I’m not a big fan of video games, but I do like the occasional Street Fighter II or Mario Kart match and was a fan of the 16-bit era of gaming. I’ve been aware of a retro, 8-bit styled title for modern consoles called Shovel Knight for awhile. Though I had a passing interest, the 8-bit era didn’t do much for me. Poor controls, flickering sprites, slow down, etc. I spent those years reading DragonLance novels and playing SSI Goldbox games. However, the reviews for Shovel Knight have been very strong, so when I was looking for a summer gift for my video game loving son, I decided we’d dig into this title.
In order for us both to play two-player simultaneously I had to also pick up one of those amiibo figures, which was about $12. The game itself was only $20, so I didn’t figure this was too much outlay. I was right on that point and wrong to sit on this gem. This game is incredible.
I opted for the physical package over a digital download as I heard the game came with an honest to goodness manual. The sort that old NES games would have with illustrations of the character doing moves, background on the world and enemies, etc. Yacht Games went all out on this title as it feels retro through and through…and this is absolutely a great thing. My son would take the book to bed many nights re-reading or flipping through it prior to going to bed. Fantastic touch here.
The game itself controls very crisp. The graphics seem to be a little stronger than the 8-bit I recalled, but still clearly not 16-bit. There’s more layers of parallax scrolling than I recall ever seeing on an old NES title. Shovel Knight reminds me of a cross between a Castlevania (I or III), Super Mario Brothers 3, and Mega Man. There’s an overhead map to navigate, a few towns full of colorful characters to visit, and fun interactions with the various bosses (The Order of No Quarter).
The soundtrack is true to the era and from what I understand could actually fit on an 8-bit cart and be played on a NES. My son really digs the tunes here and plays the soundtrack when he’s working on school work or building legos. Oh, a free soundtrack download comes with each purchase. Nice. Here’s my son’s favorite track.
Shovel Knight’s quest is to save Shield Knight from the Enchantress in her Tower of Fate while defeating her minions throughout the lands. So, we beat the game this weekend, but I might actually go through it again because there are several secrets and areas we missed. However, Yacht Games is going to continue to keep giving to Shovel Knight fans. First, when you beat the Shovel Knight campaign it opens up the Plague Knight story where you run through the lands in the background of the Shovel Knight story trying to create a potion for your true love.
On top of that, Yacht Games recently announced that there will be upcoming campaigns for both Specter Knight and King Knight as well as a Smash Brothers style, single screen, multiplayer battle royale mode.
After the success we had playing this together, I was thinking about downloading one of the Castlevania’s through the eShop…but I think we’ll just continue to explore the world of Shovel Knight through his point of view as well as from many of his adversaries.
This has easily been the most impressive title I’ve played in my limited sampling of this generation of games. If not for the gameplay alone, but for the overall nailing of the 8bit NES game package. At one point, I was hoping that maybe there’d be a sequel done in a more 16-bit style. Whether there is or not, I’m really glad I eventually took a chance on Shovel Knight and look forward to many plays through his world.