming. Pit takes on the forces of the underworld, lead by Medusa and Hades, in an effort to save the world. He's helped by the Goddess of Light, Palutena, who helps Pit fly and the beginning of stages and has humorous dialog with him during each stage. Other characters make brief appearances, including a Dark Pit counterpart (or as Pit calls him "Pittoo") and a sword wielding warrior named Magnus (which you get to control at one point, briefly).
What's great about the story is that while it's a daunting struggle to save the world, the game doesn't take itself too seriously. Palutena often makes Nintendo and other video game references, in other words the characters know they're in a game and take advantage of that involving humor in the dialog. There are definitely a couple chuckles along the way.
When you pick your stage, you can choose the difficulty (ranging from 0 to 10), with the base being at 2. The harder the stage, the greater the treasure and the more hearts you can get to spend in the shop later. However, by increasing the difficulty, you have to "pay" a certain of amount of hearts to do it. I had a problem with this because if you're battery dies, or you have to quit in the middle of a stage (which can happen since I'm playing a portable handheld!) you basically just lose the hearts you paid to play the stage with no rewards.
There are quite a number of stages to tackle, most of which involve Pit flying to a destination in the first 5 minutes to a destination to take on a boss. The reason behind this '5 minute rule' is that Palutena can only help Pit fly for that long, then Pit must land and finish the journey on foot. To me, the first 5 minutes of the stage are by far the most entertaining. It resembles a Star Fox or equivalent type style, where you can move Pit around the screen using joystick, while you aim at your enemies using the stylus.
After Pit lands, things go down hill just a little bit. This part of the game isn't that interesting, the levels are plain and uninspired, they're aren't really any puzzles to solve, it's not much more than adding more stuff to do before reaching the end of the stage to fight the boss. There are treasure chests to find, but to me weren't worth it. A couple bright spots are grind rails, with puts Pit on a predetermined route where all you have to do is aim and shoot. There's also a couple vehicles Pit can climb in and use, which helps move things along and changes it up a bit. Also, the boss fights are fun to take on (especially the flying ones).
And then there's the control scheme. Running around on land, turning, and aiming using the controller scheme is troublesome to say the least. It's hard not to fall off edges or to turn and face enemies in a quick and reasonable manner. I often took damage I knew was coming just because I couldn't perform the necessary controls to get out of the way, now that's saying something since I often excel at hand-eye coordination type challenges. Also, being left handed, I was forced to buy the 3DS Circle Pad Pro accessory after a few hand cramping induced sessions. Playing with Pit on the ground felt more like work than playing a game, I never felt comfortable enough to enjoy that part of the game.
However, once I got used to (never did get comfortable) with the controls, I was able to enjoy the parts of the game that added depth. You can obtain new weapons in treasure chests, buying them in a shop, or by defeating bosses. Once you've done that, you can experiment by fusing them together to form your ideal weapon. If you have more success using melee attacks, you can build your weapon focusing on that. If you like to shoot your enemies most of the time from a distance using dodge attacks, make a weapon with that as it's strength. It's fun spending time tinkering with it.
Also, you learn skills by successfully any number of challenges in the game, whether it's by defeating a stage in a specific time, using a certain attack a number of times, and so on. When you learn these skills, you can equip them and use them while you're on the ground. A few examples include health regeneration, increased defense, a paralyzing attack, etc.
All and all I had a great time playing the game, yet I had a hard time picking it up to turn it on. I dreaded fighting the controller scheme, something Nintendo knew people were going to deal with since it included a stand to play it with (one I couldn't use because I had to play with the Circle Pad Pro). I want to go back and get higher scores, take on an increased difficulty and build better weapons, the question is when I'll get the nerve to fight the controls again.