Please note: This entry was written in response to IGN’s reader question-of-the-week for 26Mar12. Readers were asked to discuss the recently released Kid Icarus Uprising for Nintendo DS.
My entry was the #1 winning submission and was featured on the front page of IGN’s 3DS column. Needless to say, I was grateful for this honor. You can link to this entry on IGN (including user comments) at http://www.ign.com/blogs/unoclay1/?p=647
What do you think about Kid Icarus Uprising’s controls? Are they uncomfortable? Not a problem? Did you find an option/holding technique that made it work for you?
For this here gamer, controls can be the most interesting part of exploring a new title. My undying love for videogames is directly related to a love for puzzles (see one of my first IGN blogs for more on this topic), and new or unique ways to control a game–when implemented correctly–can represent an interesting new challenge.
Nintendo is no stranger to adventurous new control styles, so maybe we’re silly to be amazed by the brand new layout in Kid Icarus Uprising. Folks, this is the company that first brought us the modern ‘plus-sign’ control pad (NES), Shoulder Buttons (SNES), the Rumble Pack (n64) and perhaps the most memorably of all, launched the motion-control revolution with the flawed-yet-innovative Wiimote. On the handheld front, the original DS brought touchscreens and styluses out of the business world and into kids pockets. Pushing further, the 3DS includes incredible gyroscope sensitivity (used for incredible effect in the Ocarnia of Time remake and smaller apps like Faceraiders). The whole “Nintendo invents a new way to control a game” is definitely a well-known phenomenon.
So, as a gamer who owns every Nintendo console ever made, maybe I’ve been training my whole life for Uprising’s unique control style. I’m not the kind of gamer who just wants recycled concepts and over-familiar techniques–when I’m shelling out $40 for a new title, I almost expect something innovative. Love it or hate it, Kid Icarus certainly delivers a new experience. I’m glad to say I like it quite a bit, though there are a couple things that could have been changed for an even better experience. I’m going to spend most of my time in this blog answering IGN’s first question about the controls, since I think this is one of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Uprising.
Firstly, I didn’t plan to use the pack-in 3DS ‘stand’. I expected the stand to be wobbly, flimsy, or just plain stupid (I was imagining something much less sturdy, perhaps akin to the Virtual Boy). However, after a few hours of cradling the system between my torso and legs (I’m not fat enough to hold the system still with my gut), I kept noticing the system slipping out of my grasp, or simply not being able to keep the game still enough when the action gets hot (and since I tend to play at level 6 or 7, the challenge is always intense). So I reluctantly unwrapped the stand and set it up.
The stand is plain, unassuming, and almost too simple to work . . . but it mostly does. Small rubber bumpers keep the base of your 3DS from sliding left or right, and the stand itself is made of sturdy plastic that resists slipping across the table and easily bears the pressure of your in-game button-mashing. By using the stand, you’ll be (freer) to concentrate on manipulating the stylus and executing the all-important Smash-Brothers-style dodging (accomplished by quick flicks of the circle pad). This is the stand’s greatest strength–since Uprising dodges are tougher due to the well-known ‘slip factor’ of the circle pad (your thumb starts to slide off at the first droplet of game-induced sweat), the stand provides needed leverage and allows better use of an ultra-critical game action. Overall, and in spite of my following complaints, I’d say the stand is a very worthwhile addition to the Uprising package.
The weaknesses of the Kid Icarus / 3DS stand are obvious:
- First, you’ll need to cart it along anytime you want to play Kid Icarus on the go. Given that you’ll dodge hundreds of times in every single Vs. match (again, imagine Smash Brothers), the stand becomes almost a requirement for serious online play, so if you’re gaming on the go, now you have a peripheral to tote along.
- Secondly, I’d strongly prefer a more substantial 3DS stand–the one we got is pretty good, but a stand with a wider and heavier base would have reduced slippage (when you get excited, you’ll still move the stand by accident).
- Thirdly, I’d have liked a way to anchor my 3DS in the stand. I’m imagining a claw-like socket that would lock the 3DS down during sessions, allowing me to manhandle the system a little more, rather than having to restrain the enthusiasm of my stylus swipes and dodges. I definitely feel like I lose some online matches because I ‘hold back’ a little bit, mediating my movements based on the fear of moving the system/stand too much (and therefore losing my flow).
Beyond the pros and cons of the stand, and circling back to my original point, I basically can say I love the challenge of Uprising’s new control layout. As a big fan of Wii’s Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, I’m very familiar with the process of using the Wiimote to aim a reticle while manipulating other buttons to control my character. In the ‘flight’ levels of Uprising, the 3DS stylus takes the place of the Wiimote, meaning I have precision control of the aiming reticle at my fingertips, leaving the remainder of the controls for my other hand. This design greatly enhances the appeal of an on-rails shooter (which is what the Flight sections really are), demanding a player to stretch their brain in two directions at once–dodge bullets with the circle pad, aim your weapon with stylus. It’s not the simplest task to accomplish, but what fool ever thought video games should be easy?
The controls also shine in the free-roaming adventure levels of Uprising, reminding me of the oft-forgotten gem that is Link’s Crossbow Training. Here, the stylus takes the place of the Wii Zapper, serving double duty to rotate the camera and aim your weapon. Given that you can fine-tune the speed of camera rotation, I tend to enjoy the experience of whirling the camera at the flick of a stylus–it’s a neat design concept that lets me to fight in a 360-degree fashion, whether online or single-player. All of my above comments about the challenges of dodging apply here as well–you won’t dodge nearly as much in the single player campaign, but it’s a critical action that is probably the toughest aspect of Uprising’s control layout. It’s frustrating to admit that the circle pad’s slippiness may be the biggest flaw with the game’s controls, but since this was a problem before Uprising hit shelves, I’m reluctant to dock points from Icarus for this system flaw.
Like I said at the outset, I really love it when any game pushes the limits of the delivery technology. In this case, 3DS is only a single year old, yet Masahiro Sakuri took ideas from some of Nintendo’s best modern titles (Smash Brothers, Sin & Punishment) and recombined these elements into an all-new game with an overwhelming amount of polish and playability. The game itself is a phenomenal delight, almost qualifying as a brand-new IP (the NES/Gameboy episodes of Icarus had exactly zero personality) with humorous voice-acting, plenty of retro-references, 4th-wall-shattering in-jokes, and most critically, a shocking amount of “hardcore” depth (including an upgradable weapon system and the crazy degrees of adjustable difficulty).
As a gamer who has always seen Kid Icarus as the forgotten “fourth pillar” of the NES’s original catalog (SMB, Metroid, Zelda, and lowly Pit), I can’t believe how RIGHT they got this reboot. It’s a must-have title for any Nintendo gamer, minor control flaws not withstanding. Do yourself a favor and join the fight against Medusa.