I was breathlessly awaiting the release of Shovel Knight since I first saw tidbits about it online. And while I was not a kickstarter backer (too slow on the draw), I knew this game would have my money day one. See, I’m a sucker for any NES-centric retro throwback and I’ll forgive a lot of flaws if I think the game’s heart is in the right place. And this game was checking off all the right boxes on the NES platformer checklist.
World-map reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3:
Cool bosses a-la Dr. Wiley’s robot masters:
Pogo attack with shovel a-la Scrooge McDuck’s cane:
SO VERY CHECK
But even though all these things were in place, what I didn’t know was this game would be so thoroughly, wonderfully, absolutely excellent. From the graphics, to the music, to the tight controls, to the level design, this game has everything you want in a NES platformer. Shovel Knight really is the best NES that never was. I could go on and on about everything that makes this game truly a triple A production, but I will just say that the attention to detail is stunning. It very quickly becomes clear that the creative team behind this game was not satisfied with “good enough” and nothing feels rushed or unpolished.
Some might complain that the game is fairly short, but this is no flaw. Clocking in at about 6 hours to play completely through, Shovel Knight has as much or more content as the 8-bit classics it emulates. Shovel Knight never wears out its welcome, offering a concise and crafted platforming game with just enough hidden secrets and upgrades to keep you curious but never leaving you wandering about aimlessly. If I had one complaint, it might be that the game is a little on the easy side if you use all the health upgrades and recovery items that are available over the course of the game. But wait, the good people at Yacht Club Games thought of everything and offer a harder new game+ mode after completing the game. Oh Shovel Knight, I knew you wouldn’t let me down!
Unfortunately, some may pass on this game because it carries a price tag slightly higher than some other downloadable titles on the 3DS. But in terms of value, this game is worth a dozen of the cheaper downloads that are current crowding your SD card. So please, if you enjoy 2D platforming, NES action games, or just want to experience all that is right and good about “retro” throwbacks, buy Shovel Knight!
As I said, the music in Shovel Knight is excellent. At times, it is very reminiscent of the NES compositions of Tim Follin (Solstice, et. al), which is always good. It was largely composed by Jake Kaufman with some additional tracks by Manami Matsumae of Mega Man fame! Here are some sample selections:
You can download the entire soundtrack (with pay-what-you-like pricing) HERE