In 1986 flight was limited to a measly scrolling shooter section. Twenty-six years later Pit kicks off every stage with five minutes of soaring wonderment. Spewing neon death from the foreground feels a lot like Sin And Punishment 2, right down to the melee attacks for henchmen silly enough to float within arm's length. With hundreds of laser projectiles going in and out of the screen, the 3D is spectacular. As death rays patter against the screen we thank Nintendo for the safety glass.
It's amazing how much exhilaration Sakurai squeezes from a screen the size of a credit card. Not since our last credit card bill have we witnessed such tummy-turning ups and downs. Flight is on-rails in the roller-coaster sense: screaming freefalls, brain-battering corkscrews and I'm-going-to-sue-Alton-Towers-for-whiplash U-turns. Choreographed to an incredible orchestral score, Uprising's flying boasts that same bombastic forward momentum as Super Mario Galaxy.
And can Sakurai please show other devs the 3DS's secret graphics switch? His literal flights of fancy skim us under magma arches and over battlefields where thousands of troops glisten in the moonlight. In ten breathless hours Pit soars through alien attack fleets, surfs a stardust ocean, parts a real ocean, defuses moon-sized bombs, fights moon-sized moons... The hairs on the back of the neck are constantly up and down. Must scare the bejesus out of the lice.
Up in arms
Pit needs to be armed before taking off. Weapons maketh the angel, you see, and Pit has nine classes to pick from. Cannons are slow and strong, Orbiters fast and weak. Palms and claws are melee superstars but don't offer the reassuring distance of a bow or rifle. Clubs bat back projectiles, turning the game into impromptu laser tennis. Us? We pick a puny Fireworks Cannon because the explosions look pretty in 3D. The crowd goes 'oooooh'. Enemies go 'argh'.
Newsflash: Smash Bros creator likes packing games with content! In the air, the vast range of boomsticks can appear superfluous. Different weapons have different fire rates, but who has time to count laser projectiles when the Pit hits the fan? Stats play a bigger part on terra firma. Pit's simple moveset - little more than shoot, melee, dash and dodge - cleverly amplifies any weapon you plug into it. Adding movement, fire rate or homing modifiers has a tangible impact on how our hero handles.
After some shaky early impressions, ground battles get their act together. Sakurai banishes concerns of bland corridor shooting by cramming said corridors with gimmickry. There are grind rails, stealth sections, Zelda-ish puzzles, mechanised stomp-bots, hidden rooms, labyrinths, minibosses, megabosses, co-op battles, chariot races... Sakurai has come a long way since Brawl's disastrous Subspace Emissary mode.
Ground battles benefit from his Smash Bros knowhow. Briefly flicking the circle pad to whomp a club into a smog-belching frog is just as satisfying as pranging Peach's frying pan into Mario's gob. Flick dodging is even better - a well-timed nudge slips Pit past incoming fire like a besocked kid on a newly polished floor. Master the timing and Uprising's evasive combat is as fast and snappy as Metroid: Other M's.
And master it you will if Pit is to survive Uprising's 'quirky' take on difficulty. Called 'Fiend's Cauldron' it lets you gamble in-game currency to attempt harder variations - or intensities - of the level. These give you more henchmen spouting more projectiles causing more damage. In turn leading to more deaths meaning more swears leading to less pocket money from a more disapproving mother. Intense, man.
Intensity ranges from 0.0 (walk in the park) to 9.0 (watching Shakespeare in the park), making Uprising the first game in history with 90 difficulty modes. This is called replayability, readers - something games used to have in the '90s. Simple maths tells you it's a generous deal: 90 x 25 levels x average 20 minute length = lots o' game. While the promise of better loot ensures we explore its full depths.