Tag Archives: Masahiro Sakurai

FGC #252 Kid Icarus: Uprising

I'm walking on airKid Icarus was a formative NES action game. Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was the portable sequel that continued with similar, improved mechanics. Twenty years later, Kid Icarus: Uprising was released.

And Kid Icarus: Uprising is bonkers.

Say what you will about things getting stale, but with Nintendo franchises, you generally know what you’re going to get. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros, two Mario releases separated by decades, might not seem terribly similar to some magical human being that has never seen a videogame before, but, once you start steering Mario around the Mushroom Kingdom/Universe, it’s clear that both games come from the same base run/jump/stomp concepts. This continues through basically the whole Smash Bros cast: The Legend of Zelda is for exploring/swordplay, Donkey Kong is for simple jumping and running, Captain Falcon and F-Zero are for racing, and Metroid is for metroiding. Yes, there are spin-offs and outliers, but Star Fox is always for shootin’, even when your arwing can fold up like origami.

So you’d be forgiven if you were expecting the first Kid Icarus game in ages to be at all similar to the prior two experiences. But it turns out this Pit doesn’t need a jump button. And speaking of which, the control scheme is optimized for this guy…

Gimme some sugar

If you have less than four hands, bad news, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Masahiro Sakurai, creator of Kid Icarus: Uprising, considers his creation to be a shooting game. That is… generally accurate? Half of every level takes place in the sky (or an approximation thereof), with heroic Pit blessed with flight by Goddess Palutena. During these sections, conceptually, you are basically playing Star Fox, and the 3DS adapts well to fight and flight mechanics. Heck, there’s a reason Star Fox 64 3D was one of the first 3DS games: the 3DS seems practically made for 3-D shooting galleries. Pit, with his wings and arrows, adapts well to the role, and you could easily make the argument that this is a “modern” version of Kid Icarus’s iconic final stage. And, let’s be real here, that section probably was the best part of Kid Icarus (or the only part where any kid ever accomplished anything…) . So, yes, okay, let’s make a Kid Icarus shooting game.

Except… eventually Pit lands. Palutena’s blessing can’t last forever, and Pit must explore the second half of most levels planted firmly on the ground. Maybe there’s a tower to scale, maybe there’s a dungeon to explore, but it must be done on foot, and jumping and flying is right out. It’s here that KI:U’s control scheme gets crazy, and… why can’t he just control like a normal Nintendo hero, again?

TANK!The on foot sections of KI:U are probably best described as “experimental”. If you’re breaking this down to its core components, you’re pretty much looking at an innovative way to control a FPS hero… but in a 3rd person perspective. It’s… cumbersome. And it takes a little getting used to. Actually, it takes a lot of getting used to, and I swear the level designers know it. Some of the more demanding sections include honest-to-God walking puzzles. For those that missed the fun, that’s a challenge, usually involving narrow ledges, where you can “fail” because you did not walk correctly. That’s not something that should ever be in a videogame, because walking should be as easy as… walking. If a toddler can master something (if Dirk the Daring can master something) it should not be a remote challenge in any kind of videogame. But it seems like Angel Land has a hero or two with some manner of vertigo, so constricted walkways might be a problem. Maybe Pit had eggplants for brains a few too many times.

And it’s not just the controls that might repel a new player. There is a weapon upgrade system that is… opaque seems a little too gentle. Completely insane? You can buy new weapons by offering hearts (currency) as tribute, but all the good weapons are available via a weapon combining system that… I have no idea what is going on. There are star ratings for various weapons, but there are different types of weapons, and Pit’s shooting style changes dramatically from one weapon to another. Yes, this sword is powerful, but it would mean giving up a pair of orbs that shoot homing missiles. And the sword doesn’t “shoot” at all? But it reflects shots? Well, is that going to be at all useful in the next level that I know nothing about? Can I try before I buy? No? Hey, it’s not like the average level lasts fifteen minutes or so…

WeeeeOh, and determining the “difficulty” for a level before you play it? And it’s a one to ten incremental system? I’m sorry, what’s the difference between this stage being level 4.5 difficult versus 4.7 difficult? I can understand the difference between “Normal” and “Hard”. I’ll even tolerate a “Very Hard” or “Professional” mode. But decimals? Just show me exactly where the bar is for “world is filled with invincible skull heads”, and I’ll choose the next level lower than that. ‘Kay? Thanks.

But all of this insanity is not why Kid Icarus: Uprising is bonkers. What’s bonkers is how much, despite everything in this game, you will want to play more.

Kid Icarus, more than any other Nintendo game, is a playable cartoon. And that’s not because of dialogue boxes or “the plot”; it’s about the simple, instant rapport between Pit and Goddess Palutena. From the first moment, they’re chatting over the action while “you” are playing the game. Occasionally, a villain breaks into the narrative to hurl insults. As episodes progress, various other characters join the fray, and, while you’re busy with a grim reaper or two, Pit ‘n Pally are going through their comedy routine. And then, as it inevitably must, Pit gets real in later stages, Palutena is absent, and “lesser” goddesses have to pick up the slack. It’s not the same, and that’s not a bug, but a feature. When, after fifteen stages of having Palutena in your corner, she’s suddenly missing, you notice. You notice, and you notice it sucks. Where’d my goddess go!?

VroomAnd it’s in this manner that Kid Icarus: Uprising worms its way into your heart. Its systems may be dense, its controls may be some manner of hand-torture, but it contains some of the most instantly approachable and sympathetic characters in gaming. Considering Pit didn’t have very much to say in his initial adventures past, “I’m finished!” it’s a rather significant accomplishment that KI:U makes a better case for Kid Icarus: The Animated Series than every other Nintendo mascot. And these are the best mascots gaming has to offer! Pit is standing in the heavens of the gaming hall of fame, and it’s all thanks to one game.

One game that is nothing like its forbearers and is attached to impossibly janky controls. It’s… kind of bonkers.

FGC #252 Kid Icarus: Uprising

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. Given the direction of Nintendo’s “handheld market”, this game might never see another release again. It really is 100% geared toward the 3DS, which is kind of an accomplishment in itself.
  • Number of players: There’s a multiplayer “fight” mode here (as is proper to Sakurai games), and some sort of co-op thing, but I’ve never met anyone else with a copy of KI:U handy, so I can’t really speak to how it all plays. All I know is that it was mysteriously implicated in a number of cases of boneitis back in 2012.
  • Think of the Centurions: Palutena’s army, the noble centurions, are just as fragile as ever. And Palutena notes that they are disposable… but you’ll feel bad if they die. And, dammit, she’s right. Poor lil winged dudes…
  • Metroidian: Despite the presence of space pirates and “metroids”, there is no relation between Kid Icarus and Metroid.
    NONE

    None.
  • Just play the gig man: It’s a good thing Super Smash Bros. 4 got to reuse a lot of this music, as it is phenomenal. Sakurai doesn’t seem to direct games with half-assed soundtracks.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: Male deities seem to come in all shapes and sizes, but I’ve noticed a peculiar trend with the goddesses of KI:U.

    Wankery Week never ends

    With the exception of Medusa, it seems like every heavenly being of the female variety could double as Pit’s “playful” older sister. Actually, to put a point on it, Palutena is the older sister, and the rest of the women are her cool friends that jokingly flirt and tease the dweeby Pit. Or maybe it’s just the spirit of fanfic coming upon me again. Could go either way.

  • Did you know? Viridi is the one recurring character that appears in “chat scenes” but is never directly fought. Dark Pit, Hades, Medusa, and even your own allies appear on the opposite side of Pit’s sword-bow at one time or another, but Viridi is always on the sidelines. Guess it helps to have your own army.

  • Would I play again: My hand is a little knotted right now… Maybe after a little healing…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze! Guess we’re on a Nintendo kick again, ROB? Or maybe you’re just looking for a banana smoothie? Whatever the case, it’s time to roll around with some Kongs. Please look forward to it!

DO IT!

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

SMAAAAAASHSuper Smash Bros For 3DS is the most confusing, straightforward game I have ever played.

The Super Smash Bros. series is not at all complicated. Like Mario Kart, I’ve found that even videogame luddites can identify this series, and you can usually get a flash of recognition from “it’s that game where Mario punches Pikachu”. And it’s not hard to see why the game is popular among gamers and muggles alike: it’s a simple, fun experience for everybody. Here’s jump, here’s punch, here’s “special”, now go to work on blasting Jigglypuff into the stratosphere. Anybody can pick up and play Smash Bros, and that’s probably the main reason anyone bought a second (or fourth) controller for the Gamecube.

And speaking of the Gamecube, Smash Bros. has been practically unchanged from its original incarnation. Alright, yes, I know there have been all sorts of changes to the formula over the years, from wavedashing to tripping to some alternate universe where Donkey Kong is actually viable, but the core of the gameplay, and the basic, amazing concept (let’s you and him fight) has been unchanged through the console generations. Mario games are astounding, but if you’re somehow buying a new one blind, it’s impossible to know if you’ll be running around in 2-D or 3-D, or whether or not this will be a Mario that acknowledges powerups at all or is stuck gobbling coins to replenish a lifemeter. Smash Bros has been Smash Bros for four console generations, and there hasn’t been a Smash Bros: Spirit Tracks or Smash Bros: Federation Force anywhere in that lineup. From the moment a Smash Bros. game is announced, you know what you’re going to get.

DRILLAnd before Smash Bros. 4 (For?) was released, there was quite a bit of glee regarding what we were going to get. Mega Man! Little Mac! Pac-Man! On a personal level, the Super Smash Bros. 4 roster seemed practically made for me. I still remember when Super Smash Bros. Brawl (3) was released, and my greatest lament about the title was that it and Super Mario Galaxy were released too close together, so we were denied any references to Rosalina, Luma, or any of the pure joy that was emblematic of Super Mario Galaxy. And now here’s Rosalina and Luma! And a Galaxy stage with that amazing Galaxy music! Why more could I ask for? The Koopa Kids? The return of Ike? A Mega smash that featured multiple generations of fighting robots? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Super Smash Bros. 4 seems like it was made for me, practically from its first preview.

And Nintendo knew this. And Nintendo did its best to trick me.

Super Smash Bros For the Nintendo 3DS sounds like a wonderful idea. It’s a Smash Bros. game, and it’s portable. That should be all it takes! I want to say I committed roughly eleventy billion hours to Super Smash Bros. Melee. I didn’t play Super Smash Bros. Brawl nearly as much, but I did unlock the trophy that only appears after playing some ludicrous number of hours, so it certainly saw some usage. Even if Smash 4 3DS was just going to be Brawl again, I’d get it for that all important portability factor. But with the full roster we’d find on the console version, Smash 4 3DS was a no-brainer. I love Smash Bros! I’ll love it just as much on the terlet.

I want oneExcept…

I said I devoted hours and hours to Melee, but my own Melee save doesn’t reflect the “real” number of hours I’ve played the game. Why? Well, because a lot of hours I remember playing Melee took place at a friend’s house (and on a friend’s system). I had the “base” Gamecube when I went away to college, but in the local neighborhood, most of the playtime was spent on my buddy Sean’s ‘cube, because he had parents that were cool with us abusing his den until 2 AM. And, in thinking about it, I probably would have played Brawl as much as Melee, but even by Brawl’s release, I had gradually aged out of the “let’s play videogames until the sun comes up” demographic. Brawl saw a lot of play with my friends, but it was generally during previously unthinkable daylight hours, and before someone had to get back to feed the dog/kids/other walking responsibilities. Make no mistake, I did personally complete all one player challenges in previous Smash Bros. games, but that wasn’t what kept me coming back after breaking a few analog sticks; that would be the friends breaking my analog sticks.

So, when I really thought about it, I realized I didn’t need Super Smash Bros For 3DS. It’s a party game on a system that is party-adverse. Yes, there’s online play, but that was never the scene for Smash Bros; Smash is all about hopping on the couch and pummeling your friends until they start pummeling back in reality. Get there!“Quiet” Pokémon may easily be played with friends across the internet, but Smash deserves the big screen and few friendships broken through excessive shouting. I’m sure this is fairly old fashioned thinking, but Smash isn’t Smash to me unless I can see my opponent sweat those final thirty seconds. That is impossible on the 3DS.

So, naturally, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. For 3DS about a month before Super Smash Bros. for WiiU. And, yes, I’m weak. I probably would have purchased six copies if Nintendo gave me a remotely valid reason.

And that’s when the weirdness started.

As you might expect, I happily played Super Smash Bros. For 3DS (again, a game practically made for me). The game contains a host of one-player content, and, more importantly, a reason to play the one-player content (must… unlock… more… characters…). Smash Run could be a mere distraction of a mode, but the promise that you might collect all those rad special moves and extra outfits is enough to keep my attention for hours. It’s been a long time since I felt I had to unlock every last bit of content in a videogame (… when did Lightning Returns come out?), but I knew, with Super Smash Bros For WiiU on the way, I may as well get in all my practice on the 3DS version now. Maybe I’ll even have a super-powered Dark Pit to transfer into the console release!

And that’s about when it hit me: I wasn’t playing Super Smash Bros. For 3DS like a Smash Bros game, I was playing it like a demo.

Complete with batSuper Smash Bros. For 3DS is a real game. It easily features more one-player content than Super Smash Bros. (N64), and I’m pretty sure there’s more to do than in Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is the largest Smash Bros. roster ever (even if you don’t count the “uncombined” characters), and just completing basic “smash mode” with each character takes some time (and skill). There’s a strangely robust final boss, and an innumerable number of minions lurking around Smash Run. And there is multiplayer (even if it’s not couch-based) that only requires the simplest of Wi-Fi connections to get out and smash the world. This is, in every way, a Smash Bros. game, and not even an incomplete one at that.

But… I played it like a demo. I played it thinking “yes, this is a fun technique, I will use this knowledge on the real game”. I played it taking notes on what might be useful when I’m fighting my friends in a month. I played it observing every tactic I could utilize when I tackle Master Hand again, during the actual game. There is barely any practical difference between one-player mode on the 3DS versus WiiU, but I beat the 3DS version’s challenges knowing full well that I’d be doing it again “for real” on the WiiU. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was the appetizer, the WiiU version was the main course, and I never played either game without that (subconsciously) in mind.

chompAnd this causes me to get stuck in an infinite loop of sorts. The game is just as robust as every other Smash Bros! But I haven’t touched it since the WiiU version was released… But that’s just because you don’t play it portably! But I don’t play it portably because I feel like I’m not making progress on the “real” game. But that’s just a fabricated idea, it’s just as robust as any other Smash Bros…

This game should be a forthright, mindless experience.

But it leaves me… jumbled.

And I have no idea why I bought all this DLC for a game I don’t even play…

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

  • System: Well, you know what, I’m going to say Nintendo 3DS.
  • Number of players: Technically four! Though I will never see the other three players…
  • Oh, like you don’t have friends with portable systems: You know what? Most of my friends have console systems, but it’s their kids with the portables nowadays. And it just seems weird to ask an eight year old if he wants to play videogames tonight.
  • PLINKFavorite Character (conceptually): The fact that Mega Man gets his biggest showcase in the last decade on a Nintendo game is not lost on me. I can’t play as the character for a damn, but man am I just happy he’s here. Fight for everlasting pieces of that Dragoon, little metal boy.
  • Favorite Characters (for realsies): He might be DLC, but Roy is my boy (and, man, did I think I was never going to see that guy again). Something about beefy, fiery hits just gets my motor revving.
  • So, did you beat it? I collected every damn challenge trophy before Super Smash Bros. For WiiU was released. I’m pretty sure I mastered playing this “demo” while asleep to pull that one off. Though I think I did golden hammer that one challenge about collecting every special move.
  • Feel like anyone is missing from the roster? Nope.
  • Did you know? Including his Black Hole Bomb final smash, Mega Man has a special move from each of his adventures… except Mega Man 10, 5, and V. Though I guess Beat works as a Mega Man 5 rep. Still would have liked to see the Spark Chaser, though.
  • Would I play again: You’d think this would be a yes, but there is evidence to the contrary.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Tick for Sega Genesis. Get ready for a heaping spoonful of justice! Please look forward to it!

Does it count?