Oh, Kid Icarus, it's been so hard to love you. Your previous two games were riddled with problems (an insanely high difficulty level in the original Kid Icarus, terrible close-up graphics in Of Myths and Monsters) but you took some time away and it looked like you'd finally got it sussed. After twenty-one years, what I'd seen of Uprising made it the most promising offering from not just the series, but Nintendo on the whole in a long, long while, amid the endless torrent of sequels and uninspired casual games.
And then I placed the cartridge into the machine.
From the outset, I had thought it was clear just how I was going to feel about this game. I'd been so excited for it; a Nintendo game that appeared to suit my style completely, but was left sorely disappointed to begin with by its terribly hammy script and absolutely horrendous controls. Within the first fifth of the game, I had all but completely given up on the game it was, in my opinion, beyond repair.
But then something happened. Suddenly, my opinion changed. The script became less overdramatic after the cringe-worthy setup and the controls, while still incredibly uncomfortable, became second nature. In the end, I found myself loving Uprising for the things I'd hated it for previously.
The dialogue, I found, matched perfectly with the story. Towards the start, there's a real sense of just what the game sets out to do: it's light-hearted in every aspect. That hammy dialogue? The voice team knows that you're going to cringe at those early lines. In fact, you'll be cringing right the way through the game. It's part of what makes Uprising, and even Kid Icarus as a series, so charming: it's never been a game to take itself seriously, from the one-eyed purple wizards turning angelic protagonist Pit into a vegetable in 1987, to the sassy, camp, shape-shifting god of death in 2012.
Even the plot itself is quirky. It takes well-worn clichés (evil doppelgangers, alien invasions, and a "Fountain of Youth" appearance, to name but a few) and breathes new life into them with its amazing storytelling. Though it's not too ambitious with its plot points, it ties them together in such a hyperactive, almost schizophrenic way that you will feel obliged to play the next chapter, if only to see just what that wacky angel and his gang of gods will get up to next. There are even points where it shows its more serious side take, for an example, a later chapter where Pit's aforementioned doppelganger (creatively named 'Dark Pit') takes to the skies to save Pit, who lies far away on his deathbed. The dialogue, thanks in no small part to Dark Pit's broody tone, and theme of the level give off such a dark vibe, made all the more striking by the fact that just an hour previous you were listening to an in-joke about the food Pit eats off the floor to give him health. It's storytelling moments like this that make Uprising almost an honour to play.
If you're not playing for the story, you'll still be hooked by the game's immaculate presentation. Screenshots do not do Uprising justice in the least; words barely do the trick either. Simply put, there is not a single area that is not a joy to play, and there is not a single sound that is not a joy to hear. You'll be delighted when you unlock a 3D character model or piece of the soundtrack through completing certain challenges, perhaps even going as far as to seek out these missions to earn the most interesting rewards.
Of course, single player is not actually where the meat of the game lies, as you'll well know if you were keeping up with the game's development cycle the game also has an extensive multiplayer side. Even as an isolationist who prefers the idea that a video game is best enjoyed alone, I found myself hooked by the various local and online modes. There are two main multiplayer modes: Light vs. Dark, which splits a group of six into two teams, working together to topple the opposition, and Free-for-All, which works exactly as the name implies. Each mode has more in-depth rules that make it easy to learn and hard to master, the way any good game should be, and Nintendo's newly shaped-up online strategy means that games are quick enough and easy enough to set up that a quick ten-minute gaming spurt isn't an impossibility.
Kid Icarus is a mixed bag to begin with. You'll likely begin by hating it and, as a result, it's tough to recommend to someone wanting something to play casually. But scratch the surface, and stick with the game for more than a couple of hours and you will find one of the most entertaining, rewarding, and simply brilliant experiences the 3DS has to offer in its year of release. For the altogether experience, the game is deserving of a perfect score, but as the game doesn't earn its wings until later on, I feel I must dock a point.
And so, Kid Icarus gains a 9 out of 10.