Believe it or not, Kid Icarus: Uprising is still my (current) Game of the Generation. It's not really a critical darling, but there's so much I love about it that it's always a joy to revisit (despite my wrist's complaining). But my absolute favorite aspect of the game just might be its awesome cast. They're universally well-written and have terrific acting across the board, and really elevated the game into something special for me. So without further ado, here're my ten favorites!
"Do I LOOK like a strategy guide? In case you haven't noticed, this isn't the Ask Auntie Pandora Hour!”
The blobby NES version of Pandora always left an impression on me, so it was especially interesting to see how they’d update her for her latest appearance. As it turns out, very well—Pandora is one of many Uprising villains who bickers with our heroes throughout her lair, with the conversation ranging from reflexology to building race tracks without hands. She’s got an air of snootiness to her and a great voice, and her late-game reprise was a fun surprise.
"Well, I didn't expect to see an angel here. Hope this doesn't mean I've kicked the bucket."
Uprising’s resident human could’ve easily fallen victim to anime tough guy tropes, but he ends up being a solid ally in his featured chapters. His grizzled demeanor makes him a fun foil to the plucky Pit, and their differing philosophies on the roles of the gods lead to some interesting ethics-related discussions as well. The only thing keeping him from scoring higher is his relatively brief screen time.
"Actually, I go by Thanatos now. The extra H is for HAMAZING!"
You’ve never met a god of death quite like this—Thanatos was a minor minion back in the first game and got repurposed to become a scatterbrained joker. The fanciful Ed Wynn voice really sells the character, making for someone instantly striking and unique. A very bizarre, funny creature and one of my favorite Underworld generals.
The Tanatos mistranslation explanation was an inspired bit of lunacy.
“What better way to celebrate my return than with a festive little bloodbath? After all, I have been gone for 25 years.”
Medusa isn’t quite as over-the-top as a lot of Uprising’s cast, but like Magnus, that works to her advantage. She feels like a powerful foe that means business, but still has a sort of confident tone and delivery to her that keeps her dialogue engaging. For the series’ recurring villain, it would’ve been nice to have a little more of her in the game as she only has a couple satisfying moments of development (such as her uncertainty during a segment of Chapter 9), but what’s there is very good. She also has a great boss fight.
We’re getting into spoiler territory, so turn back now if you somehow haven’t played much of this game yet!
"What?! I can't hear you over all this awesome!"
Take the bluster and foolhardy nature (and voice) of Zapp Brannigan, mix it with a dash of Sterling Archer, set it on fire and you’ve got Pyrrhon. The sun god’s bravado steals the show during the Aurum chapters, delivering a lot of cocky one-liners to the slight annoyance of the rest of the cast. Since the Aurum don’t really have a leader or much personality, Pyrrhon is just what the doctor ordered during those chapters to inject some life into the proceedings. And more impressively, he manages to pull the wool over everyone's eyes (even Hades)...!
"When Palutena says jump, you jump. When she says fight, you fight. Sound like a very satisfying existence. For her, that is."
This character could’ve easily been a horrible failure, being the “cooler” version of Pit who, like, swears and uses a gun and murmurs about how no one understands him. But while Dark Pit isn’t initially the most likable character, they avoid going the obvious route by making him play a pretty integral role throughout the game and develop rather nicely. He starts off as Pit’s rival but gradually decides to help out the forces of good, despite his claims of only working for himself. Dark versions of characters are usually hit-or-miss for me, but Pittoo ends up working despite the odds.
'Shhh! Keep your voice down! People are listening! I'm definitely NOT doing this to help you, Pit.”
Ah, Viridi. The goddess of nature doesn’t hold humans above other living creatures, so whenever they start destroying the planet or other wildlife, she takes it upon herself to nuke them all. Yes, Viridi just might be Nintendo’s deadliest character, killing hundreds of people in her very first appearance (and implying the death of at least thousands more). Despite this, our heroes eventually learn to get along with her in some fashion, even if she stubbornly refuses to budge from her philosophies. Viridi ends up playing a surprisingly large role in the game, and her demeaning demeanor results in a lot of fun exchanges with Pit and Palutena. Surprising how likable a murderous brat ended up being...
“…I could use a coffee.”
Besides Pit himself, Palutena has the most lines in the game. That’s good news because there’s a lot to like with this character; she doesn’t just dryly tell you of your mission, but often takes advantage of Pit’s ever-trusting nature to constantly screw with his head for no real reason. And while some of her methods for the missions are surprisingly dangerous (to Pit, anyway)—monster pheromones, anyone?—Palutena is still supremely likable through her moments of vulnerability. Check out her heartfelt exchange with Pit in Chapter 4, or her reaction to Pit’s state at the end of Chapter 21. Thanks to her playful nature and strong character, Lady Palutena ensured that we’d never get bored with tutorial sections, and I’d say that’s worth donating a few thousand hearts to her…
The ruler of the underworld has all the makings of a great, memorable villain—he’s manipulative, destructive, and has no respect for the sanctity of life. Yet despite this, I never really had that “love to hate” feeling with Hades…because he’s so darn charismatic! He’s relentlessly cheerful, flamboyant and bombastic, grinning throughout almost all of his one-liners, and generally taunting our heroes playfully when he’s not plotting his next move. His voice and delivery are only matched by the hilarious, somewhat lackadaisical dialogue he gets. And apparently he was played a lot more ominous and straightforward in the Japanese version. I gotta salute the localization team on this one, Hades is constantly entertaining and a terrific main villain.
Just listen to this great monologue you hear after the credits (spoilers, obviously).
"Sorry to keep you waiting!"
Flying high above all others is the star of the show…the one and only Pit!
Remember how I said so much could’ve gone wrong with Pittoo? Take that and triple the risk for our main character—he’s a teenage hero that jokes around and talks throughout the entire game. If they screwed this up, it’d be a huge issue with Uprising. But fortunately, everything comes together with Pit, from his voice acting, to his dialogue, to his personality and characterization.
Pit’s sweetly naive when it comes to his devotion to Palutena, and that plus the “aww” factor of him wishing to fly by himself instantly make us sympathize to him. He’s also got a sense of humor, which the game is smart enough to point out is sometimes on the oddball/corny side. The angel provides moments of sadness, of jealousy, of great stupidity and amazing bravery amidst all the fun and singing, and he’s just flat-out endearing from beginning to end. Above all else, Pit is the face of Kid Icarus Uprising—fun, playful, and imminently likable. They nailed it with this character, and with all the odd interactions he has with the rest of the cast.
And, come on, he breaks into song out of nowhere on at least two separate occasions.
So the top four characters are all in, like, legendary Nintendo character territory for me. It was tough deciding an order between them, but I feel pretty comfortable with where they sit now. Above all else, I honestly think Uprising has the best cast of all of Nintendo’s games—development and personality-wise, of course. It’d be an awful shame if we never got to see this group again. Until then though, I’ll always enjoy playing through Uprising and revisiting these relentlessly chatty gods and angels.
Reading this made me remember how much I love the game's characters. They're all so perfectly executed and it's really shocking why Nintendo doesn't somehow have such presentation in more of their games. Granted there's probably not many that could take advantage of such vibrant and fully voiced characters... but imagine if Zelda got this type of care now. Just take whoever was responsible for everything in Kid Icarus: Uprising and put them behind a Zelda title to hire a voice cast and dialogue.
I remember seeing the first few reveals/trailers and thinking "nooooooo this is going to be Sonic Heroes all over again!" Luckily the character dialogue remains entertaining throughout, persistent and lighthearted without ever quite crossing the line into annoying.
Man, this game. So great. But so cumbersome. I've been meaning to replay it for over two years now, but I just can't bring myself to set up the "battle station" necessary for optimal control and 3D. Gotta use the stand for comfort. Gotta keep my head low and angled to keep the 3D going, which kinda goes against the comfort thing...
If I could just play it on a TV, with the Wii remote and nunchuk, everything would be grand.
Good list! I also enjoyed Pit and Palutena's banter. Seems the Goddess of Light likes to "toy" with her most reliable and steadfast servant, Pit. What with her joking about her "laurels of insight" or whatever. My favorite exchange between the two is after defeating the giant Reaper (and this isn't verbatim, since I can't remember the exact wording, but this is the gist):
Pit: "Y'know even though I almost died there, I'm really enjoying our time together, Lady Palutena!"
Palutena: "Oh you poor guy! You should really get out more often."
Pit seems unshakably devoted to her, and she's all just...like, WHATEVS.