Masahiro Sakurai is best known as the charming director behind the Super Smash Bros. franchise, but one of his greatest achievements actually lies with one of Nintendo’s most underrated games, Kid Icarus: Uprising. As the third game in the Kid Icarus series, Uprising is a complete reboot that took great advantage of the 3DS’ tactile gimmick. 10 years after its initial release, Uprising stands as one of the most unique titles ever released by Nintendo, and it remains a genuinely charming experience from start to end.
Kid Icarus: Uprising stars an angel named Pit, who’s a servant of Palutena, the Goddess of Light. The world of Kid Icarus is loosely based on Greek mythology, and you’re sent off to fight the dark forces of Medusa and Hades. While the setup is fairly simple, Uprising has some of the best writing and characters I’ve ever seen in a Nintendo game. It’s an incredibly self-aware game that’s constantly breaking the fourth wall, like Pit mentioning he needs a strategy guide during a particularly tough boss battle.
While there aren’t a lot of cutscenes, both heroes and villains are constantly chattering throughout the missions, and the open dialogue between Pit and Palutena is an absolute highlight. For example, one of my personal favorite sections sees Pit going up against fire-based enemies, with Palutena offhandedly saying, “If you don’t watch out, we’ll be having barbecued angel tonight. And though spicy angel wings sound tasty, I’d best get you out of there.” To this comment Pit then replies, “Plus ... chicken is much more economical!”
The dialogue in Uprising never feels like it’s trying too hard, and the voice cast does a phenomenal job of adding comedic timing and personality. It’s a testament to the writing that it stands out as much as it does, considering their chattering is propped up against intense, quick gameplay.
Uprising is one part rail shooter and one part character-action game, splitting its gameplay up equally between these two gameplay loops. The rail shooter sections absolutely nail a sense of speed as Pit blazes through the air, blasting enemies away with his angelic weapon. If you’ve been craving some classic Star Fox-style rail shooting Uprising fits that bill perfectly, and the 3D effect of the 3DS is put to phenomenal use as well.
At points in the game Pit will land, and the game transforms into a third-person shooter/ action title, almost comparable to something made by Platinum Games. During these sections, Pit has a variety of weapons to use that all feel different, including fists, cannons, staves, and more. Combat on the ground does a good job of retaining the speed and intensity of the rail shooter segments, and the game’s other big strength lies in the sheer variety of level design, as each mission feels like it has its own distinct vision or design.
The one thing that hampers Uprising’s gameplay is the fact that it’s on 3DS, and its third-person shooting can be a bit difficult with only one control stick. Later models of the 3DS that added a right joystick make things a bit easier, and Nintendo even released an accessory called the Circle Pad Pro at the same time as Uprising; but good luck finding one of those these days. The original release came with a 3DS stand, but it also didn’t keep wrists from cramping while aiming with the stylus.
There’s simply so much charm and care packed into every aspect of Uprising, and the campaign’s roughly eight-hour runtime doesn’t feel like it has any padding or wasted moments. It’s an experience that knows exactly what it wants to be, and does it exceptionally well. It’s truly a shame that the game is trapped on the 3DS, as it feels like some kind of up-rezzed version would be the perfect experience on Nintendo Switch.