Kid Icarus: Uprising – Review of the Nintendo 3DS Game

Out of all the great games I play each and every year, it seems there is one title per year that becomes an absolute obsessive/borderline frightening time sink, one that I can’t seem to put down until it gets naturally lost in the shuffle of other games, and gradually fades from memory. One that I look forward to every evening, much like a hot cooked meal or a smooth glass of wine. In all honesty, I really, really didn’t expect the reemergence of Nintendo’s long lost hero Kid Icarus to be that game.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a polished, wonderful revival of this long dormant franchise. Playing through it once provides a rock solid journey of considerable length, but beyond that initial playthrough, this game reveals itself to be completionist heaven. The entire game is designed to encourage replay, and there are so many goals and so much content in this game, it’s overwhelming at first glance. I have been playing well over 100 hours and my completion rate is still only around 93%. And the content isn’t pathetic filler; in fact, it all feels very Smash Bros, which is no surprise given the game was designed by Masahiro Sakurai.

In Kid Icarus: Uprising, you play as the plucky hero Pit, who is once again tasked with taking down the evil Medusa and her underworld minions. Though it’s not Shakespeare, it is an interesting enough story, and comes off like a children’s cartoon mashed up with Greek myth – that is to say, a wonderful idea. But the story is really elevated by genuine smart writing, occasional dramatic moments and very humorous voice acting, not to mention a carefully constructed musical score, complete with reoccurring themes that tie in to the different characters. The production values are high here.

And that level of care and love can be seen in every inch of this product. No detail was spared. Nothing feels lazy. Even one particular stretch of the game (in which I felt things got off the narrative course and dragged a bit) was still designed and executed to a high standard of quality, when compared to many other games. The final battle is absolutely epic, something that many games stumble with. KI: Uprising might have been hard to have found fault in, were it not for the controls.

Ah, the controls. Glaring as they may be, they are not a deal breaker. While the controls are weird and problematic (and yes, they hurt for extended play sessions) you will grow accustomed to them. You move Pit with the analog stick and use the stylus to aim your weapon, shooting with the L trigger, all while support the weight of the 3DS. It’s an unusual set-up, but the game is otherwise excellent, and worth adjusting to the controls. “The Claw” technique used by Monster Hunter fans on PSP never stopped them from logging hundreds of hours, and the same should be said for this game.

Aside from the lack of Circle Pad Pro support for dual analog control (arguably a grand oversight), I don’t really see how they could have implemented much better controls, given the design of KI: Uprising. And the extensive option menus allow for a deep level of customization and optimization, so don’t hesitate to get in there and fix things to what works best for your hands.

Included with every copy of KI: Uprising is a little plastic stand, and I’m shocked anyone gave it the greenlight, for fear of sheer embarrassment. But ridiculousness aside, it actually works – it takes away the portability of your 3DS, but it also takes away the need to awkwardly support your DS while controlling the game. I honestly prefer lying down in bed or on my couch when I play my 3DS, so I ultimately tossed it aside, but if you are willing to sit at your kitchen table or desk, you will have an easier time when using the stand.

So, it all comes down to this: if you think you can deal with the controls, then buy this game. Like now. Or tomorrow. Because this game is an awesome time sink, with a ton of heart and soul.

And multiplayer. Not that the game needed it for longevity, but it’s there and it works admirably, given the limitations. It’s nothing special, a Kid Icarus take on simple deathmatch with a twist, or free for all. But it’s there, to complete what is a beautiful package, that if not for the undeniable control issues, I would have absolutely no problem giving a solid shining ten out of ten, as it is one of the best games (my favorite) to have been released for the 3DS. But nothing in the world is perfect, so take Kid Icarus: Uprising with all of its flaws, and love it for all that it achieves.

© 2012 Stephen Maxwell. All rights reserved.