When the Nintendo 3DS launched, critics were skeptical. In a market full of portable devices, (DS, PSP, iPhone, iPad), you really have to release something leaps-and-bounds above everything else. Expectedly, the Nintendo 3DS launched at a crawl, mainly due to the lack of any outstanding games available at release. It took almost a year before the system picked up momentum. Kid Icarus: Uprising was a solid part of this force that made owning a 3DS all the more enticing.
Kid Icarus: Uprising, (KI:U for short) is a shooter, with the action split between an on-rail flying section and ground combat. Prior to starting each level, you can equip a weapon of your choice and a set of powers. You can collect even more of these from treasure chests scattered throughout levels, purchasing them using the in-game currency, or as rewards from multiplayer matches. Weapons act as the heart of your gameplay experience as they wholly determine your play style and offensive options. They come in nine different flavours: Arms, Blades, Bows, Cannons, Claws, Clubs, Orbitars, Palms & Staffs. Each category has twelve different weapon types and that makes for 100+ ways to plough through enemies. You can be certain that at least one, if not a whole slew of them, will surely appeal to you. More importantly, every weapon you collect has a set of random modifiers that bestow a variety of plusses and minuses such as +3 Melee damage or even -4 Health. This greatly enhances replayability for those who want to amass an arsenal of firepower that provides a unique experience on every replay. Powers activate in game effects such as auto aim, adding extra effects to your attack or even firing a massive purple laser that usually decimates anything in your way. Wheeeee!
The original KI was often criticized for its steep learning curve and KI:U solves this with a brilliant solution – “The Fiends Cauldron”. The way this works is before the start of a level you bet hearts (in-game currency) to change its intensity (difficulty). If you quit the level you lose the hearts you bet, but if you die you are bumped to a lower intensity and your hearts and loot are recalculated for the lower difficulty. Naturally, taking greater risks yield higher rewards, as the greatest amount of hearts and most superior weapons can only be earned on intensity 9.0 Also, its fun blowing up hordes of enemies out of the sky using *insert cool weapon here*.
That’s not to say that it’s easy, my first attempt at intensity 9.0 lasted all of 30 seconds…
The story is brilliant, throwing up the most awesome plot twists when you least expect it. The character development is extremely well done and by the end of the game I missed all the characters and their hilarious chit-chat quite a bit. The enemy designs are so unique, bizarrely intriguing and varied that it keeps your maniacal shooting frenzies fun and fresh. The levels are extremely well designed both aesthetically and gameplay-wise, especially towards the later ones where exploring every nook and cranny will keep you occupied for half an hour plus. The 3D graphics are something to marvel at and actually helps you gauge distances while playing quite effectively. Voice acting for every line of dialogue serves to keep you immersed in the action and makes the characters much more dynamic and alive. The amount of content in the game is so immense and expansive – collecting all the weapons and powers, completing the Treasure Hunt pannels, finding every intensity gate, finding all the zodiac chambers, clearing each chapter on intensity 9.0, beating your lowest time on the boss battle level, amassing a million+ hearts, not mentioning any of the multiplayer options – its almost dizzying but a thouroughly satisfying experience.
Multiplayer interactions are mainly in six player matches of two kinds – Free for all and Light vs. Dark. Free for all is quite obvious – its every angel for him/herself and the one with the highest points wins. Light vs. Dark is basically a 3 on 3 team VIP match. When a player is defeated, the team health bar goes down. Once it is completely depleted, the last person to die becomes an angel (Pit or Dark Pit) and is equipped with a random weapon. To win the match, the opposing team has to defeat the enemy’s angel. Points are calculated using the weapon’s value, you get more for defeating an opponent with a higher weapon value. However, if you are defeated, you lose a fraction of your weapon value as well. Darn you balanced gameplay! Both can be played online (which still has a good amount of people playing), with nearby friends or even with all AI opponents.
There is also a streetpass feature which allows you to convert one of your weapons and share it with your friends. They will receive the weapon gem and can pay hearts to collect the weapon from it. Its a fun feature if you’re in an area where there are a lot of people to streetpass with as you will be able to get a variety of different weapons.
Lastly, there is the AR idol feature: you can view 3D models of characters, enemies,weapons and stages using the cards that came with the game on your 3DS. You can even place two character cards head to head and watch a simulated battle based on certain stat values. These cards are available at various events and (if i’m not wrong) even for purchase at stores. Needless to say, they are more of a collector’s item than of any real use in the game. Still, it’s a fun feature to fool around with.
Sigh…although I would love to say this game is perfect, there are a few minor flaws that I feel obliged to mention. After going through the numerous set patterns of air then ground battles, the shooting-dodging routine starts to feel repetitive and slight annoying. It seems very rinse-and-repeat, but I feel that was mostly because I kept trying to beat each level at 7.0 before moving on to the next one. However the later chapters do break the mould in some extremely fun and interesting ways, you even get to play as different characters in one of them (not spoiling who!). Another issue is with the controls, many people complained that they found it tough to use the stylus to aim and shoot simultaneously. The best solution I recommend is holding your controller like this. I used to use this grip since before playing KIU, so i didnt have too much trouble with it personally. You may take a bit to get used to it, but its worth it since dominating online games will become much easier (And more wins = more loot and hearts = satisfied gamer!).
The only major feature that I missed in the game was the lack of co-op campaign. Although there may have been technical issues with it, I can’t help but imagine how awesome it would be to have a friend by your side in the midst of battle with a dozen enemies.