Kid Icarus Uprising Impressions
One of Nintendo World's most impressive titles has some control issues.
Kid Icarus Uprising would have easily been my favorite game at Nintendo World if not for one problem: I can't stand the controls.
I played a total of four times, sampling each of the two available stages twice. While I did find myself becoming a bit better with time, I'm going to have to play a bit more before recommending it -- even though all areas except for the controls make it one of the top games at the show.
The Nintendo World demo appeared to be similar to the demo that was shown at the Nintendo Conference event back in September. We provided indirect impressions back then based off reports at publications that were invited to the event. Some sites are reporting that the new demo has seen playability improvements since the September event.
Players were able to select from two stages whose names I'll roughly translate here as Chapter 1 "Palutena's Second Coming" (easy) and Chapter 4 "Sights of the God of Death" (hard), and three weapons: sword, claw and satellite. The stages were split into two parts: first, an aerial segment, then a foot-based sequence ending in a boss fight. These were actually just "digest" versions of the stages that will be in the final build of the game.
Both the air and ground parts can be described as "shooters," but they differ greatly. When in the air, the game is totally on rails, and all you have to do is worry about firing and avoiding being hit. On the ground, you have full 360 degree freedom of control over Pit, and can move all over the level with no fixed path.
The controls sound simple at first. You move Pit around with the slide pad (that's what Nintendo calls the 3DS's analogue pad), move your aim around with the stylus, and shoot with L.
In addition to standard movement, you can make Pit dash by tapping the slide pad quickly in a given direction. If you hold L down, Pit will fire continuously. However, when you let go of the button, he charges his weapon up so your next shot is a more powerful charge shot. When Pit is near to enemies, his laser blasts turn into melee attacks which you can turn into a simple combo by pressing L repeatedly.
This basic control system remains the same regardless of the air or ground-based play, but there are some differences. When on the ground, you can flick the touch pen to turn Pit's viewpoint around, then tap the screen again to stop the viewpoint turning. It's somewhat like spinning a globe around and tapping it to stop, as director Masahiro Sakurai said during a stage event.
I had some issues with the flick controls for turning Pit around in the ground parts, but my real problem with the controls is that I just couldn't get used to firing with L while moving Pit with the slider and aiming with the stylus. It's too difficult to consciously press L while controlling your character through the slider. Also, pointing at targets with the stylus seemed like it would feel much better if the stylus weren't actually contacting the screen. (Your andriasang.com Resident Evil correspondent Alex "cvxfreak" Aniel suggested that the game's control system might be designed more with the Wiimote and nunchuck in mind.)
It does seem possible to master the controls, though. Sakurai skillfully played through both the ground and air segments during a stage presentation, so additional practice would hopefully make me adjust to the control system.
I'm hoping this is the case, as everything else I saw of Kid Icarus was first rate. The flight stages are a roller coaster, taking you through the skies, in quick approaches of the ground, through caves and putting you in stand-offs with giant foes. The ground stages seem to have great variety. While the first stage had you run through the streets of a city, the second stage's segment was set in more of an arena-style area, with a variety of enemies and gimmicks. These are, of course, just digest version of the stages, so there may be even more variety in the final versions.
And then there are the bosses. Size was a central theme for both bosses, but the fourth stage boss was particularly huge. It rises so high, in fact, that the arena in which you fight it has two height levels, and you have to make Pit run back and forth between the two levels if you want to hit the boss in its two weak points: its head and its feet.
One neat thing about the gameplay is the amount of dialogue from Pit, Palutena and other characters (fully voiced by Minami Takayama and Pit and Aya Hisakawa as Palutena). These serve as your mission briefings, and also help progress the story. There's a lot of dialogue, making this area really stand out as you play.
Kid Icarus Uprising has a whole lot going for it. If the controls end up working out, the long awaited revival of the classic franchise could end up being a must have title for the 3DS.
Outside of the demo areas, Nintendo gave Kid Icarus Uprising its very own stage show hosted by Sakurai himself. Sakurai charmed the crowd with a humorous play session of the original 8-bit Kid Icarus, then went on to an introduction of Uprising complete with some skillfully played live gameplay sessions.
Sakurai also unveiled the new take on Hewdraw, a multiheaded dragon boss that appeared in the original. In Uprising, each of Hewdraw's three heads has its own personality, and they'll argue with one another during your battle.
Separate from Uprising, Sakurai announced a new development for the Kid Icarus franchise. Nintendo is looking into releasing a line of character products related to the game. Sakurai shared an early image of a large Pit and Palutena figure. While he didn't say if it would actually be released as a product, the figure is going to be used as a model for the construction of a 10 meter tall float for the Gosho Gawara Tachineputa festival in early August. Construction has already begun down in Aomori.