Released in late 1986 alongside Metroid, the Greek mythology-inspired Kid Icarus failed to find the same success as its science fiction-themed sibling, despite sharing the same game engine, password save feature, and key staff that made Metroid a gaming legend.
This is a shame, as the game is an early take on the action-RPG genre, featuring a rudimentary experience system, collectible tools, and maze-like dungeons. The game’s finale even manages to surprise by throwing the player into a dramatic side-scrolling shooter battle with the villainous gorgon Medusa as the final setpiece.
On the other hand, the semi-obscurity of the title is understandable given its eccentricities. For instance, the tendency for the hero, Pit, to fall through certain platforms to his death when you make him duck is sometimes sadistically paired with enemies who shoot projectiles you seem to be able to avoid only by ducking. Also, the game’s difficulty is severely front-loaded, as Pit begins the game weak, with a tiny life bar and a pathetically short range arrow attack, lacking all of the tools and abilities that allow the player to compensate for mistakes in later levels.
Despite these design problems, Kid Icarus is still quite playable even today. While the game definitely requires the mastery and patience for repetition most games of the 8-bit era demanded, the player is rewarded with well-designed platforming levels, unique gameplay mechanics, and a catchy, if occasionally shrill, soundtrack by long-time fan-favorite composer Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka.
If Nintendo’s recent reveal of 3DS launch title Kid Icarus: Uprising has made you curious, you would be well-served to dig up a little ancient history with the original game.