Nintendo Defends the Indefensible, the Kid Icarus: Uprising Control Scheme
As someone who recently and happily received a brand new Cobalt Black Nintendo 3DS for his birthday along with Kid Icarus: Uprising, coupled with my longstanding frustration with Nintendo, seeing Kid Icarus creator Masahiro Sakurai come out and defend the game’s awful, awful control scheme couldn’t be more frustrating. I’ve been wanting to write about my experience with the controls for a while, and seeing Sakurai defend what is one of the worst control schemes of all time certainly provides a good opening.
The default control scheme of the game requires the player to control Pit (for the unaware, the main character of the Kid Icarus franchise is not actually called “Kid Icarus”) via a combination of the circle pad and left shoulder button in the left hand, and the stylus — used for aiming — in the right hand. It’s quite similar to the old Metroid Prime Hunters controls, which basically sullied an otherwise very good game. So, what does Nintendo do when they have a strikingly similar control scheme on their hands? Not learn from past mistakes and work on a better control scheme, but include a cumbersome plastic stand (seen in the picture above) in a vain attempt to make the horrible controls bearable.
To be fair, from my experience of about 10 or so hours of playtime (so far), the stand does make the controls better, but when you start as “the worst control scheme of all time by a wide margin” and you’re improved to “still the worst control scheme of all time by a slightly smaller wide margin,” something is inherently wrong with the way the player must interact with your game. Add the gimmick of the Nintendo 3DS, the whole 3D thing, and you’re now locked into an immovable position playing the game — your head must be at a precise angle and cannot wander around on its X-axis, and then your hands are stuck in the terrible control scheme’s postions. My hands and neck tend to cramp pretty quickly.
Though the stand certainly helps keep your hands from tiring out as quickly as they would without the stand, it presents it own set of problems. The most egregious is that the stand is a light piece of plastic, so any amount of pressure you put on the 3DS during play will move the stand around. I find myself having to prop up the stand — an object with the sole purpose of propping — against something so it doesn’t slide around, usually a keyboard, as the stand requires that you play on some kind of smooth surface, like a desk.
So, if you have been following Nintendo’s descent into madness throughout the years, you won’t exactly be surprised that they’d defend rendering a game almost unplayable due to poor decisions on their part. The game supports the Circle Pad Pro, but only to provide a left-handed version of the awful control scheme — not a dual analog stick option. In an interview over on IGN, Sakurai claims that a dual analog stick option was “technically impossible,” citing how “close to the limit” the team pushed the 3DS with the rest of the game. People may remember the last time Nintendo said something was impossible — putting a backlight in the Game Boy Advance — something that some fella decided to do and then followed it up with a do-it-yourself kit. Of course, the next official iteration of the Game Boy Advance, the SP, quickly followed the Afterburner and, wouldn’t you know it, contained the light.
Sakurai also noted that allowing different control schemes would’ve made multiplayer unbalanced — something that’s a pretty ridiculous statement when you remember the game requires left-handed players to buy a separate attachment. Then, in Nintendo fashion, Sakurai suggests the players are playing the game incorrectly if the controls make their hands tired or cramped, and says they are pressing too hard with the stylus. As someone who already has to press the stylus as lightly as he possible can or else the plastic stand moves around his desk with wild abandon, I’d like to note that if I press the stylus to the screen any lighter, I won’t be pressing it to the screen at all.
The most frustrating thing of all? The game, though cheesy like a Disney ride in its story exposition and character dialogue, is actually fun. Sure, the goddess makes a “botched laser eye surgery” joke and the game takes place in what seems to be a medieval land that doesn’t have that sort of technology, and Pit is obsessed with food as if this were a running gag from a bad ’90s sitcom, and the only way to make Pit more powerful is via a largely randomized weapon fusion system that requires an endless amount of grinding for fusion fodder, but the game is actually fun. I find myself wanting to play it whenever I have some downtime, but then I’ll boot it up, battle the controls more than I battle the game’s enemies, fiddle with the seemingly random quality of the 3D effect via the 3D slider, and give up after only a few levels.
A mouse would be the best control option here, but since that is (obviously through no fault of the 3DS’ own and not the point of the system at all) off the table, at least giving players the option for a dual analog stick control scheme if they pony up for the Circle Pad Pro would be a start. If taking the time to come up with a worthwhile control scheme was too difficult, Sakurai, say you and your team did your best, not that the players are playing it wrong. Especially when we already had this same exact problem six years ago.