Sometimes you play a game before it's released and you get an idea of what the final product will be like. Generally, things are fixed or changed so that problems in early builds aren't retained in the retail release. That's… the idea. That's what you hope for.
Sometimes things stay the same. I was worried that that'd be the case with Nintendo's Kid Icarus: Uprising. Bringing an ancient franchise (for this industry) back in such a high-profile manner seemed like a gamble I wouldn't have taken. So imagine my pleasant surprise to find that Pit's latest outing on the Nintendo 3DS is actually worthy of the brand's long-standing high regard. In fact, I would even say that Uprising is one of Nintendo's first truly great "next-gen" handheld games.
Right off the bat, you'll notice the high production values and depth of content on hand in Uprising. The lengthy single-player campaign is aided by an achievement-like rewards system that unlocks art, music, power-ups, and weapons. What's more, any level can be replayed on a higher "intensity" to beef up rewards and challenge.
The intensity slider is actually an ingenious method of providing players a sense of actual difficulty. Each notch on the scale has an appropriate level of challenge, and the spoils up for grabs mean replaying levels is actually worth your while.
Even better, the game's graphics are a sight for sore eyes on the 3DS. Dark, colorful, and vibrantly detailed, Kid Icarus: Uprising features some stellar visuals for Nintendo's handheld, or any handheld for that matter. The Star Fox-esque shooting sections throw enemies your way at a great pace, and the third-person on-the-ground combat is actually tightly responsive.
This is not how the game performed in previous builds, making the delay well worth the wait. Even multiplayer has transformed from a convoluted mess into a fantastically balanced competitive mode, separated into two camps. Light Versus Dark sets two teams of three against each other with a set amount of lives. Once all of the team's lives are depleted, one of you will become Light Pit or Dark Pit, giving the team a last chance at redemption. Free-for-all mode pits (sorry) six players against each other.
Multiplayer is fun, but that Nintendo spark is hidden in the single-player action. Level after level will feature Pit and Lady Palutena providing color commentary throughout the 3D action. You might first find yourself groaning at the jokes, but Nintendo's localization department still has the knack for humor.
Other characters will come and go, and they've got their own one liners as well, but Pit and Palutena are the real stars, providing goofy, off-the-wall lines amid tightly scripted levels and combat. Much as there's a hill to climb before you really enjoy the writing, the controls have their own barrier of entry.
It's not a new challenge to Nintendo's line of dual-screened handhelds. Players control Pit with the circle pad, shoot with the L button, and aim with the touchscreen. This means you'll have to carry the weight of the hardware in addition to whatever force you're exerting on the touchscreen. That can be a pain in the ass for players of all ages, but the light aim assistance and homing abilities of some attacks will make up for this. Finely tuning your aim is easy with the stylus, but making sweeping turns requires you to flick the reticle to the right or left.
Regardless, much of Kid Icarus: Uprising is played in a sweet spot directly in front of Pit. Multiplayer arenas are designed to encourage chasing each other around, but reacting on the fly takes some getting used to.
It's clear that this is a game developed by Masahiro Sakurai, the mind behind Kirby and the Super Smash Bros series. The colorful, quite funny visual style is only matched by the depth of its gameplay systems, making for a title (thanks to the Intensity slider) that's entertaining for children and adults.
Truly, Kid Icarus is the second-best Nintendo 3DS title available for the handheld, second only to Mario himself. As a Nintendo title, it's everything you could want from the publisher, despite the fact that the controls leave something to be desired and the multiplayer will not satisfy all comers.