Flipping thru my retro collection, I found myself playing another classic Nintendo title, Kid Icarus. One of the quirkier first-party Nintendo titles, Kid Icarus is often compared to Metroid in the sense that it is both an up-and-down and side-to-side platformer. However, unlike Metroid, the world is not open and the player cannot progress backwards.
The storyline of Kid Icarus borrows greatly from Greek mythology, but it takes quite a few liberties. In this game, the world is ruled by two goddesses, Palutena and Medusa. As it turns out, Medusa is evil and dislikes mankind so she summons her army from the underworld and invades Palutena’s palace in the sky. Using her powers, Medusa imprisons Palutena and turns all her bodyguards into stone. The angelic residents of the palace are imprisoned in the Underworld while Medusa rules supreme.
The game begins when the young angel Pit, escapes from his prison and begins his ascent back up the heavens. His goal is to find the three sacred treasures needed to defeat Medusa and rescue Palutena.
Recently, an enhanced 3D remake was released for the Nintendo 3DS. For the purpose of this retro review, that is the version I played. As a kid, I spent countless hours with the original version of the game, so I was very curious to see what an “enhanced version” would be like. I must say, the enhancements make a huge difference. I’m not a fan of the whole 3D thing, so I usually turn it off. But the new sprites and backgrounds are a huge improvement over the original. The new version of the game saves after every level, so the old password functionality is gone (thankfully). I’ve read that the difficulty has been lowered slightly, but I don’t really see it.
This is one of the classics from my youth. Back in the 3rd and 4th grade, this game really sparked my interest in Greek Mythology. At the time, I remember finding the game very fascinating but also very frustrating. The game is divided into several liner stages. At the end of each world is a maze-style palace. The palaces are open, so you can revisit areas previously accessed. At the end of each palace is a boss, once the boss is defeated, Pit recovers one of the sacred treasures and can progress to the next world. Eventually, once the full arsenal is recovered, Pit equips himself and flies to the final stage to do battle with Medusa.
The content of the game is what kept me fascinated as a child. The ascetics of both the graphics and music leave a lot to be desired. (Which is really bad, because I hear that the graphics for the US release were an upgrade from the original Japanese version). On top of that, the game is frustratingly difficult. It spares no mercy, even on the first few levels.
Having completed the new version, I found it to be a nice trip down memory lane. But sadly, this is one game that has not aged well in my opinion. Recently a long-awaited sequel has been released and I look forward to playing it soon. I purchased it for my son some time ago and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
Difficulty: Very Difficult – This is your standard 8-bit platformer. The monsters are the same every time, so with practice and memorization it gets easier. But it’s still pretty brutal. This is more true in the beginning of the game. Once you acquire several upgrades things do tend to get a bit easier. That being said, the last level of the game is pushover. It’s the grind to get there that is tough for many.
Story: The backstory is a pretty interesting mix of real life legend and fantasy concepts. Aside from what is printed in the instruction booklet, there’s very little story in the game itself. Although, this was common back in the old days 😉
Originality: While there was really nothing NEW brought to the table with Kid Icarus, it is certainly a unique game. Looking back, a lot of the game feels like various ideas all duct-taped into one cartridge. It’s flimsy, but yet it manages to hold itself together.
Soundtrack: I found the game soundtrack to be poor in quality but good in composition. With one exception.. the DAMNED REAPER TUNE. Never before in the history of gaming has their been a more annoying and yet, mocking tune composed. The funny thing is, I think that’s *exactly* what they were going for. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, you’ve obviously never played the game. — Side note: the fortress music is classic!
Fun: If you a person that is not easily frustrated, this game can be a lot of fun. However, for many, it’s a really nice way to get pissed off in record time.
Graphics: The original version was pretty nasty looking, even by 80’s standards. The new enhanced version is a nice upgrade. It kind of brings the game up to a 16-bit color palette with very nice background rendering.
Playcontrol: Pretty spot-on as far as the controls go. As a platformer, there are many precise jumps needed; so steady hands are a must. The character of Pit is not particularly agile, so first-time players will need a little time before getting the feel for it all.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This game represents attributes of both a good and bad game. It’s hard to give such a poor score to a classic title, but in all honesty, it’s not a very good game. I have read that it was a rushed work, and it really does show in the final product. Dispute my low overall score, I do feel it’s worthy of a purchase either on the Virtual Console or the eShop.
Original System: NES
Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console or Nintendo eShop (UPDATE: Nintendo Switch Online as of 3/2019)
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