So, you really have to forgive me. I was going to get this review up a long while ago, but Kid Icarus: Uprising is a much larger game than I was expecting. There I was, ready to plow through a nice 4-5 hour Solo mode and whip out a nice, neat write-up as a feather in my cap. But I was wrong. Apparently, good ol’ Masahiro Sakurai, of Super Smash fame, had other plans.
I’ll address the biggest concern first: its controls. You’ve heard they’re not perfect. You’ve heard hand-cramping tales of styluses flying around like dual-headed hydras. Reviewers have deducted points for them. Look, we’re gamers aren’t we? We live to conquer. Here’s my Insider Pro-Level Reviewer Tip. Get cozy, put a pillow on your lap, rest your hands on that and forget about it.
I’ll even go a step farther and say that Pit controlls flawlessly. Flawlessly. You have to meet him half way, not being so lazy with your button taps and stylus swipes, but this makes the action more intense. I’ve rarely felt more responsible and accountable for my character and life bar. I’ve already spent too long on the issue.
Once you settle in, you’ll be in for a treat because Uprising is unique among Nintendo’s stable of games. It’s hilarious, post-modern, hard and genuinely surprising. The action is fast, with most levels operating in a two-part structure, sky then land. First, you get blistering on-rails segments where Pit soars with the power of flight, blasting dozens of enemies.
Oh, man. Shouldn’t have opened with that.
I can hear you dismissing the game because of the whole “on-rails” thing. Please, don’t. Instead of thinking about slow, boring games like House of the Dead, think Star Fox 64 on crank. The action is simply wonderful and twitchy, recalling arcade booths and quarters squandered as multitudinous enemies fly past you. Oh, you’ll try to blast them all, but there’s just too many. Against the simply stunning three-dimensional backdrops, you will get sucked in.
From there, you will typically end up fighting the second half of the level on foot. Where most people take issue with these parts, I loved them. Unsurprisingly, Sakurai shows his mastery balancing ranged combat with melee combat. Pit moves fluidly from blasting fully-automatic gauntlets, staves, cannons or any of the other nine classes of weapons (of which there are dozens or models with infinite stats and attributes) to comboing away on the poor enemy without a hitch. When you’re not ruining some evil grunt’s day on foot, there are tons of items to collect, different paths to take and secrets to find. And, at the end of these you do get to the boss fight. Hooray!
Sadly, here is my largest complaint with Uprising. The difficulty curve is iffy. While the actual levels can get quite hard on higher difficulties, the bosses were all chumps. Considering you get to be fully healed before every one, they need to be harder. Worse yet, you can’t challenge yourself.
Before every level, you get to choose the difficulty. That’s awesome. What’s not awesome is that whenever you die, the game lowers the difficulty. You can’t say “No, no. I want to be challenged.” The game just drops the bar and you can’t do a thing about it. I know Nintendo is in love with the idea of coddling baby gamers, but this is just sad. You want the hardcore? Here I am, and I want to fight for the W instead of having it handed to me. Beyond that, the only other shortcoming I can name is that for some the whole ordeal might be too light-hearted. Sigh, to be young again.
Still there is so much more Uprising does superbly that I haven’t mentioned, like Nintendo’s best online multi-player game to date (a dubious distinction, I know). It’s the main reasons it took so long to beat the Solo mode. It’s very deep, with more weapons and perks than any sane person can count. The connection never stuttered and the action is very, very quick, fighting across the globe. The hook is that every round starts as TDM, but when it gets down towards the end, one member becomes an angel that is more powerful than the other players. To win, you must kill the angel, making it more of a VIP scenario now. It’s very unique and very fun, guaranteed to keep the cartridge in your 3DS for a long while.
All in all, Kid Icarus: Uprising is an absolute blast. Case and point, I was (as a game journalist in 2012, mind you) tricked with a fake credits gag midway through the game. The oldest trick in the book! Don’t even get me started on how simply wonderful and jaw-dropping Chapter 18 was. I haven’t even mentioned the score, which is honestly the best in a Nintendo game in years. It seems being the best-looking, best-playing game on the 3DS wasn’t enough, as I was all but forced to play with stereo headphones.
AR Card integration, trophies, achievements, Street Pass. Where does it end?! My editors are already going to kill for the word count here, so I have to reign it in. There is just a ton of content, all of the refined amazingly well.
So, I commend you, Sakurai. As much as I wanted to slam Kid Icarus: Uprising because it has kept you from making the next Smash game, you’ve made another flawed masterpiece that carries your distinct stamp on it proudly. Polished in every way, it is the best reason to own a 3DS. Unique in several ways, it is the best way to re-launch a long-forgotten franchise. Congratulations, the feather in the cap that was supposed to be mine is yours instead.