Kid Icarus is somewhat of an oddball among all of the NES
"classics" in existence. While this game has a devout legion of
followers, there are almost as many people that dislike this game.
I happen to be one who likes it a lot, but there are flaws-a-plenty
that I can see that would turn off plenty of people.
As the name suggests, Kid Icarus is based off of Greek mythology. In
case you didn't know, Icarus was this chap who made a pair of wax wings,
flew too close to the sun, and fell to his death when his wings melted.
Oddly enough, this seems to have almost nothing to do with the game,
as you actually control a little angle named Pit. Although he has
wings, don't expect to be doing much flying (not until the end of the
game, at least.)
Medusa, that snake-haired evil woman, has not only kidnapped Palutena
(the token damsel-in-distress) but she has also stolen three vital treasures.
It's up to Pit to scale many mountains, kill many bad guys, get many hearts,
and fight his way through hordes of annoying creatures. The first part of
the game is entirely vertical, and only scrolling upwards. In other words,
your constantly moving up, jumping from platform to platform, killing bad
guys and gathering hearts to buy things with. If you reach the side of the
side, you wrap around to the other side,
which is vital to do in many cases. However, a really big annoyance happens
when you fall off the screen...you die. The screen does not scroll back down
to focus on Pit...the death music just plays, and you must start the entire
level over. It doesn't help when most of these levels are rather long. The first and third stages
are like this (each stage has four levels.) The second stage is side-scrolling, more what most
games are used to (even if you can't retrace your steps.)
However, the fourth stage in each level consists of a castle. This is a
big maze, structured a bit like Metroid. Now, during the course of the
levels in the stage, you will find hammers every once in awhile. These
hammers can be used to free warriors that have been turned to stone,
which in turn help you when you reach the boss (they act like options, much
like in Gradius, although each can only take one hit before dying.) There
are also various items that help you map out each level. They are often
rather big and confusing, but there are little pools around that fill
up your life.
However, the fourth stage is like a side-scrolling shooter, with Pit
flying through the levels with a shield and fast shooting arrow. Still,
it's hard to control Pit in this scene, as he reacts very slow. He can't
shoot very fast either, and its doesn't help that many of the bad guys
take a few hits to kill. You can't just dodge bad guys either, because you
must destroy a certain amount before you reach Medusa.
As mentioned before, there are stores throughout the game. The normal merchants
sell you things like the Chalice (restore your life), the Water of Life (lets your restore your life
when it runs out) and feathers (to save you from falling of the screen.) But
the black merchant has a few different, if more expensive items...the most
prominent being a barrel that will hold either Waters of Life (as opposed
to one.) You can also haggle with the black merchant to get lower prices
on goods, as well as get a credit card to buy things on credit. There are also other doors to go into...some are games of luck,
others exist to increase your heart supply, give you better arrows (if
your score is high enough!) or simply to train you. There are also
rooms where you meet Zeus, who will call flying monoliths to attack. If
you can endure long enough, you get to pick from a variety of items
like flaming arrows, a longer reaching bow, and a spinning shield. These
items can be stolen by certain bad guys, but sometimes can be bought back
by the black merchant. If your score is high enough, you can also get your
life meter increased at the end of each level. The one bar that you
start with is pitifully low, so this is a very good thing.
If the stupid "fall-off-the-screen-and-die" notion wasn't infamous enough
for this game, there's also the annoying enemies. Right from the
first level, there are reapers to contend with. They take about eight
hits to kill, and if they cross your line of sight, they summong four
little reapers to attack. Later on, there are octupi that come frm
the bottom of the screen and randomly jump around, being very difficult to
dodge. And if you kill them, more come along! The worst however, is
the Eggplant Wizard. Found in the castles, when hit by one of their
eggplants, you will turn into the vegetable and not be able to attack!
The only way to be cured is to visit the hopsital located somewhere
else in the castle. Worse yet, it's extremely hard to dodge these
eggplants, as they fly at an arc and come down very fast.
A majority of the game's background is black (just like Metroid) which
doesn't look very pretty. And while the sprites look decent, Pit turns
weird colors whenever he gets a new arrow power. The music is quite
good, with a decent drum-like sound frm the noise channel. It's
defintely hummable. The castle music is very creepy, like it should be.
However, play control is where this game seems to annoy people. Although
Pit seems to control OK, his jumps seem to get out of control when
trying to jump on narrow platforms. Also, when jumping off of ice,
Pit can go flying off the screen so easily, it's just not funny. Also,
on some surfaces, press Down will make Pit fall right through (instead of
pressing Down and Jump.) It's stupid when you instinctively duck under
something, and then fall to your death because that's the way the game works.
This can be a really fun game...even though it's structured into levels, it plays
like an adventure game, with all of the item collecting and score keeping
to be done. Wandering through the castles is also somewhat amusing.
However, the thing that seems to scare away most people is the lack of
a learning curve...you're thrown into the game at a vertical stage, with
tough enemies, a small life bar and weak weapons, and you expect a beginner
to warm up to it? No! I hated the game when I first tried it, but with the
help of emulators I played it again and learned how fun it really was,
as long as you could tolerate the many, many stupid deaths that will occur
the first few plays. Now that I now own a copy, I can see that it's
quite fun game, just with a few bad things that keep it out of the league
that Metroid and Zelda are in. Although the game seems long, it really
isn't, even though the password feature will help players keep their
minds straight. Very enjoyable and worth a play!