Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising

As much as I feel like saying "holy shit it's Capsized all over again", I can't, because I gave this game more of a chance than I did Capsized. Why? Because Kid Icarus: Uprising is possible to control and at times, it's a lot of fun to play, whereas Capsized just pissed me off to no end with its horrible controls. There are some flaws here and there, but overall, this is a pretty good game despite the piss poor controls.

The story is that Pit, under the orders of Lady Palutena, has to stop the forces of darkness from destroying the world of the living. However, one of Medusa's commanders, Pandora, creates a dark clone of Pit, but since Pit interferes with the cloning process, Dark Pit doesn't serve Medusa; he serves himself, meaning he's neither good nor evil. That's... about as far as I would like to go because holy shit, this story is a mess. Shit happens, Palutena (and other characters) crack jokes at Pit's expense and Pit tries not to look like a dickhead, then more stuff happens - development is NOT this game's strong suit whatsoever and trying to make sense of stuff will only hurt your brain. Basically, it goes in one ear and out the other. In fact, what I described... is all that I can remember off the top of my head as far as a cohesive narrative goes.

On the other hand, the dialogue is excellent! Throughout the game, they'll crack jokes at each others' expenses and constantly reference (and take pot shots at) the original game, but not in a tasteless manner. The writing is done in a way that makes each joke flow, hit hard with their punchlines and just feel funny, or at least make the game feel light hearted. At its core, it's a revival of a game series that hasn't had a game in like 20 years, and rather than be all dark and edgy like Christopher Nolan's Batman movies or dull and mediocre like Rocket Knight, it felt more like Splatterhouse in that yeah, there's a plot, but there's also some witty banter that needs to take place between Rick and the Terror Mask - why not give Pit and Palutena that kind of relationship? In the end, it takes an otherwise shitty story and makes it seem good.

Gameplay is split into two sections - flight and ground combat. In flight, you'll find yourself shooting down waves of enemies while Palutena controls your flight pattern (since Pit can't fly on his own). They start off simple enough by having you shoot down enemies, but after a couple of levels, the designs start to incorporate obstacles and have Pit go faster, which can make things hectic... like a shoot em up ought to be! But if things get too hectic, you can use an attack where you destroy everyone on the screen at that moment by touching the blue orb on the touch screen. With that, things feel a bit easier, and that attack is balanced by having you wait until that orb fills back up, so it's not like you can just spam it. Based off of this, it's easy to assume that it's a lot of fun, which it fucking is.

On the ground is another story. This is when the controls feel like shit. For one thing, why are the shoulder buttons used to attack? The combat is done in a way where you'll find yourself mashing it, and these things feel a little too fragile to be mashed like that. The other thing is the camera. Since you're using the shoulder buttons as your attack buttons, sadly, the touch screen serves not just as your reticle, but your CAMERA! You move the stylus around to move the camera or flick the stylus across the screen to turn it 180 degrees. It's like they felt that they HAD to incorporate the touch screen in some way, shape or form, which is SO 2004. Come on, this is the motherfucking 3DS, not the DS...

...but even if the controls were good, the ground sections just aren't as good as the aerial sections. The idea is to rush through a bunch of halls and shoot up or beat up a bunch of monsters. That's the basic gist of it. Oh sure, there's a bit of exploration for some optional stuff, but for the most part, you're going through halls to kick some ass. There's nothing wrong with it besides the crap controls, and a lot of the fights that take place in thin corridors can be quite intense, but a lot of it just comes down to how long these sections can get. The aerial segments last about 4 or 5 minutes but never really feel that long; the ground segments last between 5 and 15 minutes, but they feel like they take about 20 minutes because there are heaps upon heaps of enemy encounters and most of the enemies just feel the same. There isn't a large variety of enemies and the combat really boils down to hammering the L button and dodging some attacks from other enemies. Most other games have something that keeps the combat interesting – Devil May Cry had enemies that could gangrape you with fast and effective attacks; Ninja Gaiden had the same thing going for it and added a very technical combat engine to it even more interesting; Kingdom Hearts has a large variety of enemies. Always a thing that keeps you going. Kid Icarus: Uprising has... umm... a large variety of weapons... wow, that's just fucked.

I guess I'm being hard on it, but here's the thing – it can still be a lot of fun, but it's the fact that you'll be spending more time than necessary dealing with a simple combat engine and a very small variety of enemies throughout most of the second half of the game that makes it hard to stomach. It feels like either more could've been added to the combat, or there could've been less enemy encounters. Either way, the ground sections just aren't that great in their current form. The only way they redeem themselves after getting boring is through the boss battles. They are fast, frenetic and actually fairly tricky as they can dish out quite a bit of pain. Perhaps their attack variety isn't huge, but what they have is more than enough to send Pit to the deepest circle of Hell if he doesn't do anything, even the earlier bosses. Believe me when I say that in the second half of the game when the ground levels start to get obnoxiously long, it's a fucking treat to fight a damn good boss that's also quite tricky.

I bet you're wondering what I meant by a large variety of weapons. Well, what I mean is that you'll have a large, large variety of weapons at your disposal. A lot of them fire different projectiles, like rapid fire, a big blast or weighted projectiles, and they have different melee capabilities, like quick slashes and hard hits. As you collect weapons throughout the levels or buy them from the store with hearts (earned through killing enemies), you can fuse them together to create entirely different weapons with balanced stats... like say one weapon is proficient with one thing and is shit with another, and the other weapon is the inverse of that. The final product is a balance of both, which can be both a detriment and an advantage. Oh, did I mention that they have special abilities like extra speed or power (among much, much more)? You can have certain abilities from both combined to make the special abilities in your new weapon. You can try them out in a training mode and see if they'll work with your playstyle.

There is one thing that is very fucking impressive, and that's the way the difficulty levels are balanced out. When you enter a level, you can select a difficulty level between 1 and 9. Basically, the higher the difficulty, the more enemies there will be and the more punishment that they'll take, but with risk comes reward as you'll get even more hearts from killing enemies and even better treasure like better weapons, and the levels have doors that will open if you are playing at a difficulty setting or higher (say if it has a 5 on it, then if you set the difficulty to 5 or above, you can access that room and reap the rewards and kill more enemies). I mean, it does a better job of explaining why I don't find the ground sections that great – the enemies are more about how much punishment they can take than forcing you to develop a strategy beyond dodging the occasional projectile(s) – but in terms of balancing, I think it does a fantastic job.

When it comes to the visuals, this game looks excellent. The models are clean and crispy with some rich colors that just looks great, and it doesn't lag, so . That's not to mention the size of this game – there is a clear eye for scope as it is a biiiig game. If this was on an HD console, you'd be able to see how big this game really is. There are plenty of big levels like the city in the first level, or the war that takes place during the next few levels, and that's just the appetizer. What really helps it feel big, though, is the 3D. There is a huge sense of depth as it feels like everything is flying towards you in the aerial segments, or stuff is coming at you, and since that's the idea of 3D, I'd say it works well.

Sound design also has that sense of scope. The songs are big, juicy and epic, and they really get you into the game by matching what's going on. Whether it's an intense shooting level or a moment where they're talking, each song really suits the moment and just pulls you in. Then again, if you're going to have a thunderous orchestra do your soundtrack, you better have that kind of effect or you're just wasting their time. Then there's the voice acting, which is also very well done. Each bit of dialogue is given a lot of conviction and manages to draw you in as a result.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fine, fine game that feels grand and epic while being a ton of fun to play for the most part. It's just that the ground levels wear out their welcome, the story itself is poorly paced and feels like a mess, and the controls on the ground are an even bigger mess. But looking past that, you will find a game that has some fast and frenetic aerial combat and boss fights, which when combined with the sheer size of the graphics and soundtrack on top of some fine stereoscopic 3D makes for quite an experience that's not to be missed.

7/10 (Good)

No comments:

Post a Comment