Kid Icarus: Uprising is an interesting beast. A new entry in an ancient Nintendo franchise that hadnâ€™t seen a new game in more than 20 years, its development was headed up by Masahiro Sakurai (the Smash Bros. guy) - something which is supremely evident throughout the title. It also comes with a plastic stand for you to place your 3DS in while you play it...
For these reasons and more, Kid Icarus: Uprising is perhaps the most interesting game released so far for Nintendoâ€™s (itself rather interesting) 3D handheld.
But first, some background. The original Kid Icarus was released on the Nintendo Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES, essentially) way back in 1986. Produced by Gunpei Yokoi, the title starred an angelic protagonist who - by way of a variety of action / platform / shooter mechanics - must free his friends from Medusaâ€™s evil grasp.
Leap forward 26 years and Medusaâ€™s back. Sheâ€™s waging war from the underworld on any and all that stand in her way, and you can bet Pit is lining up to do just that. The mechanics have changed a bit, reflecting revisions in both gaming hardware and gamer expectations, with the story now delivered by way of third person shooter / action gameplay.
So whatâ€™s the plastic stand about then? To put it in context, itâ€™s probably best to talk about the gameplay itself first and, specifically, how you control it. Levels (in story mode) are split into flying and walking sequences (Pit can only fly for a short time), however the difference between them isnâ€™t considerable in how it relates to the controls.
Essentially, you move Pit around the world / screen by using the circle pad with your left hand. This hand also holds the 3DS all by itself, as your right hand is occupied aiming with the stylus. You also shoot with your left hand, using the L button, which is where the problems really start to appear.
After about 30 seconds, if you have a normal hand, youâ€™ll start to feel discomfort - probably in your top knuckle. This is alleviated a little by the fact that you can hold in the L button to shoot, but doing so means your shots - while more frequent - do less damage. Sometimes thatâ€™s fine but, whether itâ€™s just because thereâ€™s a break between waves or you want to get in a charged shot, youâ€™re going to want to release L from time to time. Doing so repeatedly seems to be what causes the discomfort.
Which is where the stand comes in. If you set the 3DS up in the stand, you no longer need to physically hold the console in the air with your left hand, leaving it to just move and shoot. This definitely helps, but it doesnâ€™t completely solve the problem. Youâ€™ll still get pain and the only real way to stop it is by playing the game in short (no more than 10 minute) bursts.
Your mileage may vary but this certainly isnâ€™t the best control system ever devised, and it will immediately remind you of the disappointment many Nintendo fans felt when they first saw the 3DS and instantly noticed the lack of a second analogue â€śstickâ€ť.
Thatâ€™s not the only problem with the controls either, unfortunately. Turning around in the third-person (on ground) stuff requires you to rapidly and repeatedly slide the stylus across the screen in the direction you want to turn. Itâ€™s not a total disaster but, again, that damn extra stick! Speaking of which, the game does support the Circle Pad Pro, but not to add a twin-stick control method. Instead, its use is restricted to providing a left-handed option for the sinister members of our society.
The gameplay is otherwise a lot of fun, with serious Smash Bros. overtones. Light on the surface, yet surprisingly deep beneath, itâ€™s simultaneously approachable and rewarding of repeated play-throughs. Thereâ€™s an option, for example, to bet the gameâ€™s currency on your ability to tackle the game on a harder â€śintensityâ€ť; the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Multiplayer is also familiar yet refreshingly new. A third-person action game, the core of the game is immediately understood, and yet the depth brought about by weapon selection is ingenious. As you play the game, in any of the modes, you find more and more powerful weapons. Bringing them to multiplayer does, of course, give you an offensive advantage. To balance that, Sakurai-san has setup the system in such a way that players with powerful weapons will cost their team more when they die. This simple change ensures people at the beginning of their career will still have a chance against seasoned pros, without eliminating the advantage afforded by skill. Itâ€™s a nice touch, and it works well.
Thereâ€™s plenty more in the game, too. Thereâ€™s support for both street-pass and spot-pass, as well as the capability to interact with AR cards (trading cards, essentially, but with symbols on them that the 3DS can recognise). The cards are of extremely limited use, only showing their respective characters animating around on top of them or performing simple battles if lined up correctly; however thatâ€™s probably for the best, as you canâ€™t actually get them anywhere. If they were amazing and gave you cool abilities, youâ€™d be a bit gutted that you canâ€™t just go and buy more. As it stands, theyâ€™re a fun sideshow that leaves you wondering what plans Game Freak might have for the Pokemon franchise in this regard...
The presentation of the game is top-notch, with quirky enemies (from flying cakes to something that can only be described as an evil flying comedy nose / glasses / moustache combo), great voices (and sounds in general), and an excellent story. Itâ€™s funny, and very Nintendo - without feeling at all like any kind of rehash.
At the end of the day, whether this game is right for you or not is something that is a little harder to gauge than normal. Yes, the genre, gameplay, and graphics factor into it as normal. But you also need to think about where youâ€™re going to play and whether you tend to suffer from OOS / RSI-like disorders or have difficulty holding things in unusual ways. Itâ€™s great fun, with heaps of content and loads of personality, but if you canâ€™t play it because of the controls, none of that really matters.
By using the stand and restricting my play time to a few minutes at a go and no more than an hour a day, I found I was able to get past the intrinsic interface issues and enjoy the game despite of them, and it has been scored accordingly. If youâ€™re interested in the game (and you should be, itâ€™s great), definitely seize any opportunity you have to try it out first.