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Million Drachma Baby

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Million Drachma Baby

March 30th, 2012

As one of the few people who didn't throw an NES controller through their TV screen and give up on Kid Icarus during its first couple stages (fyi: I actually finished the game), I couldn't resist doing a Kid Icarus comic for this week's Nerd Rage. After all, Kid Icarus: Uprising arrived on the 3DS last week.

For those who have never had the pleasure of encountering an Eggplant Wizard, allow me to explain. Eggplant Wizard is one of gaming's most notorious enemies, both because of how ridiculous he is and how annoying he is. Think Darknut meets Flying Medusa Head levels of frustration. They reside in the fortresses of the game (think Zelda's dungeons) and behave more or less like a Hammer Bros. (sometimes occurring in pairs). While non-lethal, the Wizard's one attack involves lobbing eggplants in varying arcs and if you get hit by one of these projectiles, you will become an eggplant. Doesn't sound that bad, right? Well, you can't attack or use any items as an eggplant. And the only way to remove the status is to visit a hospital, frequently located on the other side of the fortress. Which means traveling through rooms and rooms of enemies without the ability to attack.

Needless to say, he's been toned down for Uprising.

The most exciting piece of gaming news this week is really more of a gaming rumor: that Sony's next Playstation may be named Orbis. The purported device could launch as early as holiday season 2013, which would make this E3 the earliest we'd begin hearing official statements. Oh, and it wants to kill the used game market.



Kid Icarus: Uprising

New to Nerd Rage, I feel it would be worthwhile to give readers some brief reviews of games and toys. I'm not going to give an indepth numerical score, you can go fight about those over on IGN, Destructoid, etc. and will be keeping these light on plot detail to avoid spoilers.

Kid Icarus was a side-scrolling action game for the NES. A sister series to Metroid, where one took off the other has been absent for over 25 years (21 is you count the Gameboy sequel co-developed by Tose and never released in Japan). While the Japanese game offered save support, thanks to the Famicom Disk System, the US release retained players' progress with passwords (again, like its sister-series, Metroid).

Kid Icarus: Uprising was developed by Project Sora, a new company founded in 2009 by Masahiro Sakurai. Sakurai is most known for the creation of Kirby and his work on the Smash Bros. franchise. And it shows. From the moment you turn the game on, Sakurai's famous menu style (used in both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Kirby's Air Ride). His influence bleeds into the rest of the game, rendering beautiful flight sequences similar to the sprawling backgrounds used in Brawl and art design that would be right at home with the Subspace Emissary.

Gameplay of each chapter is broken up into two parts, a flight stage and ground-battle. As the story explains, the Goddess Palutena may grant Pit the power of flight for exactly five minutes, meaning these lengths of rail shooter are limited. Gameplay is similar to Star Fox or Sin & Punishment, with Pit left able to move about the screen and fire at streams of incoming enemies while his overall flight path is predetermined. After five minutes, Palutena finds an excuse to land Pit and a ground battle ensues. During ground battles, players must learn to balance their use of ranged and melee attacks to counter different types of enemies. Treasure chests reward players with new weapons, and branching paths and hidden offshoots reward players for exploring and replaying stages. At the end of the chapter, Pit must defeat a boss monster.

In a rare twist for Nintendo, the game is fully voice acted. Pit and the ever-present Palutena chatter amongst themselves, familiar enemies, and new foes. And the game is genuinely funny (albeit weird at points). Seemingly self-aware that the plot is a tripe battle of good-vs-evil, characters can't help but express concern for the tropes of evil twins and treasure that is quite obviously a booby trap. The use of comedy turns what could have easily been a dry script into something fun and refreshing. And for those concerned that Kid Icarus should be straight myths-and-monsters, keep in mind the original included Eggplant Wizards, flying noses, and a credit card Pit can use at the Blackmarket.

Did you see where I mentioned new weapons? There are 9 different weapons types: Blade, Staff, Claws, Bow, Palm, Club, Cannon, Orbitars, and Arms, coming in at over 100 weapons total. Each excels in either ranged or melee combat (or some combination of the two). Weapons are also given small perks and status effects to individualize them (hello, Phantasy Star Online), ensuring even duplicate weapons aren't the same. There are also special powers Pit can find and equip in a sort of grid puzzle. These powers range from freezing attack and rocket jumps to health recovery, but are limited to a set number of uses per life.

Prior to beginning a chapter, players are given the option to sacrifice hearts (your score and in-game currency) to the Fiend's Cauldron to crank up the difficulty (or dumb it down, if you so choose). With harder gameplay comes the reward of more powerful item drops; but if you die, you will sacrifice more hearts and the difficulty will dial down. Each ground battle section also contains an 'Intensity Gate' that can only be accessed by playing on a certain level of difficulty, offering additional treasure and monsters.

The game boasts a multiplayer mode that I haven't had enough time with to fairly review. My experience with it so far has been limited to local play only, but it seems fun. As seems to be standard protocol with 3DS games, there are also SpotPass and StreetPass features that allow players toe exchange weapon gems that can unlock weapons at the expense of hearts or be fused to create a new, more powerful weapon.

There are negatives, though. While many have expressed frustration with the controls, I've found they mostly work well. The default control scheme sees Pit controlled by the circle pad and firing with L, while controlling your aim with the stylus and touch screen. It's very reminiscent of Metroid Prime: Hunters for the original DS. This works well while flying and in wide open areas, but just as when Icarus flew to close to sun, this control method plummets when it tries to incorporate platforming elements. Thankfully this is mostly delegated to a single chapter. The controls are completely customizable, but in an incredibly curious sort of way. Movement can be set to either the circle pad or the face buttons. Aim can be set to either the touch screen, d-pad, or circlepad/face buttons (whichever is not used for movement). From there individual functions (attack, use power, etc.) can be mapped to L, R, the face buttons or d-pad. The game is bafflingly programmed to use the Circle Pad Pro, but it only mirrors the function of the circle pad on the system. That means the extent of its use is for a lefty mode, rather than mapping a set of controls to an additional analog pad. While I would never choose dual analog over analog-stylus, the fact that it's not an option in a game that offers so much customization makes little sense.

The solo-campaign is supposed to be 8-12 hours long but with 8 hours logged (an unfairly high number, I admit, as I've spent a good deal of time replaying stages), I've yet to finish the story. Replayability seems high, though, with difficulty settings and the promise of new, more powerful weapons bringing me back to completed stages. The game takes a lot of notes from Brawl, offering unlockable trophies (called Idols) and a table of achievements that unlock new music, weapons, and powers. There's also an AR card game involved -- if that's your thing -- but combat between characters is predetermined, leaving them chiefly as a means to unlock more idols. Which is just as well, seeing as Nintendo has been stingy with the release of the AR cards in the US.

Sakurai has released another great game; the visuals are beautiful and it's a ton of fun. The script is funny and there's a lot to do and unlock. I have a feeling Kid Icarus will be absorbing a lot of my free time in the future. If you have a 3DS, like Super Mario 3D Land and Resident Evil: Revelations, I completely recommend this game.

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