Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story

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North American box art.

Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story is a platform action game developed by Nintendo R&D1 and Tose and published by Nintendo originally for the Famicom Disk System on 1986-12-19, and ported to the NES in July, 1987. In the game, you play the angel Pit who has been banished to the Underworld by Medusa who has also kidnapped Palutena, the Princess of Angel Land. You must guide Pit from the underworld, the overworld, skyworld, and finally back into the Palace In the Sky, Angel Land.

Kid Icarus is the "sister game" of Metroid. They were both developed by Nintendo R&D1 and shared several staff members during their creation. They use a similar game engines, and the were both released in the USA in gray "Password Pak" boxes. Kid Icarus even has elements of a Metroidvania in the fortress levels and a Metroid-like enemy in some of the levels. However, where Metroid became a fairly popular series with over a dozen titles, Kid Icarus remained obscure with only three games. Although I don't care much for the game, I would have loved to see a Game Boy Advance remake in the same vein as Metroid: Zero Mission. This is one of those games that I always wanted to be good, and felt could have been good with some significant changes. However, despite my desire to like the game, I cannot.

I first saw Kid Icarus in The Official Nintendo Player's Guide, and thought the game looked really interesting. I remember my sister telling me that one of the families she babysat for had the game and I offered to help her babysit for them (but she saw through my clever ruse and refused). Years later, I found out the my local flea market included a trade in system where I could get rid of unwanted games for new games, and I swapped two games (I don't remember which) for Kid Icarus. At first I was very excited to finally play this game, but, after getting a game over repeatedly on the first level, I quickly became disenfranchised. Luckily, a friend of mine found the ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS password, which starts you halfway through the game with invincibility. This allowed us to get a bit more life out of the game.

Status

I own this game on the NES, but have never beaten it.

Review

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3 3 4 6 3 38%

Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • I really like Pit's character design.
  • Wrapping the character around the screen in vertically-scrolling levels is a good design and adds a lot of variation to the map. I also like how the developers used tile priority to make it look like Pit walks behind certain background tiles. Not enough games used this feature.
  • The labyrinthine fortresses are a nice change of pace from the scrolling stages. And it's a relief to not have to worry about falling death for awhile.
  • The Reaper and his Reapettes, are creative enemies.
  • Although they're really annoying, I kind of like the Eggplant Wizard. It's a very original design and the obnoxious eggplant curse immediately increases the tension for any room they're in. I just wish they gave you more time to react before throwing their eggplants after you enter.
  • Hirokazu Tanaka's soundtrack is enjoyable and highly fitting to the game.
  • I like that you can get a credit card to buy items on credit, and the anachronism fits the quirkiness of the game.
  • Being able to rescue centurions who will help you during the boss fight was a great idea.
  • The manual is really complete and fully illustrated.
  • The in-game typeface is pretty nice and unique.

Bad

  • Although there are a few decent tiles, most of the backgrounds are dull to look at. And, looking at the game's graphic memory, there is a fair amount of wasted space that could have been used for more complex graphics.
  • Sprite collision is non-intuitive. A collision won't occur on the top 8 pixels of Pit's head. This often causes frustration when trying to jump up to an item because you can clearly see Pit's head intersecting the item, but you still won't get it. Mercifully, the same collision applies to enemies, although they're often falling down on you, so it's not as noticeable. Pit will collide with the top 8 pixels of his head when hitting solid background tiles though.
  • Not being able to use the three treasures until world 4 makes you feel cheated when you successfully complete a world. And the removal of your power-ups for the fortresses is annoying as well.
  • Monster rooms seem to exist solely to let you grind out hearts faster, which is boring. If shops were just cheaper, this wouldn't be necessary, and then the rooms could be used for something more interesting.
  • Rather than having an empty room when you haven't earned enough points to impress a god, they could have the god say they're not impressed, and give a clue for what can be done to impress them. This was a missed opportunity. And, for some reason, the designers made the first room a god room, which is empty unless you're on a second play-through, a bad choice.
  • The angel feather power-up may save your life, but it's so difficult to control Pit's movement when it's in use, you will frequently fall to your death again after using it.
  • The interface is a bit dull. Endurance is a simple bar graph, the menu is blocky and dull, boss hit points are displayed as numbers, etc. While nothing super fancy was possible at the time, I would have preferred to see something more like the menu system of The Legend of Zelda.
  • The checkbook, torch, pencil system of mapping seems like a good idea at first, but it's too expensive, and, by the time you have all three items, you've already traversed most of the map. And, since the in-game mapping system doesn't show you doors, one-way corridors, or room types, it's pretty much pointless.
  • Stores only let you purchase one item, even if you can afford multiple items. Not exactly a smart business model! This isn't a problem in fortresses where you can simply come back, but in the rest of the game, you're stuck with only one chance. This isn't a huge problem since you're strapped for cash for most of the game.
  • Having multiple endings based on how well you performed is a nice addition, although, in order to get the best ending, it isn't a matter of how well you played or how quickly you beat the game, but rather how long you spent grinding. This kind of makes the new game plus less of a bonus feature and more mandatory.
  • Despite the game being titled "Kid Icarus," the game's protagonist is named "Pit." What is the deal?
  • The password system doesn't use a very strict error correction system, so a lot of nonsense passwords yield effective results.
  • Although I like the idea of world 4 changing mechanics into a scrolling shooter to keep things fresh, it was poorly executed. It's not just a matter of surviving, you have to kill 50 enemies before reaching the end of the map or you'll be cycled to do the whole thing again. However, unless you've got a lot of arrow strength, the enemies will be too powerful to kill before they leave the screen, so it will take several cycles before you can reach the boss.

Ugly

  • The game is far too difficult, even for games of the time. There are a lot of reasons which cause this, several of which could and should have been addressed during development.
  • This is not the type of game to only give the player one life. Although you do get unlimited continues, having to replay the entire level is extremely harsh. Either multiple lives, or a checkpoint system would have made the game more tolerable.
  • Falling to your death is far too easy, especially on the vertically scrolling levels. This could have been solved by making angel feathers more plentiful or adding reverse scrolling to the game engine like how it is in Metroid.
  • The controls are pretty bad. Pit has a non-intuitive collision with platforms and walls often resulting in missed jumps, he's slow to respond to mid-air direction changes, and hitting his head stops his forward momentum. In a game where a single missed jump often results in game over, this is unacceptable.
  • It's not always obvious which platforms will allow you to jump through them and which ones won't, a problem which leads to frequent deaths. If you try to jump through a platform which you didn't realize was solid, you will lose your momentum and possibly fall to your death. If you duck on a platform you assumed was solid, you will fall through it, possibly to your death. It's common for platformer games to have both solid and jump-through platforms, but the designers usually make an clear visual distinction between the two for this very reason.
  • There is an overall sameness to the game. Worlds 1 and 3 are very similar and all of the fortresses are similar reusing many of the same rooms and enemies. There just isn't enough variety in the game.
  • Most of the enemies are poorly designed, both in their look and movement. Many of them appear to be strange blobs, and few have anything to do with Greek mythology which has a wealth of ideas to choose from. Also, far too many of the enemy movement patterns are reused with sprite or palette swaps. A few are expected for a game of this era, and even somewhat comforting, but, this game goes overboard. The Specknose movement is used in seven different enemies! Several of the enemies aren't even animated (Rokman, Minos, Totem, etc.)
  • The invincible item-stealing Pluton enemies are extremely annoying, although, having to re-buy your stolen items on the black market was a clever idea.
  • Medusa, the final boss, is incredibly easy. Even if you don't use either of the two safe places where you can shoot her and never take damage, it's pretty easy to time your shots to deflect her fire while still hitting her.

Media

Box Art

Documentation

Maps

Videos

Titles

Language Native Transliteration Translation
English Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story
Japanese 光神話 パルテナの鏡 Hikari Shinwa: Parutena no Kagami Light Mythology: Palutena's Mirror

Links

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