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Kid Icarus Uprising preview: reaching for the sun


From the moment you pick up the game, Masahiro Sakurai's influence is immediately evident. Like Smash Bros. Brawl before it, Kid Icarus manages to be simultaneously accessible and satisfying. The frenetic on-rails action, variety of perspectives, and onslaught of bizarre enemies make it reminiscent of the Sin & Punishment franchise -- and that's undoubtedly a good thing.

In the demo that I played, I was introduced to Pit, looking just as bright-eyed and optimistic as his Smash Bros. counterpart. He has three weapons to choose from: the "well-balanced" Blade, close-range Claws, and a long-range Orbitar weapon. which fires shots that actually grow in power the farther it goes. At first, the importance of these weapons was unclear to me, as I flew through an on-rails shooting sequence not unlike Star Fox.

This segment is undoubtedly one of the best technical showcases on the 3DS, as enemies fly in and out of the environment, into and out of the screen. It's all very impressive. In spite of all that's happening on screen, the 3DS manages to render it all without a hitch. It's not difficult to figure out how to play: the analog stick controls Pit's flight, while the touch screen lets you control the aiming reticule, a control scheme ripped from DS FPS games, like Metroid Prime Hunters. Unlike MPH, however, I found it easy to grasp. Perhaps the 3DS analog stick is to credit? Or maybe it's the security brick the system rested on, which angled the system to a comfortable viewing angle. (Chris, on the other hand, speculated that without a perch to rest the system comfortably on, holding the 3DS and controlling Pit would be "terrible" and he wished for a "finger-friendly" touchscreen that didn't require using a stylus.)

Gallery: Kid Icarus Uprising (1/19/11) | 8 Photos

Much to my surprise, Kid Icarus isn't comprised exclusively of aerial battles. The second half of the demo grounded Pit, and the importance of my weapon selection became evident. No longer a pure shooter, the weapon you select changes how you approach enemies. Thankfully, the game tries to keep the controls for ground and aerial combat as similar as possible, making it easy to transition between the two. Although the control feels nearly identical, the added 360 degree freedom offers new challenges. For example, the camera didn't always keep up with the action. In particular, I found dodging, by swiping the stylus in a quick motion, rather difficult to perform. I found dodging a boss enemy's attacks challenging, but I reckon this is the kind of motion that demands more practice.

Seamlessly integrating aerial and ground combat has been a challenge for many games. (Look at Star Fox Assault, for example.) However, Uprising seems to manage the balancing act quite well. I was consistently impressed at how relentless the action is, in both the sky and on the ground. Done right, Kid Icarus may become a new marquee Nintendo franchise. Pit may not look like it but, assuming he manages to survive Uprising, he's going to become a bonafide bad ass.

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