March 23, 2012

Review – Kid Icarus: Uprising

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 6:29 am

Review Kid Icarus Uprising
Starting this review off by confessing that the act of playing Kid Icarus: Uprising causes my hands a great deal of pain is a frustrating situation. For every positive point I’ve discovered within the game, and for every reason that keeps me returning to the newest 3DS release from Nintendo, my hands ache that much worse for the extended sessions.

Assigning controls to the upper one side of the 3DS leaves my pinky fingers dangling while the rest of my fingers work to hold the weight of the system, and playing through the game’s plethora of stages finds those digits going numb, kicking off a painful throbbing that moves up my hands the longer I play and forcing me to break repeatedly from Pit’s sprawling adventure sooner than I’d like.

Playing Kid Icarus: Uprising is quite a bit like being offered a bowl of your favorite ice cream, and then being told to eat it with a steak knife. The task is not impossible, and many delicious sensations are waiting to be experienced, but the process is going to leave you scarred – in this case with wretched claws where your hands once were.

And the pain extends further, because no matter what one says about the content of the game, of which there is a great deal to be discovered, this issue of control keeps presenting a barrier that prevents me from enjoying the experience as much as I otherwise might.

While I suspect that many others will share my pain after taking flight with Pit, I can’t assume everyone will suffer the same experience however – perhaps some of you are monkey bar champions and can take down a bear with your fingers. And it’s also worth noting that despite the complaint, I keep returning to the game to cause untold damage to my digits, which certainly speaks to the quality of the content.

With Medusa mysteriously resurrected and unleashing her underworld army on humanity, the Goddess Palutena stirs from an extended vacation, summoning the captain of her guard to once again save the day. Players take to the skies with Pit via a traditional rail shooter setup, using the circle pad to move Pit around the screen in order to dodge incoming attacks, while the left trigger allows Pit to fire back – all while using the stylus to aim via the touchscreen. And insofar as simplifying the mechanics to allow easy access to the experience, there’s something very eloquent about those controls, at least in theory.

Flight sequences are very streamlined, allowing players to focus on enemies entirely – with the only additional consideration being a special recharging attack that can be activated by tapping a corner icon, and a charged shot players automatically use whenever they haven’t been holding down the fire button. Defeated enemies will spill hearts that Pit picks up automatically, along with item drops occasionally discovered whilst shooting everything on the screen.

But clutching the upper side of the 3DS to use these controls leads to the crippling pain previously mentioned, often causing me to hold down the fire button throughout stages simply because my fingers are going numb. The bulk of stages run 15-20 minutes, which seems to be the maximum amount of time I can endure before needing a 5 minute break – of course one can always hit pause in a pinch, or in this case because of a pinched nerve.

With Uprising’s many showings at press events giving Nintendo feedback on this issue, the publisher has included a plastic stand with every copy of the game, which will take charge of holding the 3DS to offer some relief. And while this solution certainly helps, it is a poor band aid given the fact that one then has to sit at a table to play a handheld game. This is obviously not a workable solution for portable play sessions, and even at home I still opted to deal with the pain while flopped on the couch.

The frustration is that as much as the demands of these controls hurt and I want to curse, I can see why it was the control pursuit for the game – it’s incredibly simple to interact with. And yet there’s just no escaping the fact that it is going to limit many people’s ability to spend as much time with the game as the content tempts one to.

Uprising’s other potential point of contention is that Pit cannot fly on his own, and can only use the power of flight for five minutes per stage. Rather than leaving this to the player, each stage will begin with a flight session that leads toward a landing point where the second element of play unfolds on the ground.

On foot, players still use the same controls for movement and firing, and are given access to power items that are found along the way and equipped prior to missions. Placing Pit’s movements in the player’s hands means that the stylus picks up double duty, still being used to aim Pit’s fire, but also being used to move his direction by sliding along the touchpad to shift his line of sight, stabbing at the screen to stop the spinning.

This presents a slower and more finicky pace that takes far more finesse to manage, though it is never nearly as game breaking as I might have feared. Ground missions are outshined by aerial battles in the visual department as well, offering mostly linear pathways toward arena type scenarios where players dodge and strike floods of opponents, which can become tiring whenever the game drags these sessions out. There are also times where a legitimately bright idea about gusting winds or moving platforms crashes against the control scheme to make me want to toss the cartridge out the nearest window. Add dash and dodge controls that require players to flick the circle pad in the desired direction, and the frustration can greatly increase while accidentally dashing off the same ledges repeatedly.

Ground missions work when the game keeps objectives as simple as possible, favoring the arena areas that grind on patience and health in equal measure. Whenever the game attempts to break up the monotony this causes, with vehicles for instance, the aggravation of maintaining momentum and firing wildly while struggling to steer to see if you’re hitting anything entirely undermines the effort.

These segments become something to grind through as the price paid for flight time, and serve as the barrier between Pit and the boss sequences guarding the exit for each stage.

Because boss encounters largely take place on the ground as well, some earnestly interesting designs struggle to overcome mundane battle scenarios – nearly every one involves dodging a few simple attacks or lines of fire while blasting back consistently until the boss crumbles. Dodge, fire and dodge gets the job done, but hardly provides any enduring enjoyment, and falls far short of what shooter fans will be used to from other entries in the genre. It’s shockingly uninspired really, and I can’t fathom why the development team didn’t try to shake things up more considering how much earnest effort they’ve put into other areas of the game – even straight blasting in the sky against a boss is more exciting and visually memorable.

It’s not like there isn’t some fun to be had on the ground, but it gets formulaic and familiar very quickly, and even while there are numerous attempts to add as many ideas as possible to break that monotony, the game always falls back on asking players to fight recurring bosses and battle through areas that present tear inducing grind sessions. For all the emphasis on ground time, there’s not a lot of space provided for exploration, or much incentive to seek out the bits present. And frankly, it cannot be said enough that driving vehicles in a game should never be as aggravating as it can be here.

While the results of the effort are deeply mixed, the development team has stuck a ridiculous amount of content into Uprising. With missions averaging 20 minutes each, there are an initial nine involving the rise of Medusa, and then 25 in total as the story spins out of control. The adventure opens up into a war among the Gods, the continuing rivalry with a dark Pit character, and takes time out to include battles with space pirates, alien invaders, and a final showdown with Hades that seems like it might never actually reach a finale. Should players survive all of these trials, the game then opens up an additional boss fight challenge to boot.

The entire affair turns into something of a soap opera of the Gods, and it feels like the development team was cut free to simply have as much fun as possible with a franchise that lacks rigid boundaries, allowing almost anything to go here.

There’s a peculiar humor running throughout the game, and during each mission characters will babble on at ridiculous lengths via character portraits, advancing the bizarre and twisting tale with some groan worthy jokes, but also providing some legitimately funny moments. There doesn’t seem to be any subject or idea too bizarre for Uprising, and it leaves a strange and unique impression as the game never takes itself too seriously, even having players briefly assume the role of a dog. And this bizarre and spiraling tale is strangely refreshing, even if consistently ridiculous. There’s also a great deal of retro gaming humor and nods to the NES origins of Kid Icarus, so players can expect to find eggplant wizards, hot springs, and eat plenty of food off the floor.

In the attempt to provide some depth and experimentation against largely simplistic objectives, players will be encouraged rather quickly to sample different weapons. Swords, staffs or claws all offer varying fire rates and reach, and affect the performance of melee attacks Pit can issue whenever enemies get up close and personal. There are weapons to find within stages, and players can also redeem hearts as currency toward purchasing new ones – though the sweetest gear always seems to cost a fortune.

Players can also visit the armory to fuse two weapons together to make a new one, which is how I got my incredibly sweet fire dog cannon in the beginning, and how I stayed alive during later missions. While this encourages the act of constantly looking for bigger and more powerful guns, the focus is fixed on the greatest value for melee and range, which is rated by stars. Additionally players will also equip special powers for use during ground combat by sticking tetris shapes for each available power into a box on the equipment screen. This offers sound incentive to experiment, though more for multiplayer mayhem rather than solo play sessions.

Before each mission players can also set the intensity level, raising it between 0 and 9 to set the deadly intent of enemies. Raising the intensity level gambles hearts from the player’s stash, which means if you survive a level without dying you’ll reap a potentially big reward. If you die however, the reward cuts roughly in half. It’s important to note that players can continue from where they died as many times as they please.

Uprising features an online and local multiplayer mode, though sadly not one that offers a chance to soar through the sky with friends. Set in arena areas, players can engage in a three versus three battle and bring their unique weapons to the event, though this is balanced by causing a player’s death to cost a team more based on the power of said weapon. Player deaths drain a team life bar, and once that bar is emptied the last player for that team becomes an angel that offers once last attempt to snatch victory should the opposing team fail to defeat it. Players looking for a more straightforward fight can opt for a free-for-all deathmatch mode as well.

And now I’ve come back to whining about my broken hands, because there’s no getting away from the effect that has had on my experience with the wealth of content Uprising offers.

I feel like Nintendo went at the controls with the best intentions, but factoring in the way people have to hold the hardware matters, and stubbornly sticking to that scheme lessens the invitation to play this game for prolonged periods. I’ve grinded through to verify the game has an ending, but I don’t know that I’d want to go back anytime soon. And that’s incredibly disappointing, because there are bits that shine brightly here in the pedestrian soup that often muddies up the flavor. The rather silly and joyful enemy designs alone justify taking flight with Uprising, but for every element inspiring admiration, the experience is largely linear and at times unbearably tedious, making it easier to focus on how painful I find the actual act of playing through it.

There are times I absolutely adore this game. But there are many more times I find myself punished while struggling with the controls, making it easier to simply stand still and take damage while straight-up blasting bosses and enemies. There’s something really special scattered throughout Uprising’s many stages, so it gives me no joy to suggest that the numerous hiccups and inability of brighter elements to achieve consistent harmony make it incredibly difficult to recommend booking passage with this first attempt at placing Pit alongside Nintendo’s other enduring franchises.

Project Sora


Nintendo 3DS

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
March 23, 2012

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. So they created a game that causes physical pain instead of the mind numbing pain the original NES title brought? :P

    Are you using the Stand that came with it? I assume they included it because they knew how painful the controls were… I still can’t for the life of me understand why they didn’t include a control option for using both analog nubs instead of the crappy touch controls. Seems like it would solve every problem having to do with awkwardness and pain.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — March 23, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  2. Hey now, if you read this review you’d already know the answer to your stand question mister. As far as dual analog, I don’t think it would get where they want to go. 

    The idea of using the touchscreen was to make more of being able to dramatically change where you’re aiming, not entirely unlike what the wiimote did for S&P2, so I’m actually not an advocate of the dual analog approach here.  

    Comment by Jamie Love — March 23, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  3. Crap! I did read… apparently skimmed… the review. : I guess I missed that section.

    I see what you mean about the aiming. It’s too bad portable gaming in general isn’t more comfortable… I’d take ergonomics over “shape that fits in your GINORMOUS pockets” any day of the week… and days that might not be part of the week too.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — March 23, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  4.  Sooo, neither of you enjoy MP: Hunters, huh? Hehehe.

    Comment by EdEN — March 23, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  5. I own Hunters, and while it seems similar, the d-pad on my DS is simply not in the same place as the circlepad on my 3DS, which seems to make a big difference to my digits. Again, for flight I do like Kid Icarus’ controls in theory, it just effin hurts.

    Comment by Jamie Love — March 23, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  6.  maybe it was the c-pad’s position but you’re right control-wise Metroid Prime Hunters this was not. Which is a shame because honestly I think MPHunters is one of the best controlling games of all time. Playing MPH felt like a dream where you thought about doing something and it happened exactly as you wanted it. Like no translation needed. Especially with the thumb nub.

    Comment by thewolfkin — March 27, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  7. yeah man I played this for about 5 minutes when I was surprised to see a Nintendo Rep at BestBuy … don’t get me wrong the game was fun and I think I could see the controls clicking into comfort but my hands were completely cramped up and I’m a southpaw so it was that much worse. Maybe a stand could help it but I doubt a home stand would have the stability I need.

    Comment by thewolfkin — March 27, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress