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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine’s Day Special: Kid Icarus – A Love/Hate Relationship

System: Nintendo (NES)                                                                                                            
Release Date: 1987                                                                                                                      
Genre: Action/Platforming                                                                                                   
 Developer: Nintendo

            Well it’s Valentine’s Day once again, and what better way to celebrate the holiday of love, than Kid Icarus on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Kid Icarus is a bow and arrow wielding hero from ancient Greece, whose quest it is to seek out and kill Medusa, and rescue the Queen of Light from the sky temple. Since Cupid also wields a bow and arrow, you can see the connection to Valentine’s Day, and hence why Kid Icarus is a Valentine’s game……right? Sure….just go along with it.
            I never owned this game as a kid, but had friends who did, and that was where I was first introduced to Pit. Yes, Pit. That’s our hero’s name. I always just assumed that the character’s name was Kid Icarus, since that’s the name of the game, but nope, his name is Pit. I have a recollection of a story from Grecian times that involved a man named Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax, and feathers. Flying that close to the sun caused the wax to melt, and he plummeted to his death. That’s my version of the story anyway. Iron Maiden also had a song called ‘Flight of Icarus’ on their 1983 album Piece of Mind. Aside from the wings on Pit’s back, Kid Icarus has nothing to do with the story or the song.
            Action platforming games were the bread and butter of the Nintendo System and most games of the time were always in this format. Kid Icarus took the platforming concept a step further, and required the
player to navigate in a vertical direction, Most games were side-scrolling, and moved from left to right on the TV screen. Kid Icarus provided a unique change in the platforming world. Did it work? Yes. Even Metroid had vertical scrolling areas, but I guess that’s no big surprise since both games were made by the same people.
            So is Kid Icarus a classic game? No. It was not one of the original 18 games that were available when the Nintendo was first launched in North America. So by that definition it is not a classic game. It is however a classic game in the sense that the game itself spawned sequels. Pit was also featured in animated TV shows and he made cameo appearances in other games like F-1 Race, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
            With the backstory out of the way, let’s talk about the game itself. Kid Icarus is a game that truly captured the love/hate relationship with me. I hate the game with the fury of a thousand suns, but I also love playing it. It’s one of those games that you just can’t put down. It is also another game that I have never beaten. You are only given 1 life, to try and complete the quest. So in the event that you die, either from taking too many hits from an enemy, or by missing a jump and falling to your death, that’s it. Game over.  Sure the game has a password system that allows you to continue, but you have to reach certain checkpoints along the way in order to actually make use of it. Along the way you pick up various items that will assist you in your journey. Hearts are used as currency, and you can buy items from the shopkeeper. You can also
acquire a credit card at some point, and simply charge items to it. The items found in the shops include, water of life (health restore), mallets, a pencil, a flaming torch, angel’s feathers, and more. There are also Black Market shops that allow you to buy things like flame arrows, protective crystals, the sacred bow, health restoral items, and other things found in the regular shops. As I mentioned earlier, this is a game I have never beaten. I have never even made it past the first stage, so I don’t know what some of these items do, or what they are used for. I know the mallet is supposed to be used later in the game when you rescue a friend, but I have never been that far. I have however, played through enough of the game to know that at some point if you are not careful, you get turned in to an eggplant for whatever reason, and soon after that you die, since eggplants cannot fight back.
            Kid Icarus is a compelling enough game that I want to keep playing it. I want to see what comes next. I want to reach the checkpoints, and acquire new weapons and items. Unfortunately though the game’s difficulties eventually win out and I find myself longing to play something else for a change of pace. I know I will keep plugging away at it, and someday I will make it past the first stage, and eventually make it all the way to the sky palace, where I can defeat Medusa once and for all. Until that time however, I will continue to harbor a love/hate relationship from this classic game from my childhood.