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Nintendo 3DS Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising

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Final Fantasy XIII-2, Mass Effect 3, Ninja Gaiden 3 and now, Palutena in Kid Icarus: Uprising is an impressive resume.  It has been a busy year for Los Angeles actor Ali Hillis who does still find time outside of sound studios to do stage, television, and film work.  It is no less than a coup, winning and performing so many prominent roles in these new media blockbusters.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is surprisingly one of Nintendo’s flagship games for their 3DS.  It’s surprising because, for many 3DS owners the Kid Icarus franchise has been a long forgotten NES title, with Mario and Zelda being much more recognizable series.  The 3DS even after the price drop is still struggling to find its footing.  The ambition of the game betrays how much Nintendo has riding on Kid Icarus: Uprising.

It has been about 25 years since the original Kid Icarus game for NES was released to mixed reviews, mostly due to uneven difficulty.  That however, was fairly common for the earlier console generations’ games.  Kid Icarus: Uprising which in many ways feels like a Zelda, Kirby, Metroid mash-up, doesn’t suffer from the same difficulty issues.  Ironically, many of the original game’s developers came from the Metroid team and Uprising is the product of Masashiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby and Super Smash Bros.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is continues the story of the young angel, Pit, aided by the Queen of Light, Palutena, and for the most part, is a 3D action/adventure shooter, with some RPG elements.  That may seem like a bit of everything, including the kitchen sink and it probably is.  The 3DS game does include fully voiced levels, a good soundtrack and some amazing art.  Unfortunately, the coding isn’t quite able to keep up with all of that in full 3D Uprising often has frame rate issues.

Each chapter of Kid Icarus: Uprising is broken up into both air battles and land battles. In the air, the action is pretty much a rail shooter because, it is only by Palutena’s power that Pit can fly. The analog stick moves Pit on rails and Palutena recommends moving in circles to avoid being a stationary target.  The stylus is used for aiming and the left trigger shoots either rapid fire when held or a strong attack after charging.  When the action picks up, this guitar playing type grip can get a little tiring for some players.

On the land, the Kid Icarus: Uprising looks more like a Zelda game or another of many other third-person adventure games.  Again, the controls are difficult.  The analog stick again moves Pit and the left trigger shoots or melees a close enemy.  Unfortunately, now the stylus is used for looking and besides being imprecise when clutching the left side of the 3DS with your death grip, the quick movements increase the frequency of 3D frame rate drops.

The ad-hoc or online multiplayer is pretty robust for a handheld console with versus, team versus, and team battles.  This mode breaks players into two teams of Light and Dark.  The two teams fight on land to deplete the team health meter each time a member is defeated. When the meter is depleted the last team member standing of the losing team transforms into a light or dark angel and the opposing team must target them to win the match.

In the mode of the everything but the kitchen sink theme, Kid Icarus: Uprising also features AR Card compatibility. Using the camera on the Nintendo 3DS, the game recognizes specially designed AR Cards.  A few are included and Nintendo has scheduled a number of events to distribute more cards.  Some will be available through Nintendo Power and more at events at GameStop locations.  The feature animates game characters in 3D on the screen and if the cards are lined up with each other, the characters will battle on screen.

For a game with so much going for it, the technical and control handicaps are surprising.  Kid Icarus: Uprising is a premium title and a must have for 3DS owners, but trading the throwaway AR card feature for a better interface would have elevated the game to something special.  The collecting and customization elements hold lots of promise and the multiplayer, while fun, is also hampered by the same issues as the single player adventure.  These problems don’t do much to help Kid Icarus: Uprising champion Nintendo’s struggling handheld console.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.
  • JAY Hosh

    No!!! I love the AR card functionality! It just sucks that you can’t simply BUY the cards.