Believe it or not, Kid Icarus: Uprising isn't the first game the now 20 something year old Kid has been in the starring role for. Originally appearing on the NES in 1987, Kid Icarus gained something of a following amongst the hardcore, whilst remaining practically unknown to the rest of us, save for a cameo in the latest Smash Bros. game.
Kid Icarus: Uprising, then, is Nintendo's attempt to reinvent their winged messenger, as they try their hands at making a game that appeals to both the people who remember the Kid's original game, and us, who've never come across it.
And so, Nintendo's recent 3DS event in Amsterdam represented the first time we'd played a Kid Icarus game, which meant we weren't all too sure what to expect. After selecting the easy option on the title screen (which wasn't a difficult choice!), and choosing our weapon (which apparently have some effect on the combat, although we didn't really notice much of a difference), we took to the skies, unsure of what lay in store.
As it turns out, the gameplay in Kid Icarus works kind of like Space Invaders, just viewed from a different angle. Finding ourselves behind the Kid, as he flew through the clouds with a rainbow sky above, no sooner had we started admiring the view (which really benefitted from the added depth from the 3DS' 3D screen), than we came under attack from a number of random enemies - flying eyeballs, giant flowers with lips, and other weird and wonderful creatures. Using the touch screen and the stylus to control your cursor on screen, and the left shoulder button to fire, it's pretty easy to see off the enemies thanks to Kid Icarus's ever-firing laser - although it is a bit awkward to hold the 3DS with your finger on the left shoulder button on the one hand, and the stylus in the other. Luckily, if you don't care about being accurate, you can simply hold the left shoulder button down to fire a constant stream of bullets, wiggling your cursor over the screen to take out the majority of the colourful enemies.
As you glide through the skies, the enemies keep coming, changing in numbers, types, and formation - again, a bit like Space Invaders or Galaxians, only this time it's in 3D, and with an angel as your spaceship. However, before too long, we started to think we were taking a bit too much damage for our liking, as the enemies seemed to have no problem hitting us - their lasers or other projectiles constantly finding their target, which just happened to be us. Then, we realised we could move.
Yes, we admit it - we played through the first few minutes of Kid Icarus: Uprising without even being aware that we could move, being pounded by bullets from the enemies, taking loads of damage, and generally being crashed into, as we mentally questioned how we could avoid them. Funnily enough, we didn't think about moving, which it turns out is handled on the circle pad - the 3DS' answer to an analogue stick
Handled like this, the control scheme initially seems to be rather awkward, as holding the 3DS, while trying to make sure your finger reaches the shoulder button, your thumb can reach the analogue pad, and the rest of your hand can comfortably support the 3DS takes a bit of positioning to get right. Luckily, it didn't take us too long to crack it - and the 3DS being a light console console helped a great deal.
After flying through the air for half of the level, Kid Icarus decided he'd had enough, and broke through the clouds, where a giant city sprawled out below us. Swooping in for a landing, we found ourselves in a Greek looking town, which just so happened to be infested with the same monsters that were attacking us in the sky. Here, the game switched to a slightly different style of gameplay, as Kid Icarus was now under our direct control, and on foot. Using the Circle Pad to run around, and the touch screen/left shoulder button combo to aim and shoot, we sliced our way through the baddies, before entering the colisseum, where things started to get a bit more sinister. As the door slammed shut behind us, we turned to come face to face with the level's boss, which it turned out looked something like a giant Steampunk version of Cerberus.
With a big health bar at the top of the screen, defeating the boss seemed to be simply a case of circling around him, dodging the fireballs and his other attacks (which you managed by quickly sliding the stylus left or right on the touch screen) while you prayed to whatever God Kid Icarus believes in that you'll survive. In 3D, the huge size difference between the, frankly, weedy looking Kid and the huge hulking mechanical behemoth was all too obvious - although thankfully, your speed more than made up of it.
Our confidence buoyed, we moved on to the second level, which was much of the same, only in a slightly different setting - and, as the label promised, a bit "harder". Whizzing down a narrow canyon, with spires of rock jutting out horizontally from the walls, this showed off the 3DS's 3D effect as well as anything else there, and at times, it felt like it was really benefitting the game - no more so than at the end of the shooting section. After fending off the onslaught of enemies, the canyon opened up to reveal a cave with a giant fortress in the middle. Defended by countless turrets, soon lasers burned a red path across the sky all around us, forcing us to dodge in, out, over and under the beams to avoid becoming a piece of bacon.
After another, slightly harder boss fight (this time, you had to aim for a weak point), the demo came to an end, and it was time to move on, as there was plenty more to see. In the whole, we were pretty impressed with Kid Icarus, although there were a few things that concerned us. While the controls were a bit awkward to pick up and play, we understand that they aren't final - but in terms of the game itself, we hope that there's a bit more variety in the full thing. For the short time we played it, the shoot things -> run around and shoot things -> boss fight format worked fine, but over an entire game, it may start to get a bit repetitive.
Still, were the game being developed by a team of newcomers, we might be a bit concerned. In the capable hands of Masahiro Sakurai, the man who created Kirby and Smash Bros, however, we don't think we've got anything to worry about.
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