After 25 years, the evil goddess of the Underworld, Medusa, has returned. It’s up to Pit, angelic servant to the Goddess of Light, Palutena, to stop Medusa once again and completely destroy the fourth wall in the process.
The main game is broken up into chapters, and each chapter consists of two parts: aerial battles and ground battles. The aerial battles have you flying on a set path with enough control over Pit to dodge enemy fire and pick up items along the way—if you’ve played a Star Fox game or any other rail shooter, it’s basically that. With the game’s default control scheme, you control Pit with the Circle Pad, aim with the stylus, and attack with the L button. The ground battles have you navigate the area yourself, taking out enemies and collecting items, and culminate in a boss battle. The control scheme is the same as the aerial battles, with the D-pad assigned to selecting and using special attacks and abilities. There are also a handful of vehicles you can use at certain points.
The controls do take a bit of getting used to, not gonna lie. The game actually comes with a stand you can place your 3DS on while playing if you think it’ll help (I never used it myself, but it's nice to have around). The setup is pretty customizable, so with some tweaking you can find a scheme that’s ideal for you (lefties, take note: a Circle Pad Pro will make the game much more manageable, if you have one). But this game is absolutely worth the minor initial inconveniences.
The limited number of controller inputs used belies the complex nature of the gameplay, particularly in the ground battles. As you play you’ll acquire new weapons, either by purchasing them with collected hearts, earning them as rewards after stages, or finding them in treasure chests. There are nine different weapon categories and over a hundred total different weapons.
There are two basic methods of attack—ranged shots and melee strikes. Each weapon category has different basic strengths; blades are good all-around weapons, staves let you snipe from afar, clubs have devastating melee attacks in exchange for very limited ranged options, and so on. Individual weapons in each group have their own stats that affect their ranged and melee damage, rate of fire, time needed to charge shots, and other modifiers that affect things like your health and movement speed. Beyond THAT, different versions of the same weapon will have different stats. There’s any number of ways you can play the game, depending on what you feel like.
You can also combine two weapons to form a new one which inherits characteristics from each parent.
All this weapon customization is nice in the main game, but it really shines in the online multiplayer. The matches (3 vs. 3 or 6 player free-for-all) are frenetic, fast-paced affairs where you get to use any of the gear you’ve acquired in the single player game to take out other players. Multiplayer mode is the main reason you’ll spend time trying to fine tune your perfect weapon.
This is an impressive looking game. The aerial battles have you zipping around some surprisingly detailed environments at high speeds, making great usage of the 3D effect. The ground battles are a bit slower paced, but still very nice looking. Little details, like how Pit will run on the ground if you fly down close enough, really add to the presentation.
Audio is a real treat. There’s almost constant banter between characters—cheesy, self-referential kinda stuff, but well-acted and, at times, genuinely funny. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is phenomenal. Play this with headphones.
The story is actually pretty good, considering how not-seriously it seems to take itself most of the time. It’s lighthearted stuff, with some heavier bits mixed throughout and a couple good twists.
There’s a sort of achievement system in place, where completing certain tasks will get you a reward in the form of some hearts, a new weapon, a playable soundtrack, or a character figurine (similar to the Trophies in the Smash Bros. games).
You can use Play Coins to purchase Idols, which you break open to get figurines
On top of all this, each copy of the game comes packed with six AR cards for its built in AR game. There are hundreds of these cards available. The whole thing’s pretty ridiculous.
The adjustment period for the control setup is well worth the payoff. With a slick presentation and tons of unlockable content, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a must-have for any self-respecting 3DS owner.