For the better part of the last 20 years, Nintendo couldn’t tease a big reveal or new console without fans getting their hopes up that Kid Icarus would finally make a comeback. After resurfacing as a playable character in Smash Bros Brawl, the franchise made its proper return as Kid Icarus: Uprising was revealed as the first ever 3DS game in 2010. Many have waited patiently since then to play the game, and their wait that ends next week. However, if you aren’t a fan of the series, just what makes it so special?
In case you missed out on the 8-bit original, we composed this helpful primer on the series. And since Kid Icarus: Uprising seems to follow mythology of the first games fairly closely, this should prepare you for the next week’s 3D revival.
First things first: The main character isn't named “Kid Icarus,” his name is Pit. A resident of the higher realm known as Angel Land, Pit was a member of the royal guard tasked with the heavy responsibility of defeating ultimate evil. Pit had a bit of a break for the last 25 years, until recent troubles flared up in his upcoming 3DS title, and that time off explains his current look. No longer a cherubic boy, Pit’s grown up some and sports the character redesign that first appeared in Smash Bros Brawl. Though he has a fun personality, when it comes time to kick ass, Pit is ready for whatever is thrown at him.
Kid Icarus (NES)
Released in Japan in 1986, Kid Icarus was a game with big ideas, some that were too big for the NES. Created by many of the same people behind Metroid, Kid Icarus was a unique mix of gameplay concepts (platformer, RPG, shoot ‘em up) which makes it stand out from other releases of the time. In practice, though, the game shifts from engaging to painfully frustrating, most often due to technical limitations of the hardware than poor design. The game takes Pit up through the Underworld to eventually free the Goddess of Light from the evil Medusa. Still a Nintendo classic, by modern standards Kid Icarus comes up short, perhaps explaining why it ended up being more of a one-off than an evergreen franchise like Mario, Zelda and Metroid, despite launching at the same time.
The divine Goddess of Light, Palutena is the benevolent ruler of Angel Land, where she and her angelic subjects watch over humankind. Captured and eventually freed by Pit in the original game, she’s since become more of a guide for Pit than a damsel in distress. In Uprising, she’s in constant communication with Pit, explaining concepts of battle while bestowing the power of flight for five minutes at a time. From what we’ve heard from her already in Uprising footage and previews, in spite her power and divinity, Palutena’s friendly demeanor bleeds through in her conversations.
On the opposite side of the coin from Palutena, Medusa once ruled Angel Land alongside the Goddess of Light, but eventually her distaste for humanity led to her banishment to the Underworld. After she plotted her revenge and amassed an army of monsters, she captured Palutena and all of Angel Land, leaving one lone angel free. Fortunately for humanity that angel was Pit, who eventually defeated Medusa in her monstrous form and freed Palutena. 25 years later (when Uprising takes place), Medusa has returned and collected a new army of fiends to try and enslave humanity.
Three Sacred Treasures
How did one young angel defeat an evil monster queen like Medusa? He had to secure the Three Sacred Treasures, the collective name for the Arrows of Light, the Mirror Shield, and the Wings of Pegasus. Each was being held by a boss of the three stages in the NES original and once collected they transformed Pit into an impressive armored warrior. The Treasures return in Uprising, but for some reason they’re in the hands of Space Pirates (?) as revealed in this recent trailer.
Medusa's most top agents
Of course Pit couldn’t just grab the Sacred Treasures out of the broom closet, that’d be too easy. Instead, they were defended by the final boss of each stage: fiery Twinbellows in the Underworld, Overworld featured the monstrous serpent Hewdraw (a mistranslation hydra that remains his name), and Skyworld had the gaseous Pandora. From footage released of Uprising all three of the bosses return (alongside dozens of other regular enemies from the original) and Twinbellows is also the first boss you face in the 3DS game, the same role he had in the first game.
Of all the regular enemy types, none are as famous as the Eggplant Wizard. Perhaps it’s because players felt such intense rage at the Eggplant Wizard’s ability to turn you into the useless purple vegetable, forcing players to backtrack through much of the stage to be turned back to normal. It’s just as likely he’s famous to a certain portion of gamers thanks to his appearance in the strange Saturday morning cartoon Captain N: The Game Master. EW returns in Uprising, alongside his logical counterpart, Tempura Wizard (seriously).
We don’t have the stats on this, but we’re betting many more were first encountered the world of Kid Icarus in this Saturday morning cartoon than by the NES game. The show would be virtually impossible today, since it's about an avid Nintendo fan teaming up with characters as diverse as Mega Man, Simon Belmont, and a Game Boy to battle Metroid’s Mother Brain. The cartoon also had cameos from sereis as wide-ranging as Donkey Kong, Bayou Billy, and Zelda, a crossover like this would be impossible these days. Both Pit and Eggplant Wizard were regulars on the show, with multiple episodes referencing Kid Icarus. The show is borderline unwatchable by adult standards, but for a generation of children, this was a crossover of epic proportions and (for better or worse) it’s how many remember Kid Icarus.
Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
Though some may think Uprising is Kid Icarus’ first sequel, that honor belongs to the forgotten Myths and Monsters. Developed by TOSE for the then-new Game Boy, Myths and Monsters has Pit hunting down the Three Sacred Treasure for Palutena again, this time to prepare for the onslaught of the evil Orcos. Fixing some of the biggest technical failings from the first game (no more falling off-screen to your death) KIoMM never received a release in Japan until this year on the 3DS Virtual Console. It remains to be seen if this game will be referenced all that much in Uprising.
Hearts = $$$
Probably some younger players were confused at first when picking up hearts in the original Kid Icarus. Instead of healing Pit, the hearts collected in the upper right of the screen and were used as currency to buy items at the many stores throughout the levels. Hearts worked similarly in the Game Boy sequel and (from what we’ve played so far), that type of economy returns in Uprising. In the upcoming 3DS game, you not only collect hearts for beating enemies, you also can wager a certain number of hearts based on how high a level of difficulty you set each stage to.
Super Smash Bros Brawl
Aside from tantalizingly brief cameos here and there, Pit and the Kid Icarus franchise was basically dormant, with the series’ cult of fans continually asking Nintendo if the franchise would ever get a modern release. After most figured Pit’s day was long over, the angelic fighter was one of the first characters revealed for the Wii-exclusive Smash Bros Brawl. With a fancy new character design and multiple stages referencing the original games, many figured the next step for Pit would be a full sequel for the series, and it ultimately was, though it took another four years.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Years ago Masahiro Sakurai, the director of the Smash Bros series, started a new development team called Project Sora, a group owned by Nintendo and tasked with creating one of the first 3DS games. Sakurai and his team decided Icarus was a perfect fit and reimagined the series as a mash-up of on-rail shooting and on-foot combat. Taking place 25 years after the first game (not coincidentally that’s how long it’s been in the real world since the NES title), Pit is working with Palutena once again to defeat the returning Medusa and her beastly army. Though there are tons of familiar faces, new enemies and allies abound, like Dark Pit and Magnus. We've enjoyed what we've played so far, and keep an eye out for our review next week.
GamesRadar is the premiere source for everything that matters in the world of video games. Casual or core, console or handheld - whatever systems you own or whatever genres you love, GamesRadar is there to filter out what's worth your time and to help you get even more from your games. We deliver the best advice, the most in-depth features, expert reviews, and the essential guides for all the top games.