IMPRESSIONS: Kid Icarus Uprising 新・光神話 パルテナの鏡

2 04 2012

I’ve had one heck of a rough week.  My car gave up the ghost 60 miles outside of Tokyo, my washing machine died the same day, and I’ve been up to my neck in business stuff… yet I still find time on the weekend for you.  Aren’t I nice?



Kid Icarus was originally released for the Famicom Disk System in 1986.  It was developed along side another classic Nintendo game, Metroid by the late famed game designer Gunpei Yokoi as two sides of the same coin.  While Metroid went on to fame and fortune (and 10 sequels), Kid Icarus, while being fondly remembered, only got one little follow-up for the Game Boy.  It seemed like the protagonist of the series, Pit, was doomed to languish in the land of forgotten game heroes until he was resurrected as a playable character in the popular Nintendo fighting mash-up Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  Now that modern gamers knew who this Pit fellow was again, the producer of the Smash Brothers games, Msahiro Sakurai, decided to make a new Kid Icarus game, bringing us to where were are today with me struggling to put my feelings into words, and that doesn’t happen that often.



While the original Kid Icarus was a 2D platforming adventure, Kid Icarus Uprising blends elements of pseudo 3D shooters like Space Harrier with those of on-rail shooters like Panzer Dragoon, and throws in a little bit of exploration shooting like… um… Resident Evil: Survivor?  There’s a lot of good, old, gameplay mechanics that Icarus Uprising borrows and does better than anything that’s come before it.  There’s also a smattering of new ideas that are really good as well.  I mean, the game really shines; but a game is only as good as how it plays, and that’s where Kid Icarus Uprising falls almost completely apart.

For those of you unaware, the Nintendo 3DS has many options for input.  It has four face buttons, a “slider pad” (that’s Nintendo talk for an analog controller) and two shoulder buttons on the top of the system.  Look here:


Now, normally in a game, your character will be controlled by the “slider pad” (because it moves in all directions), or the traditional directional pad, and the face buttons A, B, X, Y will be used for things such as jumping, shooting, grabbing, and what-have-you actions.  Occasionally developers work the shoulder buttons in there; but not that often.  Because of the squarish design of the 3DS, using the shoulder buttons for any prolonged amount of time can cause cramping.  The 3DS does have one more method of input, and that’s the lower screen.  It’s touch sensitive, and Nintendo has been pushing it as a control device ever since they launched the original DS system back in 2004.  I tend to try and avoid games that use the touch screen for primary input because, in my mind, it amounts to nothing more than a gimmick.  For 99.9% of all games, having a control pad, or “slider pad”, plus an additional 6 buttons is more than enough options to get the job done.  In fact, at no time have I ever thought that if I could just slide a little stick around a screen would my gameplay experience become more enjoyable.  Kid Icarus Uprising takes all those possible control configurations and throws them out the window, baby, bathwater, crib, and carriage.

You see, in order to control the game, your left thumb must be on the “slider pad”.  That’s cool, that’s normal.  The “slider pad” controls Pit while he’s in flight, moves him around the screen.  At this point, the normal, seasoned gamer would assume that the A or B button would be used for firing your weapon, and that’s where you’d be wrong.  Your forefinger has to reach around to the upper-left shoulder button to fire.  So what are the other buttons used for?  They’re not.  Everything else is controlled via the touch screen.  The touch screen controls where pit is aiming.  So you have to move your left thumb, press your left forefinger, and separately move your right hand to get anything done.  It may seem like a small thing; but it’s a bit like trying to write a letter with your left hand while your right hand draws a picture… it doesn’t work out so well.  For the majority of people out there, their brain is naturally wired as such, that your hands work together, not separately; but that is exactly what this game expects them to do.  It takes a bit of getting use to; but it’s doable.  It’s a horrible inconvenience, but not a total deal breaker.  No, the deal breaker comes when the second part of the game kicks in: ground based fighting and exploration.

Once Pit is on the ground, the touch screen is used to not only aim, but also move the camera and dodge attacks.  It’s like they forgot the other buttons even existed, not that you could even use them while holding a stylus in your hands.  This makes what should have been a brilliantly fun adventure become a painful, frustrating mess.  Not only are the touch controls imprecise, they hurt your hands.  What blows me away is that instead of fixing this obvious elephant in the room, Nintendo’s solution was to offer a stand to set your portable game system on to help alive cramping.  That means that in the 3 years that this game was in development, not one time did they think to fix the controls.  Their solutions amounts to a piece of plastic that holds the game system so it won’t fall while you shake your hands trying to get the stiffness out.  Truly a “what where they thinking?” moment.

What’s so very sad is that Nintendo had the time to implement Slider Pad Pro support in the game.  The Slider Pad Pro is an attachment that ads a second “slider pad” and beefs up the shoulder buttons for a move comfortable gameplay experience.  It’s very ergonomic.  If Nintendo had made it an option that the second “slider pad” could control the aiming aspect of the game, Kid Icarus Uprising very well might have been the greatest portable game of all time.  But in their wisdom, all the Slider Pad Pro does is make is so left handed players can used that slider instead of the right hand slider to control the main character.  That’s it.  It’s mind-boggling.

In order for me to semi-comfortably play Icarus Uprising, I have to attach the Slider Pad Pro so my right hand doesn’t cramp so much, and then balance the system on my knee, usually resulting in my leg falling asleep.  The game isn’t really portable by any means… I tried playing it in the train, and that just didn’t work.  What’s the point of releasing a game for a portable system that can’t be played on the go?  That’s the point of a hand held gaming device!

But despite my five paragraphs of griping, I do really like the game… I just don’t enjoy playing it that much.  In my mind, a game could come ready to play.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the controls to play it.  You shouldn’t have to buy add-ons or a thicker stylus so that your hands can take the punishment of simple movement.  What Kid Icarus Uprising amounts to is a total joy in game design and a total failure in control mechanics.  That, to me, means the game fails.  It doesn’t matter how pretty something is, if you can’t easily play it; if the controls aren’t intuitive and precise, then the game maker has failed.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t share my thoughts on the Kid Icarus AR cards, since I’ve written about them twice in the past.  Now that I’ve actually gotten to use the cards, my balloon is greatly deflated.  They really don’t do much of anything, which is a huge disappointment.  In fact, I’ll go all out and say that the AR card aspect of Kid Icarus Uprising is a total waste.  Just another gimmick Nintendo is using to get you to spend your money.

In closing, I’ll share with you what came in the latest issue of Famitsu: 9 AR cards, and a humorous page on how to remove them from the magazine.  BY ALL MEANS DON’T RIP THEM OUT!  Use scissors, it says.  Just more hand cramping courtesy of Nintendo.

Click for Full Size



One response

27 04 2012

When I got my AR Cards it said I needed the game to use them. I then gave them to a friend who actually owns the game and did not even request a demo. I have played and own EyePet, UK and U.S. PS Move versions and Eye of Judgment. i had Invizimals also, so, with that the Kid Icarus AR Cards were and utter disappointment. But we both are over 15 years old so…. I guess we’re out.

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