Kid Icarus is an action platform video game for the Family Computer Disk System in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and North America. The first entry in Nintendo's Kid Icarus series, it was published in Japan in December 1986, and in Europe and North America in February and July 1987, respectively. It was later re-released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan during 2004, and for the Wii's Virtual Console online service in 2007. A sequel to this game was released for the Game Boy in 1991, and a third entry to the series was published for the Nintendo 3DS handheld console in March 2012.
The game is set in Angel Land, which is a fantasy world with a Greek mythology theme. The backstory of Kid Icarus is described in the instruction booklet: before the events of the game, Earth was ruled by the goddess, or Queen of light, Palutena, and the goddess, or Queen of darkness, Medusa. Palutena bestowed the people with light to make them happy, but Medusa hated the humans, dried up their crop and turned them to stone. Enraged by this, Palutena transformed Medusa into a monster, and banished her to the underworld. Out of revenge, Medusa conspired with the monsters of the underworld to take over Palutena's residence, the sky temple. She launched a surprise attack, and stole the three sacred treasures — the Mirror Shield, the Light Arrows and the Wings of Pegasus — which deprived Palutena's army of its power. After her soldiers had been turned to stone by Medusa, Palutena was defeated in battle, and imprisoned deep inside the sky temple. With her last power, she sent a bow and arrow to the young angel Pit. He escapes from his prison in the underworld, and sets out to save Palutena and Earth. Throughout the course of the story, Pit retrieves the three sacred treasures from the fortress gatekeepers at the end of the game's stages. Afterward, he equips himself with the treasures, and storms the sky temple, where he defeats Medusa and rescues Palutena. The game has multiple endings: depending on the player's performance, Palutena either presents Pit with headgear, or transforms him into a full-grown angel.
Kid Icarus is an action platformer with role-playing elements. The player controls the protagonist Pit through two-dimensional levels, which contain monsters, obstacles and items. Pit's primary weapon is a bow with an unlimited supply of arrows that can be upgraded with three collectable power items: the guard crystal shields Pit from enemies, the flaming arrows hit multiple targets, and the holy bow increases the range of the arrows. These upgrades will work only if Pit's health is high enough. The game keeps track of the player's score, and increases Pit's health bar at the end of a level if enough points were collected.
Throughout the stages, the player may enter doors to access seven different types of chambers. Stores and black markets offer items in exchange for hearts, which are left behind by defeated monsters. Treasure chambers contain items, enemy nests give the player an opportunity to earn extra hearts, and hot springs restore Pit's health. In the god's chamber, the strength of Pit's bow and arrow may be increased depending on several factors, such as the number of enemies defeated and the amount of damage taken in battle. In the training chamber, Pit will be awarded with one of the three power items if he passes a test of endurance.
The game world is divided into three stages – the underworld, the surface world and the sky world. Each stage encompasses three unidirectional area levels and a fortress. The areas of the underworld and sky world stages have Pit climb to the top, while those of the surface world are side-scrolling levels. The fortresses at the end of the stages are labyrinths with non-scrolling rooms, in which the player must find and defeat a gatekeeper boss. Within a fortress, Pit may buy a check sheet, pencil and torch to guide him through the labyrinth. A single-use item, the hammer, can destroy stone statues, which frees a flying soldier called a Centurion that will aid the player in boss battles. For each of the bosses destroyed, Pit receives one of three sacred treasures that are needed to access the fourth and final stage, the sky temple. This last portion abandons the platforming elements of the previous levels, and resembles a scrolling shooter.
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