A Game Review by Greg Dabkey
Game: Shovel Knight
Platform: Wii U eShop
ESRB Rating: E-Everyone
Release Date: 6/26/2014
Obtained: Courtesy of Yacht Club Games
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was the home of dozens of classic Nintendo games, including Super Mario Brothers, Kid Icarus, and Metroid. Many third party games are often added to the list of classics, including Mega Man (series), DuckTales, and Castlevania. What these games have in common is that they all belong to the same genre – action/platforming. These games are also considered to be well balanced in difficulty, as they are not the easiest of games, but they are also not the most difficult. What I’m getting at is that if Shovel Knight was on the NES, it would be remembered as an incredible classic game.
Why should it be considered a classic? The gameplay closely resembles that of DuckTales, meaning a lot of 2D platform jumping, enemies to defeat, and treasure to collect. The pogo jumping element is also in Shovel Knight, but the player can only bounce off of enemies or hazards. The player cannot bounce across spikes, the floor, or platforms. The player seeks treasure, in order to purchase upgrades, relics (weapons), or just general use, such as helping townspeople pay for items, or playing a mini-game. Each time the player is defeated from a empty health bar or taking a long walk off the short platform, a portion of the collected treasure flies above the defeated location waiting for you to return to that screen. The player can then recollect what was lost and continue their journey until they complete the level or upon another defeat. If the player happens to die before recollecting the treasure, the initial lost treasure is gone forever, and more treasure hovers over the most recent defeated location.
The treasure can be used to purchase various upgrades. Initially, it will be used to purchase relics, which are secondary items to assist with either movement or combat. The player can continue gathering relics, or they can purchase plenty of health, magic, armor, and shovel upgrades. The magic counter acts as available ammo for all relics, and each relic uses a different amount. It can be partially replenished mid-level from enemies and destroyed blocks or fully upon completion of the level. My favorite relics include the anchor, which when thrown, goes in an upward arc before falling down (similar to Castlevania‘s axe item), and the Mega Horn, which damages all enemies within a specific radius (similar to Mario Kart 8‘s Super Horn). Only one relic can be equipped at a time, but it can be changed on the fly depending on the situation or need.
Shovel Knight also hosts a variety of levels, most with numerous check points, secret passages, and hidden treasure. A few levels even offer alternate routes. The player will find themselves searching for each secret area, as often, the player will find a sheet of music or even one of the relics. The sheet of music can be sold for extra treasure, and becomes one of the music tracks available to listen to at will while the player is in the town. There are also 45 different achievements for the player to complete while playing the game, all of varying difficulty. Some require the player to beat levels without dying or collecting treasure, while others are just completing the tasks at hand or by purchasing relics. The game’s levels are laid out on a map similar to Super Mario Bros. 3, and the player can pick the level, bonus level, or town to travel to next. At times, extra encounters appear on map (and even move around like SMB 3’s Hammer Bros) adding in a boss fight for the player to earn additional treasure.
While the gameplay offers a fun and challenging experience, the player is seeking out what happened to his female companion, the Shield Knight. The Order of No Quarter has risen under the Enchantress and poses a threat to the kingdom. The Enchantress waits at the Tower of Fate where the Shield Knight was last seen. The Order of No Quarter is made of eight different knights, each with a different personality. The player must defeat all eight knights within this Order before returning to the Tower of Fate. The game sports humorous text dialogue between Shovel Knight and opposing knights. For a game that was made in today’s day-and-age, and made to look and feel like an NES game, it did a wonderful job including intriguing dialogue and short cut-scenes to showcase this story.
The graphics have a very retro feel to them. The game was practically designed to run on an NES, however I have come to understand that there is no sprite flickering, and the color palette was extended slightly to enhance some of the level and character design details. The sprites of the various enemies and knights are very retro-styled and well designed. Each one has a different personality with a perfect design to go with it. Each level has a theme, such as ice, lava, or water, and are designed in such a way that looks beautiful and challenging.
To complete the package, the game sports retro styled music and sound. The music is what the player would expect from a game styled for the NES. While it is not as complex as music on the current generation consoles, it is still a quite catchy, enjoyable soundtrack. The composer from the original Mega Man game, Manami Matsumae helped contribute in the creation of the music.
Final Score: 10 out of 10
While playing Shovel Knight, I found plenty of nods to the excellent games of the past. Shovel Knight was made with the true spirit of the NES and with all of the great gameplay, controls, graphics, and music intact. I would recommend this game to anyone and everyone, as everyone deserves to play this excellent game. Yacht Club Games has dug up an astounding action/platforming game!
+ Retro styled graphics and music
+ challenging platforming
+ achievements to earn
+ fun weapons and upgrades to purchase
+ solid controls
+ humorous dialogue
+ intriguing boss fights
– No multiplayer aspects