Retro Review: Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters

Most gamers will name Kid Icarus as one of the classics for the NES, but its sequel on the GameBoy was largely overlooked. Of Myths and Monsters takes the original formula and seeks to improve it across the board–not with drastic changes, but with a number of great tweaks.

Let’s make another Kid Icarus!

Released towards the end of 1991, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters hit the Gameboy with little to no fanfare at all. Whether it was a lack of marketing, or that the game just failed to register with fans for some cosmically unfair and stupid reason, it was not a hit and has been kind of forgotten by time.

The NES Kid Icarus is still played and loved by many, but I actually think Myths and Monsters may be the better game. Clearly everybody in the world is wrong except for me, and this is precisely the sort of thing that gets me all riled up, and the game-reviewin’ neurons in my brain begin to fire.

The game is kind of a remake of the original, because, though the level design is a bit different, the story is essentialy the same, and Pit journeys through the same four worlds–Underworld, Overworld, Skyworld, and the Palace in the Sky–though there is a new end boss.

What few changes there are between this and the NES release are clear improvements, and the only real downside to the GameBoy is the monochromatic screen. If that doesn’t turn you off, I think the sequel is the winner.

Beware all those angels with their wings glued on

The biggest and most important difference is that you can now miss a jump without instantly dying, thanks to the wonder of a screen that can scroll downward. A true technical marvel, that one. This is a huge change and, unless you’re a total sadist, a big improvement.

I understand the urge to stand and champion the superior challenge of older games, but really, nobody likes frustrating, instant death as a gameplay mechanic. There are better and more interesting ways to make games rewarding experiences.

The screen also now scrolls horizontally on vertical stages, which is ostensibly only due to the small screen real estate on the GameBoy, but I like the feel of it. However, I will submit that this is really a matter of personal taste. With the action zoomed in you can’t see quite as much of your surroundings, but I would argue that you really don’t have to, and this makes the levels feel a lot larger.

Another notable difference is that Pit can now frantically flap his dainty little wings to slow his fall, or extend his jumps, which is a big leap forward (hah! I slay me). It comes in handy, and it melts my heart because Pit looks utterly adorable doing it.

Later in the game you can even gain the ability to fly like a real cherub, if you manage to please Zeus and find his favor.

I think all of these differences are to the game’s benefit, but I can see also that these points are fairly subjective. The worst case scenario then is that instead of a much better game, we have a second version of a great game which may appeal to different people.

A plumber, a hero and a bounty hunter walk into a game developer’s wet dream

Both of the classic Kid Icarus games are meant to bring together aspects of gameplay from other Nintendo games. Not only their blood kin, the Metroid games, but also The Legend of Zelda, and even a bit of Super Mario Bros. This is something Nintendo made a big deal of back then, but it may have been a little exaggerated.

The vertically scrolling segments do bare a resemblance to those in Metroid, in that you climb and you shoot. Pit can even use hammers to bust open walls and find secret doors, similar to the way that Samus uses bombs. It does have the same feeling to it, but these are not the things which really define the Metroid experience. Since exploration is so limited and you can’t return to completed areas, this ain’t no planet Zebes.

The dungeons at the end of each world bring to mind The Legend of Zelda, but there is less of a focus on any kind of rudimentary puzzle-solving here, as you more or less just have to figure out where the exit is. There are weapon upgrades to collect, but this is more along the lines of grabbing a powerup in a game like Gradius than finding a cool new item deep in a cave somewhere in Hyrule.

As for Mario, well, on the horizontally scrolling stages the screen scrolls horizontally.


It’s a really good game, and in my opinion, it’s pretty clearly better than its predecessor. Definitely worth a full playthrough if you liked Kid Icarus, and at least deserving of a glance even if you didn’t.

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