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29th May by Jamie Stafford
Kid Icarus was originally released in 1986 for the NES, and was developed by the same team that created Metroid. While the original Metroid went on to spawn one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, it’s sister game Kid Icarus is often forgotten despite being an excellent game in it’s own right.
In Kid Icarus you play the role of Pit, an angel whose leader Goddess Palutena, has been imprisoned by the Evil Medusa. Your mission is to carefully navigate the mythical Greek Underworld, Overworld and Skyworld before a facing a showdown with Medusa, the legendary Ancient Greek she-beast, with a look so fierce she can turn a man to stone.
Kid Icarus is a traditional platformer, and as with most NES games of this era, your movements are limited to moving left and right and crouching, with jump and attack as your only actions. For the majority of the game you are equipped with a simple bow and arrow as your sole means of attack, which is most definitely limied in range, however you can gain upgrades for this weapon by completing random challenges throughout the game.
These random challenges are a satisfying element of the game. Throughout each level there are doors that open up into secret chambers that can feature a room full of enemies to defeat, a risk-reward treasure hunting mini game, or a time limit survival based mini game. Each of these chambers presents a chance to stock up much needed hearts, or recieve a bonus item or upgrade for your weapon. Hearts are used to purchase items from the general shopkeeper or Black Marketeer, also found in these chambers, which can be used on items to replenish lost life.
The games controls are quite fluid for it’s time. Pit has an excellent range of movement, being able to move quickly while crouching and change direction after reaching the peak of his jump.
The game features some rather unique enemies, who in a departure from most video game enemies of this era, do not simply attempt to attack and kill you once they enter the screen. The Grim Reaper, for example, will completely lose his mind upon spotting you, and instead of attacking you directly, he will summon his minions to do the dirty work for him. Another hilariously frustrating opponent is the Pluton, a pesky thief employed by The Black Marketeer. He robs you of a colleted item upon contact, which the Black Marketeer will then attempt to sell back to you at an inflated price.
One of the real challenging and enjoyable aspects of this game are the castles that lay in wait at the end of each world. For someone playing this game for the first time, many hours can be spent discovering the right pathway to the castle boss’s chamber. Even for the most experienced Kid Icarus campaigner, the 2nd and 3rd castle maps can be quite difficult to commit to memory. And even if you do, trying to avoiding being cursed by the dreaded Eggplant Wizard (another enemy that doesn’t actually try to kill you) along the way can in itself be a constant exercise in humiliation.
Kid Icarus’s music and sound effects are top notch, with the old Nintendo synthisiser doing some of it’s best work. Like the score of a film, the music in this game really sets the tone for each level. Inside the boss and “Harsh Training” chambers, it turns the ominous level to 11 and really lets the player know when they’re in for a world of hurt. There’s even a comidic side to the music, such as when you’re busted by the God of Poverty in a Treasure Chamber.
The game has several different endings which are seen depending on how quickly you can complete it and whether all upgrades were obtained, but for those who ahven’t played the game it wouldn’t be right for me to give that info away. I don’t wanna be one of those guys outside a movie theatre that tells you who Darth Vader really is.
Depending on your skill level, Kid Icarus can offer anywhere between 1 to 10 hours of continuous game play from start to finish. Kid Icarus was one of the first NES games to offer a key code function so you could resume your progress after turning off the game, which was an excellent added feature for a game difficult to finish in one sitting.
Overall, I give Kid Icarus a 4 out of 5, it’s only real drawbacks being the lack of a secondary weapon and the length of the final level (it’s far too short compared to the first three worlds). Kid Icarus is available on the Wii Virtual Console and Homebrew Channel.