Nintendo has been gradually building up the hype for Kid Icarus: Uprising since the 3DS was first unveiled, but development issues led to it being pushed back again and again. After Cubed3’s numerous early hands-on previews it was regularly noted that only half of the game was in full working order. Thankfully, though, all the extra development time appears to have righted the majority, if not all, of the highlighted flaws.
Pit has been enlisted by the Goddess Palutena to help the people of the land be rid of the scourge that is Medusa and her band of nefarious villains. To aid Pit in this endeavour, Palutena bestows upon him various gifts, including the ability to fly. However, as this is only permitted for a five minute spell, it means that the action in Uprising is split between air-based shooting action and on-foot sections that employ the same basic core gameplay, except in a slightly modified format. It is this latter element that was severely lacking in preview editions, even feeling 'broken' at times. Now all is right with the world...well, 'almost.'
First things first, however, and the culmination of styles together make for a thrilling experience on the whole, and anyone that has played and loved both Treasure's fast and frenetic Sin and Punishment 2: Successor of the Skies (Star Successor in the US) will instantly feel at home. The on-rails sky action bears more than a passing resemblance to the Wii shmup that Cubed3 adoringly gave full marks to, with its intense pace and smooth reticule movement for targeting the constant bombardment of enemies and ensuing projectiles aimed directly at Pit, albeit with the stylus replacing the Wii Remote's IR pointing this time round.
As for the ground based combat, it takes on a more free-roaming approach to allow for exploration of the areas visited, but it feels remarkably similar to Akaoni Studios' WiiWare smash, Zombie Panic in Wonderland, or even EnjoyUp's Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ on DS and DSiWare thanks to its preference for close quarters combat, mixed with a dash of long distance shooting and a whole host of destruction as wave after wave of monsters flood the screen.
High praise, no doubt you will agree, and it is clear how much care and attention has been imbued upon Kid Icarus: Uprising thanks to Sakurai-san taking onboard feedback received from a variety of sources during the development process. What helps to make Uprising even more of a joy to play is its brilliant humour, with the interplay between Goddess and willing assistant being of particular note. The actress playing Palutena, who some may recognise from her role as Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII, does a fantastic job of portraying the teasing, often sarcastic, Goddess, often winding Pit up just to invoke a humorous reaction. The general banter that plays out whilst gamers are busily blasting away in the hope of staying alive long enough to reach the end of stage boss encounter is absolutely hilarious at times, to the point where it may even prove distracting…but listening carefully is definitely worth a level retry at certain points as the rapport the characters have is superb. The script writing overall has a certain glow about it, and the comedic feel continues in the various comments made by main bosses (the three-headed Hewdraw is a particular stand out example in the early stages). It really does make Kid Icarus: Uprising a pleasure to play through, helping to smooth over the ground combat control flaws.
Whilst the air-bound sequences are near enough flawless, with the default setup of the Circle Pad for controlling Pit’s general movement as he flies along the on-rails flight path, with the on-screen reticule deftly swished around using the stylus and the left shoulder button attributed to shooting, working a treat, as soon as the hero lands, things take a turn for the worse. However, after plenty of time tweaking the design from the initial build Cubed3 tried what seems like eons ago, everything works well enough to help get through the main game without too much hassle. The main flight controls still apply for the main part, but there is a greater need for double-shunting the Circle Pad left or right to dodge incoming fire, as well as swiftly swiping the touch-screen to spin the camera around, which in the heat of battle is certainly no substitute for a dual analogue system. Adding the Circle Pad Pro into the mix does not actually change this either, as some may have hoped, with it merely being added as an option for left-handed players to be able to better get to grips with the standard control settings.
Although holding Kid Icarus: Uprising back from achieving the sheer perfection levels that Treasure’s Sin and Punishment sequel on Wii attained, players will find that they adapt to the moderately irksome setup sufficiently to prevent the entire adventure being completely marred. It also helps that the rest of the game is so packed with sheer sublime goodness that any qualms melt away immediately.
From the fact that each chapter can be replayed on different difficulty levels to open up new secrets, to the wealth of achievements to unlock throughout the adventure, and the whole host of weapon customisation, Kid Icarus: Uprising tries to offer players the most value for their money, and succeeds in every respect. Working through a level normally involves making the best use of whatever weapon is currently at your disposal -- with some able to fire continuously from afar or others being better in the melee field and requiring a special charge to unleash projectiles -- to plough down a torrent of weird and wonderful enemies thrown into your path. Palutena ensures that Pit takes the right route during flying sections, but on the ground players are given free rein to seek out hidden rooms, new paths, and track down all manner of extra items to help the cause (new weapons, special shields, powerful accessories, and so on). This open adventuring styles works really well once the controls have been adapted to, and the various situations faced are once again accompanied by some amazing voice work keeping gamers absorbed in the experience to the highest degree.
Outside of the main adventure, which in itself is meaty thanks to the range of difficulty levels available, all with incentives to actually try them out, there is the delightful multiplayer battle mode, which can be played either online or via a local wireless connection with Friend Code folk or complete strangers in a random match-up selection. Mayhem ensues unless the right weaponry has been chosen pre-battle, and flying into a group fight without prior experience with the controls can prove to be highly daunting, and normally short-lived, but once brushed up enough, launching attacks across the various arenas, either alone or in teams, can be great fun for those enamoured by Sakurai-san’s Smash Bros. games. Kid Icarus: Uprising is not the same game as its NES and Game Boy predecessors, but the end result proves that the changes made are definitely for the better, pressing enough retro buttons to appeal to old school fans, whilst showing how the extras are a result of a true labour of love by a developer with real passion for videogame making.