Wow, 2014 feels like a long time ago all of the sudden. That's when the original Shovel Knight (later dubbed "Shovel Of Hope") was released. I remember getting that game as soon as it was released and being really into it. Later I'd dub it one of 2014's TOP TEN GAMES and being excited for the expansions. Over the years I did play the expansions, and I wasn't as into them. And six years later, I was starting to wonder if maybe the original Shovel Knight wasn't as good as I had remembered.
Certainly it was possible that 2014 was still a time when an indie game like this felt like a big deal. But man, have you looked at the eShop lately? A flood of new retro inspired indie games hit on a near daily basis. You can't swing a dead cat without a hitting a Metroidvania for instance.
And so I booted up my Wii U copy of the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove and decided to revisit that original game. If you haven't played it, it's sort of a mix of Mega Man and Ducktales. And Super Mario Bros 3. And some other stuff. Let me explain...
The Mega Man comparison is because you've got a group of other knights (bosses) to battle, which can be played in differing orders. You play through their levels and then face the boss. So very MM in structure. Though you attack with a shovel. And you can pogo hop. So this feels very Ducktales. Also there's an overworld map that reminds of SMB3, and has little item shops and stuff. Also you can use currency found in game to upgrade your weapons, skills, armor, so this is a bit new-ish in game structure.
And I'm here to tell you that even in 2020, yes, Shovel Knight still holds up fantastically well. I played for a while and took out a few bosses. The levels are all well designed. Challenging, but not super frustrating. The boss fights are awesome - each with their own INTERESTING attack patterns. It's a real blast. And the game just oozes charm from its sprite work and NPC's to the fantastic music.
I also messed around with the Amiibo support for a bit - I am the proud owner of a Shovel Knight Amiibo. This... I wasn't all that into. You can make a "Custom Knight" but I found this cumbersome. It meant leveling up the Amiibo instead of buying upgrades, and it would ask you to save to the Amiibo after every level which was annoying, so I shut that feature off altogether.
At any rate, I'm having a great time revisiting this game. I love when I can go to my shelves and pull something I already own and get a bunch of enjoyment out of it.
I love when I come back to a game years later and find that it actually holds up as well as I remember it. Sometimes games like these are cool at the time, but somehow lose their luster of the years as other games eclipse them. But Shovel Knight is continuing to impress me, again. The level design is great, the music is great, the boss battles are great. I'm having so much fun.
I've got only one boss level left, and then it's off to the final gauntlet.
We got a pretty big snow storm, so we spent the day with our daughter making a snowman, sledding, and marathoning the Frozen movies. Good stuff. Plus shoveling. Real life shoveling. So it's only fitting that once she went to bed, and my wife and I were wiped out, I finished up Shovel Knight.
The final stages are great. They remind of the Wily levels in Mega Man, but whereas those often frustrate me, the ones here had a great pacing to them, with checkpoints generous enough to never make me give up. Instead, it feels like you need to just master each new section.
Then there's the boss rush at the end which was a blast, and then the showdown against the enchantress which is a pretty epic and awesome (but not overly difficult) boss fight in which Shield Knight helps you out.
It's a satisfying ending, and just challenging enough to make you feel like you accomplished something but never rage-quit inducing. In the end, this replay has just reminded me WHY I loved this game back in 2014. And I think I still do love it. It's really great.