Title: Shovel Knight
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 137 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Retro games is a breed of games that is often experimented on in the indie world. Retro games, in essence, are games that are made to play very similar to older games. They are games meant to not straight-up copy older games, letter for letter, but provide an experience very similar to those older games. There are a lot of games out there, for example, that are made as retro games for fans of games like Super Mario Bros or The Legend of Zelda.
An example of a retro game that I’ve reviewed on the site is the PS Mobile title Blue Beacon. The art style and gameplay progression was very similar to that of the old Super Mario Bros. games. The side-scrolling feel was there, as were the coins and power-ups. It wasn’t exactly like the Mario games, but was very similar.
Today, I have coverage for a retro game that takes elements from not one, but several different franchises, mashing them into one game. Indie developer Yacht Club Games has been sending out games for some time, but recently hit a big success with one of their retro games, starring an armored knight wielding a shovel as a weapon. Compatible with both the PS Vita and PlayStation TV, here is my official review of Shovel Knight!
The story of Shovel Knight shows the tale of a world, where adventurers used to roam the land, the most famous of which was the inseparable pair Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. In their travels, though, they encountered a tower known as the Tower of Fate. Something happened at the tower and Shovel Knight awoken with Shield Knight nowhere to be found. After, Shovel Knight secluded himself to a life of solitude.
In their absence, an evil Enchantress and her Knights of the Order of No Quarter have easily taken over most of the land. In light of this, Shovel Knight sets off on a quest to go back to the Tower of Fate to stop the Enchantress and find out what happened to Shield Knight.
The story of Shovel Knight is something you’ll be seeing more of each level, but it’s not an overly deep and involved story. I would compare it to the story of games like Mega Man X. While it’s not the deepest, it fits with the type of game Shovel Knight is representing, which shall be explained in the next section.
Shovel Knight is a 2D platformer with combat elements. You will go through the game by going across a World Map and traveling through stages. In these stages, you will be fighting enemies, collecting gold, and finding the boss of the stage and defeating it to clear it and unlock new areas and stages. It is very comparable to games like Castlevania and Mega Man, but with more over-world elements.
The biggest aspect of the game that will interest gamers is that this is a retro game. Everything about the game feels like it was grabbed straight from the NES era, and it has elements to many games from that era. The World Map progresses like the world map from Super Mario Bros. 3. The Sub-Weapon and Magic system is just like the same system from the 2D Castlevania games. The level progression and boss battles are similar to that of the Mega Man series. Shovel Knight basically feels like a huge mashup of various NES franchises all in one small package.
Another unique aspect of the game is to note that the PlayStation release of Shovel Knight has content that other versions of the game do not have. In the PS3, PS4, and Vita versions of the game, there is an optional boss fight with Kratos from the God of War series, as well as an exclusive armor upgrade for the PlayStation release.
Playing through the game has you going through stages to unlock new areas as well as visiting towns for character customization. You can use gold that you earn in stages on upgrading your character’s maximum health and magic as well as buying relics that can be used to get past certain types of traps and obstacles. You may need to go to the village and buy the relic used for dashing through the air before you can successfully traverse some stages. You will constantly be going back and forth between stages and the villages as you progress through the game.
Actually progressing through the stages has you platforming and fighting your way through several areas until you find the boss room and fight a boss, much like how progression is done in Mega Man games. Each area will have certain hazards like bottomless pits as well as enemies wandering around and fighting.
The boss fights are something that Mega Man fans will be familiar with. Each boss has a specific fighting style that must be learned in order for you to do well against them. Some of the bosses I managed my way through my first try, but it’s a better idea to learn their fighting styles to be better equipped to fighting them.
One of the unique aspects of the stages is that each one is filled with secret areas for you to find with more loot as well as Music Sheets that are part of a side-quest. You can find these areas by attacking certain walls. Some have markings to show it’s a secret areas and others do not. Looking for these areas is key for certain side-quests, like the Music Sheets or finding Kratos.
The Side-Quests for the game aren’t heavy in number, but there are a few of them to be able to do, giving the game more of an RPG-like aspect. You have Music Sheets to find, Kratos to find and defeat, as well as various other areas with little optional bosses like the Hall of Champions and the Armory. It’s not a huge amount of content, but it adds a little more depth to the game.
All in all, Shovel Knight should take you about 5-6 hours to get through your first time. This then unlocks New Game Plus where you can replay the game, carrying over all of your equipment, relics, and upgrades from your first time through the game. It also raises the challenge, making enemies hit you twice as hard as well as there being fewer checkpoints in each stage. This, along with the promise of future DLC, including more campaign content and Multiplayer Modes, gives players a lot to do.
One thing to know about the input for Shovel Knight is that there aren’t any touch controls for the Vita version of the game. Whether you’re using a menu or in the middle of a stage, you will be using the buttons and only the buttons for the game. You also won’t be using every button on the system, as the L and R triggers don’t do anything in the game, and the same can be said if you’re playing on a PlayStation TV.
The D-Pad and Left Analog Stick will be used to move around the Map as well as talking to NPC’s and roaming through each stage. The Right Analog Stick doesn’t do anything. Start pauses the game and Select brings up your Relic/Equipment menu. The rest of the game is done with the face buttons. You can use X to jump and both the Circle and Square buttons for attacks and sub-weapons.
All in all, the controls aren’t hard to learn but they’re not explained to you when you boot up the game. You’ll be thrown into the intro stage for the game and will be on your own with figuring out how everything works. This is very nostalgic with the era this game is mimicking, but gamers who aren’t used to this type of game may take some time to figure everything out.
The visual presentation of the game is 8-bit, much like the games they’re trying to mimic. The game looks good for what it is. There are normal little breaks in the character models, like NES games were. However, for what it is trying to mimic, it looks very good. As you play the game and remember that era, you’d never be able to tell you weren’t playing an NES game. The gameplay to the presentation to music sounds like you’re playing a game from the 8-bit era. Even the Kratos fight has an 8-bit version of the God of War theme playing.
The technical side of the game is also done really well. The load times are very short and the game has no technical problems to speak of. There is never any lag or slowdown, nor does the audio cut out at any time throughout the game. The developers ported the game over the Vita very well and there aren’t any complaints to speak of.
Shovel Knight is a fun throwback to the games of the NES era. On the downside, some of the controls are not explained to you. Outside of this is an addicting platformer game that looks good, plays good, and is a fun experience, whether it’s on the go or at home on the PSTV.