Kid Icarus: Uprising is a sign that Nintendo gets it.
Here's a brand that the company had almost completely ignored for roughly 20 years. Pit, the angelic hero throughout Kid Icarus, has been represented in Smash Bros. outings, but not in his own game since the Game Boy entry titled Of Myths and Monsters back in 1991.
How do we know the company gets it with Kid Icarus: Uprising? It happens at the onset of the first mission; Pit's voice pipes in as he dashes into an open door of white light, "sorry it took me so long!"
Nintendo's been making great games for a long, long time. It's with Uprising, however, that the company shows they're taking a stab at giving supposed diehards exactly what they've been asking for.
Unfortunately, that long overdue reward doesn't really show up until after players clear an obnoxious hurdle. The controls for the game are, quite honestly, frustrating. I went over this in a separate editorial before starting this review. Essentially, players control Pit with the circle pad. They then aim their weaponry on the touchscreen with the system's stylus, and Pit fires his weapon as players press the left shoulder button.
Now, the gameplay for Uprising breaks down into two basic components: Pit is either flying on-rails in the air, or roaming freely on the ground. The in-air segments work perfectly fine with the previously described control method. Aiming precisely with the stylus makes sense during the on-rails segments; had the game found a way to retain this feeling throughout the experience, it would have been phenomenal.
The ground segments are what cause problems. The circle pad still moves Pit, players aim with the stylus and fire with the left shoulder button. However, when it comes time to control the camera in this section of the game, players have to spin Pit's perspective by swiping along the touchscreen with the stylus. The game describes it like "spinning a globe."
The on-ground portions are cramp causing. Nintendo went so far as to pack the system with a stand in order to alleviate a bit of the discomfort that comes from playing the game in these segments; but, the stand doesn't work miracles.
It's strange, then, that this game is so incredibly enjoyable. The controls can be a real pain, but the rest of the project is so spot-on awesome that it's a truly fun experience.
The game's charms come from the variety it delivers, the unique take on voice acting it presents and the amount of content to unlock.
Players will be able to enjoy a reasonably lengthy campaign that's further solidified by a clutch difficulty slider. Players will encounter a screen before each chapter in the game that asks them to adjust the intensity of the level to their liking. The higher the intensity, the tougher the segment.
Aside from providing challenge, this intensity slider is a risk/reward system that works really well in extending the replay-ability of each level. More enemies will drop better loot on tough difficulties. While the easiest setting will provide no challenge and no real reward for play.
Aside from collecting weapons, you can also take a turn at crafting them. This system, too, is really fun and addicting. The best bows, guns, swords and such can be acquired from loot drops or by combining weaponry. Both approaches work well, and the crafting is a great break from adventuring.
This game also features solid voice acting. It's packed with in-jokes for Nintendo fans that range from funny to pure cheese. But, given the context, it works. Players are lead throughout entire levels with voice acting. From start to finish, there's talking, witty banter and bad jokes. But, for this player, it made the experience even better. You're reminded of your quest, a great thing for this game, and you're given a slew of cheap laughs.
The one neat feature that I'm not entirely sold on as a consumer stems from the AR side of Uprising. The game comes packed with AR cards that can be scanned within the title's menu. Scanning the cards unlocks idols (for collection) and hearts (the game's currency). Players can have cards fight one another by facing them foot to foot.
For the simple sake of collection, the cards could be very cool. However, on a personal level, I didn't find their addition to compelling. Interesting? Sure. Compelling? Eh…
While players buying this game will face a series of cramps and frustrating controls, they'll be buying into a lengthy experience with a metric ton of great content. Multiplayer offerings, unlockable weapons, a weapon creation system, risk, reward, great dialogue and outstanding music make it worth playing.
If you can get over the controls, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a must buy for Nintendo 3DS owners. This game packs some of the most value I've ever seen in a portable offering…ever.
Full Disclosure: We received a review copy of Kid Icarus: Uprising from Nintendo roughly a week before its commercial release. We played the game's campaign to completion once. We then revisited several of our favorite levels multiple times for the pure sake of sweet, sweet loot.