I’ll say now that Kid Icarus: Uprising was one of my most hotly anticipated 3DS games. Notice the “was.” Much like my disappointment with Super Mario 3D Land, my hopes for Kid Icarus: Uprising have also been somewhat pulled out from under my feet.
But first I need to take you back to February earlier this year. Before 3DS launched, I was invited to a special Club Nintendo 3DS preview event where I got to try out a range of 3DS games, and Kid Icarus: Uprising was one of them. Although my time with the game was short– I barely had enough time to even make it half way through the first “easy” flying level before I was kicked off the console and moved on into another room– those first few minutes were brilliant.
I really loved the fast-paced action and the diving turns of the camera as Pit careered through the sky blasting bad guys and dodging enemy projectiles, and I was relieved that the Metriod Prime Hunters-esque controls didn’t seem like they were going to cramp my hand.
There hasn’t been aerial action acrobatics like this since the good old days of Star Fox 64.
I came away thinking that this was a game to really be excited about. But now that I’ve tried the land sections, everything’s changed.
Don’t get me wrong, the flying levels certainly were still excellent– I picked a different difficulty setting this time round (“normal”), and promptly got stuck in. You can move Pit around the screen with the circle pad and fire your weapon of choice with L while aiming with the stylus. On the easy setting, I remember thinking that there wasn’t really much need to move Pit around the screen due to the sheer lack of enemies, making the circle pad appear a rather superfluous addition to the control scheme. But the normal difficulty definitely stepped it up a gear. There were more enemies on screen and more obstacles to dodge, and there was a very pleasing sense of progression between the two settings.
The game also still looks as fantastic as it was on that cold February morning, and the 3D effect still adds a useful and beneficial level of depth when you’re trying to judge how to manoeuvre round incoming laser beams and kami-kaze enemies of doom.
Players had a variety of long and short range weapons to choose from, with giant claws being just one of them.
But then the flying section came to an end and I was left to scramble around a confusing dungeon with one very, very, very stubborn camera.
The exquisite twists and turns of the on-rails flying experience suddenly morphed into a clunky and petulant free-roaming(-ish) experience and it put a real downer on the rest of the game.
As Kevin explained in his preview earlier in the year, you have to use the stylus to tilt the camera. But when you’re also using the stylus to aim, moving around and dodging a whole cacophony of enemy projectiles with the circle pad and frantically press L to fire your own weapon, it felt like a complete mess to me.
With so much going on onscreen, I constantly felt like I was trying to do too many things at once, and an awkward camera was the last thing I needed to worry about in this frantic and sometimes overwhelming marathon of enemies.
I found that the main problem is that it tries to guide you in the right direction but does so at the cost of your own freedom and exploration. It’s not so bad if you want to keep moving forward and ploughing on, but if you want to turn to the side or, heavens forbid, backward to slice an enemy you accidentally just missed, then woe unto you. It’s not strictly on-rails, but it’s trying its ever so hard to re-capture that same feeling of seamless airborne action, and I just felt that it didn’t work very well.
The slick action cuts of the trailers have a lot to answer for here.
It’s perhaps due to the timer at the top of the screen– you only have a certain amount of time to complete the level, and I for one didn’t manage to get to the end in time. The more enemies you defeat, the more time gets added to your clock, and in this sense I can understand why there’s a need to keep pushing players forward.
But when Pit’s wings have already burnt up and there isn’t really any other kind of logical impetus to make players complete the level in a timely fashion, I can’t really see any real reason to have the timer in the first place. Sure, there are high scores and rankings to obtain for each level, but considering that I felt pretty overwhelmed on just the normal difficulty level, the timer seems like an unnecessarily burdensome part of the game for players to worry about.
Perhaps I’m the one at fault for not quite mastering the camera in such a short space of time– Kevin certainly didn’t seem to have any issue with it– but for me it’s cast a bit of a shadow over the game. That said, I think my disappointment stems more from not truly appreciating what type of game Kid Icarus: Uprising really is than it being of a poor standard. I was expecting a more free-roaming third-person adventure style for the land sections, but that’s definitely not what they are– think Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 and you’ll have a better idea of what Kid Icarus: Uprising is trying to achieve here.
The camera is still dodgy and the timer is perhaps unnecessary, but now that I’ve come to terms with what the game actually wants me to do, I don’t think the excitement I felt for this game seven months ago has been lost forever. Come launch day, I’m pretty certain that Kid Icarus: Uprising will still be on my top games-to-get list– but perhaps just not as high as before.