Before I delve into my hands-on impressions, I would like to share a personal anecdote: I had been anxiously expecting a new Kid Icarus title to be revealed at E3 for the past five or so years, and the one year I finally let go of my delusional hopes was when Nintendo finally decided to unveil it. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised at the long-overdue revelation, but my happiness quickly turned into apprehension when I saw how different Pit’s new title was from his previous two adventures. Still, with the knowledge that Masahiro Sakurai was at the project’s helm, I gave the title the benefit of the doubt, and it became one of my most-anticipated 3DS games.
Uprising may not share much in common with the older Kid Icarus titles, but it is certainly very promising. Its control scheme is immediately reminiscent of Metroid Prime Hunters: movement is handled with the circle pad, while the L trigger, in conjunction with the touch screen, fires projectiles (or performs melee attacks when in close proximity to an enemy). The controls are very fluid, and there is also a certain degree of context-sensitivity to them– double-tapping any direction on the circle pad, for instance, normally initiates a sprint, but doing so as an enemy attacks allows Pit to perform a dodge. Flicking the stylus across the touch screen will also quickly rotate the camera in that direction, and it feels very much like spinning the globe in the Wii Forecast channel. There is undeniably a learning curve to the scheme (and I imagine it may become uncomfortable during extended play sessions), but as they stand the controls are very responsive and intuitive.
Each of the two demo stages begins in the air as a rail-shooter before Pit touches down on land partway through it. These were divided by their difficulty (“easy” and “hard”), but the challenge of the latter was not much greater than the former. This leads me to believe it was simply a level that would be encountered later in the game and not a true indication of the title including difficulty settings, but given how early the build on hand at Nintendo’s event seemed, such conclusions are still premature to make.
As mentioned above, Pit begins each of the two levels in the air, flying along a predetermined path for a set amount of time while avoiding and attacking a myriad of enemies as they appear. These portions play out much like one would expect, and while they offer no real surprises, they are a lot of fun. The land portions are also rather straightforward, but despite their linearity, these were also still a thrill to play.
Both levels end in a climactic boss battle (the first against Twinbellows, the Cerberus-like beast seen in the game’s original trailer, and the second against a colossal Grim Reaper), but even when taking these into account the stages were fairly short in duration. This, admittedly, may be so as to not overwhelm attendees who have never before played the game, but it remains impossible to gauge the title’s actual level of challenge from this demo.
Uprising’s auto-stereoscopic effects, at least in my own personal opinion, seem to be much more pronounced during the land portions of the game than during those in the air. This may be because it is easier to see the increase in spatial depth when there are objects like columns and other architecture nearby against which you can orient yourself, but the fact that you are bombarded with projectiles at any given turn while in the air may also have a hand in it. You are subject to assault from any angle while in flight, especially in the hard stage, and it is easy to miss the full effect of the 3D while trying desperately to evade damage.
While the demo did little to suggest the nature of the final product (even the representative with whom I spoke was unsure if every stage would follow the same flight-then-fight format or if the two were structured as such strictly for the demo), it left a very promising impression on my mind. The controls are flexible and responsive, but they admittedly require a period of adjust before one can become proficient enough with them to tackle the game’s challenges with any sort of finesse. The title is simply a lot of fun to play, and while it is disappointing it will not be making 3DS’s launch window as some initially predicted, it remains a game to look forward to.