In the lead up to E3 we'll be doing a series of features covering game franchises that we want to make an appearance, and what we'd like to see out of a potential next entry in each series. In this entry, Nintendo Life news, reviews and features regular Mitch Vogel goes over the Kid Icarus franchise. There are minor plot spoilers from mid-way through Kid Icarus: Uprising, so be warned.
For this next piece, let's consider Kid Icarus, one of Nintendo's oldest franchises which just recently showed how much more potential it really holds. The original Kid Icarus was considered a sort of 'sister' game to Metroid, due to it having the same development team and releasing only a few months later in the same year. Though the gameplay may have shared some passing similarities to Metroid, Kid icarus was primarily a run 'n' gun action game that played something like a vertically scrolling Mega Man game. Chock full of references to Greek mythology and just downright strange elements (an eggplant wizard?), it certainly carved out an identity for itself.
It even justified a Game boy sequel that came out a few years later, which was just as quirky and strange as the original. Then, everything went quiet and we didn't see Pit - the series' main protagonist - again until he became a fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The character's popularity in that game eventually led to the surprise E3 reveal of Kid Icarus: Uprising, a 3DS reboot of the classic series. Creating an entirely new type of gameplay that was something like a cross between Sin & Punishment and Space Harrier, and with Masahiro Sakurai ensuring a depth of content and attention to detail reminiscent of Super Smash Bros., Kid Icarus: Uprising introduced gamers to an entirely new universe of charming characters in addition to the creative gameplay model.
I believe that the Kid Icarus series has the potential to be a major player in the ongoing Nintendo line-up, dare I say even to rival the likes of Mario, Zelda, or Metroid. The diverse cast of characters, unique gameplay and distinctive identity that permeated Kid Icarus: Uprising made it one of the most memorable experiences in recent times, and I thought it was the most original thing to come out of Nintendo until Splatoon came along. In more recent years, it seems that Nintendo has become a bit reliant on its more tried and tested franchises, which is what made Kid Icarus: Uprising such a breath of fresh air.
There's nothing wrong with Nintendo sticking to its most successful franchises, as these have brought with them their own new ideas and have become refined down to a science, but there's just something about a fresh brand with a completely different gameplay style that fills the player with a sense of wonder and excitement. Granted, Kid Icarus isn't technically a 'new' franchise, but Uprising was so far removed from its predecessors that it could be considered as such.
This is why Kid Icarus needs to show up at E3 this year - Uprising acted as an extremely promising first entry in a potential new series and it would be a huge shame if Nintendo opted not to expand upon the gameplay ideas and world that we were given a glimpse of. Of course, Masahiro Sakurai - Kid Icarus: Uprising's director - stated pretty firmly that he will not do a sequel and his development studio, Project Sora, disbanded shortly after Uprising's release, but there's no reason why a new studio couldn't take up the reins. Couple this with the fact that the Wii U has a touch screen and dual sticks to satisfy both fans and critics of the original control scheme, and there's really no reason why we shouldn't see Pit star in his first HD adventure.
So, what could a new Kid Icarus game look like? I say this franchise is still fresh enough that it doesn't need any major innovation or reinvention, we just need to see more of it. Hades proved to be an excellent and incredibly charismatic villain (especially given the nature of his surprise introduction!), but it'd be a bit deflating if he turned out to be the key villain again. So, to carry the theme of going above and beyond the foundation set by Uprising, I think the new villain should be some sort of figure one step above Hades, just like he was a step above Medusa.
Considering that much of the lore here is inspired by Greek mythology, it'd be interesting if Nintendo introduced a titan as the main villain. Or, perhaps an entire cast of titans could be introduced and the plot would follow the rather dysfunctional gods having to set aside their differences to keep the titans at bay, with Pit at the center of it all. This could also be used as a convenient vehicle to introduce several new gods; Viridi, Palutena, Pandora, Hades, and Pyrrhon really stole the show in most scenes they spoke in, and it stands to reason that more gods with similarly over the top personalities would really spice up the narrative.
From a gameplay perspective, a few new weapon classes and maybe some additional traversal abilities would help to diversify one's options in battle and make the game even more fast paced as a result. Imagine if Pit was able to use his wings temporarily in combat to run along walls or scale buildings to get to higher ground? I think that the inclusion of some soft RPG elements would be to the game's benefit, as well. Instead of the stars system of the original, maybe weapons could be levelled up through use and the powers system could be folded into this with new perks being unlocked as weapons ranked up. Maybe the flight sections could be extended, too, as these were considered by many to be the highlight of Uprising.
Naturally, online would return and bring with it new maps and modes, and considering that this is on much more powerful hardware, the player count could be stepped up to 8 vs 8. Light vs Dark and Free For All could return, but the inclusion of more conventional modes like King of the Hill or Capture the Flag would fit well here. And, as this is Nintendo, there'd likely be some modes that'd be entirely new and focus on a quirky gameplay mechanic of some sort. For example, imagine a mode called "Rail Shooter", where the map would be one massive entanglement of rails and players would have to be quick enough to blast opponents as they pass them by, while watching out for hazards on their own rail and switching to another before plummeting to an early death. It's this kind of frantic, off the wall madness that Nintendo excels at, and there's no doubt that it would shine just as brightly here.
Basically, Kid Icarus is just on the cusp of becoming another great Nintendo franchise. All it would take is another game to cement the identity of the series and make it a mainstay and not just a one-off. A new Kid Icarus doesn't have to be radically different than Uprising, we just need another trip through this new universe that builds upon what Uprising introduced.
Now, we'd like to hear what you think. What would you like to see out of a new Kid Icarus game? Do you think Nintendo will do another one soon?