|My Generations Timeless Classics: Kid Icarus|
posted by B on 5/14/01
Captain N: The Game Master was the most successful Saturday morning infomercial of my childhood. It was a thirty minute plea for cereal-eating children of the world to ENJOY NINTENDO, but there was a catch - everything featured on the show was a warped, bizarro version of what you could enjoy on Nintendo. Game legend Mega Man was portrayed as a frog-voiced midget in green spandex. "Castlevania's" Simon Belmont was transformed from a leather-clad vampire hunter who fancied whipping off some zombie heads into a gay pilot (I guess) who looked like Egon from Real Ghostbusters that liked to look at himself in the mirror. "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!!" boxer King Hippo went from being a fat guy wearing a crown to being a fat BLUE guy with DARK BLUE NIPPLES wearing a crown. Even the show's main characters, Kevin and the Princess, never even appeared in a video game to begin with. So in this mess, what is the thing I remember most about Captain N?
For a lot of kids, Kid Icarus was the hardest to identify with on the show. Nintendo Power magazines were laced with Castlevania reviews, comics about the Legend of Zelda, Donky Kong condom ads, etc. So when the relatively underappreciated Kid Icarus (and minor villain the Eggplant Wizard) got a starting spot on the show, we were forced to go back into the Mom and pop pre-Blockbuster video stores looking for a copy of his game to rent. If you've never played the game, you might imagine that an angel with a severe speech problem would be better suited as a member of the "Power Team" from Video Power with the black guy from Arch Rivals and Max Force. But if you thought that, you'd be underestimating the power of a little boy in his underwear. Never do that. It cost Michael Jackson millions.
Kid Icarus is known to those who saw it in passing as the "companion game" to Metroid. Metroid, for people who were too busy having lives and girlfriends in the 80's, is one of the most celebrated and universally loved games in American history, both because it features a blonde chick in a robot suit blasting aliens and because the Japanese hate it. I'm not sure why the Japanese hate it so much...it could be because the robot suit doesn't look like a cat, or because Samus had blonde hair instead of fluorescent blue. Or because they like to eat their dogs. But that nation's got gameshows where the contestant has to do a sexy dance if they answer the question wrong, so they can all bow real low and lick my ass.
But enough of that. Kid Icarus and Metroid share more than the fact that they're both NES classics, the American Dream novels and classic musical arrangements of our bitter generation. One is set in space and one is set in a fantastic mythological realm...but they share a distinct musical and visual style. So similar, in fact, that the actual Metroid monsters appear as enemies in Kid Icarus. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Pit has escaped from the Underworld Prison, and now he's on a mission to defeat Medusa, rescue Palutena, and free Angel Land from everlasting destruction and tyranny! Here we see two big negative marks in our "does this make sense" game manual. First of all, the game (cleverly titled "Kid Icarus") features a protagonist named "Pit." Pit is neither a giant creature from space dedicated to protecting the life of his friend Timmy NOR Jennifer Aniston's husband. Pit is, in fact, the Captain of the Goddess Palutena's personal bodyguards. He was captured and imprisoned in the Underworld when Medusa's Army conquered Angel Land. Pit was forced to say "TTYL SWEETIE" to Palutena, who was taken captive. In Nintendo logic, "taken captive" just means she's forced to stand in a big empty room until you show up.
Second of all, Palutena magically sent Pit a bow and arrow which he used to escape and battle with for the game's more-difficult-than-they-sound four levels. It would've made a lot more sense to have Palutena "magically send a bow and arrow" into Medusa's eyes or something, but that would've made the game about 4 levels shorter than it already is. Honestly, it would've made more sense for Zeus or somebody to strike Medusa dead with a big fucking lightning bolt of DOOM and FEAR. But no Nintendo game is a classic unless it makes no sense. Paperboy, anyone?
Pit, after his shitty performance in "Seven Years in Tibet," sets out on a mission to save Palutena and free Angel Land from Medusa's control. Pit has wings but he cannot fly (except in the final level) and has little underwear on but cannot poop in them (no matter what button combination I push...damned technology). By defeating lots of enemies, Pit will gain strength and money, with the money of the land being "hearts." Howard Phillips or whoever at Nintendo keeps coming up with these game ideas have a sick fascination with people "collecting hearts." It's like that fucker from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is calling the shots. Yeah, I'd like to trade in this abandoned baby for some light arrows. Oh, and Scrooge McDuck would have a giant vault full of hearts. If the world was Kid Icarus Duck Tales would've been a SICK ASS cartoon.
But no matter how many hearts you collect, you're still stuck with a dinky bow and arrow for the first couple of levels, and THIS is where the fun begins. Early on in Kid Icarus you're greeted by the most heinous, most relentless, MOST ANNOYING video game villain in the history of electric power. It's tough to tell if he's more annoying than the Tonberrys in (just about every) Final Fantasy, but he takes the cake because of his ridiculous attack.
He is the Eggplant Wizard, a man (I guess) who has evidently studied the eggplant closely for many years to become a "wizard" of them. I worked at a grocery store for a while, so I could imagine the intense studying you'd have to do to become a vegetable related scholar. I saw this one chick online who was sort of a banana wizard, but that was because of an unnaturally sized hole in her body more-so than her knowledge. Eggplant Wizard is not content with merely draining your amount of hearts - he fwaks you upside your head and turns you into an eggplant. I can't think of a more overpowering ailment to suddenly contract when you're trying to rescue somebody. Except for maybe AIDS. I miss you Pedro :(
Do you think Pedro would've gotten pissed when Puck stuck his fingers in the peanut butter if he had been turned into an eggplant instead of having AIDS? Of course not, he would've just sat there and done nothing. And he would've been purple. I'm not really a fan of the show, but I wouldn't mess with a gay man's food, especially a food that has "nut" and "butt" in the name.
Other than the Eggplant Wizard, Pit's greatest enemy would have to be the Grim Reaper. This isn't the comical Grim Reaper who played for Wyld Stallyns that we all know and love - this is a Grim Reaper who, if he sees you, goes into a serious roid rage and starts calling little Grim Reapers to come kill you. The only way to kill him is to jump up from behind when he's not looking and shoot him in the back with an arrow. This is a much more effective way to kill the average person, so playing Kid Icarus saved me a lot of time. Once I tried lobbing a big onion into this kid's head. Fucking Mario Brothers 2. It wasn't until a few years later that NARC came out and I learned I could just trick them into walking over land mines.
My favorite enemy in the game...and one I know very well...is the God of Poverty, who hides in one of the treasure chests during the all-too-infrequent treasure room sequences. If you don't hit the pot he's hiding in, he'll turn into an item. If you hit the pot he's in, you don't get to keep any of the treasures. Kid Icarus players would be best fit to watch "The Goonies" before entering a treasure room - leave some for Willy. And don't stand there crying like a wuss in front of the God of Poverty, because your big brother and all his friends and standing right behind you and they think you're an asthmatic wiener.
So how're you supposed to defeat these enemies, by sitting down and talking to them? No, this isn't "Kid Guidance Counselor," problems in the Nintendo world are solved with swift violence. The game consists of four levels - The Underworld, the Overworld, the Sky World, and the Woooooorld of pure imagination.....
Sorry, Wonka's on TV.
But the thing you're trying to do in these levels (instead of just going to where Medusa is and shooting her in the back with a rocket launcher) is to collect the "three sacred treasures."
The Mirror Shield - Only be used on the final level, the shield will block Medusa's shots and the shots of other enemies, too. It's also useful when Pit is trying to put on eyeliner in the morning. Tee hee!
Light Arrows - It will shoot like a laser beam, annihilating most enemies. It keeps going clear across the screen, hitting all enemies in its path! It's the only weapon that can defeat Medusa. However, if Medusa was any NORMAL boss you'd be instantly stripped of all your best weapons. For some reason Kid Icarus's big "boss strategy" was to make you fight the hardest enemy without anything good. It's like getting to Ganon in Zelda and having to hit him on the head with one of those fishbowls you keep the fairies in.
The Pencil - The pencil is used to take tests. If you fill in the bubble COMPLETELY your answer will register...but if you go outside the lines you fail and don't get into Stanford. And then you parents think you didn't study. And then your teachers think you're a big dick and your girlfriend leaves you for a guy who drives a nicer car. And all the while you're left there thinking that if you'd just taken a few more FUCKING SECONDS to fill in the God damned circle this could've all been avoided. And I'm spent.
The pencil isn't the last treasure, the actual last treasure is the "Pegasus Wings," which allow you to fly. Now I don't wanna sound like a queer or nothing, but I think unicorns really kick ass.
Other great weapons include Centurion Statues, which, if broken, provide some seriously needed boss help in the way of having another stupid angel guy flying around shooting arrows that don't do any damage. If the Centurions were so great they wouldn't have gotten turned into statues in the first place. I remember the blue Centurion, what was his name, Ace, who got a jetpack with a missle on it. And the yellow guy turned into a wacky action bike.
But above all, the best weapon you're stripped of in battle are your fire arrows, represented by a big flaming F.
You can win this special weapon from Zeus in the training rooms. It adds a fireball to the end of Pit's arrow. The fireball will do a few extra hits of damage to the enemy, but overall, it isn't very useful. So the next time you hear somebody say "what in the flaming F are you doing to my rose garden" or "I don't give a flaming F what the Pope has to say" they're talking about Kid Icarus.
So, after four levels of being constantly stripped of your weapons and turned into an eggplant, you were expecting a rewarding final boss battle, right? One of those epic struggles where you have to run around and swing Bowser by the tail and fling him into landmines, right? Kid Icarus ups the ante with the most challenging final boss in recorded time, a boss so hard that children, almost fifteen years after the fact, are still hiding under their bed, now skeletons, FEARING it. A boss so hard that the skies around your Nintendo Entertainment System turn red and begin raining fire from heaven. A boss so hard that Ron Jeremy FINALLY puts on a pair of pants because he's overshadowed. Ladies and Gentlemen...MEDUSA!
A big eye in the corner. You just fly really far away and shoot it to death with your laser beam arrows. Now we know why Zeus sent a kid to get Palutena back - you'd have to have some severe mental damage and a family history of intense retardation to even get HIT on the last boss of Kid Icarus. You spend the first twenty years of your life trying to keep the Eggplant Wizard from turning you into asparagus or something and the big payoff is that you can just stand around and win the day.
So what DO you get for all your hard work? One of two things, depending on your...dare I say...performance.
Palutena gives you a helmet or turns you into a man. Presumably for some nasty ionic column slammin', but more reasonably so next time she gets kidnapped you won't spend eight decades trying to shoot the Grim Reaper in the back. You can just walk up and kick him in the nuts, so whenever he eventually carries you over the River Styx he'll be doing it without a testicle or two.
Hell is so cool, they named a river after Styx.
Domo Arigato, Kid Icarus...you're a great, underappreciated game. Too bad America's youth read Nintendo power and used your game cheats to beat you. Entering "ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS" on the password screen starts you on the last stage with invincibility. I wish my life had a password like that, so I could shoot that guy who drove off with my ex-girlfriend in a Dodge Ram in the back with an arrow. In fact, I'm gonna go do that now.
Final Words of Wisdom from Kid Icarus:
"Wemembur....Kevinicus might think I'm a big twaticus...but I'm noticus! I'm the star of one of the best games ever, and just because in this cartoonicus I'm jealous of Captain N's dogicus doesn't mean I've got bizarre sexuwal festishesicus. It just means that the whiters have bwain damagicus!"
At least he didn't have big blue nipples. Like the Olsen Twins. That would've made Saturday morning really messed up - a show about a duck with a vault full of bloody hearts and an angel kid with creepy body mutations.
So next time you see Captain N, turn it off.