Depending on which version of Kid Icarus you play, the game’s difficulty level will either climb or drop here in the second stage. In the 3D Classics remake, World 1-2 isn’t as difficult as World 1-1; in the original NES/Famicom game, however, it’s moderately more difficult. So if you go old-school, you have to struggle through a little more hardship before things start to taper off. In 3D Classics, World 1-2 is the beginning of the descent from World 1-1’s punishing difficulty spike.
The difference is in the way Pit handles. The 3D Classics version refines his jump so that holding the button causes him to glide. This adds maybe half a second of air time to a jump, but that half-second makes a huge difference when it comes to landing on tiny platforms. And there’s a sequence that appears exactly midway through World 1-2 in which Pit has to navigate across the screen by leaping from one single-block platform to another several times in a row. It’s a tricky situation when the game is so unforgiving about missing a jump; one slip-up and Pit will plummet to his death, unavoidably (unless you lucked into a Feather in the World 1-1 Treasure Room or bought one in the shop shortly before the jump sequence).
And the operative term here is “slip-up,” as the thin platforms in World 1-2 insanely decide to ramp up the difficulty level by acquiring an ice coating. So not only can Pit not duck on these platforms (lest he plunge to his death), he also can’t stand still on them (because he slides quite a ways on their frictionless surface). The programming on the icy surfaces seems somewhat lacking, as you can halt Pit’s slide by pressing up, or jumping… but as soon as he stops aiming up, or lands, he keeps sliding with no loss of momentum. Early NES games, folks. What can you do?
Two rather more beneficial features debut in this stage, however. The first is the shop, where a merchant will sell you wares. This turns out to be the function of the hearts Pit has been collecting: They serve as currency. As you’ll find in this stage’s shop, however, the prices tend to be quite expensive; the chances that you’ll have gathered enough cash to buy the wares on offer here by the time you reach the shop are pretty slim. You can potentially lower the price of merchandise by “intimidating” the vendor into lowering his prices, but there seems to be even odds that you’ll just annoy him and cause him to increase his prices. Caveat emptor.
You’ll probably have better luck with the final room of the stage. While you could potentially uncover an empty chamber, you’re almost guaranteed through normal play to unlock the secret of the room. If you perform well enough through the course of World 1-2, this last room will contain a man (god?) who appears to grant Pit a strength upgrade. This chamber is actually identical to the first one in the game, but because of the placement of the rooms—located at the end of the stage here versus at the beginning in 1-1—this is the first one in which you’ll actually see the room’s proper purpose.
Strength upgrades are dished out whenever you reach one of these special chambers, provided your performance in the current stage has been up to snuff. This is never explained in the game, but according to various FAQs on the game your actions carry a certain experience value. This is tallied invisibly and reset at the end of each stage. If you play well in a level, you’ll hit the requisite experience value to activate an arrow upgrade, which adds a point of strength to Pit’s attacks (which in this case doubles his power from 1 to 2, but offers less dramatic increases with subsequent upgrades). Therefore, the further into a stage a chamber appears, the more likely you are to be able to make use of it. Later in the game there are some chambers that appear very early on in a level, which require exact play in order to earn the necessary points to activate the god-dude.
But I think these are meant to be enigmatic, so maybe it’s OK that none of this is explained explicitly in the game or manual. In any case, it’s actually harder to reach the end of this stage without qualifying for an upgrade than not… and you’ll probably reach a cumulative score of 20,000 points here as well, which means Pit will “level up” — which is to say, gain an extra bar of life. Again, in this case that doubles his health. By the end of World 1-2, chances are pretty good that you’ll have doubled both his hit points and his attack power, which plays a big part in decreasing the game’s difficulty level.
World 1-2 contains only one new enemy type, which you won’t see until the end: Commyloose, the jumping octopus… thing. Like pretty much every other enemy in the game, these guys appear in groups of four. Unlike previous monsters, though, they approach from below, leaping into the scene from the bottom of the screen. They keep fluttering upward until they land on solid ground, at which point they start leaping horizontally toward Pit. Kid Icarus likes to throw new monsters into the mix right at the end of a stage as some kind of awful “screw you” gesture to cause you to die within sight of the exit and checkpoint. In other words, Kid Icarus is a jerk.