Diggin’ In With Shovel Knight

I apologize for the long term absence to whatever readers I may have out there. It has been a busy week for me at my main gig. But anyway, let’s dig in here. The game I want to talk about is Shovel Knight. This may be a bit of a dated game at this point for reviews, but my god. This game is still incredible. For those of you unaware of the story of Shovel Knight, I will break it down pretty quickly; however, do not let this sway you from the story-driven aspects of this game, because it is an emotional story once you crack into it.

The Shovel Knight himself is on a quest to defeat the evil Enchantress who has dispatched of all the members of the Order of No Quarter, who actually are her appointed guardsmen, most of which are your boss fights. You learn very early on that Shovel Knight has a deep yearning to find his lost companion and partner, Shield Knight. The battle that Shovel Knight is so desperately trying to garner victory over isn’t necessarily the engagement with the Enchantress but rather his desire to find Shield Knight and rekindle their old bond. The game really lets you know this occasionally between levels during scenes where Shovel Knight is told to catch Shield Knight before she reaches the ground as she falls from the clouds. All the while, you as the player must battle seemingly-endless barrages of enemies until time starts to slow and she begins to reach you. However, once you actually catch her, the screen flashes a bright white and you awake at a bonfire to carry on silently with your mission. So, tl;dr version (even more so) Knight loses girl. Knight still loves girl. Knight must chill out other Knight Bros in order to get to the root of all the suffering.

When you first start up the game, it instantly delivers the feeling that you are stepping into an 8-bit world of quirky comedy, solid gameplay, and high standard dev work. The level select map reminded me a lot of Mario Bros. 3, where you control your sprite and move from square to square to select levels, but you also have the chance to run into Knights that move around the map, a lot like the Hammer Bros encounters in MB3. The gameplay mechanics however apply more of a Megaman-meets-Zelda vibe, in that your character has the ability to unlock a decent amount of power-ups, healing containers (Megaman X, Zelda Bottle style things), secret areas, and armor power-ups.

With these power-ups and unlocks in mind, however, they are not essential or completely necessary to defeat any of the bosses but will be needed for a good chunk of the unlockable abilities. If you have read any of my other reviews, you know that unlockables are the key to my simple little heart, as long as they have a function.

Enough about power-ups and such, let’s talk about the Order of No Quarter. These Knights are the appointed leaders of each region designed to stop the Shovel Knight from reaching the Enchantress. Each member has a unique model and set of abilities that are hinted at and directly related to whichever zone that they are a part of. The members include Plague Knight, King Knight, Mole Knight, Specter Knight, Tinker Knight, Treasure Knight, Polar Knight, and Propeller Knight. After just reading their names alone, it should allow you to piece together what their abilities are and which levels you can expect to find them in. In order to get to the final stage, you must defeat the main story members, which I believe include everyone except Specter Knight. They range quite significantly in difficulty, but if you stick to the game and play regularly, before you beat it, you should not lose the muscle memory needed to accomplish the mechanical steps required to defeat each one. Personally, I had the most trouble defeating Plague Knight, and you face him very early on in the adventure. However, after that, I managed to master the mechanics, not really, but I managed to defeat boss after boss with far less trouble. Unlike Megaman, you unfortunately do not receive any power-ups or abilities just by defeating the bosses; instead, you must find the hidden shop keepers within each level and purchase them with in-game currency.

I could probably go on for pages about the Order of No Quarter alone, but I need to end this review soon with some actual input on the game itself. The sound effects related to each Knight and their corresponding levels are just perfect. The color schemes are perfect. The ability ranges of the enemies are acceptable. The boss fight mechanics sometimes can seem a little bit unfair at times, but that could be because I was missing queues that telegraphed an incoming ability or what I personally did to trigger said abilities. The story is cryptic, quirky, and depressing. All in all, I would give this game a solid 4.5/5, if I had a rating metric in place. It has almost everything you want from an 8-bit adventure game, but it did leave me wanting more after completing the main story line. I played through the game on my Nintendo 3DS, which has the option for Spot Pass battles, which I feel was an interesting concept but a terrible implement for this game. Yacht Club Games did however release the free Specter Knight mini campaign that I have yet to try, but I do think is a good way to keep a game relevant.

I would say that if you are interested in games like Megaman or the older Zelda games, it is worth picking up; if not, this game is probably not for you, as it may be frustrating and leave you feeling as though there is no progression in the story. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there are anthropomorphic individuals mingling in the villages, if you’re into that sort of thing or whatever. Ok, bye.

In case you missed it, check out the trailer:

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