Ever since Pit, the predominantly flightless angel protagonist of the previously abeyant Kid Icarus series, made a dignified appearance as a playable character in 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the demand for a brand new adventure spotlighting the mostly grounded seraph began to gradually rise. Roughly 20 years after the last Kid Icarus permutation was released (the respectable Game Boy sequel Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters), the steadily popularizing Nintendo 3DS lays claim to the first authentically original and next-gen Kid Icarus title. Under the development of Project Sora, an auxiliary collective of Nintendo and former HAL Laboratory employees that formed shortly after working on the aforementioned Brawl, Kid Icarus: Uprising satisfyingly glides into the current era of video gaming with a very different and unique, yet occasionally amiss, approach to guiding Pit through his heaven-sent journey.
It’s evident from the opening moments of Uprising’s introductory level that Masahiro Sakurai, the overseer of Brawl, is well aware of what makes for an addicting gameplay experience. Under a layer of detailed anime-style 2D dialogue screens and colorful 3D environmental graphics, Uprising victoriously blends the mechanics of an airborne rail-shooter with land-based third-person battles. The story is split into individual chapters that can be repeated on increased difficulties by betting accumulated heart items extracted from defeated enemies. Each navigated segment, whether you’re soaring through the clouds or fighting in a tattered gladiator arena inspired by ancient Greek mythology, is fast-paced and to the point, leaving minimal room for any kind of extraneous exploration. This isn’t necessarily a negative aspect, be it that despite the necessary period of time it takes to become fully acquainted with its unconventional controls, Uprising’s level designs are consecutively pleasing, laying out a structure that encompasses joyous sky-centered combat, intense melee scenarios, and artfully crafted boss fights that, while not as elegant or entirely thoughtful as something from the Legend of Zelda franchise, do well to instill a sense of true completion and worthiness to not only the player, but the game as a whole.
Reasonably, many Smash Bros. devotees found faults with Brawl’s lopsided narrative mode, the Subspace Emissary, and it feels like Uprising’s central storyline and its accompanying character building methods are an honest attempt by Project Sora to make up for that prior misstep. Simplistic and high-spirited, Pit’s latest yarn is the stereotypical good-versus-evil fable, with the angelic hero facing off against the treacherous Medusa and a whole host of heinous monsters that provide relentless assault. Along the way, Pit is assisted by the restored goddess Palutena (who grants him the temporary power of flight, subsequently prompting the lofty aerial dogfights), as well as by other supporting cast members who provide background chitchat while live alternations commence. While these conversations are often quite comical and work to casually progress the story, the constant stream of prattling can sometimes be distracting. Even with the above-average voice acting, the near-perpetual small talk during tougher boss encounters almost calls for a momentary mute. This is unfortunate, because, like anything Masahiro Sakurai touches, Uprising boasts a spectacular soundtrack, easily ranking among the most commendable auditory efforts from Nintendo in recent memory.
What’s simultaneously arresting and off-putting about Uprising, and more than likely its single weightiest feature of discussion, is its uncommon control scheme. Implementing a primarily three-pronged input command setup, the game constantly places precise pressure on its players to be attentive and make quick-witted decisions in the heat of havoc. Mastering the 3DS’s stylus is paramount, as all aiming and camera rotation dictations originate from slides across the console’s bottom screen. The L button is in charge of attacks, and the Circle Pad moves Pit around the areas of activity. The game does allow for some minor tinkering with this layout, but regardless of how you choose to play, becoming categorically proficient with Uprising’s handling is an endeavor that requires patience, but once that mastery is achieved, the game reveals itself as even more of a delight. The option to attach the Circle Pad Pro as a secondary rotational instrument can be beneficial in certain instances, largely the turf-centered conflicts, and the pre-packed 3DS stand peripheral makes it slightly easier to maneuver Pit out of difficult positions, but, admittedly, these attachments bog down the fluidity and inherent portability of the whole operation by adding exorbitant baggage. My advice? Dedicate the appropriate hours to thoroughly grasp the manners of manipulation, and your concrete resolution will be rewarded accordingly.
In addition to the adjustable difficulty levels that are, thankfully, instantly accessible, Uprising continues Masahiro Sakurai’s tradition of including an enormous amount of bonus content to keep players glued to their systems for practically unhealthy durations. With over 100 versatile weapons to mix and match, 360 adscititious achievements to unlock, and a WiFi multiplayer mode that, while not as earnestly polished as the main campaign, adds yet another stratum of replayability to an already broadly plenary package. In fact, the multiplayer component sheds light on what could possibly be the next Super Smash Bros. incarnation: an inaugural 3DS version of the popular fan-service fighter (consider this a preliminary modest beta test).
Uprising isn’t flawless by any means, as it somewhat comes off like a format trial run, but it’s glaringly unmistakable that Nintendo, Masahiro Sakurai, and Project Sora have accomplished the majority of their predetermined goals with this ambitious project. Shepherding this series into the 21st century has been met forthwith, and the grade of eagerness corresponding to what comes next for Pit has therefore ascended dramatically.