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Preview: Shovel Knight

Preview: Shovel Knight


We’re finally getting around to seeing the releases of the first wave of successfully-Kickstarted games, with FTL having been released and Double Fine’s Broken Age getting its first part released very recently. Of all the Kickstarter successes, though, the one I’m looking forward to most is an old-school platformer in the vein of Castlevania, Mega Man and DuckTales. Created by a team of ex-Wayforward employees, Yacht Club Games, Shovel Knight boasts some gorgeous graphics and decidedly retro design choices.

Shovel Knight’s setup is going to be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played the classic Mega Man NES and SNES games: there’s a central antagonist, The Enchantress, who commands The Order of No Quarter. Players choose which member of the Order they wish to face off against, and enter a level themed around that boss, before challenging them at the end of it. Each enemy Knight has a very unique design, from the flask-chucking, mask-sporting Plague Knight to the deep-sea diver suit and massive anchor of Treasure Knight. Shovel Knight will also face off against a personal nemesis, the mysterious Black Knight. The levels are as strongly-designed as the classic games (the developers did a month of livestreams where they played the entire Mega Man series just to get themselves into the right frame of mind for development), and they incorporate a whole bunch of movement mechanics and level gimmicks to make sure each stands out as memorable.


Due to it’s success on Kickstarter, the game has a whole plethora of extras, including the ability to play through the game as three of the boss Knights (Plague Knight, Specter Knight and King Knight), a 4-player battle mode, challenges, New Game +, achievements and an actual physical release.

The music looks to be excellent as well, with well-known composer Jake “virt” Kaufman creating the main score, with contributions from the legendary Manami Matsumae, composer of the very first Mega Man game. Both the music and graphics are being referred to as “NES+”, sticking to the authenticity of the classic colour palettes and sound chips, but adding extra layers and channels to bring those elements into the modern era.

Many indie developers opt to make games which are simply clones of the classic titles, but Yacht Club Games are doing it right by choosing the elements of those games which inspired them and combining it with their own mechanics. Reading through every Kickstarter update and blog post, it’s crystal clear that this team loves the classic NES platformers and loves the game they’re creating. They’ve already sent a demo of one of the levels to Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson and Jon “JonTron” Jafari to play on Game Grumps while the Kickstarter was ongoing, so if you want to check out a full level and see the game in action, I strongly recommend checking out that video. Shovel Knight is aiming for a March 31st release date and will be available on PC, Wii U, 3DS, Mac and Linux (3DS version for me, personally, can’t wait to see that parallax scrolling in stereoscopic).