Kid Icarus Review

Thanks to the Virtual Console, a new generation can experience the simple gameplay and cruel levels contained in Kid Icarus.

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For some reason, Nintendo hasn't done much to keep Kid Icarus going as a franchise. The original NES game was released in 1987 and a sequel was produced for the Game Boy in 1991. That was it--until recently, when the NES game was again made available for the Wii's Virtual Console. Some people regard Kid Icarus as a challenging, Greek-themed alternative to Metroid. Others regard it as a bland 2D action game that's memorable only because some goofy design choices transform the already cruel level layouts into absolute acts of masochism. Both perspectives are accurate, which may be why the game never achieved the same popular following or spawned as many sequels as Nintendo's other character-driven properties.

If you walk under upside-down pots, snakes will fall onto you.

In a nutshell, Kid Icarus is Metroid without the large, contiguous world. Pit, the protagonist, is a winged angel with a bow who can shoot an endless supply of arrows. The gist is that you have to jump and shoot your way to the end of the game's scrolling stages and then navigate the many conjoined rooms within the fortress at the end of each world until you reach and slay the boss. As you make your way upward and forward, various enemies will appear and crawl or fly toward you. If they hit you, they'll take away some of Pit's health. If you shoot them, they'll leave behind hearts that you can use to buy items from merchants you encounter. Doorways situated throughout each level lead to shops and training rooms, which allow you the opportunity to buy and gather items that refill Pit's health, save him from death, or upgrade his arrows. It isn't the most unique blueprint for a video game, but it was fairly fresh back in 1987.

Kid Icarus is one tough game. Pit's initial health tank can absorb only four hits, his shots don't travel very far, and enemies are constantly materializing. On top of that, the levels are long and routinely feature platform-jumping sections that involve hopping from one sheer ledge to another. You can expect to retry each of the game's 13 levels dozens of times before you're familiar enough with the layout to reach the exit. Health bottles and shops offer a smidgen of relief, but they're scattered so sparsely and the items cost so much that you rarely benefit from them. The going gets a little easier after the first three or four levels, once you gain an extra health tank and can afford some upgrades, but not by any significant measure. What's sick is that the developers seem to have designed some areas of the game solely to frustrate players. Rooms are sometimes empty, health bottles are occasionally placed near the beginning of a level, and you can't go back into a shop once you've left.

Tense jumps between threadbare ledges are common.

Kid Icarus was released early in the NES life cycle, and the graphics and audio haven't aged gracefully. The game employs only a single scrolling layer, so, while the stones, columns, and statues in the foreground are colorful and reflect the game's Greek overtones, the background itself is simply pitch-black. Pit is a cute little angel and his enemies are a diverse menagerie of snakes, mummies, and other creepy crawlies. Apart from the bosses, however, the majority of character sprites are small, two-tone, and don't animate much. The music is nicely composed, but the few sound effects are all taps and thuds. For the most part, the Virtual Console emulates the game exactly as it was on the NES, right down to the slowdown that happens when the screen is crowded with enemies. The only obvious exception is that Nintendo disabled some of the old cheat passwords.

Kid Icarus is a risky proposition for anyone who hasn't already played the game. You might appreciate its straightforward gameplay and challenging level layouts. Alternatively, you might find nothing special in the gameplay and recoil in horror at the unflinching difficulty.

The Good
Jump-and-shoot design is easy to pick up
Going gets slightly easier once you collect some upgrades
The Bad
Items don't add much to the basic jump-and-shoot design
Exploration and backtracking are limited to fortress levels
Difficulty seems excessive with 20 years of other games to compare against
Graphics and audio are bland
Slowdown from NES game was left in, but cheat passwords were removed
5.1
Mediocre
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6 comments
Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

OMG IT'S A NES GAME THE GRAPHICS ARE HARDLY HD!!! I TOTALLY DISAGREE!

racerxgundam
racerxgundam

While i agree this wasn't the most challenging game of its day, its probably the most annoying...and i totally disagree that metroid was harder than this game. Ghost n Goblins gets my vote for hardest NES game.

 

jeffd7636
jeffd7636

I started playing video games around 1985 when I was nine. This game was faaaaaaar from being amongst the most difficult! Metroid was much more difficult; Kid Icarus's mazes in the boss levels could be graphed out on paper easily since each room took up one screen. The mazes in Metroid were multi screened and had to be explored and memorized (this was before online maps).

 

You want difficult? Try Ghosts n' Goblins! Still never beat that and I put many hours into that!

u1tradt
u1tradt

Graphics and audio bland? On a 25 year old game? Never!

smackybear
smackybear

Players really have gone soft nowadays if people might "recoil in horror at the unflinching difficulty" of Kid Icarus. It was a solid challenge but nothing like the nightmare the reviewer is making it out to be. Do people really expect to plow through a game without dying today?

disneyskate
disneyskate

I'm a kid of this generation and still haven't gotten past the first level (because I naturally suck at games) and from what I've played it's awesome. The catchy music, the clean 8 bit visuals, the smooth controls, the pick up and play feel to it, while it's still difficult. I love it.

Kid Icarus More Info

First Release on Jul 31, 1987
  • NES
8
Average User RatingOut of 1304 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Nintendo
Published by:
Nintendo
Genres:
2D, Action, Platformer
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
All Platforms