The intensity system works particularly well alongside 'Treasure Hunt', Uprising's answer to Xbox 360 Achievements or PS3 Trophies. Along with simple score/time targets, you're challenged to clear stages on particular intensities or with a certain weapon type. Treasure Hunt not only lures you towards unexplored corners of the arsenal, but rewards you with even shinier trinkets to invest in future challenges.
Factor in unlockable 3D 'idols', near-infinite weapon variations, StreetPass gems (swapping weapons with strangers), unlockable powers, AR battle cards and extensive multiplayer modes (reviewed fully next issue) and you wonder how Sakurai can possibly hold it together. That it doesn't collapse in a heaving pile is due to its daringly knowing tone. Sakurai acknowledges that the game doesn't neatly slot together, he just points and laughs.
Pit, little more than a clump of white toga pixels in 1986, is recast as a spunky eager-beaver, hassling the Goddess Palutena with exasperating chitchat. While the non-stop commentary can irk to begin with, the endless prattling about doughnuts and hot springs does eventually wear down your defences. When characters start breaking the fourth wall - gloating how hellhound Twinbellows is earning Nintendog trainer points, for example - you may even manage a laugh or two.
Hit and Myth
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised - Kid Icarus was silly to begin with. Part of the fun is rediscovering one of Nintendo's more bizarro efforts. Come on, bomb-sneezing Groucho Marx masks and giant gobs modelled on Mick Jagger? It's hard to believe the squares behind Wii Fit came up with this stuff. Sakurai's art team go with the flow and swell the ranks with belly-dancing plants, a parody of Metroid's space pirates and sexy treasure chests that kick Pit's face in with Chun-Li-sized horse thighs. And wait until you meet the Eggplant Wizard's brother...
Whether you're an Icarus buff or not, it's uplifting to find a game so comfortable being a game. Didn't Sakurai get the memo? 'Gaming' in 2012 is about bland suits throwing silly money at war games with all their edges filed off during focus testing. It certainly doesn't permit firework guns, 90 difficulty settings and health-replenishing doughnuts. Hell, do Nintendo even permit these things? Uprising reveals Pilotwings Resort and Steel Diver as the conservative schedule-fillers they really are.
It was always a mystery to us why president Iwata chose Kid Icarus to announce the 3DS back at E3 2010. The answer is clear to us now: because Kid Icarus is the company's most audacious game in years. A game that could only come from an outside agent like Sakurai. Uprising goes against the Nintendo grain in so many ways: cinematic spectacle, intrusive storytelling, user-defined difficulty and - most sacrilegiously - a control scheme that doesn't come naturally to fingers and thumbs.
In an ideal world, user friendliness does trump all. And Nintendo live in that ideal world 99% of the time. But it's that 1%, the rare trip into uncharted territory, that can result in their best work. We won't lie to you: Uprising is awkward and unusual. But love hurts. And no pain, no gain. And you can't make an omelette without breaking tendons. No, we won't lie to you: Kid Icarus: Uprising is 3DS's most exciting game to date.
This is no wax-winged folly, but a daring reinvention of a hero too long on the subs bench. Look past the controls for the biggest, prettiest and downright silliest 3DS game to date.