Kid Icarus Uprising is the third full game in the Kid Icarus series with a story taking place 25 years after the events of the first game--as well as being released 25 years later.
The story involves the recent uprising of Underworld forces and the return of Medusa, who, as it happens, has waited 25 years for this return. The goddess Palutena has called upon her greatest servant, Pit, to jump into the fray to defend Palutena's honor and to take out all the Underworld forces. Pit flies over a variety of landscapes and environments and into the fray through intense ground missions. Palutena has only enough power to grant Pit the power of flight for five minutes, during which time, Pit must reach his next destination. Afterwards, Pit takes the fight to the ground. The story is told through fully voice-acted dialog during gameplay, with character art appearing on the lower screen.
The basic gameplay is a shooter similar to Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, where players move Pit with the Circle Pad and target enemies with the touch-screen. Firing shots is performed with the L button. There is a lefty mode handled with the Circle Pad Pro, but no dual-analog/Circle Pad option. Each stage is broken up into two segments: An aerial segment with Pit flying to his destination, and a ground segment with Pit venturing towards a goal (typically with a boss) on foot. Basic controls are largely the same for both segments with some exceptions. On foot, players can swing the camera around by swiping the touch-screen, as well as access a variety of Powers. During aerial segments, the camera is automatic and there are two Special Attack icons which are filled during combat.
Players have numerous Powers that can be obtained and used. Powers are organized in a grid, and each power has a geometric shape associated with it. More powerful abilities have larger or more elaborate shapes, and there is an element of Tetris to organizing the Powers in the grid. These Powers run the gamut of inflicting poison damage, recovering health, jumping, effect recovery, alternate weapons (lasers, mines, etc), and several others. Powers are typically discovered through regular gameplay and hidden among the ground-based segments of the stages. Higher difficulties may yield higher quality Powers. Players may save up to four different sets of Powers for solo gameplay.
Like Powers, weapons are also numerous and featured in a wide variety of categories. There are nine types of weapons: Staffs, Bows, Clubs, Orbitars, Blades, Claws, Palms, Cannons, and Arms. While each weapon has both shooting and melee abilities, different weapon types yield different strengths and weaknesses to each ability. Cannons and Orbitars, for instance, are great at long-range combat. Clubs, Claws, and Arms on the other hand are superior melee weapons often with short distances in their shooting range, but yielding immense power in close-quarters. Beyond the standard traits of the styles of weapons, each weapon also has a star rating evaluating their melee and ranged strengths, as well as an overall value giving an idea to how much overall power they yield. There may be numerous types of a single weapon, and beyond category, melee rating, ranged rating, and value--weapons may also carry a variety of unique perks. These perks range from raising total health, to minimizing the effects of certain attacks, to increasing speed. Weapons are earned through online play, purchased, or discovered through regular gameplay hidden in chests or secret areas. And finally, should a player be less than pleased with the weapons they'd obtained, there is always the option to fuse weapons together to create entirely new ones.
The main currency of the game is hearts, which are generally used for purchasing weapons. Hearts are factored into the unique difficulty, referred to as "Intensity," settings of the game, which can be set from 0.0 to 9.9. Players may "bet hearts" prior to starting a stage by setting higher Intensity settings. Completing the stage without failing means players earn bonus hearts at the end. However, each time a player dies, the Intensity drops ten levels, so a level set to 6.6 will drop to 5.6. Higher Intensity settings yield more than just bonus hearts, however. Stages routinely feature closed-off sections with numbers over the gates indicating that they can only be entered with an Intensity setting at least as high as noted. Beyond that, treasures are likely to contain vastly more powerful weapons than lower Intensity levels.
Kid Icarus Uprising has a wealth of unlockables and bonus features including an Idol gallery (essentially a character and item art gallery), a practice mode, a music gallery, a mode compatible with AR Cards released for the game (it ships with six randomly selected cards), and over 200 challenges, or achievements, set up in a manner similar to the challenges in Super Smash Bros Brawl. Up to three AR Cards may be viewed at one time, and if set facing each other, the characters may interact or battle each other. The game also ships with a free stand for the 3DS system to aid in playing games of this nature. The game is also compatible with Street Pass and Spot Pass for trading items such as weapons and gems.
Lastly, Uprising features multiplayer matches for up to six players in both local and online matches, with friends or random players. The multiplayer matches are generally deathmatch-style affairs in either a free-for-all format or team, 3-versus-3 matches. Similar to players saving sets of Powers for solo play, they may also save different sets of weapons and Powers for quick access for multiplayer games. This allows players to set up equipment with various focuses tailored to their gameplay style, or styles, for multiplayer matches.