Kid Icarus

A game by Nintendo for NES, originally released in 1987.

In 1986 a pair of games was under development at Nintendo R&D1. Both games were produced by Gunpei Yokoi, and each shared the same game engine and featured music composition by Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka. One of these games went on to become a multi-million selling cornerstone franchise for Nintendo, spread across generations of consoles with numerous sequels and spinoffs. The other became… little more than a footnote, without a new game the series for almost 20 years.

Those 2 games were Metroid and Kid Icarus. Obviously, Metroid is the game that went on to become a lucrative series. Kid Icarus, on the other hand, had but a single new entry during the 2D gaming era, a GameBoy title called Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (which was also developed by Nintendo R&D1, and shares the same game engine as the GameBoy title Metroid II: Return of Samus). Beyond that, Kid Icarus is most well known for Pit's appearance in the Smash Bros. games, and the occasional re-release of the original game on newer formats.

While Metroid and Kid Icarus are close cousins, they are very different in terms of gameplay. Where Metroid is dark and atmospheric with a foundation in science fiction, Kid Icarus is more upbeat and cartoony and is based in Earth’s mythology. Even the Kid Icarus character sprite is given a permanent smile. Interestingly, Nintendo R&D1 chose to put a Metroid creature in the Kid Icarus game, except in Kid Icarus it’s called a Komayto. The relationship is more than a cosmetic one though, as the instruction manual shows the description of the Komayto as “A mysterious floating creature. Nobody knows where it came from. One theory has it that it came from a planet other than the Earth. It’s a nasty jellyfish monster.”

Komayto Metroid

While Nintendo R&D1 developed the original game in 1986, it was ported over to the U.S. NES and released by Nintendo of America in 1987. The major differences come from the format. The original game was released for the Famicom Disk System, whose disks had a higher capacity than the standard NES cartridge. Therefore, when the game made its way to U.S. shores, the music and sound had been changed due to the limited storage capacity, and the ability for the player to save his game had been replaced with a password system. Although the U.S. instruction manual still mentions being able to save your name on a high score table, this feature was removed for the NES version.

Famicom Disk System

Nintendo Entertainment System

In Kid Icarus, players control a young angel named Pit, who is armed with a magical bow and arrow, as he quests to defeat Medusa and rescue Palutena.

From the instruction manual:

The Tale of Kid Icarus

Let us go back to the distant past to an age when the Gods and Man lived together in harmony. There was once a kingdom called “Angel Land.” This kingdom was ruled by two different beautiful goddesses, Palutena who administered light and Medusa who ruled darkness. Palutena lived in the Palace in the Sky and administered light so that man could live in happiness. And bathed in this light man grew food and lived in peace.

However, Medusa hated mankind. She took great pleasure in drying up the crops that man took great pains to grow and in turning people to statues. In her anger Palutena changed Medusa into an ugly monster and banished her to the deep, dark Underworld.

For being changed into this ugly monster and forced to live in the Underworld, Medusa promised to take over the Palace in the Sky where Palutena lived. So great was Medusa’s anger that she joined forces with the monsters and evil spirits of the Underworld and Medusa’s army soon began to surpass Palutena’s army in strength. Soon a war between Palutena and Medusa began. Medusa led a surprise attack which could barely fend off the attack.

Palutena’s army suffered major losses and was heavily defeated in the final battle. What’s more, Medusa’s army took the Three Sacred Treasures – the Mirror Shield, the Arrow of Light, and the Wings of Pegasus – away from them. Almost all of the warriors in Palutena’s army were turned into stone statues and Palutena herself was imprisoned deep in the Palace in the Sky.

The peaceful realm of Angel Land came to be inhabited by foul and terrible monsters and was turned into a land of darkness ruled by the wicked Medusa. Locked in the depths of the Palace in the Sky, Palutena’s strength was drained to its last. As a last resort, she sought the help of the angel youth Pit who was being held prisoner locked in a deep dungeon in the Underworld. Pit was a valiant warrior who used to be in charge of Palutena’s personal bodyguards.

Armed with a bow and arrow brought to him through Palutena’s magical strength, Pit attempted an escape from the Underworld. The guard at this time was low in number as Medusa’s army had advanced to the Palace in the Sky. Pit succeeded in his escape and set out in his long adventure to rescue Palutena. Yet to defeat Medusa he had to get the Three Sacred Treasures.

Will Pit be able to restore Palutena’s late and return it to Angel Land? Only you can answer that question.



Kid Icarus could be described with a number of genre terms, and has elements of platformers, shooters, shmups, and RPG’s. Nintendo classified it into the Adventure category, which encompasses a broad range of titles, including Metroid and The Legend of Zelda.

Let’s start by looking at the game’s platforming foundations. First off, unlike most games that fall into the platformer category, large portions of this game scroll vertically rather than horizontally. So, rather than jumping over bottomless pits, you are instead creating bottomless pits below you as you move forward in the game. Falling off the bottom of the screen means instant death. Fortunately, the game gives you some leeway, allowing you to stand on platforms that are “knee-deep” off the bottom of the screen.

What’s more, you as the player are impacting the shape of the environment as you scroll upward. You have the option to stand on a wide, safe piece of ground and pick off enemies as they come to you, or you can charge forward, taking the enemies head-on, and also changing the landscape and the locations of the pitfalls. Fighting a wave of enemies from a series of tiny platforms is far more difficult than taking them on from solid ground, and often it is your choice where these battles take place. You also have the ability, in many locations, to run off one side of the screen and appear on the other. This can be used to bait enemies in one direction, or simply as a means of progressing through the level, thus offering some pseudo-horizontal action to the vertically-scrolling stages.

Horizontal stages look and act much more like a traditional platformer, and can be a bit of a relief, since instant death doesn’t wait at the bottom of every screen (although there are still bottomless pits to be had). However, unlike traditional platformers, you will find that many of your enemies will enter from the top or bottom of the screen, rather than just coming in from the sides. These fast-moving enemies can be the source of a number of difficult-to-avoid hits, and the player must be constantly aware of enemy waves and spacing between enemy types to avoid taking too much damage.

Further, unlike many hop-n-bop style platformers, you are not jumping onto enemies to kill them. Rather, you are armed with a bow and arrow, which can be fired up, left, or right. This brings the game closer to a straightforward action game, except for its focus on precision jumping. Since you cannot fire diagonally or down, your position in relation to your enemies and their movement patterns is extremely important.

A major factor that influences the minute-to-minute gameplay in Kid Icarus is the number of enemies whose movements are directly related to your position on the screen. In many platformers, enemies will follow a simple patrol route, or they will specifically hone in on your position. In this game, there are a number of enemies that have unique movement patterns which change based on where you’re standing.

For instance, there are small snakes (called Shemum) which will drop straight down from the top of the screen. When they hit a platform, they will instantly turn in your direction and start walking until they hit an obstruction. Then, they will turn around and start walking the other way. What this means is that you can affect the path this enemy takes simply by standing on one side of the screen or the other as they fall. Not a big deal, you say? Well, when taking on a near-continuous stream of snakes while fighting other enemies, it can be quite handy to get them to take another path, giving you a few extra seconds, or potentially avoiding them altogether if you manage to send them walking off the bottom of the screen, which can happen pretty frequently.

Another enemy is the iconic (eye-conic?) Monoeye, which comes down the screen in waves of 4 at a time. (The Metroid-like Komayto also functions in the exact same manner.) They will drop down close to the ground on the left side of the screen, arc over the middle, and then drop down on the right. So, hitting them in the middle of the screen is all but impossible, but hitting them on the edges can also be difficult, because they come down just a bit above your typical jump height.

But jumping to the next set of platforms means that they’ll change their pattern to move higher on their next pass, putting them just out of reach once again. They too are affected by your movement, and you can lure the entire wave down toward you by jumping at the right moment in their pattern, or even “trick” a couple of them to come down toward you while the others fly safely past. Otherwise, all 4 will eventually descend on you all at once.

A similar enemy, Mick (who is listed in the instruction manual as being the older brother to the Monoeye, and who may have been named for a certain Rolling Stones frontman), appears in the horizontally-scrolling stages. It enters from the right side of the screen, swinging in low, and finally climbing to the top of the screen to assume a similar pattern. This enemy is best killed immediately upon its arrival, before it can get too high up the screen and out of reach of your arrows.

In addition, there are several jumping enemies including the Slug, the crab-like Commyloose, the octopus-like Octos, and a winged frog called a Keron. Each of these enemies will jump in your direction, stop, and then jump in your direction again.

This doesn’t mean that they are jumping straight toward your position; rather, they are finding your position on the X-axis in relation to their own and moving in that direction. Since their jumps move them vertically as well as horizontally, they will often jump over you, and continue jumping off the top of the screen. Or, if coming up from the bottom, they will hop up the platforms in your general direction. In vertically-scrolling areas, it is often possible to walk off one side of the screen and appear on the other, allowing you to bait these enemies away from you. In horizontally-scrolling sections, they can’t jump off the top of the screen, so you’ll either need to kill them, or bait them into jumping into a bottomless pit.

In this respect, enemy movements can make the game feel closer to a strategy-based shmup than a platformer. Waves of enemies enter the screen – almost always 4 enemies per wave – and you position yourself in the most advantageous position, watching their movements and waiting for your moment to strike. Since your movement directly affects the movements of these enemies, this gives you more of a connection to the environment, and in some ways, a bit of control over your own fate. Often, you will find that you were killed not because you failed to shoot an enemy, but because you moved the wrong way and caused one of them to take a different path and attack your blind spot.

As such, cautious movement and patience are often rewarded more than charging forward and killing everything you see. Many of the enemy types will only spawn a certain number of waves before stopping. So, if you find a good spot, you can simply stand still and take down wave after wave of enemy, and then move forward with very few bad guys left to fight. On the other hand, the enemy waves have a limit to the range in which they will spawn, so charging ahead may let you get to the end of their spawning area, giving you fewer enemies to deal with. Leaving one enemy from a wave unkilled will often prevent any others from entering the screen. Also, new enemy patterns will not appear until you have collected all of the hearts that they have left behind (or until they disappear on their own), giving you the opportunity to dash forward safely.

In addition to the horizontal and vertical areas which feature waves of enemies, the game also has a Fortress level at the end of the first 3 worlds. Here the areas do not scroll at all, but are instead made up of single screens with platforms and enemies, most of whom follow prescribed patrol routes. Each room has doors leading out to the left or right, and/or ladders leading out of the top or bottom. In these areas, it is your goal to find the end-level boss and kill it to receive its Sacred Treasure. The challenge is… getting there.

The Fortress levels are set up more like mazes, with one entrance, one goal, a few dead-ends, and even some “trick” rooms which will force you to fall back to an earlier part of the maze. The path you need to take can wrap around through numerous rooms, even forcing you to re-enter old rooms from a different door in order to proceed.

Enemies also act somewhat differently in these stages than in the rest of the game. For one, enemies will always respawn when you exit and re-enter a room. This discourages any unneeded backtracking, but can also make things difficult if you’re having trouble determining how to get through the stage, especially when some rooms have Eggplant Wizards (see Bastard Class Enemies section below), and pots that hang from the ceiling and spawn infinite waves of snakes. Fortunately, with stores and infinite heart-dropping enemies, you can at least keep your supply of health restorative items up.

Navigating these Fortress levels can be difficult, so there are some additional tools to help you through. In each fortress, you can find what’s called a Check Sheet. It’s not exactly like a map, but it does feature an 8x8 grid that’s representative of the layout of the fortress (not all squares actually have a room though).

To properly utilize this check sheet, there are two items that you may purchase: One is a Flaming Torch, which will mark Pit’s current location on the check sheet, allowing you to see where you are in the fortress, but nothing else. Second is the Pencil, which marks areas that you’ve previously visited. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start working until you’ve picked it up, so if you’ve already explored half of the fortress before finding the pencil, it won’t mark off any of those areas.

None of these tools are actually required to complete the level. All you really need to do is find the boss and kill it. In fact, since there isn’t a tool that shows you where the boss is located, you’re pretty much left to experiment with the layout by going from room to room and trying every door until you find the right path. Additionally, all tools "expire" at the end of the level, so you'll need to find/purchase them again when you reach the next fortress.

So, there are a total of 13 levels in the game, and the gameplay breaks down as follows:
  • 6 vertically-scrolling stages
  • 3 horizontally-scrolling stages
  • 3 Fortress levels
Readers with degrees in advanced calculus will no doubt have realized that this only adds up to 12. The final stage changes things up again, tossing you into a forced-scrolling horizontal shmup, and introducing you to an entirely new set of enemies. During this level, Pit has unlimited flight, and is free to move to any point on the screen and aim either left or right. Enemies enter the screen from all directions, most of them simply trying to take you down by ramming into you, but others will fire projectiles as well. Unfortunately, Pit’s movement is a bit sluggish here, making it very difficult to dodge or even line up an enemy to kill it. But, the section will continue to repeat until you have killed enough enemies, so you will at least be familiar with the patterns after your first run.

This area also features… nudity! There a purple statues in the background which feature limbless statues of well-endowed women, complete with little purple single-pixel nipples.

There's even some hand-drawn nudity in the instruction manual. One wonders how there was so much fuss over Stormlord when Nintendo of America – the prudes of the industry – had nude statues, and Sega’s Mystic Defender had a (tiny) live nude girl. Moving on…

So, you’ve got it, right? This is an actiony, platformery, shmuppy, vertically- and horizontally- scrolling game. But wait, we’ve forgotten the RPG elements!

While Pit starts out the game with a certain amount of health and firepower, he can increase these stats, earn new weapons, and purchase items throughout the game. You start out with one unit of health, which can be reduced in increments before you finally die. But, as you play through the game, your health increases.

Unlike RPG’s that make it very clear how much more experience you need to gain to reach the next level, most of the stats in Kid Icarus are hidden. There is no indication of what you need to do to gain a level… sometimes you get to the end of a stage and receive a POWER UP! message which increases your max health (but doesn’t fill the gauge). While hidden to the player, gaining levels is determined entirely by your score. Achieve a high enough total score, and your level will increase by 1, for a maximum level of 5. Each level you gain adds 1 unit to your health meter.

Another hidden stat is considered to determine your overall strength, which allows you to increase the amount of damage your arrows do. You can upgrade your standard arrows to bronze, silver, gold, and eventually sacred arrows (maximum level of 5). Unlike your health, strength isn’t just calculated based on your score, but on “how well Pit has been fighting” according to the instruction manual. This includes a variety of things, including the number of enemies killed, number of pickups collected, and the amount of damage you have taken. If you’ve done well enough, and you enter a Sacred Training Chamber (see below), a friendly god will bestow a new higher-powered arrow upon you.

Additional RPG elements include the ability to earn items which increase your offensive and defensive capabilities. The following items may be earned by passing the trial in a Sacred Training Chamber (see room descriptions below):

Fire allows Pit to fire arrows surrounded by a moving ball of flame. This greatly increases the “width” of your shot, allowing you to hit enemies above or below the path of your arrow, thus increasing your accuracy.

The Sacred Bow gives your arrows a much longer range, allowing you to take out enemies from afar. But remember, the hearts dropped by enemies will disappear quickly, so picking them off from a distance isn’t always the best strategy.

The Protective Crystal sends a pair of crystals spinning around Pit, which damage any enemies they touch. It’s a good defensive item, but its slow movement makes it far from impenetrable, meaning that you’ll still need to keep your shooting skills sharp.

It’s worth noting here that the above items cannot be used until Pit has gained enough levels. So, you can get the flaming arrows, but the item will be grayed out in your inventory until you’ve earned the right to use them. Once you do, however, they will be automatically equipped and brought into play. Oh, and just for fun, you can’t use any of these items in the Fortress levels.

There are also Three Sacred Treasures in the game, which you will find in sealed caskets after beating each of the first three bosses. These treasures can only be used in the final level of the game, in the forced-scrolling area leading up to your battle with Medusa. These include:

The Mirror Shield deflects enemy projectiles. Sadly, most of the enemies you’ll encounter on your way to Medusa don’t actually fire any projectiles (they try to ram you instead), making this item really only useful during the final battle.

Light Arrows pass through multiple enemies, allowing you to destroy several in a single hit. However, they are limited to one on the screen at a time, and they can travel the full distance of the screen, making their reload speed very low.

The Wings of Pegasus give Pit unlimited flight. No more deaths from falling of the bottom of the screen!

And what would an action/adventure game be without money, health restoratives, and items? The currency in Kid Icarus comes in the form of hearts. A small heart is worth 1, a half heart is worth 5, and a big heart is worth 10. You can use these hearts to buy items throughout the game. Hearts of various sizes are dropped by killing enemies, with larger hearts being dropped by tougher or harder-to-kill enemies, and they can also be found in Treasure Chambers. The maximum number of hearts you can carry is 999.

Health restoratives come in the following forms:

Water of Life (Chalice) – restores a little bit of health immediately

Water of Life (Bottle) – restores 1 full unit of health; this is a stored item that is used automatically when your health reaches zero, giving you a bit of extra juice to get you through

Water Barrel – allows Pit to carry up to 8 Water of Life bottles at once; you can only have 1 barrel

Some other miscellaneous items can be found throughout the game:

The Mallet can be used in Fortress levels to smack enemies Donkey Kong style, with increased power, but limited range. Switch between arrows and the Mallet using the Select button.

You can also use mallets to break open statues in the Fortress, each of which will unleash one of Palutena’s centurions (called a “Centurian” in the manual), which will join you in your battle against the boss at the end of the level. When you find the boss, the rescued centurions will fly onto the screen, each firing arrows to coincide with your own. Sadly, their usefulness is limited, since you can’t control their movement, and bosses can take them down with a single hit.

The Harp turns all enemies into mallets for a short time

Just as in real life, the Credit Card allows you to spend money you don’t have. Don’t have enough hearts to buy an item you need? Charge it! But you can’t buy anything else until you’ve paid back your debt!

Angel’s Feathers are a lifesaver, especially in the vertically scrolling areas. If you fall off the bottom of the screen, Pit will pop back up and fly for a few seconds, giving you a chance to return him to solid ground, and keeping you from starting the level from scratch. You can even flap the wings Joust-style with each tap of the JUMP button, giving you a bit of extra vertical force as you search for a safe landing spot. You can stockpile these, so you are able to buy as many as you need to offset your penchant toward clumsy platforming.

Spread throughout the game are a number of doors. Each door leads to one of the following types of rooms:

Treasure Chambers
Here you will find a set of 8 pots spread about the room. 7 of the pots contain items or hearts, but one of them contains the God of Poverty. You’re free to break as many pots as you wish, and each one you break costs 5 of your hearts. The challenge ends when you grab one of the items, which makes all of the unbroken pots disappear. But, if you break open a pot with the God of Poverty, the game stops and you’re booted out of the room without being able to pick up any of the treasure. (Big money, big money, no Whammies!)

While you’re free to risk it all and leave things up to chance, there is actually a pattern as to which pot the God of Poverty will be in. A solution was published in Nintendo Power back in the day which showed you how to break the pots open in a certain order to determine where the God of Poverty was hiding. And, if you break the 7 good pots first, the God of Poverty will disappear, leaving behind a more valuable item in the final pot. So don’t forget to break them all!

Enemy’s Lair
Sometimes you will enter a room and enemies will begin spawning all over the place. The most common enemy type is called the Specknose, and each of them that appears will move in a predictable pattern. The trick is getting quickly to a safe corner at the beginning so you can start picking them off (no pun intended). Each one yields a Big Heart. But, if you’re low on health and don’t want to risk it, you can always back out of the room and return to the level. It’s also worth noting that Specknose enemies are unaffected by the Protective Crystal, so don’t expect it to help when these guys start coming at you.

In the Fortress levels, the Specknose doesn’t appear, and he is instead replaced with cyclopean skulls called Ganewmede, brass balls called Tamambo, or spiked metal balls called Tros, but they effectively operate in the same way.

Here a shopkeeper will present you with 3 items, and below each is the price. Jump up and touch one of the items to buy it. These can include health-restoratives and other items. After you have made a purchase, you can stay in the store for a few seconds and new goods will be displayed. However, once you leave, you can’t return (except in Fortress levels), so spend your hearts wisely.

Black Marketeer
This Black Marketeer has a setup like a regular store, but he offers some more valuable items. You can also buy some items that are available from regular stores, but they’re more expensive here. Still, if you’re low on health, it could be your only option.

A couple of things to note: Black Marketeers do not restock their items if you stay in the room after making a purchase. Also, there’s a trick that allows you to threaten the Black Marketeer, to which he will respond by getting scared and lowering his prices – or getting angry and raising them – depending on your stats.

Sacred Chamber
These are probably the most misunderstood rooms in the game, because if the player hasn’t met certain requirements, the room will be empty. One of these rooms appears early on in the first level, at a point when the player couldn’t possibly have high enough stats (except on a second playthrough), leading players to believe that some rooms are just naturally empty. This is not the case, however.

Depending on a number of factors, including the number of enemies killed, pickups collected, and damage taken, a friendly god will appear and give Pit arrows. These arrows increase the strength of Pit’s primary weapon, which is vital to surviving the later areas in the game where enemies would otherwise require multiple hits to kill. Pit also changes colors with each new arrow upgrade.

Sacred Training Chamber
In these rooms, a god will appear and offer a challenge.

A series of spinning iron monoliths will begin to appear out of thin air and move in different directions. They are fast and somewhat unpredictable, making them hard to dodge, and even harder to shoot down.

Survive the challenge, however, and you will be rewarded with your pick of Fire (flaming arrows), the Sacred Bow, or the Protective Crystal (for free!).

If you’re taking too much damage during the challenge, you can always duck out and leave the chamber… but you will be verbally berated by the god.

Hot Spring Chamber
These rooms consist of a pool of yellow liquid (eww). Jump in, and your health will slowly start to refill.

A point of note is that Hot Spring Chambers do not appear early in the game. The first one you will encounter is in the fortress in level 1-4. Now technically, there isn’t really a need to have a hot spring earlier in the game because Water of Life bottles restore one unit of health, and restarting a level after dying restores 2 units. So, while there is a technical reason for their absence, this also serves a purpose from a design standpoint. Since the player gets used to going for long stretches without the ability to easily regain health, he doesn’t get the feeling that he can rely on finding one of these chambers. This increases the overall tension in the game because health restoratives are few and far between, and Water of Life bottles only restore a sliver of your health. This puts players more in a mindset of preserving every precious bit of life they have, and makes the discovery of a much-needed Hot Spring Chamber that much more rewarding.

These serve one purpose, and one purpose only. If you get turned into an eggplant by an Eggplant Wizard, the Hospital can remove the curse. Otherwise, they’re just empty rooms. You’ll only find these in Fortress levels, which is the only place that Eggplant Wizards like to hang out, apparently.

Pit’s journey will send him through a variety of terrain. He will find himself running over rocks, leaping between clouds, sliding across the ice, boiling in pits of lava, and exploring ancient Greek architecture. Different kinds of platforms have different effects. Most are solid on all sides, but some, like clouds and ice, can be jumped through from underneath. Pit can also drop back down by ducking on these surfaces, but you have to be careful because ducking on the lowest platform is a good way to find yourself plummeting to your death.

Ice, as you might imagine, sends Pit sliding, and generally hampers his movement. Lava can burn you, but fortunately, you can avoid taking damage if you hop out quickly enough. There are also numerous stationary obstacles that can cause damage to Pit when you pass through them. Like many other platformers, you will find yourself dealing with the occasional moving platform.

Oddly, there are a number of foreground obstacles that Pit can run behind. However, enemies encountering these same obstacles will run in front of them. This is certainly to avoid instances where an enemy might be obscured by the scenery, but it does not make logical sense, as Pit cannot pass behind a column to avoid an enemy that is walking in front of it. Also, jumping into the bottom of a solid platform completely stops Pit’s forward movement, causing you to drop straight down. This can cause some instant deaths, particularly during vertically-scrolling sections.

Vertically-scrolling areas do not have a strict scroll box on the lower half of the screen. As such, performing a low hop will prevent the screen from scrolling all the way up. You can make a standing high jump and force the screen to scroll up a bit further, which can be a useful strategy when nearing enemy spawn points.

This game features 5 different endings. Granted, the differences between the 5 endings aren’t extraordinarily significant, but it does give players a reason to play through the game again. Once again the instruction manual is purposely oblique regarding how you go about attaining these endings, stating “many different endings await you depending on how skillful you have been.”

The ending you receive depends on whether you have leveled Pit up completely (i.e., collected all of the arrows, and powered up your health, each to a maximum of 5). Also, you need to have earned the Fire (flaming arrows), Sacred Bow, and Protective Crystal, and still have them in your possession at the end of the game. And you’ll need to have 999 hearts. Depending on the number of these that are at their max, this will determine the ending that you receive.


Reaper Good old Death. He’s our friend now, but it used to be that Death was pretty hard to get along with. He appears at many points throughout the game’s vertically-scrolling sections. By the time you’ve sufficiently leveled up and gotten better weapons, he becomes pretty easy to deal with, but in level 1-1, at your weakest point, this is one tough hombré.

At your lowest strength, Death takes many hits to kill (oxymoron, you have been challenged to a duel!). If possible, your best hope is to stand directly beneath the ledge where he’s walking, and fire arrows up at him when he reaches you.

If this is not possible, you’ll need to deal with him directly. He moves slowly, but he frequently stops to look behind him (unexpectedly, Death is quite paranoid). If he sees you coming, he just starts freaking right the hell out, pulling back his hood and running straight for you.

As he does, he starts up some pretty terrible music and summons a barbershop quartet of mini-Deaths (called Reapettes) heading your way to sing you to your grave. They fly around the screen and are a bit difficult to hit, but they go down fast.

Trouble is, this is an infinite cycle. If Death sees you coming again, he’ll resume his previous state and summon 4 more mini-Deaths. It is advisable to just start pumping him full of arrows at this point, but be aware that whilst rapt in the throes of “freakout time”, Death becomes invincible. He can only be hurt once he puts his hood back down and turns away. Just keep this in mind: the most effective way to kill Death is by shooting him in the ass. Words to remember.

Eggplant Wizard Somebody really needs to talk to Nintendo about their eggplant fetishism. First, there were the eggplants in Ice Climber, which had eyeballs and were prone to being stolen by condors. As one can surmise from the evidence at hand, when one of these googley-eyed nightshades reaches maturity, it becomes an Eggplant Man, as featured in the NES game Wrecking Crew. And finally, a fully evolved eggplant develops crazy magical powers, thus becoming the dreaded Eggplant Wizard. Clearly, the eggplants must be stopped! (ed note: the eggplant lifecycle is still under evaluation by key geneticists at 8 Bit Horse.)

What does an Eggplant Wizard do, you wonder? He turns you into an eggplant, of course. What else would he do (besides make a mean vegetarian lasagna)? The Eggplant Wizards only appear in Fortress levels, and they generally appear in pairs, hurling eggplants aloft into the skies in high arcs. They throw quickly and have only a short downtime before… reloading… or mentally manifesting fresh eggplants from the ether.

If you get hit by one of these eggplants, you will become an eggplant yourself, except that you will (disturbingly) still have legs. Since you have no arms and no head, you can no longer shoot arrows, which means that all you can do is run. If you make it to a hospital, they can cure you of your disorder. Actually, that’s apparently all that hospitals can do, so eggplantitis would appear to be Angel Land’s most widespread illness.

Eggplant Wizards are extremely menacing, and appear rather frequently throughout the Fortress levels. Not only are they a pain to deal with, but so is backtracking to a hospital. Fortunately, you can’t be turned into an eggplant during your temporary invincibility period. So, if you get desperate, you can simply run face-first into an enemy, or a bit of lava, and then run out the other side of the room. Sure, you’ll lose a bit of health, but it’s nothing compared to trying to navigate through a level without the ability to shoot anything.

Pluton Enemies that can steal your items are pretty annoying, with the possible exceptions being the ship-stealing enemy in Galaga – which served a strategic use – and the magic pot-stealing thieves (read: thieves who stole magic pots; not magic thieves) in Golden Axe – which could actually be physically abused for your benefit. Nice.

The thieves in Kid Icarus are not of the friendly sort. These guys first appear in level 2-2. They look pretty nonthreatening as they come hopping toward you… until you realize that your arrows aren’t hurting them. Yeah, that’s because they’re invincible. Oh, and if they touch you, they’ll steal one of your special items. Hope you didn’t care much for those flaming arrows, or your Sacred Bow, or Protective Crystal. Each time one of them hits you, it will flash, and one of your items will be gone.

You can curse them and fire arrows into their backsides as you scream, but the fact is, they won’t drop your items. The only way to get them is to buy them back from a Black Marketeer (at a pretty steep price), or re-earn them in a Sacred Training Chamber. Decided you don’t want to bother with that? Well, you also can’t get the best ending unless you have all the weapons at the end of the game.

In level 3-1 these guys return, only now they can fly! They’ll hover in place until you line up with them horizontally, at which point they’ll come flying at you. Fortunately, their eagerness also makes them easy to bait, so you can jump up and let them go flying off the screen. Crime does not pay.

There are only 4 bosses in this game. The first 3 can be found at the end of the Fortress levels in worlds 1-4, 2-4, and 3-4. As mentioned above, part of the challenge in dealing with the fortresses is actually finding the boss to begin with. When you start the level, you will see the boss’ Hit Points in the lower right corner of the screen, but no other indication of where, or what, you’ll be fighting.

Each of the first 3 bosses guards a Sacred Chest, each containing a Sacred Treasure that you’ll need for the final battle against Medusa. None of these chests may be opened until the final level.

Underworld: Twinbellows This is a 2-headed dog with 100 Hit Points. It starts on the right side of the room and walks slowly toward you, jumping as it moves.

It will occasionally unleash a trio of purple fireballs.

Each time you hit Twinbellows, it will bump upward a bit (lower than its actual jump), making it hard to deliver numerous successive hits. Still, with its infrequent firing pattern and low speed, it’s pretty easy to get behind him and just blast him with arrows until he explodes. He will leave behind a Sacred Chest containing the Mirror Shield when he is defeated.

Overworld: Hewdraw After passing through the Overworld and reaching the end of the fortress, you will encounter Hewdraw, a boss with 200 Hit Points. According to the instruction manual, Hewdraw is a serpent that jumps out of the water to attack Pit. In actuality, it looks more like a snake with a bird’s head, and it bounces around in a lava-filled room with no water to be found.

Hewdraw does not fire any projectiles, so all you need to do is dodge and shoot it in the head. It bounces in high arcs until it reaches the edge of the room, at which point it turns around and does it again in the other direction, and it will continue to repeat this pattern until you make it explode, at which point it will drop a Sacred Chest containing the Light Arrows.

Skyworld: Pandora Pandora is a floating bubble-like creature who sits in the fortress at the end of Skyworld. She has 200 Hit Points.

Pandora will float very slowly around the room, accompanied by two smaller bubbles, which will cause damage if they hit you. She will occasionally turn completely black, making herself invisible if she is against a black background, or appearing as a silhouette if she is in front of an object.

Still, even when completely black, her movement is slow, and she is easy to track. Fill her full of arrows and make her pop. She’ll leave behind a Sacred Chest containing the Wings of Pegasus (and a little bit of hope… awww).

The Palace in the Sky: Medusa Your final battle takes place in the Palace in the Sky. Here, rather than fighting your way through a fortress to reach the boss encounter, you will instead enter a forced-scrolling shmup level. At the beginning of the level, you will open the 3 sacred chests and equip the Mirror Shield, which deflects projectiles; the Light Arrows, which shoot all the way across the screen and penetrate multiple enemies; and the Wings of Pegasus, which grant you infinite flight. Apparently, you got some armor from somewhere as well, because Pit enters the final level with a winged helmet (maybe he clubbed a centurion and took it for himself).

As mentioned previously, your movement is extremely sluggish during this portion of the game, making it difficult to dodge attacks or kill enemies. However, you must kill a certain number of enemies, because the level will repeat indefinitely until you do. Once you have hit your kill limit, you will enter Medusa’s chamber.

Here, you will face off against Medusa, a creature with a giant eye that shoots curved projectiles at you. She also sends bouncing snakes your way, which act just like Hewdraw, except that they exit the screen instead of bouncing back.

As long as your shield is up, the projectiles cannot hurt you. And the snake cannot jump higher than about mid-screen, so the upper left corner is a safe spot. However, you must fly down into the center of the screen to fire at the pupil of the eye, which is the boss’ weak point. This puts you in the snake’s attack area, and when you fire, your shield will be lowered temporarily, opening you up for damage from the projectiles.

So, you can fly up to the top corner, bait the projectiles toward you, wait for the snake to pass, and then fly down to deliver a damage-dealing hit against the eye. It will take a lot of hits to finally bring her down, but once you do, you will see Medusa’s true self standing behind the eye for a moment, before she collapses to a heap on the ground.

With Palutena saved from her captor, you enter the emptied socket to collect your reward and receive one of the game’s 5 endings. After watching the credits roll, you can begin a new game with all of your hearts, health, strength, and special weapons intact.


Why this game should be part of your 2D heritage:
  • Platforming in multiple formats: horizontal, vertical, and fixed-screen
  • Numerous genres represented, ranging from platformer to shmup to RPG
  • The ability to gain new weapons and increased strength throughout the game
  • Waves of enemies with movements that change based on your movement/position
  • Multiple (albeit, only mildly different) endings depending on your stats
  • Nudity… on the NES
  • New Game +

The downside:
  • Jumping into the bottom of a platform completely stops your forward motion
  • Die anywhere and you go back to the beginning of the level
  • Sluggish flight controls during the final level