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// article by Jeff

Back once again with a Random.access Retrospective featurette, we're going to look at the Kid Icarus series. Although it hasn't exactly been a major player in Nintendo's history, there's still a strong following behind that young angel and his trusty bow and arrow! He's still fresh in our minds, especially with his recent inclusion in the Super Smash Bros. series. Let's spread our wings and fly into the world of Kid Icarus. ...But we'll keep our distance from the sun...

The first appearance of Pit was in Kid Icarus for the NES. It was actually first released on Nintendo's Japan-only Famicom Disk System (which used 3.5" floppy disks) in December of 1986 under the (translated) title of "Myth of Light: The Mirror of Palutena". It made its way to Europe by cartridge in February 1987 and to North America in July of that same year. Pulling heavily from Greek Mythology, Kid Icarus tells of Pit, who is often mislabeled as having the name of "Kid Icarus" (including within Nintendo's own Saturday morning cartoon series, Captain N: The Game Master), a youthful angel tasked by the goddess Palutena to retrieve the three sacred treasures of Earth that were stolen by Medusa, the Queen of Darkness who once ruled the planet alongside Palutena but despised humanity.

Kid Icarus was a bit of a renegade game by offering new styles of play not often seen in platformers. In many stages, Pit had move upward in vertical stages, rather than the stereotypical left-to-right layout seen by most platformers to date. Fortress stages at the end of each world were labyrinthine in nature and played out one screen at a time, similar to the overworld and dungeons of The Legend of Zelda. Later stages even brought in horizontal shooter or "shmup"-style gameplay. Each "world" delivers an underworld stage, an overworld stage, and a final stage in a sky fortress.

Equipped with a handy bow-and-arrow, Pit was — pardon the pun — pitted against a variety of strange creatures, most notably the Grim Reaper, Medusa, and a notorious little bugger called the Eggplant Wizard, the only being that can transform Pit into a walking aubergine of unhappiness. His bow-and-arrow was his only saving grace, and it could be upgraded based on numerous factors, including how well he has been playing and his overall kill count. Enemies also drop hearts, which Pit can use as currency in exchange for items. The controls were a little floaty, but in the NES' early days, this was a notable action title.

Although the game has sold over 1.75 million copies, not including re-releases, the game never quite caught on like its console counterparts at the time, such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. It has, however, It has since been re-released on the Game Boy Advance (Japan-only) and on the Virtual Console for both Wii and Wii U.

Kid Icarus was also later remade, surprisingly, as a 3D Classic for the 3DS, providing essentially the same game but with a few modifications. 3D Classics: Kid Icarus revives the save system originally implemented in the Famicom Disk System version (thus causing me to believe this is based on the Japanese version), and new backgrounds have been added to reinforce the 3D aspect of the game with sprites and platforms intended to "pop out" in relation to the background scenery.

Though not a major powerhouse in the stores, Kid Icarus was deemed worthy enough to warrant a sequel for the Game Boy titled "Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters". Similar to the NES title, Pit must venture into well-guarded fortresses to obtain Angel Land's three sacred treasures. The difference here, however, is that the Goddess of Light, Palutena, has actually hidden them there herself in an effort to test Pit's skills and strengthen him considerably. Only then can Pit be declared suitable enough to face off against Orcos, a demon seen in Palutena's dreams who will wreak havoc on the Earth.

The general gameplay mechanics are the same here, with Pit brandishing his patented bow-and-arrow to destroy his enemies. Here, though, he can actually use his wings to slow his descent. As before, enemies will drop hearts than Pit can use to purchase items or hints as to where to find secrets. The one major difference here is that, unlike on the NES, stages scroll in all four directions, giving Pit much more freedom of movement and exploration. The game has since been declared an overall improvement (and a tad more forgiving) than its predecessor.

Of Myths and Monsters was never originally released in Japan, one of the few Nintendo-developed games to only see the light overseas (others include the StarTropics series for NES). It was eventually re-released on the 3DS Virtual Console, including in Japan. This was, however, the last Kid Icarus game that fans would ever see for over two decades.

Kid Icarus: Uprising was not originally intended to be a new game in the series; it was instead simply a standalone title. After solidifying the basic gameplay elements, director Masahiro Sakurai (famous for his work with the Super Smash Bros. series) decided that the legendary Kid Icarus would be a perfect fit. Already equipped with an updated look from his resurgence in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, there was no need to redesign his appearance. The game was released in March 2012 to an overall positive response from the gaming community.

The first two games had rather simplistic storylines akin to the available technology at the time. Kid Icarus: Uprising takes us deeper into the lore behind Angel Land, borrowing immensely from Greek mythology. Reintroduced are Pit, Palutena, and a revived Medusa, whose goal is once again to rid the world of humanity. Other characters, however, have a role in how Medusa's plans play out. Mythological beings such as Hades, Poseidon, and Thanatos all either help or (more often) hinder Pit's plans to save the world. Even aliens get a nod in this quest. Let's just say there were a lot of ideas floating around during the game's development, and they left none behind.

Unlike the Kid Icarus games of olde, Uprising plants you in a three-dimensional world filled with far more detail than fans of the classic games could have ever imagined. The game shifts between two styles of gameplay. In some sections, Pit flies through the air on a pre-determined path while shooting at, and dodging, enemies. Other sections are more traditional, offering a third-person view while he walks through the ruins of Angel Land in search of treasures and foes alike. Pit's arsenal has also increased beyond the bow-and-arrow; he is able to wield staffs, blades, cannons, and orbiting spheres, among other weaponry. Enemies still drop hearts, which can be used as currency not for items, but to modify the game's "intensity" level; higher intensity means greater spoils after each chapter.

Uprising is also the first game to feature multiplayer. Up to six players can duke it out in a battle royale with free-for-alls or deathmatches in the third-person platforming style. The game is also compatible with Nintendo's Augmented Reality card system; using the cards packed with the game unlocks a similar single-player mini-game.

Although the game has received significant praise, there is no current plan for a sequel, once again putting the Kid Icarus franchise in purgatory.

Other Cameos:
Though not the most popular Nintendo character, he has still wedged his way into other games with cameo or playable appearances. Games in which Pit appears include Tetris, F1 Race, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U.


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