Since the release of Super Mario Brothers a year and half ago, I have longed for another adventure game on the Nintendo. Up until now, Nintendo hasn’t made anything close to resembling Mario, with many of their games being sports titles and arcade ports. This year there have been several solid action games from Konami and Capcom, such as Castlevania, Trojan, and Rush ‘N Attack. The Adventure Series has been kicked off with games like Rygar and The Legend of Zelda, and now we have another completely original and thrilling Game Pak from Nintendo, Kid Icarus!
The setting for Kid Icarus is Angel Land, which is full of Greek mythology references and characters. The objective is for you, Pit, to rescue the Goddess Palutena from the evil Medusa. The instruction manual is second-to-none, and is filled with an expansive story going into great detail about the great war that has befallen Angel Land, and the epic battle that has taken place between Palutena and Medusa. Pit has been freed from his imprisonment and must use his bow and arrow and small wings to defeat the enemies in his path and locate the three Sacred Treasures to put an end to Medusa’s evil reign once and for all.
This game is divided up into four worlds and each world has four levels, much like Super Mario Brothers. The goal is to reach the fourth world, the palace in the sky, where Medusa lies in wait. To reach it, you must get though the Underworld, Overworld, and Sky World of Angel Land. Starting off, you move vertically, jumping up from platform to platform to reach the end of the level, which is opposite of other games like Super Mario Brothers where you move horizontally across the screen.
Each level is very large and takes skill to successfully complete. They are packed with villainous creatures and obstacles. In fact, there are over 40 different enemies in the game, so you’ll need to study them to learn their patterns and discover their weaknesses. Some are simple to defeat, but others require many hits to take down. A few even have tricks and unusual methods of attack, such as the Eggplant Wizard, who turns your head into an eggplant making it impossible to attack. The only way to rid Pit of this curse is to locate a hospital room. The instruction booklet gives some insight into each of the enemies, and it’s in full color so it’s a fun read. With both this game and The Legend of Zelda now featuring in-depth color manuals, I’m hopeful the production values will continue with future titles.
You can shoot your bow and arrow straight up or to the side, and you can also jump and shoot at the same time. Each time you take damage from an enemy, your life bar depletes. Once that is empty, you die and restart at the beginning of the level. In the vertical areas the real challenge is not falling into oblivion while fighting off enemies. If you fall off the bottom of the screen you will die and start over. To make matters worse there are platforms with ice that will cause you to slide, and pits of lava, which quickly deplete your health.
You collect hearts and points with each monster you defeat. Hearts are the currency of this game, so it’s no surprise that simple enemies produce a solo heart, while more difficult ones spawn a larger one worth either five or ten hearts. There are several types of rooms scattered throughout each area, and some even harbor special shops to purchase items. There are sections in the game where you’ll want to spend time defeating enemies to save up a lot of hearts to make purchases. Some notable items include: a sacred bow with increased distance; an angel feather, which saves you from falling if you miscalculate a jump; flaming arrows; and water of life that replenishes your life bar. There are also treasure rooms, enemy rooms, and health rooms, among others. The point system is extremely unique to Kid Icarus. You need a high enough score to get or use certain items. One example is in a Sacred Chamber (scattered throughout the game), God will increase the power of your arrows if your game score is high enough. Avoiding most enemies is a bad idea, since you’ll want to rack up points and collect hearts. Also, the game has multiple endings, which are based on your total score. Basically, take the time to kill as many enemies as you can!
When you make it to the fourth level of each world, the gameplay changes dramatically, and this is where Kid Icarus really impressed me and set it apart from all other games. Rather than simply moving across or up the levels, you are in a fortress where your path is not preset. There are passageways into rooms from all four directions and you must find your way to the end without getting lost. Many of your weapon upgrades are also deactivated during this stage adding to the challenge. Your end goal is to locate and defeat the gatekeeper, or boss, who is hidden in one of the rooms. There are about 30 rooms in each fortress and it is a true labyrinth to navigate. There are plenty of dead ends, traps, and powerful enemies scattered throughout, but there are also item shops and healing areas to increase your chances of making through the Palace.
In each of these final levels, I found myself making a map with pen and paper to navigate. You can purchase or find items that map this for you in the game, but the map system is confusing, and I preferred to save my hearts for other, more useful items. In many of these rooms there are Centurians turned into statues. If you collect mallets, you can smash these and they turn into aides, which help in your battle against the gatekeeper. Each of these bosses offers a memorable challenge and they are based on mythological monsters. If you are victorious, your life bar increases and you get one of the three Sacred Treasures. These are powerful upgrades for Pit, which are needed to advance in the next world.
This game takes a considerable amount of time to play through. Fortunately, this is Nintendo’s first Password Pak, so you can resume your progress if you are stuck on a level, or need to take a break from the game. There are also unlimited continues, so no Game Over screens. When you continue, not only do you pick up from the level you were just playing, but you also retain your hearts and special items. This really curbs the difficulty of the game, making it a more fun experience. It is still challenging, but a far cry from the very frustrating Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Oddly enough, I found the first world to be the most difficult, largely because of the very low life bar that you begin with. As you progress through the stages you constantly become more powerful, making some of the later areas a bit easier. So don’t give up if you’re frustrated at the start of the game. Things get better!
Some graphical details and backgrounds in the game can seem dull and unimaginative. I do enjoy the designs of many of the enemies, particularity the gatekeepers. Sadly the graphics in the game don’t compare to the beautiful artwork showcased in the instructional manual. The musical score to the game is very well done. Right from the start, the title intro music is fantastic and sets the tone for the game. There are several tracks throughout the game and they vary from upbeat and fun, to sinister and mysterious.
As highly as I think of this game, I do have a few small complaints. There is some slowdown when too many enemies covered the screen, which seems to be a recurring issue among complex Nintendo games. The password has 24 characters in it, making it cumbersome to write down, and heaven help you if you messed up a character, as you’ll have to start over from the beginning. The scoring system is quite confusing and not really explained in the game or the manual. Some of the backgrounds and color schemes could be more exciting. I’d also love to have one more world added to the game to increase the length. However, all of these are very minor issues that did not hamper my experience at all. In fact, Kid Icarus is a breath of fresh air and one that will deliver enjoyment for hours on end.
Kid Icarus Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Kid Icarus is simply a must buy for any Nintendo owner. This game was an incredible journey to play through and I reveled every second of it. I hope this title is a trendsetter because I’d love to play more games that match this quality. Nintendo and its third party licensees have been on a roll lately with Rygar, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Kid Icarus Instruction Booklet
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.