Retro inspired indie titles aren’t exactly new, but Yacht Club Games have created one of the best homages to old Nintendo games in recent memory.
Shovel Knight is in fact so good that you’ll leave the game wondering just how the developers managed to recreate the feel of the 8-bit era whilst keeping the experience fresh and unique. The end result is one of the best games in its genre, and a possible game of the year contender to old school gamers.
As mentioned in our preview just before the summer, Shovel Knight is a mixture of Megaman, Ducktales, Zelda II and even Super Mario Bros. 3. Whether it’s the platforming mechanics or the overworld itself, Shovel Knight takes the very best of classic NES games and reworks them into one package. The most obvious inspiration is Mega Man, with the level design in each world themed around the boss Knight found at the end of the level.
The levels vary considerably, from an underwater labyrinth to gothic, Castlevania-esque town. No two levels feel the same and the boss battles at the end of each world are utterly fantastic whilst being completely distinct. Each boss provides a unique challenge, usually offering an attack pattern that consists of 2 or 3 different moves. These bosses prove easier than the average NES game, but in most cases this is a very good thing.
Speaking of difficultly, I never found Shovel Knight to be unfair. The checkpoints in each level are well placed and death results in the player losing a chunk of gold as opposed to a life. It’s a refreshing and welcome system similar to the Dark/Demon Soul’s games, showing that Yacht Club Games aren’t only inspired by the old classics.
I should also mention that the soundtrack is absolutely perfect and highly reminiscent of the games it’s inspired by. The controls too are absolutely perfect and are well suited to Wii remote, which mimics the NES controller perfectly. If you’re playing on the Gamepad, you’ll get off-TV support, which works as you’d expect.
When Shovel Knight was first announced through Kickstarter, it was clear that the game was full of potential. Having completed the game I firmly believe that Shovel Knight is the true successor to a generation of games that are now long gone, and it is almost peerless in its execution and its tight gameplay.
If you have a 3DS or a Wii U version, pick this up. It’s a fantastic representation of the indie gaming scene, and a reminder of a simpler time in gaming history when the only thing that mattered was gameplay and catchy 8-bit tunes.