Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami

Another example of a heralded Nintendo franchise that began on the Disk System, Hikari Shinwa (known outside of Japan as Kid Icarus) is a concise adventure platformer that, despite its age, is still highly playable and highly regarded even today.

Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami

Japanese Title: 光神話 パルテナの鏡 
English Title: Myth of Light: The Mirror of Palutena
English Release: Kid Icarus (1987 for NES)

Release Date: December 19, 1986
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Genre: Platformer
Product Code: FMC-PTM
Disk Format: Double-sided
Notable Credits: Directed by Satoru Okada. Produced by Gunpei Yokoi. Designed by Toru Osawa and Yoshio Sakamoto. Music composed by Hirokazu Tanaka.

Hikari Shinwa was built on the same engine as Metroid and developed by the same team, the famed internal Nintendo team Research and Development 1 (R&D1). Unlike Metroid however, Hikari Shinwa plays more as straight forward adventure platformer and foregos the open world concept in favour of a linear level progression.

The best parts of HikarI Shinwa, known outside Japan as Kid Icarus, are the ones just below the surface. Although neither mentioned in-game nor in the instruction manual, Hikari Shinwa has a complex point-based RPG levelling system hidden in it’s guts, where certain point totals must be satisfied within each level in order to increase your health bar and thus insure your survival.

Another interesting aspect of Hikari Shinwa is that the first three levels of the game are notoriously difficult, but if you manage to fight your way through the onslaught of enemies with your relatively low health and weak attack, the overall difficulty eases off quite a bit making the game more manageable the further you progress. In addition to these hidden upgrades, scattered throughout the world are shops that sell various items, hidden rooms and plenty of secrets that all serve to maximize replay-ability.

Hikari Shinwa looks a lot like Metroid, with somewhat bland and dated graphics. Where the stark single-colour backgrounds worked in the context of Metroid’s subterranean alien planet, the Greek mythology setting of Hikari Shinwa could have certainly benefitted from a few more graphical embellishments. Regardless, the game still plays extremely well; hitting the sweet spot between difficulty and playability. There is good reason why the game is still fondly remembered in the annals of Nintendo’s long and storied history of game development.