Kid Icarus has had quite the history. It was released by Nintendo in 1987 and went on to be fairly successful, and though it never reached Mario or Zelda levels of popularity, it still managed to develop a strong fan base. Then, it seemed as though everybody forgot about the game for the better part of two decades. Year after year, Nintendo released dozens of sequels and spin-offs of its stable of mega popular franchises across its many handhelds and home consoles while Kid Icarus only received a single sequel on the original Game Boy and for the longest time nobody really cared.
And then, quite suddenly, it started to appear on the internet, a little rumor that has persisted despite numerous claims to the contrary and absolutely no supporting evidence – Kid Icarus will be reborn. When this rumor first reared its persistent head isn’t quite clear, though it first started to gain steam sometime before the release of Wii when Matt Casamassina, at that time the head Nintendo editor at IGN, picked up the rumor and decided to run with it. Even as numerous sources at Nintendo specifically claimed there were no plans for a Kid Icarus reboot, the rumor would pop up again like clockwork with IGN frequently being the one sounding the war horn for fans of the forgotten franchise. The rumor reached its height when Pit, the hero in Kid Icarus, was announced as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but the parade was once again rained on when Nintendo once again denied the existence of any planned sequels.
Even though buzz around the rumor has once again calmed down, it still shows up from time to time and continues to make gamers like me confused. How can a rumor like this persist for so long without a single shred of evidence? However, more important than that is the simple fact that a new Kid Icarus really is not that good of an idea and does not make too much sense regardless of how you look at it. The year is now 2010 and the gaming landscape is drastically different in every imaginable way and I am having a hard time imagining a place in it for Pit.
First of all, consider Nintendo’s venerable lineup of AAA franchises. Like Kid Icarus, Nintendo series such as Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Pokemon and others have been around for quite a while; these titles all differ from Kid Icarus because they have seen many new entries in the decades since their original releases. Keeping a franchise up to date is important for several major reasons: it keeps the series in step with modern innovations in technology and gameplay, it keeps fans of the games interested, and it continuously introduces the series to younger, newer gamers. Reintroducing Kid Icarus at this point would be tantamount to creating a brand new IP and I would much rather have Nintendo put together a whole new world, new characters, and new gameplay ideas.
As for why Kid Icarus did not become a regularly updated series like Nintendo’s aforementioned pillars, I have a rather simple theory. Nintendo’s numerous franchises each posses unique attributes when it comes to gameplay, setting and characters and even though Nintendo is more than willing to rehash this attributes time after time within a particular franchise, you don’t see much crossover between series. This presents a problem for Kid Icarus. Go ahead, download the game on Virtual Console and give it a go. You will immediately find an experience largely similar to Metroid and Zelda II with the only major differences being Pit’s ability to fly and a greater emphasis on vertical gameplay. One could also argue the setting stands on its own, but the fantasy and mythological themes have been played out in greater detail as the Zelda series has expanded. Nintendo could of course reboot Kid Icarus by using a different mold but I can’t help but feel that any new gameplay ideas would benefit from having a brand new franchise built specifically around those ideas.
Finally, the simple truth of the matter is that Nintendo is a company looking to make a profit and 99 times out of a 100 it is going to choose to make the product most profitable and the reasons listed above contribute to a new Kid Icarus being a bad investment (the one time being used for Sin and Punishment: Star Successor). Who is the audience? Sure, old school Kid Icarus fans would be pleased but their numbers pale in comparison to the legions of Zelda and Mario fans. Furthermore, the Kid Icarus fan base is most likely shrinking as those original fans move onto more modern games and more active franchises. And what hole in the market would Kid Icarus fill? Nintendo has been killing the competition recently by making the games that people want; simpler, accessible games for the casual crowd and new iterations in the classic franchises for the core Nintendo faithful. Altogether, these groups are keeping Nintendo plenty busy and plenty wealthy and if anything, adding Kid Icarus to their development load would just make them busier and not any wealthier – and that’s bad business.
Ultimately, it’s not about whether or not the original Kid Icarus was a good game or whether or not Nintendo could make a compelling reboot of the series. In the end, it comes down to the many years that have gone by since Pit last took flight in his own game. Since then, the gaming landscape has changed drastically and Kid Icarus has been left in the dust, and the likelihood of anybody succeeding in making the franchise compelling to the modern gamer is slim to nil. At this point I think we need to put this rumor to rest and remember Kid Icarus as the classic that it is.