Kid Icarus is another one of those popular early NES games, but in this case I never played it growing up. I remember wanting to because I really loved the Captain N cartoon which featured Kid Icarus’ Pit as a character (though he was actually called Kid Icarus, if I remember rightly) but upon playing it I’m glad I never did because it’s obscenely difficult, for me right now, let alone me back then! Let’s take a look…
Pit, some snakes and a door… Screenshot!
Kid Icarus was first released in Japan December 1986 as “Light Mythology: Palutena’s Mirror”, before getting a US release in February 1987, then a European release July that same year.
Much like Fire Emblem (for the English speaking market) and Ice Climber, the Kid Icarus series gained people’s attention when it appeared in the Smash Bros. series (which is also the only reason I’m reviewing it!)
The Grim Reaper makes his second appearance in a screenshot for this Smash marathon!
At its heart Kid Icarus is a scrolling shooter, with Pit having a bow with infinite arrows in place of a gun. That’s not really doing the game justice though, as there are a few different systems in play, from classics like collectible power ups (Guard crystals that protect Pit, Flaming arrows that can hit multiple enemies, and the Holy Bow, which has more range) to doors in levels that can lead to a variety of rooms, from stores where you can buy items with things enemies leave behind when they’re killed acting a currency, to enemy bases and even hot springs, which can restore Pit’s health.
There are three core stages, the Underworld, Overworld and Sky World, which has several levels and end with an annoying labyrinth, where you can buy a pencil, check sheet, or torch to help you navigate it. At the end of each labyrinth there is a boss, and after you defeat all three bosses and collect the three sacred treasures you then face the final boss after a level of nothing but scrolling shooting… or so I’ve read, as I’ve never gotten anywhere near the final level…
Which brings me the my main point: it’s crazy hard. You start with such little health, and there are so many enemies… combined with no amazing controls and… yeah. Death comes naturally, and often.
Graphics and Sound:
Pit faces off with some flying eyes and noses in a particularly unpleasant-to-look-at room…
Given its early NES-ness the game is full of sprites, from clouds to columns, from enemies to pick ups, there is always a lot on screen. It has to be said though that there aren’t really any backgrounds and the character sprites are basic (which again, is excusable given its time period), while the floors and other textures are often dull or a sickly brown, with the exception of some of the labyrinths (and possibly later levels…)
As for sound, it scores well. The background tunes are very catchy, if not a little repetitive, and the sound effects are fine. Again, for the time it’s impressive, it’s a shame the gameplay… isn’t.
The purple ruins of Greece! (or where ever it’s supposed to be…)
The Earth (or Overworld) was once ruled by Palutena, Goddess of Light, and Medusa, Goddess of Darkness, until Palutena had enough of Medusa’s killing of crops and turning people to stone and sent her to the Underworld. Eventually Medusa leads an army from the Underworld to Palutena’s Sky Temple and not only stole her three sacred treasures, but imprisoned her. With her last vestiges of power, Palutena sends young angel Pit a bow and arrow and tells him he must save the worlds.
Pit then collects back all the treasures, defeats Medusa and frees Palutena, because this is a basic game with a clear goal, so… no cutscene twists here!
The ability to shoot upwards is handy…? …. Screenshot!
God I want to like the game, it’s got catchy tunes and I like the simple-but-crowded look it has, but… nope. While the controls aren’t Ice Climber bad (look out for that review in a few days!), it’s still hard to do well enough not to get killed all the time. As you can probably tell if you’re familiar with the game, nearly all the screenshots come from the first few screens because… ARGH!!! So, in other words, I don’t rate it too highly, but I will praise it for all it did at the time…