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GameClub #5: Kid Icarus (Series) Roundup

ki-roundup

Incidentally, we got one review for each of the Kid Icarus games! I’ve organized them in chronological order, so you can get a sense of the series. Thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s Game Club! I hope to see you guys next month with some great Marvel vs. Capcom write ups!

[su_spoiler title=”Zebei, Kid Icarus (NES)” style=”fancy”]

Zebei:

Playing Kid Icarus NES was actually a replay this time. The first time it was quite the trial. It was extremely difficult to get used to and took me about a month of playing to beat. I spent lot’s of time trying and failing, and plenty of time lost in the game’s “Fortresses” (Essentially dungeons.) I certainly enjoyed it though.

This time though, I was returning already a champion. I already knew the tricks and was used to the slippery controls. I beat the game in 4 hours, which compared to the first time this was much faster. And once again it was very fun. Not needing to fight the controls certainly helped, as well as knowing what all the items are (Since the game never actually tells you). This time, I leveled up very quickly and finished the special trainings and got the special equipment this time. So it’s nice to know there was still room to grow.

However to anyone who hasn’t played it, the game is still really awkward. Controls are slippery, the difficulty is awkward (beginning is the hardest and gets easier) and some stuff just doesn’t work. Hell, the game’s traps work really awkwardly and you can stand in acid/lava and take no damage for about a second or two. And of course, the fact that falling off the bottom of the screen is an instant kill on the scrolling levels is downright obnoxious, especially for new players, and really just makes the game harder for no good reason.

If I had to bullet point a few more things they would be this:

  • The fortresses are super fun to play even if 90% of the time spent in them is getting lost.
  • The Pluton enemies that can steal your super weapons are obnoxious
  • Hearts (Money) feel nearly useless even if they really aren’t
  • The fact you can fall through some platforms (like smash) and kill yourself instantly is annoying especially on a sensitive stick
  • World 2 is way too easy compared to the rest of the game.
  • Bosses are way way way way too easy.
  • Once you get used to the controls, flying up the vertical levels really fast feels soooooooo good

Final result: Certainly an awkward game, but also a very fun one to master and one I wouldn’t mind playing a few dozen more times.

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[su_spoiler title=”Spiral, Kid Icarus 3D Classic” style=”fancy”]

Spiral:

With the game of the month ending up as Kid Icarus this time, I took this as an excuse to finally try out the first Kid Icarus game. More specifically, I played the 3D Classics version. I’ve heard stories about this game’s intense difficulty, and Kid Icarus: Uprising references it often enough to earn my curiosity and finally give it a go.

Right off the bat, it felt like everything I had heard about the difficulty was right. Pit moved slowly and felt like he slid off of every small platform I had to jump on because of how his momentum carried over. His low health meant there was little room for error, and enemies were numerous. The Reapers that would get in your way took a lot of hits to put down, and sometimes were placed where it’d be hard to evade their line of sight. I died several times before I even made it past 1-1.

But somewhere along the line, things changed. I started getting health upgrades. I got enough hearts to buy items to help me. I earned new weapons to take on enemies past the standard arrow shots, and got damage upgrades to deal with the sturdier enemies. With all those in hand, and after I started getting used to the controls, I got into the flow of the game and started breezing through most of the levels, save a few sections. It started feeling easy at some points. Of course, at some point I had my extra weapons stolen by some enemies and I started feeling weak again, but I got the ones I wanted back later.

While most levels either scrolled side-to-side or had you ascending to the top, the fourth level of each area was a labyrinth that brought a nice change of pace. Even though I typically enjoy exploring maze-like areas like this, it felt like I passed the first two through luck. There is a map to help you navigate, but all it does is show you your general position on the entire grid. Even then, you need to find the map somewhere in the dungeon, and you need to get a pencil from the shop to actually use the map. In the third dungeon, I was close to drawing my own before I finally passed it, as I had gotten lost for a surprisingly long time running through it (at least I finally understand why Pit loves hot springs so much). The bosses at the end of the dungeons, on the other hand, were typically pushovers. Twinbellows had a predictable pattern, and was beaten with hit-and-run tactics (Zebei told me an even easier way is just to duck his projectiles). Hewdraw was pretty much beaten through attrition, as you can attack him far more than he can attack you. Pandora threatened my Centurions far more than me, as her attacks were slow and easy to dodge.

And then surprisingly, the game ends after one more stage. You get to use the Three Sacred Treasures on a stage, giving you even more powerful arrows, free flight, and a shield that can block projectiles when not attacking. After the stage, you go up against a fight against Medusa, which took me two tries to beat. And then the game’s done. Three areas and a final boss level. I honestly expected the game to be longer (and more challenging) than it was. I ended with the captain ending, which is right in the middle in terms of endings you can get. I’ll take that for my first time playing the game (plus not having known what the requirements were).

In the end, I actually felt a little underwhelmed by this game. The earlier levels where every jump and enemy felt like a fight for survival ended up being more challenging and fun to get through than the later ones which just felt like a chore. None of the bosses were particularly challenging, even Medusa only beat me because I had lost too much health on the enemies leading up to her. It’s not particularly a bad game, but I expected much more out of it. With all that being said, I can’t say it’s a particularly engaging experience for gamers today, unless you’re the type who enjoys runs with self-imposed challenges or aiming for the best possible endings. If that’s you, I’d like to see a run without picking up a single bow upgrade or weapon ;P

[/su_spoiler]

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[su_spoiler title=”Nintendrone, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters” style=”fancy”]

Nintendrone:

Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, released in 1991, is the Game Boy sequel to the original Kid Icarus on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is one of the only Nintendo games that was not released in Japan, where it would not see release until the 3DS Virtual Console version in 2012. This game is a rather obscure platformer, so let’s take a look at it to see if it’s worth playing! I played the 3DS Virtual Console version for this review.

The game’s plot is quite simple, and is given via an opening crawl at the title screen, one cutscene before the final level, and an ending cutscene. Palutena, the godess who watches over the peaceful Angel Land, has a nightmare of an army invading Angel Land and plunging it into despair. A soothsayer confirms that the nightmare foretells the coming of a demon named Orcos, so Palutena sends Pit, a young (flightless) angel and captain of her army, on a mission to prevent this. Pit must travel through Angel Land to retrieve Three Sacred Treasures (The Wings of Pegasus, Light Arrows, and Silver Armor) from their dungeons’ guardians. After doing so, he will be powerful enough to wield said Treasures against Orcos. Upon Pit’s return, however, Orcos invades Palutena’s palace and turns the goddess to stone. Pit then uses the Treasures to fight through the Sky Palace before defeating Orcos, saving Palutena and all of Angel Land.  Pit flies into the sky in celebration, but, comically, his wings burn up and he falls back down, just like in the game’s namesake myth.

As a Game Boy title, Of Myths and Monsters has relatively simple presentation. Although the graphics are in black and white, it’s easy to distinguish characters and objects from the background and each other. For an 8-bit game, the sprites and backgrounds are detailed and nice to look at. Unfortunately, the large sprites come at the cost of screen space; the player’s view is not as wide as it was in the original Kid Icarus, which also had the advantage of being played on a TV. The music is decent, but not very memorable. Annoyingly, the music will restart every time one exits the pause screen, which is especially annoying in dungeons, where one may want to check the map. Sound effects are good and nothing is annoying. While the game usually runs smoothly, the framerate will slow to a crawl and sprites will flicker when there’s a lot of activity on the screen, which is most apparent in the final level. Overall, the game’s presentation is decent, but not spectacular.

Of Myths and Monsters is a platformer, and has gameplay that’s nearly identical to its predecessor’s. Pit walks at a brisk pace, although he takes a moment to stop after one lets go of the +Control Pad. Pit can crouch both on the ground and in the air, and can use it to pass through some platforms. The player has good control over Pit’s jump, and can repeatedly press the A Button to have him flap his wings to slow his descent. Pit can only damage enemies by shooting them with his bow, which have short range but can be fired either forward or straight up. There are a number of doors throughout each level, which can contain things such as a shop, a health-restoring hot spring, or a game of chance. Some rooms also give out information, although much of it is only useful if backtracking or for future playthroughs. There are a number of items that can be obtained, such as the automatically healing Water of Life, tools to map out each dungeon, and keys that can reopen already visited rooms. The player can also upgrade Pit’s health and attack power by scoring enough points, the former being given at the end of a level and the latter being given in certain rooms. Some rooms task the player with surviving an onslaught of Monolith enemies, which rewards the player with an upgrade of their choosing: bigger shots, longer attack range, or a protective barrier, all of which activate when at high enough health and can be stolen by a certain enemy (and subsequently bought back from a black market).

The game has three main worlds with three levels, a dungeon, and a boss each. It starts out in the Underworld, which consists of vertical platforming. Unlike its predecessor, falling to the bottom of the screen is not instant death, and the player may backtrack if they so desire. The first dungeon has a few branching paths towards dead ends, but it isn’t too complex. The first boss is the Minotaur, who is challenging due to his teleporting, his large amount of health, and the arena’s inconvenient layout. I believe the Underworld to be the most challenging part of the game, mostly due to Pit not yet having any upgrades, which make the game much easier. I died several times in the Underworld, and only died again to the final boss. Fortunately, the game has a save feature between every level, and the player has infinite continues. The second world is the Overworld, which has more traditional side scrolling, as well as enemies that rain in from above, although it’s not much of an issue. The second dungeon is very linear in spite of its length, and the boss, Skull Wing, is quite easy. The final main world is Skyworld, which returns to vertical platforming, albeit more difficult than the Underworld. Although the layout and enemies are more challenging, Pit is almost fully upgraded by this point and can comfortably deal with them. The third dungeon is the most difficult, although mostly in its layout rather than its enemies. I got lost after coming back from a break since I hadn’t found the map, but didn’t die due to there being a generous amount of shops and hot springs. Its boss, Fire Serpent, is an absolute joke: I simply stood near the bottom-right corner and shot him while easily dodging his slow fireballs. After completing Skyworld, Palutena rates your performance (presumably based on playtime, since I had a huge score yet got the worst rating), which determines which of the Three Sacred Treasures Pit will equip for the final level, although one can easily fly near the ceiling in the two training rooms to earn any Treasures that Palutena didn’t grant. The final level, the Sky Palace, is a long and difficult sidescroller, cramped with enemies, spikes, and narrow hallways. Pit will always have the Wings of Pegasus for this level, which allow him to jump higher, fly by mashing the A Button, and quickly descend by pressing down. The Light Arrows will have Pit automatically fire his bow as long as an arrow isn’t on screen and the B Button is held down, and the Silver Armor decreases damage taken by half. The Sky Palace has many walls that can be broken with hammers, which house hot springs, training rooms, and one last shop to prepare for the final boss fight. The final boss, Orcos, has two forms, and both have predictable patterns, but are heavily damaging if one messes up. I beat the game in 2.5 hours (although that could easily be shortened due to me getting lost in the third dungeon), arrows at Level 6 out of eight, and all five health upgrades.

As a whole, I found Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters to be an enjoyable experience. It may be very similar to the first game, but it’s a fun, decently challenging platformer in its own right. The game is available on the Game Boy as well as the 3DS Virtual Console, which is the option I recommend. The Virtual Console version includes save states, which will make it easier for less experienced players, and is quite cheap to boot. Thanks for reading this Game Club submission; I hope to be back next month!

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[su_spoiler title=”Spiral, Kid Icarus: Uprising” style=”fancy”]

Spiral:

While I’ve played Uprising several times already, it was worth playing again for this Game Club. Instead of just replaying some of my favorite stages on my main save, I started a new one and went through the first 9 levels in order so that I could remember what the difficulty was like without my overpowered arsenal at my disposal.

Uprising has a fantastic difficulty mechanic, where you can spend hearts to increase or decrease the difficulty of each stage, allowing you to play however you’d like, while rewarding you for taking on higher difficulties. Although, I’ve wondered for a long time what the difference between, say, 5.5 and 5.6 intensity is. An integer scale probably would have worked just as fine, but no complaints from me. The first time you start up the game, you’re treated to video tutorials that you’re free to skip (though I wouldn’t ’cause they’re a riot), but even then, the first level is pretty much an extended tutorial. The controls are a point of contention often made about this game. I got used to it, but I definitely can’t play the game for too long without my hands starting to hurt, which is an issue with how long some of the levels are. On this point, I’ve had a thought I always wanted to share; wouldn’t this game control perfectly on the Wii, using the Wiimote and Nunchuck? You could move with the analog stick, aim by pointing the Wiimote, use A or B to shoot, swing the Nunchuck for melee attacks, and use the d-pad for selecting and activating powers. Just a thought I had.

I won’t focus too much time on the story, as there’s other stuff I want to mention. What I will say is that even though the story itself is somewhat by-the-book, it definitely builds up as you go through it. The returning bosses from the first Kid Icarus all have been updated with new designs and personalities (save Twinbellows), and things really start to kick in once you’ve passed chapter 9. The writing and voice acting is absolutely fantastic with genuinely hilarious dialogue, especially between Palutena and Pit. This game just oozes personality wherever you look for it. Graphically, this is still one of the best looking 3DS games I’ve played, which is really surprising when you consider it was released only a year after the 3DS was launched.

Beyond the levels, there’s some bonus content to keep you interested. Idols are similar to trophies from that other game… what was it called? “Super Bash Sisters?” Eh, I’m sure no one here’s ever heard of it, point is they’re fun to collect if you’re like me and want to know everything about everything. There are also challenges to complete, with more unlocking as you progress through the game and complete different tasks. A lot are fun to go for, but then there are some that require you to take out a boss with something like a dash attack, and since bosses have absolutely no direct indication of how much health they have, you typically have no choice but to keep spamming that move again and again if you ever want to get these. While challenges like those are an absolute pain, there are still a lot that are better designed.

Something I never got the chance to try out when I played this game before was the multiplayer. I never had anyone to play it with when I first started playing (and was afraid to join random games), and I didn’t know that you could play versus bots for practice. Finally, I got the chance to play a few games with some of the other people in the Source Gaming Discord. There are two modes, Free-For-All and Light vs Dark. Free-For-All matches were chaotic and fast paced, but I found that having a stronger weapon did a lot to ensure a higher placement at the end of the battle. On the other hand, Light vs Dark is a team-based battle where each team has their own life pool. When a player on that team dies, health is subtracted from that pool in direct proportion to your weapon’s strength, making stronger weapons a potential risk to your party. I have heard of ways to get around this though; a weapon’s value is determined partly by its modifiers, with positive modifiers increasing it and negative ones decreasing it. Therefore, if you throw some negative modifiers on a weapon that doesn’t impair the way you use that weapon (like say, worse melee attacks on a staff), you’ll lower your weapon value without getting significantly weaker. It takes some crafty weapon fusing to work this out in your favor, but it’s doable I suppose. Even with that said, I found this mode to be as fun as free-for-alls were, especially when I had the chance to turn into Pit/Dark Pit. While the in-game tips do propose running away as a valid strategy so that the rest of your team can track down the opposing angel, I chose to join the fray immediately. No guts, no glory.

If I’m somehow being too subtle so far, I think this game is fantastic. One of my favorite games on the 3DS for sure, and a game that still stands out among the library. It’s still fun to pick up the game and blast through levels with an overpowered club on lower intensities, or to challenge myself to beat a level on a higher intensity than I did before. This game is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t done so already. As for me, I’m just gonna hold out that Sakurai changes his mind on sequels (and while he’s at it, Kirby Air Ride 2 please).

[/su_spoiler]

 

one comment
  1. I’m surprised that I’m the only one who wrote something for Uprising, we had a few players on the discord join up for the multiplayer. In response to Nintendrone’s review, I honestly had to keep scrolling up just to remind myself that you weren’t playing the first Kid Icarus game, it’s a little surprising just how familiar it sounds. From what you wrote, it seems the pace of the game is almost identical to the first.

    Spiral on December 19 |