Now with 20% more trading cards!
Kid Icarus is just around the corner after over 20 years, but first he had to stop at GDC to give us a taste and make the wait that much more painful. The build I played at Nintendo’s booth had both multiplayer and three levels of single-player available, and I was assured that those offerings were exactly as they would be in the retail release. Based on that experience, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Smash Bros. mastermind Masahiro Sakurai’s stamp on the game is apparent everywhere, from the non-stop action to the treasure trove of hidden items to collect, and even in the vibrant menus outside of gameplay.
The game essentially plays the same as it did the last time I played it at E3, the only addition being a limited stock of special weapons and items that you can activate by tapping their icons on the touchscreen. The single-player levels were also changed from being time-based, where taking damage would reduce your remaining time left to finish the level, to a traditional health bar system. It’s probably ultimately better this way given the addition of items hidden away in nooks and crannies that need to be explored, but I did miss the unique urgency of the timed runs. I’m crossing my fingers for it to return in a time trial mode of some sort.
There’s also a highly variable difficulty system now. Before going into a level, you adjust the difficulty on a 100 point scale, from 0–10.0, much like The World Ends With You. The higher up you go, the more punishing the enemies become; I was barely scraping by on tiny scraps of health at times from setting it at 6.0, and I was told that the “normal” difficulty for most convention-goers was around 2.0. But there are also gates scattered around with big numbers on them blocking desirable weapons and items to collect, which only open up if you’re playing on at least the specified difficulty—a gate that says 7 will only open if you’re playing on 7.0 or higher.
There’s charm and nostalgia oozing from the single-player levels, featuring a constant running narrative on the touchscreen between Pit, Palutena, and sometimes the bad guys. These conversations have frequent allusions and throwbacks to old-school Kid Icarus, including some awesome snapshots of the original NES game that flash by.
On the multiplayer front, the format remains unchanged from last year, but is much more polished. It’s still a 3-on-3 team deathmatch, but there are at least 15 weapons to choose from before battle, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities. Items now spawn around the arenas, which give you temporary boosts or additional special weapons to unleash with the touchscreen.
Finally, in a surprising turn, Kid Icarus: Uprising will have a trading card element to it. Each game will ship with a selection of six random AR cards, and there are upwards of 100 total. In addition to the typical AR fare like watching your cards have mock battles on your coffee table, scanning new cards with the 3DS camera will add currency to your game, which you can use to buy more weapons and will thus foster trading amongst friends. We were given booster packs at GDC to help us kick-start our collection (score!), but there will be other ways to get boosters once the game releases (as far as we know, they won’t be sold in stores).
With the AR cards and a custom stand shipping with each copy of the game, Kid Icarus: Uprising has a lot resources behind it. We have high hopes that the final product will deliver on both the Kid Icarus legacy and the hype that Nintendo’s been generating when it ships later this month.