Kid Icarus (NES)

Kid Icarus Box Art

Kid Icarus

System: NES

Release Date: July 1987

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Platformer

You know what? Until I played through Kid Icarus this time, I never made it past Stage 1-1. I didn’t have the patience with the game to do it. Now, I’ve beaten Kid Icarus and I feel like I’ve accomplished something with my life. Now, it’s not an amazing game by any means, but it’s adequate to good. You are Pit and you need to escape the Underworld and stop Medusa, who took over the Palace in the Sky and captured Palutena.

In a monster lair, trying to survive.

You start off very weak as you jump upward to leave the Underworld beneath you. Snakes appear and you have to shoot them and collect the hearts they drop. Then all sorts of other enemies appear and you have to shoot them, as well. Be careful not to jump so high as to lose your safety platforms until you’re ready. You could end up having to start a level over if you’re not careful.

Black market prices are ridiculous.

Kid Icarus is not an easy game. You will get hit a lot and you will die. This is discouraging, but with a little persistence (or a rewind feature), you can pull it together and get through the beginning stages and start to power up. You need to earn points through killing enemies and collecting hearts in order to gain more stamina and strength. There are four stages, the Underworld, Overworld, Skyworld, and Palace in the Sky. At the end of each stage is a fortress.

Navigating the Overland.

Each stage also features doors that when you go through take you to one of several rooms. You could run into a store, which will offer you a few items for the price of some of your hearts. The black market has very expensive items. A training room that you have to survive in order to earn a special weapon. A treasure room where you destroy vases for hearts and mallets. An enemy lair where you kill flying enemies for hearts. A sacred chamber that will grant you a power up to your weapon as long as you’re strong enough to have earned it. The most helpful room are the hot springs, which allow you to heal up.

Trying to tame Twinbellows.

The fortresses bail on the linear stages and instead have you navigating a maze. Enemies respawn between rooms, allowing you to grind for points and hearts until your heart is content. You have to find your way to the Gatekeeper boss in order to move along. To help you get there, you can find a map and then buy a pencil and flaming torch to automatically mark your way. The fortresses are home to two very annoying screens. The first is the spike screen, where spikes come out in a set pattern that you have to run through. The second are the Eggplant Wizards. If they hit you with the eggplant projectiles, you turn into an eggplant and must make your way to a hospital screen to be cured.

Shooting Hewdraw.

None of your weapon upgrades work in the fortress, so you’ll feel underpowered. However, you can press the Select button to switch to your mallet and crack open the statues strewn about the screens. These will give you Centurian friends that will appear and help you against the Gatekeepers. The first Gatekeeper is Twinbellows, a devil dog with two heads who spits fire. I found getting behind him was the best tactic. Hewdraw is the Gatekeeper for the Overworld. He just jumps in arcs, so you avoid him and shoot him in the head for what feels like forever. The boss in Skyworld is Pandora, a floating head that turns into a shadow and two bubbles that fly randomly around the room. They’re pretty easy to avoid.

Shooting Pandora.

Defeating the gatekeepers is pretty easy and I didn’t find I got much help from the Centurions, who would basically come on screen and die. Each boss gives you one of the sacred treasures (Mirror Shield, Light Arrows, and Wings of Pegasus), which you use in stage four to become an unstoppable flying, killing machine. Your final challenge is Medusa, who has a giant eye that shoots a stone glare your way. Good thing you have the Mirror Shield, which negates the stare. Snakes also jump from Medusa’s head and act like Hewdraw. You have to fly up and down, shooting when you’re on the same level as the eye, avoiding the snakes and making sure your shield is up when getting hit by the glare.

Just after hitting a shot on Medusa.

The game seems kind of unbalanced in stage length. It took me just under an hour to get through the Underworld and then about an hour fifty minutes to get through the rest. It’s probably why I never got past the Underworld in my other attempts at playing Kid Icarus through the years. Stage four only takes about eight minutes to complete, which was odd compared to the rest of the game. You get one of four endings, based on your heart count, health meter, arrow power, and enchanted weapons carried. My arrow power wasn’t maxed, so I missed out on a kiss from the Goddess.

Saving the Goddess Palutena.

Graphics: 3.0

The graphics are better than most of the other games on the list so far. Sprites are still made of relatively few colors.

Sound: 3.5

The music and sound are memorable and mostly quite good.

Gameplay: 3.0

Gameplay is fine. Enemies follow patterns. The loop involves killing baddies and powering up. My only real complaint is Pit can move kind of slippery.

Difficulty: 3.0

I think the Underworld is very difficult, then the curve flattens as you power up.

Fun Factor: 3.0

I had more fun than I thought I would have after I got through the Underworld.

Overall Grade: 3.1

Kid Icarus gets a B. It’s a solid title that should have gotten a sequel on NES or SNES. Unfortunately, it only got one on the Gameboy.

Kid Icarus Video Review on YouTube