Tuesday, December 13, 2005

NES Review: Kid Icarus

I remember that day well. We had gone to Altoona with the Reese's, and JC and I were each promised an NES cart apiece. I can't for the life of me remember what JC picked, because quite frankly, I didn't give a crap. I was too focused on what I would choose off of the rack. This was back before the Nintendo Power days, where we each had a subscription and knew about all the latest before everyone else. This was back in the Fun Club days, when info rags were heinously short and came out quarterly, if you were lucky.

Nope, we were pretty much forced to go by the cover of the box. And on this fateful night, I was to select Kid Icarus, thanks to my general knowledge of Greek Mythology, even at the tender age of 9.

What I ended up with was one of the first password-enabled games ever! When you died, you were given Sacred Words that allowed you to continue from the beginning of the level you were on when you bit it. It was ingenious, and many, many games afterwards would use the password system. Some still do today, but not as many.

Basically, here's the scenario. Medusa has taken control of the world, and it's up to Pit, the little angel with the bow and arrows, to journey from the underworld to the clouds, finding the three treasures on the way, and take ol' Snakeylocks down. But this isn't easy, Medusa has sent quite the army of interesting critters your way. Snakes, floating eyeballs, the infamous Eggplant Wizard (who can and will turn you into an eggplant, no joke), and quite the cadre beyond.

But fear not, because you'll have help along the way. As you kill critters, you'll get hearts (little, half-big and big) that you can use as cash to buy items that will help you on your journey. There are also hot springs where you can refill your life bar, and items like the harp, which turns baddies into useful hammers for a short time.

Heh. Check out the reaper tweaking out. The music that plays when this happens is quite annoying, but hey. That's what you get for ticking the reaper off.

The game is split into four levels: The Underworld, The Mortal Plane, The Path Through the Clouds, and The Skyway to Medusa. Levels one and three are bottom-top scroll, while two and four are side scroll left to right. Level four, after you have the treasures from the previous levels, auto-scrolls while you use the Wings to fly. That's the fun level, let me tell you. And the battle with Medusa at the end? You'd think a crazy mythical witch with the power to turn folks to stone would be five kinds of hard to beat. But...

She's not. Sad, really. There's a blind spot in her defenses, a position on the screen (shown in this screenshot) where you can stash Pit, never get hit by anything she throws at you, and wail away on her giant eyeball. Terribly easy. But once you wax Medusa, you save the entire mythological universe, and all is well. Until you find out you start the game over, have to regain the treasures, and beat Medusa all over again. This time, though, the game is harder.

A classic indeed, I'm surprised it didn't become a franchise for Nintendo. Pit and his adventures would have easily translated through the evolving structures provided by their subsequent consoles (especially the 64 and GameCube). But alas, this is all we have, really, which is just plain sad. Still, this classic always merits replay, if only for the cheesy music. Guess what...

Kid Icarus - NES - Platform Shooter

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