Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
for Game Boy

Company: Nintendo
Year: 1991
Genre: Action
Theme: Misc. Fantasy / Myths and Mythology
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 1067
Review by LostInSpace (2023-06-03)

Whether Kid Icarus, released in 1986 for the NES, is actually a classic may be doubted. Although Nintendo marketed the game as such, the general reception was rather restrained. Therefore, they didn't sell enough and the successor Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was handheld-only. The release for the Game Boy, which in 1991 still in its early stage, happened exclusively in North America and Europe, despite the Japanese development team.

The hero is a little winged fellow with bow and arrow who seems to stem directly from Greek mythology and learns in the course of the game to use his wings for good. This guy called Pit is summoned by the goddess Paluta – ruler of Angel Land. She instructs him to find three secret treasures in order to use their power to fight the villain Orcos, who threatens her and her kingdom.

Pit has to ascend from the underworld, cross the upper world and climb the sky tower. Each world is protected by a boss within a castle who guards the treasure. Equipped with these, Pit faces the evil Orcus in a fourth world: the Sky Palace.

Climbing up the towers

In addition to the typical side-scrolling jump'n'run level of the upper world, Pit also moves through the vertically(!)-scrolling towers and finally in the castles. There, surprisingly, the individual rooms are displayed as flip screens. This has an effect on the overall direction of movement: first, Pit runs to the right, in the next section upwards, and in the castle, he moves through a small labyrinth of adjacent rooms. These dungeon-like structures and also their mapping with the items map, pen and torch are a clear role-playing influence.

Kid Icarus is very accessible due to its initial jump'n'run character, but it is also easy to misunderstand. Because quickly reaching the end of the level is not enough to be sufficiently equipped for the intermediate bosses in the castles with their 40 hitpoints each.

Instead, Pit's weapon, which is still weak at the beginning, must be upgraded step by step and additional armour must be acquired. This is done by collecting hearts left behind by destroyed enemies. Up to the maximum of 999 collected hearts can be exchanged for corresponding power-up items in the shop or on the black market. Since all upgrades are lost at the end of a world, heart-grinding is required in some places to restore a satisfying shooting power. Pit also finds rooms in which he receives training sessions from Zeus himself to increase his marksmanship. The recognisable character development here also hints at the role-playing reference again.

Confusingly, the life energy is not refilled with hearts, but with life water. This is provided in martini glasses, champagne tulips, bottles, barrels or even whole springs. The family-friendly instructions from Nintendo do not mention alcohol, of course, although the graphic metaphor in the land of the wine-loving Greeks actually speaks otherwise. *wink* Even the typical jump'n'run continue function has been made suitable for role-playing: Pit acquires bottles of water of life that automatically revive him as soon as his life energy is spent. Since eight of these bottles can be collected in a barrel, up to eight continues can be earned in this way.

After you have collected the three treasures – luckily you can save each time you receive one of them – Paluta, who appears in a cutscene, decides which of these three collected pieces of equipment Pit can actually use in the final battle. Depending on how many enemies have been killed, how many secret doors have been found and how many hearts have been captured, you can call yourself “Amazing Pit” or just use the Pegasus wings. The internal evaluation scheme used here is familiar from statistics-intense role-playing games.

The end credits-sequence shows that the little hero with his little wings actually withstand the sun and does not fall from the sky with melted wings like his Greek counterpart.

A triumphant end!

In the magazine “Nintendo Power”, Kid Icarus has been ranked 18th on the list of the best Game Boy games of all time. In fact, the game offers a whole range of features that make a good Game Boy game: smooth scrolling, appealing graphics, enemy variety, large boss sprites, nice in-game music, good sound FX, a knobbly hero and even a mythologically touched backstory. Much like Pit using a hammer to smash the rocks in various places to reach the treasures behind them, Nintendo has exhausted all possibilities to produce a real hit. The question is whether Nintendo has achieved the ingenious mixture with Kid Icarus: crossing the lightweight playability of a platformer with the engaging elements of a role-playing game.

All in all, playing inside the castles with some challenging bosses was the closest I got to an actual role-playing game feeling. The jump'n'run passages provide a nice variety and are attractive enough in terms of design to fit likely into the overall picture. The role-playing components give the traditional platform game-flow a strategical touch and a little more depth. The hero Pit can certainly compete with other Nintendo characters like Mario or Zelda. This i noticeable through his appearances in Super Smash Bros. and of course in the sequel Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS, released in 2012.

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