I don’t remember how I heard about Shovel Knight. It was one of the first games I downloaded with my new New 3DS XL, one of the first games that I stuck with through to the end after a long break from anything that wasn’t World of Warcraft. The whole time thinking about older games, how they could be different, still relevant, Mega Man, Caslevania, Earthbound.
However many console generations we’ve seen, there were only really two phases for a long time, the arcade cabinet phase, and then everything else until the Nintendo 64. Until then things we’re only getting prettier, taking advantage of updated color pallettes, an infinite horizon, so from like what, ’83 to ’96, we were reiterating that first anthology of solid gold games. Shovel Knight strikes that chord.
I kept waiting for there to be distractions. My time watching from a distance taught me that boredom and microtransactions awaited my return to games. It took a couple years for me not to expect cheapness and scheming. Shovel Knight never delivered when I was at my most cynical and that plays a big part in my love of the game. There is a gentleness about the way it reminds you why you’re drawn to games in the first place. Whatever it is for you, it takes you away to a time of less worry, and more time. Or it doesn’t and all these badass mechanics are fresh to you, at which I am envious. There will be no distractions for you, maybe frustration at the save system, the money situation, the expansion, but no distractions.
My first play through set me on a path of discovery. The “Indie Game,” a single Human Mind crafting through the deft use of fine tools a dream space for us to enter into whenever we want. Super Meat Boy was my other foray into what now is Indie Games so it was natural for me to dive head first in search of other solid visions. The gamespace is ripe with single minds colluding to create something only they know should exist. There was never a moment that led me to distrust the game. Every ability and upgrade fit into the springy play to teach me to take my time, and death hurts. You’ll end up with high hopes for the end of some levels, to leave with very little compared to what you came in with. That’s the joy of it. It keeps you focused on improving without causing shaking fits.
I dipped into the Plague Knight expansion knowing I wouldn’t see it through. But having played through the original and waiting for it, I had to see a little. In that spirit I finally downloaded Shovel Knight from Steam to play through again and start the NG+. So many of the games I have played are because I played Shovel Knight, I wanted to write through my impressions of the hard mode in anticipation of expansions based on all the other characters in the game. Shovel Knight is what Comcept meant to do with Mighty No. 9. Yacht Club set the bar higher than Mega Man’s own creator. All that’s left to see is if their endurance holds up for the next decade and a half.