Retronauts Episode 402: Kid Icarus

Do NOT listen to this episode near the sun

2021 marks 35 years since Nintendo's little-loved Greek-mythology action series Kid Icarus began. In all that time, the "franchise" has only three games, but the character of Pit and at least one of his mortal enemies left an impression on kids in the 80s and 90s, creating a fanbase for an initial game that seemingly had no demand.

I can remember playing Kid Icarus on NES and struggling to complete it; I certainly never got any of the "good" endings nor did I ever understand the means to upgrade young Pit's abilities. It was one of the harder Nintendo games at the time, far more so than its sister R&D1 title, Metroid.

This week, Bob Mackey talks to Henry Gilbert and Ray Barnholt about the mysteries of the first game's popularity, the short time frame in which it was made, and the overall legacy of all three Kid Icarus games that currently exist. Some might observe that Kid Icarus Uprising is not "retro" yet, but considering there were public demo events in 2011 and there's no hint of a fourth game on the way, I'd say it's retro enough to be included on our show.

Description: 35 years ago, a tiny team at Nintendo R&D1 crunched their way through a the development of a weird little game called Kid Icarus: a quirky, slightly alienating action-RPG starring a chubby angel who can't stop falling through platforms. Despite the lead character's prevalence in marketing from the early NES days, and his role in the classic Captain N cartoon, Nintendo barely seemed interested in touching this IP ever again, and let it lay dormant after a farmed-out 1991 Game Boy sequel. Then, 20 years passed, and along came Kid Icarus Uprising: a reboot known more for giving players tendonitis than it is for being a faithful, well-crafted revival of a classic series.

So what's the deal with Kid Icarus, and is it doomed to once again sit untouched for decades? On this episode, join Bob Mackey, Henry Gilbert, and Ray Barnholt as they examine the Kid Icarus trilogy to determine which of its qualities should rise to the heavens, and which should be cast into the Underworld. Secrets of the Eggplant Wizard will be revealed!

Retronauts is a completely fan-funded operation. To support the show, and get exclusive episodes every month, please visit the official Retronauts Patreon.

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As with all of the episodes Bob produces, this week’s cover art is by Nick Daniel. Check out his Twitter, or patronize his Patreon!