Rise Up, Icarus
I keep trying to put my feelings about Kid Icarus: Uprising into words, but words fail me.
I did not expect this game – not the non-stop action or sharp, clever writing or joyful excess that redefines ‘feature complete’ in an age of increasingly spare experiences sold at a premium and completed with DLC.
I did not expect to fall head-over-heals for the multiplayer, especially since it centers on the much-maligned on-foot mechanics – nor did I expect to grow, not only tolerant of the controls, but genuinely fond of them, to the point where I wouldn’t want to play any other way. I like the stand.
And the last thing I expected was to think of Kid Icarus: Uprising as a serious contender for 2012 Game of the Year.
But here we are.
The 3DS is an ugly, awkward device. I love it so I can say that – as an object, it displeases the hand and eye. If it hadn’t been gifted to me I still wouldn’t have one, waiting for the inevitable redesign. But I’m glad I have it now so I can advocate for one of the most consistently enjoyable game experiences I’ve had in years. Maybe ever.
This is why I said ‘words fail me’ earlier. Because, really? Ever? In your 26 years of gaming, self, you really consider Kid Icarus: Uprising to be on the level of the all-time greats? You’re an asshole; also fat.
Which may be true, but I can’t help myself – I love this game. I am prone to hyperbole when an experience hits me between the eyes without warning and tickles something deep in me I didn’t recognize as yearning. I think about it when I’m not playing; I’m playing whenever I get a chance to, and I’m stealing chances more than I should be.
Since picking it up last week, I have spent over 15 hours between Solo and Together play; I’ve finished the campaign once, won over 30 Light vs. Dark matches, unlocked 111 idols, acquired 150 weapons (50 through fusing), defeated 5,980 enemies and been tempuraed 6 times. And that is less than 1/10th of the actions Uprising keeps track of. From the moment you start, Uprising is taking notes on everything you do, and while these stats aren’t necessarily meaningful, they are fun, and that’s everything Uprising is about.
Fun. Just fun. Sakurai has helped craft an experience that takes a lot of cues from his work on Smash Bros. – quick, satisfying action, an embarrassment of options and features, deceptively simple but deep and varied – and gives it the momentum of a Saturday morning sugar-high. I can’t say enough about the writing. Catty and glib, campy and self-aware; the action is never broken by staid cutscene storytelling, but elevated by character chatter through everything. The localization team has gone above and beyond to give this game a vibrant, insane personality to match its colourful, candied mayhem.
It just… works, better than I could have ever expected. I’ve said nothing about the nine categories of weapons and the hundreds of variations therein, each which feels like its own thing, nary a lazy recolour in sight. I did not expect this game to be about loot; and when I found out it was, I did not expect it to be as considerate, deep and evolved as it is. Not from Nintendo. But colour me tempuraed on that count, too.
Kid Icarus takes his name from the Greek myth about a wax-winged man flying too close to the sun, but in practice, the game is more like the Phoenix – rising up from franchise ashes to shine, brilliant and beautiful and burning hot - born again and better than before. This is the best game on the 3DS by a mile, and the most fun I’ve had with a game in ages.