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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review - Kid Icarus: Uprising

I recently finished the Solo campaign for Kid Icarus: Uprising, and have been playing around with Together Mode as well. Does Pit's return from the NES classic Kid Icarus fly fair on the 3DS, or will he finished after this review?

Story - Pit returns after 25 years, as well as Medusa and her Underworld Army, bringing chaos into the human realm. Goddess Palutena sends Pit off to counter her attacks to save humanity. Fairly simple, and yet the presentation makes it exciting, glorified, and very entertaining.

The game's story is presented through chapters, which you can select to replay whenever you'd like. Each chapter has a main objective that is strongly tied to the flow of the story, which are executed very well with the relevance of the old Kid Icarus game. The events that occur and the real-time dialogue that occurs between all the flavorful characters while playing the game helps keep the game fun and exciting.

Gameplay - The first thing to note about Kid Icarus: Uprising is how the controls can be a bit awkward for people who are not used to using the touchscreen for aiming and turning. You use the circle pad to move Pit, the touchscreen to aim, and L button to attack, by default. There are several other control options available as well, such as moving with XABY buttons, aiming by holding down R button and another input to bypass the use of the touchscreen, etc. To help with these controls, new copies of Kid Icarus: Uprising also comes with a 3DS stand to help hold your 3DS at a comfortable level and angle on a desk or table, allowing your hands to focus on playing the game. It comes in pretty helpful when playing for a prolonged period of time.

You can fire continuously by holding down the L button, or let go of the L button for a while to build up a Charged Shot. On the ground, there are also Dash Attacks of both continuous and charged variations. Forward Dash Continuous Fire and Forward Dash Charged Shots are generally faster, deals more damage, and has longer attack range. Back Dash Continuous Fire are slower and have less range, while Back Dash Charged Shots tend to have special attributes depending on the type of weapon you are using. Side Dash Continuous Fire and Side Dash Charged Shots are good for dodging attacks while counter-attacking. By moving your aim reticule onto a nearby enemy, you can do Melee Attacks as well. By repeatedly hitting the L Button this way will allow you to do Melee Combos. There is also a Melee Dash Attack which does as much damage as a Melee Combo in usually a single hit, but again, this depends on the weapon you are using.

You can also Dodge enemy attacks by flicking the circle pad in a direction when you are not attacking. Pit gains some invincibility frames during the dodge, allowing you to safely avoid most attacks this way. Mastering this is important to get past the game on harder Intensities.

Once you get over the hurdle of getting used to the controls, the game offers lots of action with three segments in each chapter of Solo mode. The first segment being Flight, where you fly from a nearby gate to your point of interest. The second segment is on ground, as you make your way to the boss. Finally, the third segment is the boss battle.
But before that, you get the option of choosing the Intensity Level you wish to play the chapter at, from 0.0 to 9.0, where 2.0 is the standard difficulty. Changing the difficulty away from the 2.0 will cost hearts to do so, but playing on harder difficulty will reward you with more hearts when you kill enemies. Playing on harder difficulties will reward you with better weapons if you find any in the chapter as well, and also allow you to open Intensity Gates that requires at least a certain level of Intensity in order to open. There are certainly enough benefits for playing on a harder difficulty, but if you die, the hearts you bet on raising the intensity will spill out of the cauldron, reducing your difficulty for when you continue from the last checkpoint.

Each level begins with the flight segment, but unfortunately for Pit, he can't fly on his own. The game plays out like an on-rail shooter as Goddess Palutena directs your flight path using her powers instead. As Pit, you dodge enemy attacks and obstacles with the circle pad and shoot enemies down. However, even with the Goddess Power helping Pit fly, he can only fly for 5 minutes without his wings burning up into flames. So you must make it to his destination before that happens.

You also get a recharging Super-Bomb type move where you attack everything on screen for when things get intense. These can be very helpful when used at the right time, but you can only hold 2 charges of these bombs, and they recharge fairly slowly so that they aren't spammable. The visuals may vary depending on the weapon you use, but the effects seem to be the same from my experience.

The ground battle segment plays like a 3rd person action adventure game, where Pit makes his way across a map filled with enemies and traps, as well as treasure chests and occasionally hot springs. You can move around freely on the map, unlike in the flight segment, which has its advantages and disadvantages. It's great that you can progress through the level at your own pace, whether if you want to kill all the enemies you see, or just run past most of them, but since not all enemies will always be on your screen, you will want to be able to position yourself well in combat so that you don't get attacked from your blind spots. An indicator shows up when danger is nearby, off-screen, but that isn't as good as your own awareness of your surroundings. Thankfully enemies aren't random spawns, but set by the level, so rarely does the game throw cheap shots at you from behind, unless announced in the dialogue.

Again, unlike the flight segment, instead of Super-Bombs, you can use Powers that you can equip before starting a level. There are many Powers in the game, although they must be obtained through treasure chests or unlocked through achievements. Once obtained, they must be equipped in your Power Grid by fitting the pieces associated with each power within the allowed space. Naturally, stronger powers are larger and often have difficult shapes to work with, so you must choose your powers carefully to best compliment your weapon and play style. These powers include effects like causing explosions, applying status effects to your attacks, become invisible to enemies, the ability to jump (great for taking shortcuts), increase how many hearts you get, and many more. Note that powers of the same color/category will not stack usually. Regardless, the number of powers available allows for various, interesting strategies and effects.

Finally, the last segment in a chapter is the Boss Battle. They are often on ground and fairly straightforward boss battles. Defeating the boss will finish the chapter, and the Goddess Palutena will extract Pit for his next mission.

During the mission, you will often find treasure chests and gather new weapons and powers. There are 9 main categories of weapons, with many different types of weapons in each category. The categories are...
  • Blade - Balanced weapons that are good for both ranged and melee.
  • Staff - Staves that are like sniper rifles. Their shots have the longest range among all the weapons, but has no melee ability and no homing.
  • Claw - Claws worn on both hands. They make the user faster, and the weapon's melee attack can be chained 5 times, but they have poor ranged ability. Best, melee rush-down weapon.
  • Bow - Weapons that shoot fast, homing arrows best for medium-long range. They are split into two blades for melee attacks.
  • Palm - A glowing tattoo around Pit's hand that uses Pit's vitality (not HP) to shoots shock-waves of energy. Has great homing and works best in close-mid range.
  • Club - Massive weapons that are the most powerful melee weapons in the game. Their melee combo only consists of 2 powerful hits, but does not shoot projectiles for continuous fire. Instead, their ranged charged shots are powerful, and some can pierce through walls.
  • Cannon - Large cannon/launcher that Pit wears on his arm. These weapon's shots have different trajectory than usual, and can hit multiple enemies with their explosions. However, they are very heavy and will slow the user down.
  • Orbitar - Two floating orbs that fire energy shots at your foes. Orbitars have a very high shot rate. 
  • Arm - Bulky giant fist-like devices that Pit wears on his arm. Their impressive melee damage make up for their lacking ranged attacks.
On top of that, every weapon has its own stats and properties that makes them more unique, providing many possible combinations. They each have a Ranged stat and a Melee stat, varying from 0 to 6 stars at 0.5 increments, that determines how much more damage you deal. The properties a weapon can have makes up a big part of what makes the weapon great. Such properties include status effects, speed bonus, defense bonus, improved homing, and sometimes negative properties that lower the weapon's value. The negative values sounds like it's a bad thing, but depending on the weapon, it could be beneficial, especially in Together Mode.

The cool thing about these weapons is that not only can you collect them, but you can fuse together two weapons to create a new weapon that carries over some of the properties of the two weapons that were fused. This way, you can try to create your ideal weapon by fusing together some of the weapons you've collected throughout the game.

You can also create a Weapon Gem of a weapon you currently own to share with others using Street Pass. This can be used to make a copy of a weapon that someone else has (although it costs hearts to convert them back to a useable weapon from the gem.), or even do a Fusion between two Weapon Gems to create a new Weapon Gem. You don't absolutely need to have friends nearby to get some Weapon Gems though as Goddess Palutena will give you a Weapon Gem every day through Spot Pass.
*You can technically duplicate a weapon by having a second 3DS set to share the Weapon Gem of the weapon you wish to duplicate through Street Pass. Doing so will get you the Weapon Gem which you can convert back to the exact same weapon by spending a few hearts. It's a useful technique for trying to fuse a specific weapon, or want to have an extra copy while you experiment with fusion using a good weapon.
In Together Mode, there are two modes of playing with friends; the Light VS Dark team match of 3 VS 3, and the Free for All match. In both cases, the value of your weapon plays a big role as the health points you die in Light VS Dark, as well as the points your opponent gains when they score a kill on you, is proportional to the value of your weapon. By reducing stats that you don't care about, you can effectively gain the upper-hand in points in Together Mode, without affecting your ability in combat.

Both modes in Together Mode provide great fun and entertainment. The matches are often full of action and the rules can be adjusted similarly to Super Smash Bros.. They share a similar feel, except as a 3D fighter with health bars, and more customizable character abilities. The multiplayer certainly keeps you coming back even after completing the story of Kid Icarus. Playing in Together Mode also gets you rewards like hearts, weapons, and powers. 

Graphics - The graphics are pretty impressive in Kid Icarus: Uprising. Everything has made a great transition to 3D (except for the 2D food item sprites like in many other games made by Sakurai for unknown reasons) in the game. The scenery are often pretty, and the many chapters provide very different environments making the game less boring visually.

The 3D effects on the 3DS also does the game good. During the flight segment, the difference in depth is very effectively portrayed on the top screen. With many shots being fired, both from Pit as well as towards you, there is a lot of 3D being used in the game. However, that doesn't mean that 3D is necessary to play the game; just that the 3D effects are impressive and visually more appealing with it on than off. 

Sound - Superb, orchestrated remasters of many original themes from the NES Kid Icarus games are in Uprising. The music often fits the situation in the game well, and accompanies the story and events very well, especially in the flight segments. The music changes dynamically during the flight segment, which is possible to the great effect it has due to the flight segment being on-rail. And the dynamic music is a great way to take advantage of an on-rail gameplay.

The ground segment is also great, but due to the freedom you have, as opposed to the on-rail gameplay of the flight segment, it does not show too many signs of dynamic change during this segment, with a few exceptions. However, the ground segment usually shares the same theme as the flight segment, and goes well together within the chapter you're playing in. In fact, many chapters even go for a different style of music to great effect as well, which adds to the environment well. With level design, textures, and music being very different from each chapter, it gives the game a very wide range of environment. As you play more, you're always looking forward to seeing what new environment the game has to offer you.

Replay Value - We already established in the Gameplay section of this review about the Solo mode Chapter Intensity and the weapon collecting factor. Add to that a fun, competitive Together mode, and it already spells out how great of a replayability this game has. With the Treasure Hunt challenging you to try certain things in each chapter, and the need to collect many weapons to fuse the perfect weapon, you will be playing through the chapters multiple times, and still have fun with challenging Intensities you can play on. Also considering how Together mode can be played via nearby wireless or Wi-Fi online, as well as simply playing against bots, the game is easily accessible and great for hopping on for some quick matches.

There are also collectible Idols in the game, similar to how Trophies worked in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl. Every time you play a Chapter in Solo Mode, or occasionally after some games of Together Mode, you get eggs that you can launch up to the sky. Doing so gets you a random Idol which provides a 3D model that you can view along with its description. You can also get more of these eggs through Play Coins as well.

Another way to get Idols is through the Kid Icarus: Uprising AR Cards. Buying the game new comes with 6 cards, and more can be obtained at Nintendo Events supposedly, although I am not too familiar with the details. By scanning the cards with the 3DS Camera, you gain the idol of the card you scanned, and will also be noted in your Idol list whether if it is an Idol that you scanned the card of or not. Certainly makes keeping a collection list for the cards easier.

Overall - This game is amazing. With the only major flaw being the awkward controls if you're not used to it, everything else about the game offers high quality gaming. Doing the Solo mode campaign once will take about 12 hours. Add to that the high replay value and multiplayer, and you've got yourself some quality gaming time ahead of you. I've already exceeded 30 hours of playing the game, and I feel like I have yet to get started with the more competitive side of the game on Wi-Fi, as well as completing all the Treasure Hunt challenges.

If you are a 3DS owner, this game is one of those games that everyone should have in their 3DS library. It is akin to how every DS owner should own The World Ends With You, and I don't make these kinds of declarations often. This game is easily one of the best games that the 3DS can offer you currently. Go pick up a copy from your local retail stores.. or even Amazon or the likes now!

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