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Kid Icarus: Uprising Review
- Categorized in: Reviews
Kid Icarus: Uprising is an odd game in many ways. The game is self-referential to an unexpected degree, even going as far as to plop sprites from the original NES game on the touch screen, and seems to revel in breaking the fourth wall. Hero Pit and his godly guidance Lady Palutena are constantly calling out game mechanics as they happen, squabbling over whether large enemies qualify as a Mid-Boss or a full-fledged Boss. The loot system is also oddly complex. The marketing for Uprising did little to suggest just how much loot there is in the final product. The potential for customization is great. But oddest of all, and sadly most crippling, is the platform. Plain and simple, this is not a game suited to the 3DS, and developer Sora should never have tried to squeeze this experience down to handheld size.
Everything that you have no doubt heard about Uprising’s control scheme and its potential for causing wrist pain is true. The default control scheme will have you guiding Pit around in the air using the analog nub while using the L button to fire. This leaves the aiming duties weighing upon the touch screen. And weighing, in this case, is all too literal, as in order to aim with the stylus you will have to push down upon the touch screen with one hand even as the other hand attempts to support the system while steering and firing. You will end up with your left hand hooked into a sort of claw, trying to move, fire, and hold the system up, while your right hand will constantly be applying pressure.
Support for the Circle Pad Pro attachment is included, but not in the way that you might think. Instead of allowing you to shift the burden of aiming from the touch screen to the left stick, it merely allows left-handed players to get in on the fun by doubling their discomfort thanks to the giant Circle Pad attachment jutting out to the side. The extent to which this control scheme goes out of its way to make players uncomfortable is astounding. Other control options are available, but I found none of them preferable to the default controls, which is really saying something in this case.
That’s not even getting into the ground controls, either. While flying around, the game can be quite enjoyable as long as you have the system supported sufficiently. Pit can only fly for increments of up to five minutes at a time, though, so he will inevitably touch down for some ground combat by the end of each level. Despite the changed playing field, the controls will not change when Pit is on the ground. The analog nub will still control Pit’s movement, which is fine. But attacking with L and aiming with the touch screen are horribly broken. Melee attacking using the L button feels especially odd, and using the touch screen to scroll the camera around often isn’t fast enough to keep up with the game’s flying enemies. This leads to a lot of frustrating situations in which you can’t quite get the enemies in your sights. Dashing around like a maniac and wildly slashing with your weapon is often the best approach to surviving the tedious ground portions.
In order to mitigate the wrist pain that naturally develops over the course of about ten minutes of normal gameplay, Nintendo has bundled Uprising with a plastic stand. This stand folds out conveniently to support the 3DS in lieu of your hand, meaning that you will be free to hold the system however you please. The stand certainly makes playing Uprising a more comfortable experience as long as you have a nice solid surface to set it on. I found myself playing for several hours on end using the stand on my computer desk, with only minimal amounts of discomfort in my wrist. That said, it really highlights just how poorly designed Uprising is. This is by no stretch of the imagination a portable game, despite the fact that it released exclusively on a portable platform. When a game goes counter to the very purpose of the platform it’s on, it can’t be called a well-thought-out product by any stretch of the imagination.
That’s really too bad, because the potential for a great game is obvious from the moment you hit Start. The first thing you will notice about Uprising is just how gorgeous it is. The 3DS has been starting to flex its graphical muscles a little more lately thanks to games like Super Mario 3D Land and Resident Evil Revelations, and Uprising continues this trend ably. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the best-looking game on the platform yet. The bright, vibrant colors and anime-styled characters look great in both 2D and 3D, and gorgeous character art adorns the bottom screen at almost all times. The whole thing moves at a snappy frame rate with no hitching to speak of. All in all, it’s an incredibly impressive and inviting graphical package.
The audio fares similarly well. There is tons of voice acting in the game, not just for heroes Pit and Lady Palutena, but also their evil nemesis Medusa and a huge array of supporting baddies. The voices are all great, and they deliver some hilarious dialogue. It’s rare for a video game to even attempt to be funny, and even rarer still for it to actually hit the mark, so kudos to Uprising for making me laugh out loud on several occasions.
As mentioned earlier, there is a complex loot system at work under the hood of Uprising. As you shoot and slash your way through the game’s twenty-five levels, you will collect weapons from downed enemies and the occasional treasure chest. These weapons can replace Pit’s signature bow, but you may only equip one at a time. This decision can get pretty tough, because the weapons fall into numerous categories that each have their strengths and weaknesses. Some weapons have their own unique properties and will grant you bonuses like extra health or the possibility to poison foes, so choosing the right loot for the job becomes especially important.
You will naturally collect better loot at higher difficulty levels. This is hardly unique, but the way that Uprising handles the difficulty is. Instead of choosing from the standard Easy, Medium, and Hard, you will be presented with a meter going from one to ten at the beginning of each level. You will be free to choose which difficulty you want, with ten being the highest, and something like, say, five-point-six being a steady challenge. Thanks to this meter, you will be able to dictate exactly how much of a challenge you want the game to provide. Just keep in mind that if you go too low, the game will actually take currency from your in-game wallet, while if you go higher than normal you will receive more cash upon the successful completion of the level. It is, simply put, an ingenious way to balance the game and reward players for taking risks with higher difficulty levels.
Then there’s the loot fusion and the egg tossing, both of which can provide you with even more shiny loot. Fusing weapons together works just the way it sounds; you take two weapons that you don’t want anymore, mash them together in the forge, and get a brand new weapon out of it. It’s not quite as deep as, say, the Fusion system in the Persona games, but it isn’t meant to be either. Rather, it’s a fun and unpredictable way to expose you to more of the game’s numerous weapons. Egg tossing serves a similar purpose, but instead of actual in-game items, you will receive trophies. After beating levels, you will find yourself with a small collection of eggs. These can be launched into the stratosphere and will hatch into various trophies. The more eggs you pile in at once, the rarer the trophy you will receive.
There is even an online multiplayer mode in Uprising, and although it will never steal your attention away from bigger and better titles, it can prove to be at least a competent distraction. Teams of three players each will compete for the right to kill a hero character from the story mode. In order to summon the hero, though, you will have to kill the rest of the players on the enemy team. It’s an amusing enough take on the traditional team deathmatch formula, although the awful controls from the single player hamper the online player similarly.
No matter how many extraneous features and weird minigames there are in Uprising, the core experience will always revolve around those sadly broken controls. They warp an otherwise entertaining game into a (literally) painful exercise in patience. And that’s not even taking into account that a full half of the game is made tedious thanks to the awkward ground controls, which mirror the flight controls to a T for some inexplicable reason. It’s just not practical. For all of the ambition apparent in Uprising, it is lacking in the most important areas and sadly comes crashing down to earth before it can ever really take off.