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Preview: Kid Icarus: Uprising

Posted by James Newton

Has Pit found his wings yet?

Masuhiro Sakurai's game of two halves continues to delight and frustrate in almost equal measures. When we played the game back in January we came away thoroughly impressed with the aerial sections but less enamoured with the ground fighting elements, and this hasn't changed based on our latest hands-on time with the game.

Three levels were available in this preview build, including the 'easy' stage we played in January and a new boss battle against bickering three-headed dragon Hewdraw.

Pit isn't capable of flight on his own, but Palutena is able to grant him a limited amount of flying time which can be extended by shooting down enemies. In the air, the game shines: you control Pit with the Circle Pad and aim using the touch screen, quickly proving an intuitive control method that'll have you shooting down enemies in no time. The scale of these sections is continuously impressive, particularly in the second stage as Pit flies over a gaol, with shots and enemies zipping about the screen in varying stages of depth. These sections are all presented with some of the best graphics we've seen on 3DS yet, looking and feeling like a home console experience rather than a game that had to be compromised to fit a handheld format.

In the air, Pit proves a nimble little guy, evading enemy shots with a nifty roll and returning fire with a quick tap of L. You can hold L for auto fire, or build up a powerful shot by letting go of fire for a few seconds, with each of the available weapons having its own different attributes and firing types: the explosive cannon is slow but lets loose a huge blast when charged, the bow is best for rapid fire shots but lacks power and so on.

It's when the action hits the deck that Kid Icarus: Uprising runs into trouble. The shooting controls are intuitive and accurate, but the melee combat still felt unnatural even after several playthroughs. Instead of using the stylus to aim, you swipe in various directions to shift the camera, moving Pit around with the Circle Pad and attacking with L. Agile in the air, the game is rather lumpen on its feet, never achieving the same level of smoothness that seems to come easy above the clouds.

If you can convince Pit to obey, he has a decent array of attacks at his disposal, accessed by dashing in various directions and tapping fire. Dashing and dodging is a simple matter of tapping the Circle Pad in a Super Smash Bros. Brawl-like fashion: it's not quite as easy owing to the Circle Pad's lack of elevation compared to a Nunchuk or GameCube controller, and the zoomed-in camera makes it tough to keep track of your location without regular adjustment from the touch screen.

We were also able to try out the augmented reality mode: place two character cards next to each other, press A and watch them fight. As the results are predetermined in a Top Trumps fashion this may not be the most ingenious use of AR yet, but it looked good and seeing a 3D Medusa fight a 3D Pit will give you a smile at least.

Aside from additional weapons and a new stage there didn't seem to have been a huge amount of progress made on the game since our last playtest: the game is still a Jekyll and Hyde affair, with impressive aerial segments giving way to significantly less enjoyable ground combat. If Sakurai and his team can tighten the on-foot sections to the standard of the flying gameplay, Kid Icarus: Uprising will soar to its full potential. If not, it'll stand as a high-profile example of how not to do third-person controls on 3DS.

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User Comments (21)

citizenerased

#2

citizenerased said:

Didn't they say the game would be mostly ground-combat? I guess they fail to focus on the highlights of the gameplay.

Anyway, refreshing to read a hands-on/preview that doesn't mind criticizing; most of them are filled with praise (only to be followed-up with a surprisingly negative review of the same game), even if it's a mediocre film license video game.

It also sounds like the franchise fails to have something unique, right now it sounds like an inferior Sin & Punishment.

moosa

#4

moosa said:

I can't help but think about Metroid Prime Hunters while reading this. So many people whined about the controls but they were pretty damn close to perfect if you just learn them. Clearly there's some discrepancy here between the ground and flying missions, but I'm hoping it ends up being nothing more than "slightly awkward until you get used to it." The game is already looking a lot better than when they where showing it earlier, so I think we'll see even more refined gameplay by release.

NintyMan

#5

NintyMan said:

I can't comment on the gameplay since I haven't played it yet, but it wouldn't have been amazing either if Kid Icarus: Uprising was only flying segments because then it would be too much like Star Fox. Oh, well, I'll have to play it myself to truly find out. I would imagine that the ground segments would have to take some getting used to and then not be so bad after that.

MegatronD

#9

MegatronD said:

Put her back in the oven guys. She ain't quite done cookin' yet. Nintendo, don't mess up a high profile title that your fan base has been begging for... for I don't know how many years now. There will be a substantial backlash if you blow it here. Work out the kinks kids and release it when it's ready. And no time before.

FluttershyGuy

#10

FluttershyGuy said:

Despite any shortcomings, I am pumped for this, more than any other 3DS game! Have waited so long for Pit's return and the trailer available on eShop is EPIC (gave me goose bumps). GO PIT! Er, uh, come, Pit, to my 3DS and hurry! :)

hydeks

#12

hydeks said:

Definitely a day one purchase, too. Great to see a new Kid Icarus game :)

Henmii

#13

Henmii said:

It's a pity about the ground controls. It immediately reminds me of Starfox. The flying sections could be compared to the flying sections of the Starfox franchise. But Starfox Assault was blamed for the boring ground-missions (and some other things. But the ground missions where one of the main complains). And now it seems Kid Icarus uprising also isn't very strong in the "ground" department, because of the controls.

Though I still think it will be worth a purchase!

Glade

#14

Glade said:

This was the game I first wanted for my 3ds. And yep I sure as hell plan on opening it up for Christmas morning :) I don't mind if ground controls might be iffy... I'll adapt :D

Popyman

#17

Popyman said:

Wait, I thought the ground combat was like a third person shooter? Maybe it just feels bad because you were meleeing things when you should of been shooting?

sinalefa

#19

sinalefa said:

What I would like to know is if the ground and air time is 50/50, or one of them prevailed during the levels you played? Thanks

I agree with Tealovertoma, I can't stop thinking S&P when looking at this game.

Vinsanity

#20

Vinsanity said:

The on-ground controls sound awful. Just like I thought they would. In case no developer has noticed, SHOOTERS DON'T WORK ON HANDHELDS. Especially not with sh*tty, abstract, cramp-inducing controls. The only kinds of controls japanese developers ever seem to devise for handheld shooters (see also: 3rd Birthday on PSP).

I really don't know why Sakurai didn't just make a platformer the focus of the on-ground part. Shooting and combat was never that much of a component of the - admittedly small - Kid Icarus series. It's a platformer. Like Metroid, or Zelda II - the focus was on exploration. It was just vertically oriented. It should be a platformer now, with gliding (like the old Spyro games, perhaps). And then the on-rails shooter levels interjected throughout.

This is going to be a mess and a disappointment. Blind Nintendo fanboys will convince themselves it's awesome, but it won't be. It looks great though, so it'll hurt all the more when you realize, "I really waited years for THIS?". sigh

This game makes me sad.

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