Friday, February 16, 2007

Past-Due Review: Kid Icarus (Wii VC)

Say "hello" to the hardest game to grace the NES.

Compared to the challenging Kid Icarus, most of the system's other headliners paled in comparison. Yes, that includes the mighty Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and even Metroid.

What makes Kid Icarus (now available for purchase and download from the Wii's Shop Channel) so darn difficult? I'd love to say it's the masterful level design or impressive artificial intelligence, but in all honesty it's because the game is cheap--really, horribly, insanely cheap.

Somehow, some way, I mastered this game when I was a kid. That's saying something, because when I first played it on my Wii a few days ago I had a hard time getting through the first level. If you're like me, you'll find yourself going through the same level over and over again for one reason or another--usually because you keep falling to your death at a certain point. (You'll become quite acquainted with--and disgusted by--the game over screen that declares "I'm Finished!")

So, yes, the game's cheap. But hopefully you noted something I said along with that assertion: that I continued to play the level over and over again regardless of the all-too-common death scenes. That's because along with being hard and cheap, Kid Icarus is a blast to play.

When it was released, the game was unlike anything that came before it. It wasn't as straightforward or action-oriented as Super Mario Bros., but it wasn't as wide open and spacious as Metroid, either (though it does share a similar "feel" to that great game).

The game places you in control of Pit, a fallen angel much like the titular 'Icarus,' as he wanders Angel Land and attempts to rescue the goddess Palutena, who has been imprisoned by the evil Medusa. Angel Land is quite the kingdom, featuring expansive 2D environments that scroll both horizontally and vertically. After traipsing though a few of those levels (three, to be exact), Pit is thrown into a maze-like dungeon that ultimately ends with a bad guy that has to be disposed of before Pit can move on to the next world.

Considering Kid Icarus was one of the first games released on the NES, it looks remarkably sharp and colorful. Controlling Pit is an enjoyably tight experience, despite the many level-design quirks that force you into a premature death. Rounding out the package, the music is charming and memorable, especially the title tune.

Whether or not you're able to move beyond the game's difficulty is up to you. Just know that giving the game a chance is a worthwhile endeavor--even if the old "helper" codes no longer work on the Wii.

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