Shovel Knight

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Shovel Knight
Shovel knight cover.jpg
Developer(s)Yacht Club Games
Publisher(s)Yacht Club Games
Director(s)Sean Velasco
Designer(s)Sean Velasco
Michael Herbster
Alec Faulkner
Programmer(s)David D'Angelo
Ian Flood
Artist(s)Morgan Guyer
Erin Pellon
Nick Wozniak
Sandy Gordon
Composer(s)Jake Kaufman
Manami Matsumae
Platform(s)
Release
June 26, 2014
  • Microsoft Windows
    • WW: June 26, 2014
    Nintendo 3DS, Wii U
    • NA: June 26, 2014
    • PAL: November 5, 2014
    • JP: June 30, 2016
    OS X
    • WW: September 13, 2014[1]
    Linux
    • WW: October 8, 2014[2]
    PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
    • WW: April 21, 2015[3]
    Xbox One
    • WW: April 29, 2015[4]
    Amazon Fire TV
    • WW: October 5, 2015[5]
    Nintendo Switch
    • WW: March 3, 2017
Genre(s)Action, platform
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Yacht Club Games. Development was crowdfunded and the game was released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U in June 2014. It was ported to OS X and Linux in September 2014, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One in April 2015, Amazon Fire TV in September 2015, and Nintendo Switch in March 2017.[3][6] Shovel Knight is inspired by gameplay and graphics of platformer games developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System.[7]

The game has received critical acclaim and awards.[8][9][10] With the release of additional campaigns, the original story received the retronym Shovel of Hope. The full game was released in December 2019 as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes three other campaigns Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards, along with multiplayer fighting game Shovel Knight Showdown.[11]

There are two planned spin-off sequels: Shovel Knight Dig developed by Nitrome, which does not currently have a planned release date and Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon developed with VINE2D, which is planned to release on December 13th 2021.

Gameplay[edit]

Pre-release screenshot of Shovel Knight, with 8-bit-inspired graphics.

Shovel of Hope[edit]

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with an 8-bit graphical style. In the game's first campaign, Shovel of Hope, players control the eponymous protagonist as he collects treasure and fights against the Order of No Quarter.[7] Shovel Knight's primary means of attack is his shovel, which he can either use to attack enemies head-on and dig up treasure, or aim below him while jumping to bounce on enemies, similar to the pogo jump from DuckTales or the downward thrust from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.[12] By finding a salesman named Chester hidden in most levels, the player can purchase secondary items known as relics that can be used with a limited supply of magic. These include long-range projectiles, gloves that can punch through dirt blocks, and a locket that makes the player invincible for a brief period.

Aside from the main quest, which involves fighting through each level and defeating the boss at the end in order to progress through the world map, players are encouraged to collect as much treasure as possible. Treasure can be obtained by defeating enemies, finding chests, digging through the environment, and finding note sheets that also unlock music tracks. Any money earned can be spent in villages on various items, such as upgrades to health and magic, secondary items sold by the salesman, and armor and shovel upgrades that grant bonus skills. While the player does have infinite lives, dying will cause the player to lose some of their money, though the player can recover it by collecting the flying sacks that appear around where the player last died. For an added challenge, players can also choose to destroy checkpoints to earn more treasure at the risk of being sent back further should they die.

Completing the game opens up a New Game Plus mode, which increases the overall difficulty of the game by doubling the damage Shovel Knight takes, as well as limiting the number of checkpoints in a stage, though the player retains any relics and health and magic upgrades collected during their first playthrough. There is also a password system allowing players to input codes to unlock various cheats.

Downloadable content[edit]

Free downloadable content (DLC) updates add new features to the game, such as additional challenges, co-op modes, and a Body Swap mode allowing players to alter the genders of certain characters. Three additional single-player campaigns titled Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards each focus on different playable characters, along with multiplayer expansion Shovel Knight Showdown. These are either included as part of the Treasure Trove edition or can be purchased separately and are free for Kickstarter contributors. The single-player campaigns are available on all platforms whereas Showdown is not available on the 3DS or Vita versions due to their handheld nature.[13][14][15]

Plague of Shadows casts players as Plague Knight, who uses bombs to both attack enemies and launch himself through the air. Players can unlock and customize types of powder, casing, and fuses to alter how their bombs behave. Specter of Torment puts players in control of Specter Knight, who can run up walls and use his scythe to slash diagonally through enemies and obstacles to reach new areas. Unlike Shovel of Hope, Specter Knight's campaign does not feature a world map. Finally, King of Cards puts players in control of King Knight, who has a shoulder bash which turns into a spin attack upon colliding with enemies or walls. Levels are shorter, and only some contain bosses. The campaign features a card battle mini-game called "Joustus", in which players must tactically place cards on a field to claim spaces marked with gems. Much like Shovel Knight's items, each campaign has a unique set of items for their respective characters, and hidden collectibles to unlock upgrades.[16][11]

Shovel Knight Showdown is a competitive fighting game in which up to four players face against each other in various match types, including depleting each other's health or collecting the most gems within a time limit. It features 20 playable characters,[17] 30 battle arenas,[18] multiple battle types, and a single-player story mode.[19][11]

Version-exclusive features[edit]

Some gameplay features are unique to specific versions of the game. Both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U versions allow players to use touch screens to switch between secondary items without pausing the game. The 3DS version features an exclusive mode known as StreetPass Arena. This involves the player recording a short section of movement, with the goal of collecting as many gems as possible, which is then distributed to other players via StreetPass, where they can fight against that player's recorded character. The Wii U, 3DS, and Nintendo Switch versions are compatible with Shovel Knight series Amiibo figures, which unlock additional challenge stages and customizable gear, as well as fairies that can accompany the player during gameplay. The Shovel Knight Amiibo figure also originally unlocked co-operative multiplayer in the Wii U version, but this feature was later added to all versions except the 3DS and PlayStation Vita versions.[20][21] The PlayStation 4, Vita, Xbox One, and PC versions of the game feature exclusive boss battles; Kratos from God of War appears in the PS4 and Vita versions while Rare's Battletoads appear in the Xbox One and PC versions.[22]

Plot[edit]

Shovel of Hope campaign[edit]

Prior to the game, adventurers Shovel Knight and Shield Knight journeyed across the world alongside one another, but while exploring the Tower of Fate, a cursed amulet takes over Shield Knight and leaves Shovel Knight stranded outside of the sealed tower. Grieving for his beloved, Shovel Knight gives up adventuring and goes into self-imposed exile. During his absence, a powerful being known as the Enchantress rises to power, spreading evil across the land. Upon hearing that the Enchantress has unsealed the Tower of Fate, Shovel Knight begins his journey back to it, hoping to find and rescue Shield Knight. In order to do so, Shovel Knight must fight the members of "The Order of No Quarter," who have been dispatched by the Enchantress to impede him.[23]

There are eight members of the Order; King Knight, Specter Knight, Treasure Knight, Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Polar Knight, Propeller Knight, and Tinker Knight. Furthermore, Shovel Knight's rival, Black Knight, attempts to keep Shovel Knight from reaching the Tower of Fate but does not answer to the Enchantress. After beating certain knights, Shovel Knight may enter a dream sequence, in which he must catch a falling Shield Knight. Upon defeating each member of the Order, Shovel Knight reaches the Tower of Fate, where he faces Black Knight again. It is revealed that the Enchantress is actually a dark spirit inhabiting the amulet that cursed Shield Knight, possessing her body. Black Knight, who held romantic feelings for Shield Knight but lost her hand to Shovel Knight, had been protecting her in an effort to keep Shovel Knight from harming her.

While ascending the tower, Shovel Knight unwittingly falls into the midst of the members of the Order of No Quarter as they eat dinner. They demand a rematch, and Shovel Knight duels each knight one by one atop the banqueting table. Emerging victorious over them once again, Shovel Knight may choose to help them up, reeling in the chain onto which the defeated knights are clinging.

Reaching the top, Shovel Knight faces the Enchantress and battles her. He manages to exorcise the evil spirit, turning her back into Shield Knight. After being separated from Shield Knight, the Enchantress transforms into a powerful specter known as the Remnant of Fate, which Shovel Knight and Shield Knight defeat together. In a desperate final maneuver, the Remnant of Fate attempts to kill the two knights, but Shield Knight holds the attack at bay as Black Knight comes in and carries the wounded Shovel Knight to safety before the tower collapses.

In the aftermath, Black Knight leaves the unconscious Shovel Knight by his campfire and departs, fulfilling his promise to Shield Knight to save him and telling him that they would meet parts again in the future, as the credits show the eventual fate of each member of the Order of No Quarter. A post-credits scene shows Shield Knight, who managed to escape the tower's destruction, limping towards the campfire before lying down next to Shovel Knight as he sleeps.

Plague of Shadows campaign[edit]

Running parallel to Shovel of Hope, Plague Knight plots his own scheme, planning to steal essence from Shovel Knight and the other Order members to use as ingredients in the ultimate potion, capable of granting any one desire of its user. He is aided by several other characters from Shovel Knight's campaign, such as Mona, the witch, who pursues alchemy in secret due to the rest of the world fearing and rejecting it.

One by one, Plague Knight steals each of the others' essences before moving on to the Tower of Fate. After obtaining two essences, Plague Knight witnesses Mona dancing by herself. This inspires him to learn how to dance. One of the next three knights Plague Knight must fight is Shovel Knight, parallel to the boss fight in Shovel of Hope, with Shovel Knight winning, only for Plague Knight to go to Shovel Knight's campsite and steal his essence while he is asleep. After obtaining five essences, Mona and Plague Knight have a sudden romantic moment while trying to fix a lever, only for one of the minions, Percy, to enter and ruin the moment. After obtaining six essences, Plague Knight witnesses Mona and Black Knight talking, only for Mona to leave Plague Knight, due to a misunderstanding thinking she is only a tool for him. Percy takes Mona's place while she is gone.

Once Plague Knight gathered all of the knights' essences, Plague Knight journeys to the Tower of Fate for the Enchantress's essence. Plague Knight unwittingly falls into the midst of the members of the Order of No Quarter as they eat dinner, only for Shovel Knight to fall in moments latter unconscious. This is another parallel moment, only for Plague Knight to battle the Order instead, and for Shovel Knight to jump in at the end and defeat Plague Knight. As Plague Knight obtains the Enchantress's essence and begins to finish the potion, Black Knight and Mona arrive and try to stop him. Plague Knight reveals that his intention was always to use the potion to win Mona's heart, but she confesses she already loves him. Plague Knight attempts to stop the reaction, but it goes out of control, creating a dark version of Plague Knight. The real Plague Knight defeats the shadow and stabilizes the potion, but realizing he already has everything he could ever want with Mona; the two decide to use the potion to destroy the Tower of Fate. As a result, the villagers hail Plague Knight and his alchemists as heroes, finally accepting them. In a post-credits scene, Plague Knight and Mona are seen sharing a dance together in the laboratory.

Specter of Torment campaign[edit]

Before the events of Shovel of Hope, Specter Knight is sent to recruit eight knights to join the Enchantress's Order of No Quarter. As he recruits the knights, he experiences memories of his former life: Before dying, he was an adventurer named Donovan, who adventured alongside his partner, Luan. The two scaled the Tower of Fate in search of an amulet for Luan's son, as it was rumored that the amulet had the power to protect people. Once at the top, they found the amulet, but they ran into Shield Knight, who tried to stop them, warning them that the amulet was cursed. Due to Donovan's dislike towards knights, he battles Shield Knight against Luan's wishes. In the skirmish, the floor beneath them collapsed, and Luan and Donavan both fell, killing Luan and leaving Donovan mortally wounded. Shield Knight, now corrupted into the Enchantress, offered to save Donovan in exchange for gathering eight knights for her. He begrudgingly agreed, and the Enchantress killed and resurrected him into the undead Specter Knight. She presented him with a locket that she took from him, telling him that with each knight that joins the Order, it would be imbued with power, with a fully powered locket capable of bringing him back to life.[24]

Specter Knight doesn't leave the tower, thus he uses a magic mirror operated by the Dark Acolyte to travel to the locations of various knights to request their allegiance to the Order. Partway through his quest, a boy named Reize Seatlan breaks into the Tower of Fate, hoping to defeat the evil within. Seeing his potential, the Enchantress fills him with dark energy, corrupting him like herself despite Specter Knight's protests. After a battle, Dark Reize becomes the new operator of the mirror, while the Dark Acolyte is thrown to the dungeon. Once seven knights have been recruited, Black Knight breaks in and reveals that the Enchantress is Shield Knight. Enraged that he has been working for Shield Knight (albeit possessed), seeking vengeance for Luan, and hoping to save Reize, Specter Knight goes after the Enchantress through the hole that Black Knight dug further into the tower, with guidance from the Dark Acolyte. Upon his arrival, the Enchantress summons Reize and fills him with more dark energy, turning him into a giant phantom. Specter Knight defeats Nightmare Reize, but the Enchantress decides to make Reize her eighth knight. Specter Knight demands he is made the last knight in Reize's place and uses the locket to restore Reize to life instead.

With the full Order assembled, the Enchantress's forces begin their siege and take over the land, while Specter Knight returns Reize to his village, where he will be safe. Now bound to the Enchantress, he laments to Black Knight that he fears she will never be stopped. In a post-credits scene, Specter Knight reminisces over the locket, revealed to have been a keepsake given to him by Luan, who asked Donovan to protect Reize, who is revealed to be his son.

King of Cards campaign[edit]

Prior to the events of Shovel of Hope and Specter of Torment, a card game called Joustus is sweeping the nation, with a tournament offering the title of "King of Cards" to whoever can defeat the three Joustus Judges: King Pridemoor, the Troupple King, and King Birder. King Knight, wanting the title of king, receives a deck of cards from Specter Knight and begins to work his way through the tournament. King Knight's victories have attracted the attention of a bard and Cooper, an adventurer and captain, who seek a Joustus champion. With Cooper's airship, King Knight travels to Pridemoor Keep to battle King Pridemoor, gaining supporters along the way. However, due to the rules simply saying that the Joustus judges had to be defeated (never specifying that it was Joustus they had to be defeated at), King Knight battles King Pridemoor physically instead. Once defeated, King Pridemoor aids King Knight on his quest to the next Joustus judge as an armor smith.

As King Knight travels through the Troupple Kingdom, he encounters various future members of the Order of No Quarter. Additionally, King Knight's mom starts showing some interest in King Pridemoor, the thought of which disgusts King Knight. When King Knight finally reaches the Troupple King, he accidentally offends the Troupple King by not recognizing who he was, thus starting another battle. When a Troupple Acolyte arrives to state King Knight's intentions, however, the Troupple King sends the Troupple Acolyte to aid King Knight on his quest against the final Joustus judge: King Birder.

During the journey through the Birder Kingdom, King Knight encounters more future members of the Order. Later, King Knight also witnesses a conversation between Specter Knight and two hooded figures. After beating Specter Knight, King Knight finally makes it to King Birder, revealed to be one of the hooded figures. King Pridemoor and the Troople Acolyte arrives to witness the final match, only for King Birder to trap them all and engage in battle with King Knight. Upon defeating King Birder, however, it is revealed that he was a normal Birder being controlled by the Enchantress, the other hooded figure, who created Joustus to bring the kings together in one place. However, she leaves them alone, as the Joustus tournament gave enough of a distraction for Specter Knight to find the Knights for the Order of No Quarter.

From the voices of the kings and supporters, King Knight is essentially forced to chase the Enchantress at the Tower of Fate. Once King Knight confronts the Enchantress, she admits that she underestimated King Knight. With the support of the three judges and all of the supporters he gained along his journey, King Knight battles the Enchantress. Before she is defeated, however, she combines the three judges into a powerful monster. Once King Knight defeats the monster, the judges and all of King Knight's supporters are hanging on a chain. As they ask for help, King Knight is swayed by the Enchantress's offer to be Pridemoor's "true" king, at the cost of abandoning all of his companions. As King Pridemoor pleads King Knight to save them, he mentions King Knight's mother, and asks what she would think of his actions. After he says this, King Knight finally turns on all of his allies and joins the Order of No Quarter. After ordering that all Joustus cards in the kingdom be burned and destroying Cooper's airship with the aid of Propeller Knight, King Knight usurps Pridemoor's throne and assumes his role as a "true" king, with King Pridemoor and his mother regretfully leaving him alone after begging him to reconsider his decision. In a post-credits scene, King Knight finishes renovations and remarks to himself that he is finally able to enjoy the kingdom he long sought for, only for Shovel Knight to enter moments later and presumably do battle with King Knight, parallel to the battle they had in Shovel of Hope.

Shovel Knight Showdown story mode[edit]

During the events of Specter of Torment, as Specter Knight journeys to defeat the Enchantress, the inhabitants of the Tower of Fate join their friend's cause. They decided to try to trap the Enchantress inside her magic mirror, only to also trap Shovel Knight, the members of the Order of No Quarter, and the other playable characters inside, too.

The story and ending depend on which character the player selected beforehand. The character they pick also affects the third and ninth battles they face. It is also unknown if all characters experience being trapped, or only two of the characters are trapped. All characters must face the Mirror of Fate at the end.

For example, during Shovel Knight's ending, he discovers that Shield Knight still lives and that he must try to find her. After their dialogue, Shovel Knight wakes up, prompting the start of Shovel of Hope.

Development[edit]

Designer Nick Wozniak stated that the idea for the game started out as "sort of as a joke conversation over lunch that kind of got too serious".[25] The team had already planned to make a game in the style of the NES classics that they grew up on, and eventually the sword-thrust move from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was brought up as a move that both designers liked. They soon thought that this move would be better suited in their game for a shovel instead of a sword.[25] Other specific inspirations include Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, DuckTales, Super Mario Bros. 3, the Mega Man series, U.N. Squadron, and Dark Souls.[26][27] The decision of the character's name was "pretty much settled" after the first brainstorming session, with the name "Plummet Knight" being the only other suggestion.[28]

The game was announced on March 17, 2013 alongside the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund development, with a minimum funding goal of US$75,000. The campaign reached this goal in late March and went on to collect a total of $311,502, fulfilling all announced stretch goals for additional features, by its end on April 13.[29][30] Those goals include a four-player battle mode, a mission-based challenge mode, an additional mode that swaps all the characters' genders, and additional playable story campaigns for three boss characters. To promote the Kickstarter, Yacht Club distributed copies of its initial Penny Arcade Expo demo to several prominent gaming personalities on YouTube, including Two Best Friends Play and Game Grumps.[31][32]

Shovel Knight features a chiptune soundtrack in the style of older video games from the NES era and were composed by Jake Kaufman, with two contributions by Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae. The game's soundtrack was released for download via Bandcamp on the same day as the game, as was a rearrangement album.

Shovel Knight's graphics and music mimic the style of video games from the NES era and shares the NES's limits of color palette (plus four colors) and sprite count. This means that larger sprites are superimposed on a black background to limit the onscreen colors to a realistic maximum. Other trickery to properly honor the NES limitations include camera shakes that only act on a single axis and a GUI that acts as a background layer instead of being overlaid on top of the gameplay.[33]

Release[edit]

The game was originally slated for release in September 2013, but was delayed into early 2014.[34] After various further delays,[35][36] Yacht Club Games announced on June 5 that the game would be released on June 26, 2014.[37] The game was eventually released on several additional platforms including both the PlayStation 4[38] and Xbox One, featuring exclusive boss battles, with Kratos from God of War on PS4[38] and the Battletoads on Xbox One.[39][40] Various platforms got a physical media release in October 2015.[41]

Prior to 2017, the game was sold with the name Shovel Knight, with various additional campaigns appearing as free downloadable content. An update in April 2017 made the original story campaign and additional downloadable campaigns available for standalone purchase on certain platforms, with the original campaign being subtitled Shovel of Hope.[42] A compilation containing all three campaigns was released as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, with all previous purchases being updated to the Treasure Trove edition.[42]

Reception[edit]

Shovel Knight received universal acclaim, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[43][44][45][46][47][48][49] IGN editor Colin Moriarty awarded the game a 9/10 rating, calling it "arguably the best game released so far in 2014."[50] Infendo.com called it "a brilliant homage to a bygone era, yet an equally fresh, captivating and innovative game"[52] and Nintendo Life praised the 3DS version's "excellent controls, gorgeous graphics, an incredible soundtrack and endearing characters ... top-notch level design, varied gameplay, hidden rooms, optional challenges and a deceptively rich combat system."[51]

Including Kickstarter backers, 180,000 copies of Shovel Knight within one month of the North American launch. 49,000 copies were sold on Wii U, 59,000 were sold on 3DS, and 66,000 were sold on Steam.[53] By December 4, 2014, more than 300,000 copies had been sold across all platforms.[54] As of June 30, 2015, more than 700,000 copies had been sold.[55] By December 14, 2016, 1.5 million copies had been sold.[56] Yacht Club Games revealed in April 2018 that 2 million copies of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove had been sold.[57] By September 2019, 2.65 million copies had been sold.[58]

Accolades[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Year Awards Category Result Ref.
2014 The Game Awards Best Independent Game Won [59]
GameSpot's Game of the Year 3DS Game of the Year Nominated [60]
Overall Game of the Year Nominated [61]
Wii U Game of the Year Nominated [62]
Giant Bomb's 2014 Game of the Year Awards Best Debut Nominated [63]
Best Game Nominated [64]
Best Music Nominated [65]
Nintendo Life's Reader Awards 2014 3DS eShop Game of the Year Won [66]
Wii U eShop Game of the Year Won
Nintendo Life's Staff Awards 2014 3DS eShop Game of the Year Won [67]
Wii U eShop Game of the Year Won
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards Original Light Mix Score, New IP Nominated [68]
Game, Original Action Nominated
2015 IGN's Best of 2014 Best 3DS Game Won [69]
Best Music Won [70]
Best Overall Game Nominated [71]
Best Platformer Won [72]
Best Platformer – People's Choice Won
Best Wii U Game Nominated [73]

Legacy[edit]

An Amiibo figure of Shovel Knight was released in 2015 as the first Amiibo toy of a non-Nintendo character that is not associated with a first-party game.[74] An Amiibo 3-pack containing Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight was released in 2019.[75]

Shovel Knight appears as a playable guest character in several games[76] including Indie Pogo, Blade Strangers, Cook, Serve, Delicious: Battle Kitchen, Move or Die, Dino-Run DX, Runner3, Riverbond, Rivals of Aether, Blaster Master Zero, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Road Redemption, Epic Manager, C-Wars, Starr Mazer, Runbow, All-Stars Dungeons and Diamonds, Ghost Police, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, Pixel Noir, and Mighty Quest.[77][78] Shovel Knight characters make cameo appearances in Brawlhalla,[79][80][81] Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2,[82] Two Brothers, Yooka-Laylee, Aegis Defenders, The Reward: Tales of Alethrion,[83][84] River City Ransom: Underground, Creepy Castle, Puzzle Depot,[85] Crypt of the NecroDancer, Enter the Gungeon, Katana Zero, and For Honor.[86] Its music appears in Just Shapes & Beats and Voez. Shovel Knight collaborated with Arby's in March 2021 to release a set of toys, which included Arby's themed cheat codes for the game.[76]

References[edit]

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