Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Retro Game of the Day: Kid Icarus

Been on a retro game kick lately, it all started late last week when I was listening to Chrono Trigger and other SNES-era RPG tunes that someone tweeted in the form of Youtube videos. I wound up playing about 2/3rds of the way through Secret of Mana before I saved state in the emulator I was playing it on and put it on the back burner for the time being. I wanted something more simplistic (and not so damned long) for the time being.

I also wanted to commit my opinion of older games from a modernish point of view, to "paper", to see how it'd come out.

I definitely wanted to play through Metroid again, but that was to be another day's project. Incidentally, Kid Icarus was created by the same guy that made Metroid, Gunpei Yokoi. Yokoi-san developed a lot of stuff for Nintendo, until his tragic death in a road accident in 1997. He was the father of the Gameboy, my favorites, the Game & Watch and the Virtual Boy, amongst other games & devices. Yokoi-san was a total visionary, and excepting the Virtual Boy, had a lot of successes piled up over his career.

Kid Icarus was a game that I hadn't played a lot before, so it wasn't like I'd be doing a "run through for fun" like I would with Metroid or Chrono Trigger, or other games that I play through every few years or so. I think I had played maybe the first 2 stages before, so imagine my surprise when the game turns into a Metroid-like giant complex by the third stage, and a side-scroller even further in. Eventually it all culminates in a shooter of sorts, where you fly using the "three treasures" (wings, a mirror shield and magic arrows) and defeat Medusa in what might be the most lopsided battle ever. (The game itself is stupid hard and unfair at points, but if you sit in the direct center of the screen firing at Medusa at the end you'll never really get hit)

I've actually not had this much fun in a while. The game is frustrating as hell, as it is an early Nintendo game & it takes cheap shots out the wazoo, but in general it's very fun. (And it doesn't hurt that I've mastered the art of using save states to cheat like hell) Anyone that has played NES games during their life knows that early ones like KI and Metroid and Ninja Gaiden have that terrible way of having enemies come from off screen to hit you, respawns if you backtrack even a slight bit and very large "hot spots" on the enemies that hit you, but your arrows/bullets/sword/shuriken have to be dead on to hit them.

Like Metroid, Kid Icarus has multiple endings, ranging from getting a bucket on your head and a mop/squeegee thing to "powering up", getting a kiss from Palutena & having angels fly around behind you. I'd like to think that the worst ending results in Pit becoming a jizz mopper for the dude who is the real hero and gets to plow Palutena, and the best is Pit powering up to do the plowing, lol. How do you get the different endings? There are several challenges that allow you to get 3 different weapon power-ups, there are HP power-ups that you get for achieving certain scores and (of course someone on the internet hacked the ROM and did the research on this) a strength rating that gets powered up as you visit rooms in different levels that is dictated by a "hidden" score. To get the best ending, you have to be powered to the max in all facets of the game in addition to having 999 hearts, the game's currency.

The action sequences are broken up by very Metroid-like dungeons, with some Zelda thrown in, whereby you go room-to-room, clearing enemies along the way. The biggest pain in the ass in these levels are the Eggplant Wizards, who throw - you guessed it - eggplants that can get stuck on your head and then you have to run, defenseless, to a "nurse" (lol) that will remove the curse. The point of these dungeons is to find and kill a boss monster, and it is entirely up to you how to go about it. In the earlier stages you will come upon harps and shops. Harps turn enemies into mallets. Shops sell mallets. When I used to just play the first few stages, I always wondered what they were for. In the dungeons you can use them to crack open statues of Centurions, who will, in groups of 3, aid you in boss battles. For fun (and the sake of completeness), I freed all of them in each dungeon, but to be honest, they're very useless, and easily beaten by the bosses you face. In fact, due to the on-screen sprite limit the NES has, they often inhibited me from firing my bow at the boss at key times, making for a frustrating go around.

All-in-all, for its age, it's a great game, and like I said, because it was devised by Yokoi-san like Metroid, it's something I know I'll come back to again and again to play down the road. With such varied gameplay, it's great to run around all of the levels just having fun, shooting things, but also to run through the labyrinths, solving em and fighting bosses. My one question, though, is why does this game, with small dungeons, have a map system, but a gargantuan game like Metroid has no map at all?