By Billy O’Keefe, McClatchy-Tribune (MCT)
Are you willing to suffer for your hobby? Because “Kid Icarus: Uprising” may be the best game you’ll ever have to endure literal pain to enjoy.
It’s also the wildest reinvention of an iconic Nintendo character since Mario started talking and running around in three dimensions.
Though it resurrects the same characters and themes that have been in hibernation since the original “Kid Icarus” games came and went more than two decades ago, “Uprising” is otherwise a wholly different animal. Those older games were slightly methodical 2D platformers. “Uprising” arrives in full 3D — both dimensionally and stereoscopically — and is anything but meticulous.
When Pit (that’s you) is in flight, “Uprising” is a high-flying on-rails shooter. The circle pad controls Pit’s lateral and longitudinal movement, but he continually soars forward by himself. The stylus and touchscreen handle his targeting reticule, and the L button allows him to fire his weapon either rapidly (hold it down) or powerfully (lay off, let it charge, press L to unleash).
Having to balance those three disparate inputs is a bit dicey at any speed, and “Uprising’s” action doesn’t roll by at just “any speed.” It’s fantastically fast and — depending on where you set the difficulty via a clever slider that pays more rewards and unlocks more secret areas the higher you set it — quite challenging.
Holding the 3DS and balancing those inputs is such a clumsy proposition, in fact, that Nintendo included a plastic stand that does the holding part for you. It’s an amusing solution that makes “Uprising” the most unportable portable game since Nintendo’s Virtual Boy days, but it’s an effective one.
Got all that? Good, because when Pit touches down on the ground during the second half of these levels, things get even more hairy.
For the most part, the inputs remain the same. But when Pit has his feet on the ground, you exercise full, 360-degree control over them. L still fires and the touchscreen still aims. But having full range of motion also necessitates a need to control the camera independently of Pit. “Uprising” maps that to the touchscreen as well, only via brisk (and therefore imprecise) swipes instead of the drags used for aiming. The line between making Pit amble (slow push on the circle pad) and dash (quick push) forward is similarly imperfect, especially when an accidental dash sends him over an edge.
Harnessing this control scheme, even with the stand’s considerable help, is awkward in short bursts and very literally painful during extended plays. “Uprising’s” isn’t as fast on the ground as it is in the air, but it’s comparable, and it’s crying out for a second circle pad to balance the load. (Bafflingly, while “Uprising” supports Nintendo’s Circle Pad Pro attachment, it’s only for left-handed support and not to enable dual-stick controls.)
And yet, “Uprising’s” action is fast and exciting enough to make the pain worth it. The level design is insane, and the enemy and boss designs run the gamut from ginormous to comically weird. Pit’s story, which plays out with full voice acting in the second screen while you play uninterrupted, is engaging and sharply funny. It’s also lengthy and — thanks to a scoring system, the aforementioned slider and a massive array of discoverable weapons, gear and special powers — highly replayable.
Amazingly, “Uprising” even has a multiplayer option (six players, local wireless or online) with lone wolf death match and a clever team death match option in which teams share a single lifebar. You can bring any weapon you’ve discovered into multiplayer matches, but the better your weapon, the more damage your team’s lifebar suffers when you die. The action is, predictably, complete bedlam — imagine six people dealing with that control scheme and each other at once — but as an amusing throw-in for a content-loaded game, it suffices just fine.
(Billy O’Keefe writes video game reviews for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.)
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
From: Project Sora/Nintendo
ESRB rating: Everyone 10-plus (comic mischief, fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes)