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Kid Icarus. Released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the game launched almost hand-in-hand with Metroid, and both games have a lot in common, yet they are very different games. The vastly popular Metroid overshadowed the game, but did it deserve it? Kid Icarus has a large cult following, so it must be a pretty good game, right? Wrong. Kid Icarus is a bad game. I wasted my money on it; let me try to help you from wasting yours.
The game takes place in Angel Land, a world where gods and men coexist. Two goddesses, Palutena and Medusa, rule the world. Palutena gives light and helps mortals with their crops, while Medusa hates mortals, destroys their crops with darkness, and turns them into stone. Palutena turns Medusa into a monster and banishes her to the dark Underworld. Medusa would not give up that easily. War erupted and Palutena is imprisoned. The goddess is defeated and her only hope lies in a young angel named Pit also trapped in the Underworld. Using the last of her strength, she sends a magical bow, and he sets out on his quest to retrieve three Sacred Treasures to defeat Medusa and save Angel Land.
So the storyline isn’t that great, but honestly, in 1987, gamers didn’t care about storylines. As long as a game was fun, people would buy it and love it. Unfortunately, Kid Icarus doesn’t have a good storyline or fun gameplay. In fact, there is very little that is good about this game.
Kid Icarus is a platformer, but rather than moving from left to right for the entire game and jumping a bit, you climb the stages, jumping from platform to platform. Already the game has an annoyance from this point. The screen scrolls up with you as you ascend, as it should, but doesn’t allow you to go back as many NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games don’t. This means that while you’re climbing, if an enemy knocks you off the lowest platform on the screen, the screen will not scroll down and let you hit a platform that you climbed up on, you merely fall to the bottom of the screen and die, restarting back from the beginning of the level. This brings up Kid Icarus’ second annoyance. The game is really hard. Enemies are plentiful, and do (in the beginning) a fourth of your health.
The controls aren’t really very tight, either. Jumping feels awkward, and you can’t direct yourself as you’re falling as in most games, but once you jump, you’re going to indefinitely land where you were jumping. There is very little way to control yourself after you have leapt from the air. The game also has something I can only imagine would be a glitch in controls. You can duck, and then if you’re ducking and you hit left or right, you’ll slide across the ground. Your feet are not moving, and you cannot shoot or jump. Pit cannot even fly. For an angel with wings, shouldn’t he be able to fly, or at least glide? He can’t even double jump, or for that matter, jump very high at all!
This brings me to an actually neat concept of the game. Killing enemies gives you hearts, which you can use in stores that you find spread out along the land. As you progress from level to level you power up, giving the game RPG-like elements. Your bow gets upgraded, allowing you to do more damage to enemies, and you get more health. You can also get power ups (usually later on in the game) such as a rotating shield, a fireball addition to your arrow, and long-range shots. There are two different kinds of shops: Black Markets and normal shops. There’s really not much of a difference, and you just find them randomly about a level, signified by a door in the level. Certain enemies you come to will take your power ups away by merely touching you. There will generally be about ten of these enemies at a time, and it’s almost impossible to just kill them.
Those doors are not always what they seem. Sometimes you’ll go into a door and it will just be filled with enemies. Other times the door will take you to a store or black market, and sometimes the room will just be empty! It just seems so completely random to when something appears. Generally stores with health will appear at the beginning of level, just to tease you, because you most likely have high health, but not always. There’s really no way to tell what’s going to be behind a door.
The level design is even bad. A neat thing the game does is allows you to go from the left to right side of the screen. This means that if you walk off the right side of the screen, you appear on the left side. It’s a neat feature, and it’s useful a lot of times to evade enemies, because their A.I wasn’t equipped with the ability to know how to do this. While playing the game (especially in the dungeons), you’ll come to a point in the game and ask yourself: “Haven’t I been here before?” Yeah, you have. The level design is repetitive, and you’ll find yourself going over the same part with a few tweaks a few times over. Not only is it repetitive, but the level design seems somewhat random. Stages don’t seem to flow very much, and nothing really seems that well set up.
A redeeming quality of many NES games is music. Good music can make you feel more excited and really in the game. Kid Icarus, though, does not have good music. The only way I can describe it is ugly. The songs are short, so you’ll be hearing the same beats a lot, more especially because you’ll be dying a lot and starting over. At least with a game like Ninja Gaiden, where you’ll die over and over and OVER again, the music is good. Kid Icarus makes you want to just get through the level so hopefully you hear some new music. I found myself actually muting the game, and playing music from another game.
Another thing about Kid Icarus is its sound effects. The enemies make a satisfying noise when they die; the bow has an acceptable shooting noise, but the one noise that stood out to me the most is Pit’s “I’ve been hit!” noise. It is so annoying that you’ll never want to get hit: Just not so that you won’t die, but so that you don’t have to hear that awful noise.
As you play through the game, you pick up mallets by getting a harp. For a few moments all enemies will be turned into mallets, which you can pick up. When you get to the dungeon, you can use the mallets by pressing select. When you go up to a statue and hit it with the mallet, the creature will fly away. These are called centurions, and they help you fight the boss once you get to the end. The mallets are awfully hard to get, and while it would be a neat feature, the centurions die far too easily, and hardly ever hit the bosses.
The bosses also have far too much health. It takes a long time to kill the majority of them, and it’s not really a matter of difficulty as much as monotony. All of them have on attack, and one basic pattern to move to. Since there are only three dungeons to the game, you’d think they’d have spent more time on that.
Speaking of the dungeons brings me to my biggest annoyance. When you enter a dungeon, in one of the first rooms you generally find a map. Once you pick up the map, you can pause the game to view it. The map itself, when you get it is nothing but a brown box with other brown boxes in it. It doesn’t show you where rooms are, where you are, where you’ve been, where the boss is, where a healing center is: Anything. It’s just a brown box. So how do find anything? You have to find a store (by chance) in the dungeon, and then pay hundreds of hearts (which is actually a lot) to buy items, which allow the map to be useful. Useful might be a strong word. You buy a torch, and you can see where you are on the map. That doesn’t help you that much if you can’t see anything else. You can buy a pencil that shows you where you’ve been: Again, not that helpful. Why didn’t they make an item that shows you where the boss is? It’s hard enough to get to them, even if you do know where they’re located.
My biggest annoyance with this game is the eggplant wizards. “What are eggplant wizards?” you ask? They are perhaps one of the most frustrating enemies in game history. They’re only found in the dungeons, and they shoot eggplants at you, which arc, making them difficult to dodge. They appear in twos, as well, so the attacks are even harder to dodge. If an eggplant merely touches Pit, he makes his irritating squeal and then is transformed into a walking eggplant. You can no longer shoot enemies, so you can’t get past a lot of them without getting hurt. I guarantee that the first time anyone played this game and got turned an eggplant, they had no idea how to get changed back. Well, what Kid Icarus does, is it tries to do something “unique” and in doing so, it does something really annoying. You have to look around the dungeon and find a hospital, and then you’ll be changed back into Pit. How do you find the hospital? Just like you find everything else. By luck. The wizards are generally found before you get to bosses, and are respawned when you come back.
Some say the neat thing about Kid Icarus is the final stage. Instead of walking and shooting enemies like in other stages, you’re flying in an automatically scrolling stage. The word “flying” makes you think that it would be enjoyable, but in reality, it scrolls too slowly, and you can only finish when you’ve killed fifty enemies.
Playing through the game more than once can be more enjoyable, because you have power ups and stronger shots to kill enemies and bosses with.
I’m sure I forgot some things about Kid Icarus, but really, if you have the chance to play it, just pass it by. It’s only five dollars on the Wii’s Virtual Console, but even that price is too much. It’s overrated, it’s bad, and it’s just a hassle to play. Save your money for something good.