Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus - Nintendo, 1986

Poor Kid Icarus. While many of his fellow early 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros, Metroid, and Legend of Zelda have spawned numerous sequels and fan followings, the little angel has only two games to tell his story. Pit has been largely forgotten, but that's about to change with the advent of the Wii system (see update at bottom of article). For now, though, let's take a look at this first-party, Greek Mythology-inspired game that first taught kids how to use credit cards and to avoid eggplants at all costs.

An early platform-style game, Kid Icarus follows the adventures of Pit, a heroic angel warrior who must rescue his queen, Palutena, from the evil Medusa. He also has to recover the Three Sacred Treasures from three boss minions before he even has a shot at killing the one-eyed, snake-haired hag.


KI combined Metroid-style gameplay with Zelda-like items.You begin the game equipped with a bow and a limitless supply of arrows. These arrows aren't too powerful, but enough of them will defeat most enemies. You can upgrade and supplement your arsenal by buying or winning additional weapons. There are also items you can collect to help your quest, like Potions and Angel Wings. And of course, the Three Sacred Treasures are extremely powerful weapons... too bad you can't use them until the last level.

The game is set up like so: you travel through vertical or horizontal scrolling levels filled with enemy creatures. The screen only scrolls in one direction, so if you fall off the edge of a platform, you will die. This is especially vexing because performing a ducking motion (pressing Down) will cause Pit to drop down from the platform he's standing on. Along your journey, you'll do battle with winged eyes, bug-like critters, harpies, even Grim Reapers and their sidekicks, "Reapettes". When you defeat enemies, they'll leave behind hearts: small (1), half (5), or full (10). There is also a magical harp that turns all small enemies on screen into hammers for a limited period of time (think P switches in SMB3). As you go, you'll find randomly placed doors. Inside these doors you may find an empty room, a shop, a Black Market, a pot-smashing game, or a skill test.

In the skill test, a Sadistic Old Man (who bears a striking resemblance to the Old Men of the first Zelda game) watches as you are pummelled with large, falling tiles. If you survive, you are awarded your choice of a mystical item (longer-range arrows, protective crystals, or Fire Arrows). If you run from the room before the time is up, Sadistic Old Man calls out, "You weakling!" and you get nothing. Even if you get the item you desire, you can only use it if your life energy is high enough. On top of that, certain enemies can steal these special weapons and put them up for sale on the Black Market!

In the pot-smashing game, eight pots are laid out on platforms. It costs five hearts to break a pot (hearts are used as currency in this world), and the pots contain hammers, hearts, or the dreaded Reaper. If you can break seven pots in a row without the Reaper appearing, you get a quest item. This item might be a Potion (fills your life meter once it's depleted), Angel Feathers (Pit can't fly until the last level when he equips the Wings of Pegasus, so these let our hero survive if he falls off the bottom of the screen), a Barrel (to hold more than one potion), or the treasured Credit Card.

Yep, this game gave kids of the 80's their first taste of credit cards and their downfalls. Suppose your Fire Arrows were stolen by a thieving enemy called Pluton (who carries a bulging sack over his shoulder). Upon entering a Black Market, you see your beloved Arrows on display for 500-600 hearts, but you're flat broke. The "kind" shopkeep will let you buy them back on credit, but here's the catch - every heart you earn after this goes to repay your debt. You only start getting hearts again after that 500-600 debt is gone. That means you can't play the pot-smashing game either. At least there's no "Angel Land Collection Agency".

Speaking of shopkeepers, there is supposedly a way to haggle with the merchants in this game. A hint book explains to press the A and B buttons simultaneously, but they left out one step - you must perform this action on the second controller only. Haggling will yield one of two results: either the merchant will generously lower his prices, or he'll get angry and raise them even higher! If you're inside a dungeon shop, you can leave and re-enter the room to get the original prices back. However, many overworld doors can be entered only once. Be careful before trying this trick.

The dungeons had a different setup from the 'overworld' areas. Much like the original Zelda, the player must travel through a maze of single-screen rooms to reach the boss. Pit needed to have a Map, Pencil, and Torch (which can be purchased from shopkeepers) to chart his progress on an in-game map screen, although it's recommended that you keep a paper map of your own to remember where stores and hospitals are.

Unlike many games, a hospital will not replenish your life energy (you'll need to take a dip in the hot spring for that - look for a pillar-flanked area filled with what looks like sand-colored lava). Instead, Hospitals are the only way to survive an encounter with the most dangerous enemy in all of Kid Icarus: the dreaded Eggplant Wizard! Fans of Captain N: The Game Master (a video game-themed cartoon and comic series of the early 90's) will remember this guy - a purple-skinned, one-eyed freak with big lips who throws eggplants at you. Much like the Hammer Bros. of Super Mario Bros notoriety, Eggplant Wizards usually came in sets of two, which means that the veggie projectiles can be quite difficult to avoid. Eggy is a lot more of a threat in the games than he ever was on the Captain N cartoon, though - one touch of his cursed vegetable projectile will turn YOU into an Eggplant with feet! As an Eggplant, you can only run, jump, and climb ladders - you cannot fire any weapons.

Poor Pit... doomed to a life of ugly purple unpopularily, your only recourse is to find a Hospital quickly. The Hospital nurse will gladly remove the Eggplant Curse, and you can be on your way. But beware: even if you kill the Wizards, they'll be back the next time you enter their chamber. It's likely that you'll return to the Hospital several times in the same dungeon.

Kid Icarus featured a nifty way to defeat dungeon bosses easier. Remember those hammers you could buy or find? Throughout each dungeon you'll encounter angel statues. If you swing a hammer at one of these statues, an angel warrior ("Centurion", according to the instruction manual) will be released and fly away. When you encounter the final enemy, all angels you've liberated will help you attack in groups of three. They'll fire arrows exactly when you do, so you'll release a volley of four arrows for every shot you fire. Of course, if these newly-freed buddies take a single hit, they instantly die. They also don't carry over to the next dungeon, even if they're alive at the end of the battle. Good help is so hard to find.

There are rumors of multiple game endings, but I've only seen one - Pit gets what looks like a helmet on his head and then the credits roll. I think you can get the other endings if you play through the game more than once in a row - after you win the game, you start back at the first level once again. I think better endings might result if you complete all of the Sadistic Old Man training rooms, get all the weapons, etc.

There are a couple of interesting passwords for this game that will give you an arsenal of weapons and put you past the first world. These are quite simple to remember:

DANGER !!!!!!


Kid Icarus: Further Appearances

Pit was a minor celebrity in his day. He was featured in both the Captain N: The Game Master cartoon and comics (many of the TV show characters like Mega Man and Simon Belmont never made it into the short-lived Valiant comic series). In Captain N worlds, Pit was usually referred to as "Kid" (his name was never "Pit"), and had the annoying habit of ending words with "-icus". He was the perpetual sidekick, worrying about his lack of height and even becoming jealous of Captain N's dog. Pit also seemed to conveniently have an arrow for every occasion (although, in the game, his weapon choice was much more limited). The Eggplant Wizard appears as one of Mother Brain's incompetent minions, lacking his fearsomeness from the game. I also think that Captain N's love interest, Princess Lana, might have been loosely based on Palutena, the queen of the Light World. She seems to have connections to "Mount Icarus", and Kid (I mean, Pit) seemed to be her personal bodyguard. I can't be too sure, though, since KI's graphics weren't that great and a lot of liberties were taken with character designs in Captain N (Mega Man was green, for crying out loud).

There was a sequel to Kid Icarus for the original (black and white) Game Boy called "Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters". I've never played it, though, and the graphics are much less impressive than the original NES title.

Pit has several cameo appearances that I know of. The first is in the original NES Tetris. If you complete Level 9 on B-Game, you will see various 8-bit NES stars playing musical instruments outside the Kremlin. The higher your "Height" level, the more characters that will appear. Pit is the very first character you'll see, playing a violin. Pit is also immortalized as a collectible statue in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Oboe Shoes writes that there is a Kid Icarus stage in Wario Ware: Twisted!

Kid Icarus cameo

The future for Kid Icarus

Super Smash Bros. Brawl Pit

In the E3 trailer for the new Super Smash Bros. Brawl (for the Nintendo Wii), old-school gaming fans were delighted to see Pit return as a playable character for the first time in 20 years. Our angel hero has been given an entirely new look that reminds me of Final Fantasy characters - he actually looks respectable now. His divine bow and arrows have returned, and he also appears to be equipped with a set of small, glowing knives. He is now a full-sized hero (he was always depicted as about two feet tall on Captain N, with an oversized head), and he's gained some intriguing glowing bands around his left arm. He looks like a unique new fighter in the Smash Bros. universe - and one of the few 8-bit, first-party characters who hasn't yet made a next-generation appearance. There are rumors about a next-gen KI game as well. It's about time this Angel Land hero got some recognition!

Kid Icarus
NES cartridge (US)

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