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Kid Icarus: Uprising. This game, to this day, is an amazement to me. It is a testament to the rebirth of the old, oft-forgotten franchise that has been dusted off and made like new. It is a phoenix that has successfully risen from the ashes, born again from its long slumber, as contrasted to other reboot/re-imaginings/sequels like Bomberman: Act Zero and Bionic Commando that sort of just smouldered up and burned out. It is also, in its glory, proof to me that Nintendo’s still got it.
As I am familiar with director Masahiro Sakurai and his previous work on the Super Smash Bros. games, the main menu of Kid Icarus immediately sprung up memories of Brawl, as the layout of Uprising’s is almost identical to that of Brawl’s. It has the big red button signifying the main attraction of the game, the smaller button for the second attraction, and the exact same green “Vault” button, which contains even more familiar Smash Bros.-esque goodies. It’s a welcome sight for me since I’ve seen it before, but it also manages to remain fresh because of its creative use of words. For example, the nomenclature of the single and multiplayer modes being called “Solo” and “Together”, respectively, rather than just the rote “Single player” and “Multiplayer”. It denotes an uplifting, innocent attitude, fitting the uplifting, or uprising tone of the game proper. The style of the main menu is a small detail to be sure, but to me it’s a significant one, because it’s one of the few instances where typical menu items of a video game have been conducive to the overall attitude and presentation of the entire experience. The graphics of the inner sanctum of Palutena’s temple, the second menu that appears when you enter the Solo campaign, are another spectacle entirely, as it displays the power of the graphics of the game proper.
The graphics are gorgeous yet jaggy, something to be expected of 3DS games. The gorgeousness, fortunately, pretty easily eclipses the jagginess, and I’m always more concerned with the sprawling beautiful environments that protagonist Pit flies and runs through and the unique monsters therein than the downplayed graphical flaws. My favorite level in the game graphically is easily chapter 8, The Space Pirate Ship. The level is gorgeous enough to force Pit’s railed flight path to fly around the gargantuan space pirate ship several times just to show how detailed and impressive it is. There are other memorable visual moments as well, like in chapter 11 where Viridi’s reset bomb drops out of the sky and the ensuing explosion. Those however are only two examples of personal taste, Uprising offers almost nothing but eye candy entirely throughout.
Of course, nothing would complement eye candy more than ear candy, and Uprising also brings volumes upon volumes of that. The orchestrated soundtrack (composed by Motoi Sakuraba, Yasunori Mitsuda, among others) complements the atmosphere of every level almost perfectly, waning and waxing with the flow of air battle and just being good stuff to jive to for the ground battle sections. The voice acting and script is also impressive, providing witty comedic foil from charming likeable characters to the epic environments and music. The only small problem is that the dialogue and plot can be distracting sometimes in the midst of intense battle, since there are no cutscenes, and character interaction and gameplay are seamlessly intertwined. However, I like this feature more than anything, as I prefer the integration of plot and gameplay as opposed to the stilted exposition of non-interactive cinematic cutscenes imposed by most games.
The gameplay proper of Uprising is, despite somewhat awkward controls, a beauty. The story of the game is broken down into levels composed of both flight and ground sections. Palutena can grant flightless angel Pit the power of flight for five minutes, which creates an interesting dichotomy of Star Fox 64-like rail shooting (though much faster mind you) and a sort of beat-em-up with full 3D movement on the ground after those precious five minutes have expired. The ground parts have more depth, since on the ground Pit can utilize a loadout of special powers, and the unique capability of his weapons is made apparent. Oh sorry did I mention the powers and weapons?
Replayability. A word key to the health and longevity of a game. Uprising, I’m happy to say, has it in spades thanks to the ubiquity, flexibility, and variety of its difficulty, weapons and powers. The difficulty of each level in the game is on an 80-point scale (80!) for each decimal point from 1.0 to 9.0. Mastering the higher difficulties is fun, challenging, and most importantly it keeps you in the game after finishing the story. Tackling the difficulty of the upper 7’s and 8’s is made even more fun and interesting with the massive arsenal of weapons and powers to use. Each weapon is divided into an assortment of different types like bows, blades, clubs, orbitars, and such. And then each of those types of weapons have their own stats, which increases the intrinsic variety of the whole system to ludicrous levels. Furthermore, you can fuse your weapons together to forge new stronger ones, creating a metagame for developing your own unique strategy for the vigorous 9.0 gauntlet ahead of you. That’s what Uprising nails, replayability and player choice.
Kid Icarus: Uprising, for me, can be called nothing but a Nintendo classic. It nails everything: graphics, music, dialogue, characterization, and most importantly gameplay and replayability. It has kept me coming back continuously over the year it’s been out, to continually hack away at making the perfect weapon and tackle 9.0 intensity, and I am sure that it will continue to do so for a long time to come.