#112 Kid Icarus

Posted: 22nd October 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

188th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: NES
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Some fifteen years ago, I first watched the Captain N TV series. They were, as you can imagine, awesome for the time – here was a hero who used a NES controller to get special powers and who fought in a videogame environment against all sorts of other game enemies.

I recognised some of his sidekicks, with Mega Man having been quite known already, but one I did not recognise (as useful as he was in the game) was Pit, from Kid Icarus.

Best described as a cherub, he can fly and shoot arrows. Simple video game material, surely?

Our Thoughts

Kid Icarus is, for the best part, a fairly straight forward (but hellishly hard) platformer. You walk around, jump to ascend and shoot enemies using bow and (unlimited) arrows. Several different enemies swarm around you, from walking eggplants to the grim reaper. All have quite different characteristics, with not all of them being able to be defeated by your weapons.

We know how difficult this combination can actually end up being, with Super Mario Bros. having been an example we discussed some time ago. Kid Icarus is far worse. So difficult, in fact, that (at least according to the book) very few people finished it – in fact, just getting past the first level is a major struggle. The game got a Gameboy sequel, but after that it didn’t get a sequel for about twenty years (the recent Kid Icarus: Uprising). One of the main reasons, so it’s speculated, is that it was that tough – people gave up partway through, so not many would bother with a franchise when they initially couldn’t get past the first level. This is yet even more food for thought that we are dumbing games down… compared to this modern games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn are in the minus figures in terms of challenge.

One part of the difficulty is the amount of enemies. While sort of manageable, the enemies come in groups, trying to overwhelm you. As your shots are quite slow, you can’t kill too many of them if they rush you, making running away or past them a better strategy. If the frequency of your shots was not bad enough the range of your attacks (especially in the beginning) is downright piddly.

The second part comes from the platforming. Thanks to your wings, you jump quite high, and the developers make use of that by requiring high jumps. One evil feature here is the scrolling. You need to jump up, step by step, in the first level. However, once the screen has scrolled up, if you fall down to a section that’s scrolled off screen, you die – no backtracking or scrolling back down. This will take you by surprise the first time or two.

At first, this platforming seems minimal, but partway through the first level you get a couple of tricky jumps from pillar to pillar. The length of your jump has the disadvantage of making it more difficult to aim and the controls are tricky enough it’s difficult to do so. Combine that with giving you minimal space to do so and not much room to stand on (as well as some slippery floors). It’s all about precision from the start. At first you can do these jumps without enemies, but when they come in… It isn’t very easy.

Oh yeah, and story… it matters little with these older platformers, but basically, you need to rescue the Queen of Light from the Queen of Darkness. There’s a bit of Greek mythology thrown in, which shows up in the later graphics… but as you also fight eggplants, I wonder why they would mix with tales of Medusa and Perseus knock-offs.

Final Thoughts

Unlike Jeroen my first exposure to Pit was as a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee and later as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Upon playing Kid Icarus I am not entirely sure why there was such overjoyed internet acivity when Kid Icarus:Uprising was announced. I mean… if there is 20 years as a gap how much of a franchise is it?