Kid Icarus: Uprising is Nintendo's big 3DS game of early 2012. Hyped since the early days of the 3DS as one of the major titles for the system, we've now been able to play the finished game.
It's fun. It's weird. No, it's very weird. We're not ready to review it just yet. We want to give the game some time to marinate and we want to be able to talk to you about the game in its entirety when we've had enough time with all its modes.
But we've got to tell you something. So here we are. Kirk Hamilton and I will be reviewing the game. He and I played some multiplayer online against each other on Sunday afternoon. And then we jumped on IM and chatted about the game.
Here's what we had to say about one of the strangest and most interesting Nintendo games in a long time...
Kirk Hamilton, future reviewer of Kid Icarus: Uprising: OK! Let's talk about Kid Icarus Uprising. There is a lot to get to.
Stephen Totilo, occasional player of Kid Icarus: Uprising over the last year.: Yes. let's go. Kirk, this game is insane.
Kirk: I hear you. The menus alone are enough to make a guy dizzy. I skipped the tutorial and got straight into the game, which I think may have been a mistake.
Stephen: Menus? We can't even talk about all the menus. Nintendo sent us both copies, but, remember, some of the menus — the menus! — are supposed to be secret until release day.
Kirk: Oh, sorry! Yes, let's keep things by-the-book. Only approved menus will be discussed here.
Stephen: The tutorial is great. Because it's full of jokes!
Kirk: The whole GAME is full of jokes. So many jokes! Whoever wrote this had a whole lot of fun.
Stephen: Right. I wasn't expecting a comedy. But it's funny. Did you find the spa scene?
Kirk: I found a hot springs...
Stephen: I think that's the one. Where Pit is mocked for jumping into the hot springs fully clothed.
Kirk: Yes! There's this weird sexual tension between him and Lady Palutena.
Stephen: Yeah! This is such a surprising Nintendo game in so many ways.
Kirk: Yeah, the writing is really unlike anything I've seen in a Nintendo game before.
Stephen: I was thinking back when I was playing Metroid: Other M that if THAT was how Nintendo was going to do voice-acting, I didn't want them to do it. But this is sooo much better. Tons of voice, all hilarious.
Kirk: It's interesting how there are no cutscenes either — they just exposit super-fast while you're actually playing the game.
Kirk: It keeps things moving along, though it can be a bit chaotic at times.
Stephen: I agree. So I have to say that this game is a textbook example of a game seeming really different once I play it on my own time.
Kirk: How do you mean?
Stephen: I played it a few times over the past year-plus at Nintendo events. And while I got the basics — an airborne shooter that turns into a ground-based brawler-shooter in level after level, I didn't really appreciate that it is meant to be played more like, well… Smash Bros.. Like it's a total arcade game that's all about mixing and matching powers and abilities and unlocking tons of gear. And prizes.
Kirk: Yeah, I see what you mean. Playing it at that hands-on I did earlier this year was similar — I had all these questions about the particulars of how everything works, but you can't get your head around that until you spend a good amount of time actually doing it. It's the kind of game that lives and breathes in the insane amount of collectibles and unlocks.
Stephen: And yet it still has some of the weirdest controls ever. And Nintendo has made them even weirder by including that ridiculous stand. That thing is useless. Totally unnecessary.
Kirk: I do not understand it. I've seen plenty of commenters who are looking forward to using it, and more power to them. But I can't find a comfortable way to use the damn thing. It's too low on my desk, and I wind up hunched over to play it. It's less comfortable than just holding it in my hands.
Kirk: Which, I should mention, for me isn't all that comfortable either, unfortunately.
Stephen: I just don't understand why they'd even push the idea that it's needed. It's not. I'm left-handed, so I just switch to lefty mode, move Pit with the face buttons, Aim with the stylus on the touch screen and shoot with the R-trigger. Why I'd need a stand is beyond me. But then again, this game also comes with cards.
Stephen: The only thing that should surprise me, I guess, is that they didn't pack in R.O.B.
Kirk: Or some sort of portable vitality sensor. The control schemes in this game are totally baffling to me.
Stephen: I'd love that, actually. Just the control scheme is baffling? Nothing else? Not… the power menu that you have to play inventory Tetris in?
Kirk: I was trying to think of a good Vitality Sensor follow-up joke, but I'll leave that one. So, the control setup.
Stephen: It is BEGGING for dual-analog, no?
Kirk: Yes! And I don't understand why that's not an option.
Stephen: It's weird. Why support the Circle Pad Pro and not offer it?
Kirk: The game is compatible with the circle pad pro, but not with dual thumbstick control. I like the Circle Pad pro a lot, and it would make the game so much more comfortable for me to play. And yet, even when it's attached, both circle pads are forced to do the same thing. So the closest you can get to having two thumbstick control is to map the face buttons to the reticle and the circle-stick to Pit's movement. You can't even map the D-Pad to Pit's movement and the Circle-pad to the reticle! It's a bizarre omission.
Stephen: Right. I don't think I'm having as hard a time with the controls as you, but it is strange that they don't offer that. How's the campaign? I think you're further in. I've only done two missions.
Kirk: I'm liking it fine — the missions all follow a very set routine so far. Fly, shoot, then land, shoot, fight a boss. Which seems thin, until you get into all the unlocks and other extras — this is really just an arcade game, and the story mode so far feels like window dressing. Funny, charming (occasionally annoying) window dressing, mind.
Stephen: Have you been ratcheting up the difficulty?
Kirk: I've played around with it, yes.
Stephen: I still can't believe that insane system. 99 difficulty levels or something?
Kirk: It gets really, really hard with the difficulty raised.
Stephen:) I've been "betting" hearts to raise the difficulty. But I've only gone up to 3.0 or 3.5.
Kirk: Try putting it up to 5 or so. I'm simply not good enough to compete past a bit above the suggested level — I get owned. Everything moves so fast, and I haven't adjusted to the controls, so if feels very frustrating when it's too punishing.
Stephen: Hmm. I wonder if better weapons would alleviate that. Though I can't see how that would address the problem of simply turning Pit.
Kirk: Oh, they undoubtedly would, to a point. The flying controls feel perfect for the stylus, but on foot...
Stephen: (Of course the control options just for turning Pit are nuts… you can adjust vertical flick speed, horizontal speed… crazy crazy game).
Kirk: All of the control options menus are crazy! Wait, can we talk about these? I want to. The inversion menu, for example.
Stephen: Oh, we can talk about these. This game has so many menus!
Kirk: It gives you this huge set of four arrows which demonstrate how things are currently set, and you tap "Invert Y-Axis" or "Invert X-Axis" to make them flip. They could've used a check box?
Stephen: We haven't even mentioned the one where you toss eggs into the air to unlock trophies ("idols'). Which is very Smash Bros.-esque.
Kirk: Yes! That took me a while to parse. I dropped a lot of eggs. Thank you for showing me how I can use my 3DS coins to buy more eggs.
Stephen: I like living in a world where a company as rich as Nintendo will finance madness like this.
Kirk: I agree. I'm wondering how Nintendo feels about marketing this game.
Stephen: I mean, I have no idea if this is a great game. But it is nuts. And I love crazy games.
Kirk: "It's totally batshit-insane! It's so much weirder than anything else on the 3DS!"
Stephen: I think this is the first Nintendo game I've played in which the lead character jokes about the economy and whether his next enemy is a mini-boss or not. I know you mentioned some of that in your preview, but it's something else when you experience it.
Kirk: The economy jokes in particular are cracking me up. There are more than just the first ones, too. It's a running gag.
Stephen: Oh? That's great. Nintendo game-writing has semi-secretly been wonderful for a while. See Fire Emblem, Mario & Luigi...
Kirk: It's all just this mess of banter and crazy exposition, like a chat-channel that's been left open for every bad guy in the game.
Stephen: Yeah. What do you think of the graphics? And just the tech here?
Kirk: I think the graphics are very impressive. They impressed me more before I owned a Vita.
Kirk: It moves so fast that the 3D bugs me after a while, but the flying bits in particular look great in 3D. I agree about that Vita.
Stephen: But they are good. I'm playing at max-3D-slider.
Kirk: I've felt that way about every 3DS game I've played, now that I've been spending a lot more time playing games on the Vita. I go back and forth on the 3D. Sometimes I need a break.
Stephen: Since they started toning down 3D on this system, I've been cranking the 3D and really enjoying the depth you get.
Kirk: But the colours are great, and the art style is fantastic. I adore the enemy designs.
Stephen: It's funny, just as the world seems to be falling out of love with the idea of portable 3D gaming — thinking it's just a gimmick — I now crave it.
Kirk: I still think it's a gimmick, i guess. With it turned off , I come to the Vita comparison a lot more often, though. For better or for worse.
Stephen: Right. I haven't turned the 3D off. It's too good with it on. Full disclosure: you have a fever! And so 3D isn't what the doctor ordered.
Kirk: That's true!
Stephen: And multiplayer?
Kirk: This game is not recommended for people with the flu.
Stephen: We just did a few rounds of light vs. dark.
Kirk: ) I liked multiplayer, actually.
Stephen: Which, surprise! Was insane. I challenge you to describe light vs. dark mode in 10 words or less.
Kirk: OK. Here goes.
[two minutes pass]
Kirk: "Kill everyone, then kill the VIP. Also, there is chaos." Close?
Stephen: Pretty good! You sort of captured the weird bit about depleting the team's collective health bar to then turn one of them into a VIP. But you had no room to mention the bonkers detail that, the more powerful weapon you bring to the match, the more damaging your deaths are to your team's health bar.
Kirk: Yeah. So each match counts kills as depleting the collective health bar, and once it's down someone turns into either Pit or Dark Pit. And yeah, the weapon strength thing.
Stephen: What. A. Game.
Kirk: Yeah. That's really all there is to say.
Stephen: And I haven't even figured out these AR cards completely. I just snapped pictures of them. Characters sprouted out of them and…
Kirk: I pity the man who has to write a comprehensive FAQ for this game.
Stephen: Kirk, am I having a fever dream right now? That's all I want to know.
Kirk: It's entirely possible.
Stephen: OK. Well with that, I'm going to get some rest. Let's have you do a proper review of this game for release day.
Kirk: Sounds good. I'm going to go make some soup.
We will have a full review of Kid Icarus: Uprising this weekend. The game launches in North America for the Nintendo 3DS on March 23.