Jumping into the game, it doesn't take long for Uprising to craft an identity for itself. Each stage starts off with an on-rails flight sequence. These portions of the game last a couple of minutes. In a nice nod to the classic Icarus myth, Lady Palutena explained that Pit's wings would burn off if kept in the air any longer. While flying Pit through wildly different environments adds a nice atmospheric touch, the game mechanics leave something to be desired as there aren't a lot of ways to avoid being hit by enemy fire.
The second part of each level sees Pit hoofing it across different stages in more of a third-person shooter setting. I could opt to shoot my way through each level, but as the game went on, I quickly learned to effectively mix up shooting and melee attacks. And with a quick flick of the Circle Pad I could dodge enemies. Vehicles for Pit to use occasionally drop into the mix, giving these sections a little added variety. But while these vehicles offer a boost in firepower, some of them are difficult to navigate because of the camera.
Where Uprising truly sets itself apart from other portable adventures is its voice acting--something that's both a boon and a detriment to the overall experience. While cutscenes would occasionally unfold between levels, the meat of Uprising's story was told through dialogue that took place during gameplay. The use of the bottom screen for dialogue and voice acting as I played using the top-screen worked brilliantly. I rarely felt like the game was slowing down and it afforded an opportunity to get to know the game's many characters, even if some of them never wound up getting fleshed out to my satisfaction.
Taking flight, but don't stay airborne too long.
A large portion of their dialogue, however, is a mixed bag; it ranges from witty to mind-numbingly terrible. Pit's overly-enthusiastic delivery often teeters on the edge between endearing and grating. It quickly leans towards the latter when he delivers some of the worst jokes I've ever heard in a game. I've seen Popsicle sticks with funnier jokes on them. There are genuine laughs to be had, though. Uprising isn't afraid to break the fourth wall and poke fun at itself with bits of meta-humor. One of the best of these moments sees Pit noticing a resemblance between one of the game's enemies and Metroids, which leads the other characters to freak out over Pit daring to allude to a sister gaming franchise.
Uprising includes a hook to replay levels with its Fiend's Cauldron. This mode allows dialing up the difficulty to yield greater rewards in exchange for hearts (the game's currency). I adjusted the scale throughout my time with the game and saw noticeable differences in enemy count and toughness. I also ran into several doors leading to Monster Rooms (carryovers from Uprising's NES predecessor) that could only be accessed if the Fiend's Cauldron is set to a certain difficulty. This is great for encouraging me to come back and play levels again, but I didn't like how the Cauldron would automatically lower itself every time I died. For example, if I died at a 7, I was forced to continue with the Cauldron set to 6.5. It's too bad, because I would have liked to test my mettle against bosses with the Cauldron set as high as I wanted.
There are other reasons to play through the game multiple times; however, I got a sense of déjà vu with the game's unlockables. While it's true that this development team also created Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I didn't expect many of the game's assets to be completely recycled for Uprising. A huge portion of the game's menus and unlockables are lifted straight from Brawl, including ideas like the unlockable puzzle (offering rewards for completing certain tasks) and the Idols system, which is simply Brawl's trophy system under a different name. The number of hidden goodies is as numerous here as it was in Brawl, but I'd hoped for a more original direction.
Uprising also offers up an AR mini-game in the form of collectible trading cards. Using the 3DS camera, I would focus in on a card, which would reward me with hearts or Idols for their initial scan. This makes for a nice supplemental income to spend in the game's weapon shop. Cards could also battle each other, but the fights were hardly engaging and the novelty quickly wore off.
It's insane to suggest that Kid Icarus: Uprising could live up to over 20 years of hype, but it manages to fit in a lot for fans of the original NES classic. While Uprising takes Kid Icarus in a slightly different direction gameplay-wise, it succeeds on its own merits and warrants multiple return visits to Skyworld. On top of that, Uprising still contains just as many of those intangible moments of frustration and resolution that have helped make the legend of the Kid Icarus series what it is today.
And yes, over 20 years later, the Eggplant Wizard is still a jerk -- and so is his new friend, the Tempura Wizard.
When not in the air, Pit is just as capable on the ground.