Kid Icarus: Uprising

Nintendo invites you to be an angel and restore peace to the heavens and the Earth.
boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Kid Icarus: Uprising is rated "Everyone 10+" for "Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes". Story is told from the perspective of a mythological goddess and her angel. Religious words like "god" and "idol" are used throughout the game and in item descriptions. Ranged and melee weapons are used to take down thousands of cartoon fantasy monsters. Some human-like enemies occasionally enter combat, which includes explosions and cries of pain. Some of the female costumes and dialogue could be considered mildly suggestive. Bathroom humor is used sparingly.

There is an exhilarating moment early in Kid Icarus: Uprising that harmonizes with something deep within my soul. Apparently, in the game, the goddess of light has been gone for a while because humanity has been overrun by the Underworld armies. The oppressed people of earth are desperate for rescue. Between monster attacks, mankind watches the skies for any sign of Lady Palutena’s return. And then, the sight of her angel, Pit, soaring out of the clouds causes mankind to rejoice with cheers for the return of Lady Palutena! Now just imagine what it will be like when the clouds break open and Jesus Christ comes to the rescue of those persecuted Christians who haven’t lost hope of His coming. Yes, this action-shooter is heavily steeped in Greek mythology, but in many ways it provides parables for deep Biblical truths. And it’s a really fun game, too!

Each of the 25 Chapters begins with 5 minutes of on-rails air battles similar to Star Fox, followed by 5 to 20 more minutes of on-foot third-person action. Each weapon can be used for ranged or melee attacks, but some weapons are more useful for sniping with charged shots, while others work better in conjunction with up-close dash attacks. Your strategy will change based on your play style and which weapons you’ve equipped on Pit.

The air missions are more impressive since the camera swirls around Pit as he battles through thunderstorms and swarms of enemies, but the on-foot missions have their charm too because of the promise of treasure chests that might be hidden just around the corner. Grab the loot and you can later equip it on Pit to make him more powerful and enjoy even greater success.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is made by the same man who gave us Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so there should be little surprise that there are a TON of unlockables here. Players are tasked with hundreds of special challenges, similar to Achievements (Xbox) or Trophies (PS3), which unlock new weapons and powers. But the best loot is only unlocked as you take greater risks. Before beginning a mission you’re taken to a room where you’re asked to bet “hearts” (the game’s currency) in a scary-looking cauldron that heats up the game to higher difficulty settings:

Slide the scale up and you’ll pay more hearts to get in, but defeated enemies will cough up more hearts and at the mission’s end you’ll get to keep the rare weapons and powers you discovered. If, however, you decide to slide the scale down to an easier difficulty you may not be risking as many hearts to get in, but you also won’t be able to earn the really good stuff.

On the ground are certain doors that remain locked until your difficulty level matches or exceeds the number that is written on the gate. Behind that gate lies a particularly daunting challenge, but the tantalizing promise of a rare treasure chest just might make it worth the risk. This practice of taking risks to earn rewards is a fun balancing act that keep me coming back to replay missions many times. The replayability factor is through the roof. Add in the no-extra-charge 3-on-3 multiplayer battles and AR Card functionality (see photo below), and Kid Icarus: Uprising offers one of the best values on 3DS.

Control Issues
It’s worth mentioning here that during the ground missions my left hand sometimes throbs with pain, and there’s a good chance yours will too. On ground missions your right hand is constantly adjusting the camera by flicking the stylus, so it’s up to the left hand to squeeze hold of the 3DS while simultaneous shooting with the shoulder button and controlling Pit’s movements with the circle pad. Expect to feel some strain in your left hand, especially during longer play sessions. Nintendo has packaged a “3DS Stand” accessory with every game to bear the weight, and the stand does take some of the strain off the left hand. Here’s a picture of the 3DS Stand:

Left-handed gamers will have trouble enjoying this game at all, unless they invest another $20 (US) in Nintendo’s Circle Pad Pro add-on, so as to control Pit’s movements from the opposite side. But even with the Circle Pad Pro there is no dual-analog control scheme. Sorry, but the only way to control the camera is with the stylus.

Violence
Pit engages in shooting action and melee battles with thousands of fantasy monsters such as dragons, one-eyed blobs, and toothy plants. A very select few of the boss characters have a more human appearance but even these battles take place in the realm of fantasy. There is never any blood, but Pit can cut heads off of dragons and one enemy type can be cut in half at the waist. The impact is softened as Pit jokes that it looks like that creature “lost his pants”. Also the severed dragon heads bounce around and continue to speak to Pit, so the whole experience is actually pretty funny. Combat is punctuated by explosions and cries of pain. In multiplayer you’ll battle with other human players online or through a local wireless connection, and the avatars are human.

Sexual Content
Some of the female costumes are revealing. Medusa’s robe is open on her left side and when the camera swings around that side of her you can almost make out the beginnings of the side of her breast. Another female character wears a two-piece outfit that shows a lot of tummy. These ladies appear only briefly, however, and 99.5% of the game isn’t affected by these issues. Lady Palutena teases Pit about her ability to read minds, and playfully warns him that he’d “better not be thinking about anything… naughty.” There are a small handful of other suggestive comments used sparingly over the course of the game.

Spiritual Content
The whole storyline is loosely based on characters from Greek mythology. Players control Pit, an angel of Lady Palutena, the “Goddess of Light”. Her job is to oversee the humanity’s protection from the Underworld forces who seek to deceive and destroy mankind, and Pit’s job is to carry out Palutena’s wishes. Pit occasionally receives assistance from other gods, and encounters resistance from others. These gods all have titles and realms that they rule over. For example, Medusa is “Queen of the Underworld” and Poseidon is god of the sea. Most of the gods have underlings who are also based on mythology. The flaming two-headed dog “Twinbellows” is based on the cerberus, and so on. The villains’ main goal is to make humanity suffer and collect their souls. It is mentioned that some the bosses from the original NES game were resurrected for this sequel. Certain items have spiritual-sounding names, such as the “Angel Bow” weapon, or the “Drink of the Gods” item which replenishes Pit’s health before a boss fight. Players will collect 3D models of in-game characters and items, however the only thing offensive about these is the name: “Idols”.

Other Negative Elements
Pit jokes that he can’t spend too much time in the hot springs because he doesn’t want to “steam the sacred buns.” Bathroom humor makes a brief appearance when Pit goes into the bowels of a boss and the villain threatens to “expel you the old fashioned way.” A handful of monsters, including the Reapers and Medusa, might frighten very sensitive gamers.

Christian Perspective
Rather than take offense at all the references to mythology, I was fascinated by a number of themes that run parallel to Biblical Christianity. One such parallel could be found in Pit’s relationship with Lady Palutena, which reminds me of my own dependence on God. See, Pit doesn’t actually have any wings of his own. Only when empowered by Lady Palutena is he able to sprout the wings that carry him to victory. This wingless angel’s handicap struck a humbling chord with me. Sometimes when I find myself failing in life and ministry I can trace it back to the moment that I began to rely on my own wisdom and strength and blow off my relationship with the Lord. Then I hear the voice of Jesus saying, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Yes, we wrestle against the forces of darkness, and yes, we are unable to win on our own. But as we stay in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ, He equips us with everything we need to stand strong in the strength of His might! Maybe that’s why I so enjoyed Lady Palutena’s presence throughout the entire game. There is never a moment that Pit is left to fight this battle alone. Palutena is always there to encourage Pit and equip him for victory. A special helmet, shield, and boots give Pit the edge he needs to overcome the Underworld forces. And are we not likewise commanded to “put on the full armor of God”, and to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might” (Ephesians 6:10-11)? It is God who gives us the victory and not we ourselves.

Medusa’s relationship with Lady Palutena reminded me of Lucifer’s jealousy of God. Just as Lucifer aspired to become like the Most High God (Isaiah 14:12-14), Medusa bitterly compares herself to the goddess of light. She wonders what it would be like if she, Medusa, were running the show. Pit shouts her down: “Lady Palutena is nothing like you!” and then he reminds Medusa of the corruption that she herself has caused. She could not have done any better. She is only making things worse. Drawing that parallel to Satan’s ambitions I found myself thinking, “Preach it, Pit!”

Another one of the evil gods hatches up a scheme that takes advantage of humanity’s greed. He baits mankind with a prized relic that will grant them any wish they desire, and then he urges them to crusade for this prize and “conquer anyone who stands in [their] way”, knowing that they will kill each other and he will get their souls. Palutena foresees this bloodshed and wonders at the greed of mankind. How is that man can will sacrifice so much to pursue something that doesn’t even really exist and cannot possibly satisfy? This in-game conversation, and others like it, made me wonder what kind of conversations God’s angels have over me as they observe me and my fellow human beings. They can see what really matters in life. What do think about the things that I chase after?

And think about the premise of the game itself: an angel doing battle with Underworld armies. Scripture tells us of wars and skirmishes between the angels of God who literally fight against the forces of darkness. For example, when the prophet Daniel prayed, the Lord sent an angel that very day, but the angel’s arrival was delayed for 3 weeks because an archdemon tried to block him (Daniel 10:12-13). Are angels and demons still engaged in battles all around us every day? Would it encourage us to persist in prayer if we knew that help was on the way, and angels were fighting their way to our location? I’m not an expert on such matters, but this game did get me thinking.

Pros and Cons
+ Upbeat mood makes for good, light-hearted fun.
+ A memorable cast of charming characters.
+ Parallels to the truths of Christianity.
+ Hilarious sense of humor with references to 8-bit gaming, gaming stereotypes, Nintendogs, and more.
+ Gorgeous visuals spread across a huge variety of constantly changing environments.
+ Soaring orchestral soundtrack.
+ Good use of 3D.
+ Great value, with 25 chapters and tons of unlockables.
+ Weapons and powers earned in single-player can be used in multiplayer, and vice versa.
+ Tons of action going on at once with barely a moment’s peace!
+ Nine classes of weaponry, and hundreds of weapons, each one with unique stats.
+ E10 rating and adjustable difficulty means that most gamers will be able to enjoy it.
+ Constant banter (which I liked enough to leave on) can be turned off after you beat it.
– Controls can be painful even during short play sessions.
– Lefties will have to buy the $20 Circle Pad Pro.

Conclusion and Recommendation
Games that are based on Greek mythology tend to divide Christians but, when taken as a parable, I found Kid Icarus: Uprising to be quite uplifting. The game has parallels to our Christian faith that should humble and encourage us to rely on Christ and His strength. Pit’s adventure is plagued with painful controls but I keep playing, mainly because it’s so much fun grab loot, equip it on Pit, and take him to the next level. Plus it seems like every time I play I pick up on another inside joke. It’s hard to think of a 3DS title that’s packed with more value right now, and all these things, taken together, have made Kid Icarus: Uprising not only my favorite Nintendo game on 3DS, but one of my favorite Nintendo games, period.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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