Developer: Nintendo; Tose
Basic Idea: Develop a life-long aversion to eggplants and cure your fear of Medusa.
Review: Kid Icarus has long been considered Metroid’s less-regarded little brother, and despite entirely different worlds and gameplay, the games are similar in countless ways. Both were highly innovative and both had parts that were maddening.
You play as a boy with useless wings who must use his bow and arrow to defeat the evil Medusa who’s done something evil or something. There are 13 levels, including three dungeons and Medusa’s hangout. Fighting through hordes (and I mean hordes) of enemies, you must upgrade your life bar and abilities by dispensing of said enemies. Upgrades aren’t found, they are earned. Better arrows, more health, long-shot, and defensive protection are all based on your points or fighting contests you can participate in. There are shops where you can buy temporary items, like health potions, or feathers that save you from falling deaths. If you’re lucky you can even win a credit card that allows you to buy something you can’t afford and pay off your debt later.
What turns off a lot of gamers is how difficult the game is at first. While you have infinite lives (and a password system), every time you die you have to begin at the very beginning of whatever level you’re on, and without any of the upgrades you got in the meantime. The game isn’t insanely hard at the beginning, but it is hard with virtually no learning curve. Falling deaths occur frequently until one learns the level layouts and jumping tricks. And the reapers will annoy many a first-timer. The first dungeon can be a bear if you haven’t made any upgrades, but getting past each level is satisfying.
What turns off many other gamers, including me, is how insanely easy the game becomes about half-way through. Assuming you haven’t avoided every enemy you’ve run into and bothered to get an upgrade or two, there’s little challenge in the last half of the game. The enemies never become more difficult, so as your upgrades improve, the challenge goes with it. The game’s worst sin is that regardless of your upgrades, Medusa is the easiest final boss in the history of gaming. There are two safe spots where she cannot hit you, so defeating her feels hollow. If the game was remotely challenging in the last half, this game would be top ten.
My favorite part of the game is the dungeons. The music is awesome and learning each level’s maze is fun. You have the option, like in The Legend of Zelda, of acquiring a map and other items to track your way, but they’re unnecessary. There are centurions that have been turned to stone, and if you free them with a hammer, they will join you in your fight against the dungeon’s boss, which is pretty sweet. But certainly the best part of the game are the eggplant wizards. They shoot eggplants at you, and if they hit you, you literally turn into an eggplant and must find your way, defenseless, to a nurse in the dungeon who will heal you. While it can be rage-inducing to be hit by one, it represents one of the game’s few challenges and is kind of funny on top of it. The bosses are a bit on the easy side, but they’re fun to battle with.
Like Metroid, it would be hard to recommend Kid Icarus to a younger generation. There’s just too many flaws. But it also instilled me with many great memories and I enjoy playing it every few years or so.