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Kid Icarus: Uprising review

Excellent
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AT A GLANCE
  • Gorgeous visuals that embrace stereoscopic 3D
  • Uniquely fun controls that work great
  • A hilariously localized script
  • Controls are initially hard to grasp
  • Some of the very difficult demands for unlocking extras
  • The challenging search to find the perfect weapon

Pre-release expectations are difficult for any game to live up to, let alone overcome. That's hard enough for a sequel that players have been waiting years for; just imagine how tough it would be if gamers waited decades. Kid Icarus: Uprising is the 3DS revival of a series Nintendo fans have been clamoring for since the 1991 Game Boy sequel. Fortunately, it has met those huge expectations.

Uprising picks up 25 years after the NES original, with winged hero Pit defending humanity from the hordes of the Underworld. Pit follows the lead of Palutena, the friendly Goddess of Light, to battle the newly reborn Medusa and an army filled with many of the same enemies from the original. There’s a comforting nostalgia to it all, but the narrative is filled with twists and turns. Familiarity is replaced with a fun unpredictability, as we were never sure where the setting would shift to next in the surprisingly hefty campaign. 

 

Each stage of the 20-plus chapters in the game comes in three parts: flying, on-foot exploration, and boss battles. The gameplay blends complement the story’s shifting focus, and each has its strengths, some are stronger than others. And that’s largely due to a uniform control scheme that might feel initially strange, but is one we came to embrace.

Virtually every chapter begins with an autoscrolling flight stage that evokes high-flying classics like Star Fox and Space Harrier. The decision to control the targeting reticule with the touchscreen feels a tad strange at first, but you adapt to it, and Pit’s movements and firing feel natural upon first play. You can try some alternate control settings, but the default option ultimately works best.

The flying stages last five minutes each, and thanks in part to the game's autoscrolling nature, these are the most visually stunning parts. Additionally, the graphical flourishes and richly designed settings of Uprising serve as a showcase for the system’s 3D effects and enhance the fun factor. The flight portions of each level are uniquely enjoyable and despite the linearity, there’s sky-high replay value.

The flight controls are easy to grasp, but that same input felt initially unnatural for on-foot exploration. Mapping the camera and reticle to something as fiddly as a stylus will never feel completely normal when trying to traverse a dungeon, but we acclimated quickly enough after the first few stages. By the end of the game blasting away enemies and exploring each stage with the touchscreen feels totally natural. Even if you need some time to adapt to the nuanced mechanics, most of the on-foot levels are expertly designed to minimize your time spent fighting the controls. The different rooms and setting don’t demand much precision, while a majority of the limited platforming was made intentionally simple to complement the quirky controls.

The on-foot gameplay works even better in the boss battles, since the tricky camera seldom affects circular arena where you face the level's top nemesis. Each final encounter is cleverly implemented into the stage and feels markedly different from the prior stage, with a variety that further feeds into Uprising’s deep replayability. Whether it's the dragon Hewdraw, the fiery Twinbellows, or invaders from space, every boss battle makes for a grand finale.

More than anything, Kid Icarus: Uprising's dense replay value comes from its inventive approach to difficulty. You can’t lose at Uprising, but you'll never gain all the glory unless you up the Intensity. You bet hearts (the in-game currency) at the start of each chapter, risking more based on how high you set the bar. The more intense the stage, the more enemies and items appear, and should you falter and die, the game knocks down the Intensity a few notches until you can finish the stage (if you'd rather restart from the beginning with the same difficulty you can). It makes the game challenging without being too punishing, and adds real value to the hearts in the game.

There's so much to unlock and explore in Uprising that it can sometimes be overwhelming. Those hearts help you tweak and customize the nine different weapon types with a stunningly diverse array of specific armaments to choose from, plus special properties like defensive buffs and improved item drops. There's a noticeable difference in the power level of your starting weapons and ones you find later, so the ability to unlock and collect all of them further enriches the campaign's replay value and your ability to overcome the higher Intensity settings.

 

Uprising also features online and local multiplayer, which is a fun side attraction, but it isn’t the sole reason you should be considering Uprising. Since it handles like the on-foot sections of the campaign, gamers who can’t reconcile that playstyle won’t enjoy it that much when they’re tossed in against other people. However, once we acclimated to the interface, the controls felt even-handed against other players, and it was uniquely balanced based on item unlocks and powers. It may not be the main draw, but it’s reminiscent of the simplicity of classic Quake or GoldenEye matches.

Uprising's story is particularly well-executed and very charming. In a move that’ll surprise Nintendo fans, the game is fully voiced, with Pit and company continually entertaining us with witty banter, thanks to a great script. It never takes itself too seriously, lending the game a lively spirit, though the story occasionally veers into some dark moments. Also, the plot has treats the canon with reverence, continually referencing the first game with classic sprites, sound effects and story points seemingly pulled straight from the NES instruction booklet. And if that’s not enough, the game features one of the best soundtracks in some time. All told, Kid Icarus: Uprising has a stunning amount of polish and refinement, even by Nintendo's high standards.

The twenty-plus year wait was worth it. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a very impressive game. Although there’s an initial adjustment period for its controls, each stage is masterfully designed, rewarding exploration and experimentation, plus it’s surprisingly deep. Like Metroid Prime, Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before it, Kid Icarus: Uprising marks another Nintendo franchise that successfully transitions to three dimensions.

More Info

Release date: Mar 23 2012 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes

We Recommend

59 comments

  • LOZ4EVAH - March 26, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    Oh man this game is awesome. It hurts to type this cuz of the odd controls but it is a killer app indeed. Love the action, the script, the humor, and the unlockables. Multiplayer is cool! (I got 3rd place first time trying it) Definitely a 9.5 for me
  • malypso - March 25, 2012 9:47 a.m.

    Wow, I mean WOW! I picked this game up and am completely blow away! At first I had to get used to the controls, but by the 5th chapter it really felt natural. I see why they chose this rout for the controls but still feel that the on-foot sections should be controlled with the CPP attachment. Kid Icarus never lets up and has me glued to the beautiful graphics and marvelous stereoscopic 3D. This game is one of the best (if not the best), game on the 3DS to date! Great review Henry Gilbert, you hit it spot on with this review for most; but for me this game is at least a 9.5. The shear mass and beauty makes me excited to see what Zelda and other Nintendo franchises, for the 3DS, is going to look like. Kid Icarus genuinely feels like a true console experience and should be picked up be any and everyone that considers themselves a hardcore Nintendo fan, as this game was designed for us, while still keeping it open for the casual audience. Bravo Nintendo! Keep up the great work, and good job Gamesradar for delivering an accurate review.
  • cgriff63 - March 23, 2012 7:27 p.m.

    I actually thought the super smash sisters comment was kinda stupid. eh, regardless of that it looks pretty cool. and thanks for doing a video review.
  • GameManiac - March 23, 2012 4:17 p.m.

    Glad I picked up my copy this morning. I'll be sure to crack it open soon (as well as the pre-order 3D Classics bonus).
  • onetimebuster - March 23, 2012 2:49 p.m.

    I couldnt afford the game so i pre-ordered it from amazon and downloaded the kid icarus 3d game download and sent the game back.
  • TrAnMu - March 25, 2012 1:54 p.m.

    Lol.
  • 231231jimmy - March 23, 2012 1:40 p.m.

    i cant wait for this!
  • sirdilznik - March 23, 2012 10 a.m.

    Started playing a few hours ago and I fully agree with the score given, the game is flat out fantastic. Gorgeous, cheesy (in a good way) dialogue, catchy heroic tunes, awesome difficulty mechanic, badass boss fights, a seemingly endless amount of content. Most importantly this game is really fun.
  • Cyberninja - March 23, 2012 3:37 a.m.

    now the only question is what game will be game of the month, the game where everyone hates the ending or the game that people hate the controls.
  • shawksta - March 23, 2012 6:04 a.m.

    Lol good question. Doesnt matter really, both are winners considering the other will be in second place.
  • BladedFalcon - March 23, 2012 6:37 a.m.

    As much as I generally love ME3, I think Kid Icarus probably deserves to be GotM more. I mean, even with the flaws it has, the fact alone that it's a new, original game gives it more credit than ME3 in which is mostly a great follow-up to an already existing concept.
  • shawksta - March 23, 2012 7:51 a.m.

    I agree with you on that, basically both have flaws that arnt a that much of a problem so it comes down to originality and gameplay., and to some degree, the amount of content whicn Uprising dominates. The Mass effect series is popular and all and despite certain circumstances, the fact that there arnt that many ”Mature” people, and how easily people will throw off Nintendo, im keeping it 50/50 when the article gets here. Its already bad enough morons insult me for being a fanboy when I say good things about them, I dont want another random assault. Who knows, people might actually not like ME3 for the controversies Ill never understand (till my 360 works and I can play it)
  • ObliqueZombie - March 23, 2012 9:15 a.m.

    Probably, but not because it's a new and original. Technically, this IS based of an incredibly old IP, and the controls are another on-rails shooter (which is still awesome, considering the damn good graphics). Mass Effect is technically more original, even with glaring resemblances to Star Wars. I guess we'll just see--though I'm hoping for ME3, but that's for another comment on another day. xD
  • BladedFalcon - March 23, 2012 11:11 a.m.

    Er... Just because Kid Icarus is based on an old IP doesn't mean the game's less original, specially considering that this game doesn't really have anything in common with the NES Kid Icarus, gameplay-wise at least. It's like saying Metroid Prime wasn't original because it's based on the metroid series... Even though the gameplay was radically different >_> And then, you're talking about Mass Effect in general, not ME3, ME3 is a direct sequel that, unlike ME2, didn't really change or improve the formula of the series in the radical way that ME2 did to ME1.
  • ObliqueZombie - March 24, 2012 3:04 p.m.

    I beg to differ, because comparing side-by-side each of the games, neither one is similar in hardly any aspect. The only real, true similarity between ME2 and ME3 that I can pick off on the top of my head is the combat. And by combat, I mean having a more fluid running movement and a tighter camera. Granted, the differences between ME1 and ME2 WERE substantially different than ME2 and ME3. And I get what you're talking about, an original game, but the basics of on-rails shooting aren't too far from the mother tree. The on-ground controls and gameplay may be different, but from what I've been reading, not for the better. Alas, you're right. It fairly, if not radically different from most games out there--let alone 3DS games.
  • BladedFalcon - March 24, 2012 11:05 p.m.

    Er... ME3 has almost the exact same graphics as ME2 did, at most with slightly sharper and better defined textures. The flow of the game, the dialog tree, the way you explore the stages and even the ship. It's all practically the same base as ME2 was. Not to mention that at it's core, the character classes work more or less the same, with just one or two new powers added or altered. It's definitely an improvement, but it's not the overhaul that ME2 was to ME1 Also... "The basics of on-rails shooting"? Wut... The original Kid icarus was a 2D action platformer, what does that have to do with on rails shooters? ._.
  • talleyXIV - March 24, 2012 8:59 a.m.

    If you are referencing that this is technically a sequel you are off your rocker. That game came out 20 years ago and I doubt you could find similarities aside from the main character and maybe some story. Mass Effect 3 is exactly like the first and second game of the series, and those are a lot like Halo!
  • BladedFalcon - March 24, 2012 10:54 a.m.

    ...You did not just compare Mass Effect to Halo.
  • ObliqueZombie - March 24, 2012 3 p.m.

    Well. It seems someone hasn't played the first two ME games.
  • shawksta - March 23, 2012 12:39 a.m.

    Holy sh*t Henry, i was pretty sure this was gonna get a 8, glad i was wrong. Ive read allot of reviews and now after reading yours i can safely come to the conclusion that Kid Icarus Uprising is overall Fantastic and the only real problem is getting used to the controls, after that you'll definitly be %100 satisfied! Im happy online works well, and that this game is a great addition to Sakurai's reputation of making Fatass games, i cant wait to get this!

Showing 1-20 of 59 comments

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