The general consensus seems to be “I like Anatomy of a Game, but Kid Icarus is dumb.” So let’s just power on through the rest of this bad boy today and tomorrow and move along to more fertile territory, shall we?
Really, there’s not too much to break down about most of the second half of Kid Icarus. Like I said, the game shows its hand early, and once you’ve met Eggplant Wizards and Pluton, there’s nothing else so aggressively weird or spiteful to be found. World 2-4 is of course a fortress world, one more complex in layout than World 1-4, but definitely not insurmountable. The free-form navigation of the stage and the persistence of certain stats when you die and continue (such as cash) means you can farm all the goodies you like here, if you really want. Unlike Metroid, Kid Icarus doesn’t factor time spent mucking around in the world in determining the ending you see, so there’s honestly no downside to chilling out and stocking up on goodies.
The second boss of the game is Hewdraw, another famous critter of Greek mythology whose name ended up being mangled in translation from Greek to Japanese to English. It’s the Hydra, basically, though with a slightly elongated first syllable that… well, it doesn’t matter. Hewdraw is the Hydra. But with one head. It bounces around the room in a fairly predictable pattern and is easy enough to take down, though only its head is vulnerable. This serpent style of enemy would appear in many subsequent NES games, including two that have already been explored in Anatomy of a Game: Zelda II and Castlevania III.
The appearance of a fortress world precipitates another change in play format, this time going from horizontal back to vertical. Pit has escaped the Underworld, traversed the surface, and now he rises through Skyworld to Palutena’s temple where Medusa has taken control. It’s a pretty neat touch of progression that parallels what Konami was doing with Castlevania at the time, though the effect is somewhat muted by the time of day change. Since World 2-3 went from daytime to night, you enter Skyworld in darkness, which makes it look basically indistinct from the Underworld. The 3D Classics Kid Icarus remake is much better about this and adds a few small details to give a better sense of ascending through the sky, but here you’ll just have to take the clouds platforms’ word for it.
Worlds 3-1 through 3-3 play much like Worlds 1-1 through 1-3. But anyone with the tenacity and skill to survive the Underworld will find the Skyworld laughably simple. These later stages do very little to build on the challenges of the earlier worlds — though some of the teeny-tiny platforms you face are far more easily negotiated with the modified jumping style of the 3D Classics version — and since you’ll almost certainly have considerably more health and strength here, you can more or less tear through foes. Chances are good you have a number of items stocked up, too; Feathers will prevent falling deaths, Water of Life will restore your health, and the rare but essential Barrel will let you store up to eight Waters of Life. It’s entirely possible to be fully powered-up by the end of World 3-3, and once you’ve reached that point the entire world of Kid Icarus may as well be wet tissue paper for you to tear through.
The Skyworld features two new enemies of note. While most foes here are essentially just reskins of monsters you’ve faced before, there’s an important new variant. Namely, Pluton Flies, which are smaller, faster variants on Pluton. The flying version sits at the edge of the screen until you pass its line of sight, at which point it zips into action and flies straight across the screen in an attempt to swipe your goods. The advantage you have here versus in the Overworld is that a Pluton Fly moves more predictably — literally in a straight line — and a single shot will take them down. Again, Kid Icarus‘ threats are mostly front-loaded, and the game gets easier the longer you play.
Secondly, there’s a new flying enemy, Komayto, that behaves just like Monoeyes. But they look like Metroids! They go down a lot easier than Metroids do, but the resemblance is remarked on even in the instruction manual. The Japanese name for these creatures, Kometo, makes the connection even clearer — “meto” is the first two syllables of the Japanese name for Metroids (metoroido), and the ko- prefix usually means small; a kitten, for example, is a koneko, a small (ko-) cat (-neko). So basically, these are Metroid hatchlings. Can you imagine how different things would have been if Pit had let them imprint on him rather than just shooting them out of the air?
And finally, the Skyworld ends with the game’s third fortress. This is by far the biggest and most complex area of the game, as difficult in its own way as the early stages. The challenge here stems not from devious monsters (the Eggplant Wizards aren’t as cheaply placed as in that first fortress) or deadly traps but rather from the size of the fortress and the winding route to the boss. This stage makes full use of what appears to be the maximum size available to the dungeons — it consists of an 8×8 grid of screens, and all 64 room spaces contain something. It’s roughly the size of the first two fortresses combined, and you almost certainly need to map your route — not just to the exit, but to the healing hot springs, the eggplant clinic, and the shops as well.
The boss, Pandora, turns out to be surprisingly unthreatening after all of that. It wobbles slowly around the room, occasionally becoming invulnerable, the only real threat posed by its two indestructible companion blobs that vaguely home in on Pit while blocking his shots. Pandora’s auxiliary bits are murder on any little centurions you happen to bring into the battle, but otherwise there’s very little challenge here for a Pit powered up sufficiently to take on the final stage.