Shovel Knight

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JaySevenZero
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Shovel Knight

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 4:16 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Shovel Knight for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

NB: This show will just focus on the original 'vanilla' game, pre-dlc.
All the extra content will be covered in a future podcast.

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xbenblasterx
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Re: 325: Shovel Knight

Post by xbenblasterx » May 5th, 2018, 6:47 am

Being of an age where i am to young to have experienced the 8 & 16 bit eras on their first go round, i have really enjoyed the current trend in reviving those 16bit days, and of of the many games released baring those chunky pixels, Shovel Knight is one of the best.

Visually Shovel Knight is Impressive and charming. The enviroments are varied and interesting which is needed as there are more than a few sections in this game where the dificulty started to get the better of me, boy this game is tough. Tough in a fair way, a way inwhich if you die its never the games fault only the fault of me and fumbling hands at the controls. I'm not usually a fan of platformers of any kind, to be so taken in by Shovel Knight a frustratingly difficult 2D platformer from a bygone era, is a true testament to the quality and hard work Yacht Club games put into making Shovel Knight.

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TheProf
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Re: 325: Shovel Knight

Post by TheProf » May 5th, 2018, 5:06 pm

I picked this game up on Wii U recently and gave it a shot. What I learned from this experience is...there are some games that just aren't for me. Despite being a big fan of platformers I just didn't have the patience to 'git gud' with Shovel Knight. Something about the mechanics just didn't sit right with me and I couldn't get into that wonderful groove that you sometimes find yourself in when playing a platformer, where you move at top speed and can seem to do no wrong.

The visuals, while charming, didn't have any particular nostalgic effect on me. I found the loot system very frustrating - if you die you lose loot which floats in place allowing you to potentially pick it up. However there is risk reward as it may be in a dangerous place. I often died, then didn't try to retrieve the loot because it could mean dying again, then got to the end of the level with nothing to show for it. This meant I couldn't buy upgrades, making the game harder for me - the very person who needed the upgrades the most because I was a bad player. This seemed like a cruel cycle which benefited the best players by making the game easier for them, while punishing the worst players. Somewhat counterintuitive I would suggest.

Anyway, it is likely that I'm just bitter about being bad at this game. I would still recommend it because I think there is a lot of good there, it just wasn't for me!

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shadowless_kick
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Re: 325: Shovel Knight

Post by shadowless_kick » May 7th, 2018, 12:13 pm

Shovel Knight was one of the first games I played when I got a PS4 after years and console generations spent away from gaming. Unfortunately, I found the concept and aesthetic more appealing than the game itself. Something about the way the character moved and attacked seemed slightly off to me, but it wasn't an insurmountable issue. The difficulty, however, turned out to be more of a problem. There's challenging, and then there's frustrating, and Shovel Knight hit the latter on far too many occasions. Upon clearing some boss battles after numerous failed attempts, I felt that I had merely gotten lucky, and that my pattern recognition and dexterity really had nothing to do with my victory. It eventually got to the point where I was playing simply to beat the game so I could move on to another.

It wasn't all bad, though. I enjoyed the characters, the music and the game's sense of humor. Little touches like the Troupple King's dance routine and surprise appearances by Chester the Relic guy were fun and helped alleviate the frustration I often felt. (So did imagining the Shovel Knight speaking with a pronounced lisp, which is how I heard him in my head.)

Since beating it, I've downloaded the additional DLC campaigns and perhaps I'll give 'em a whirl sometime when I'm in the mood to punish myself. As it stands now, I primarily appreciate Shovel Knight for being one of the titles that helped lure me back into gaming, even if the actual experience wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

3-word review: "Aww, come on!"

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Steve Arran
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Re: 325: Shovel Knight

Post by Steve Arran » May 15th, 2018, 11:38 am

Hand on heart, I love this game. It was the first retro style game I downloaded for my PS4 which made me feel like I was a kid again; scooched up next to my TV in my PJs, playing what for all intents and purposes might be a Mega Man or Super Mario clone. Albeit a clone who wears fetching blue armour and wields a pretty deadly garden implement.

I think my fondness for this title comes from two things, and surprisingly it’s not really from the gameplay. The mechanics are nice and tight and ricocheting off a member of the Order of No Quarter will never NOT be satisfying. Also the initial difficulty is pleasantly curved, though new game plus can boarder on frustrating at times. I do like a challenge, and with stages that directly reference the likes of Ghouls n Ghosts it’s not surprising that some moments can be agreeably taxing. That being said, for me most of the pleasure of Shovel Knight comes from appreciating the aesthetics.

The exterior backgrounds in this game are absolutely astonishing. From your first glimpses of the distant tower through the darkened trees in the opening level, right up to the neon green thunderstorm you battle through in the penultimate stage; they never cease to be anything less than brilliant. The developers have managed to generate so much atmosphere with such a limited colour palette; I could practically feel the cold dawn chill in which our plucky Hero awakes at his camp site. So impressive for something so arguably primitive! Personal highlights have to be the vivid yellow sunset which bursts onto screen when you reach the highest point of the Flying Machine stage, as well as the aforementioned acid green rainstorm which lashes down on the battlements of the Tower Of Fate. However, for me the achievements of the background art almost pale in comparison to the success of the soundtrack.

The music in the opening stage of this game told me everything I needed to know about what was to come; namely that I was going to have a damn good time. I can’t remember such a joyous and driven musical score since Mega Man, an influence which the game obviously wears prominently on its sleeve. Jake Kaufman deserves awards for ‘Strike The Earth!’ alone, but the bubbly almost ‘Under the Sea’ tones of the Iron Whale stage also manage to create such a gleeful experience that I often wanted to continue playing just to listen to the music.

Of course it’s not all great. The general enemy design is pretty forgettable, though each boss dose have a very distinct visual style. They are each a little easy to defeat on vanilla difficulty, but I’ll never not love smashing King Knights stupid bucket head in. Also I do have a soft spot for Chester the relic seller who kind of reminds of a a blue pixelated version of The Predator.

All in all I think Shovel Knight is throwback gaming done right. The story’s simplistic- though surprisingly touching- and the mechanics are sharp. But it managed to transport me into a gorgeous world using just a few colours and very limited graphics. Getting all the trophies may prove a bit of an ask, but I’m always down for a challenge.

Three word review: Retro Gaming Crack.

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Mr Ixolite
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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.6.18) - 325: Shovel Knight

Post by Mr Ixolite » June 17th, 2018, 10:08 pm

Full disclosure: As someone who considers platformers his favorite genre and Megaman his favourite franchise, I was probably the easiest lay possible for Shovel Knight. Even so, I could’ve never predicted just how much I’d grow to love this game, which stands as one of my all-time favorites.

Firstly, the game has pitch perfect level design. Every stage is unique, and serves up escalating and varied challenges perfectly matching the level theme. The game constantly throws new things at you, and yet whenever I died I blamed myself, not the game. Don’t get me wrong, Shovel Knight frequently made me swear like a sailor, but the controls are so good that I knew I just had to practice and stay focused to prevail.

Plus, while the game is certainly challenging, there are a great many opportunities for the player to tailor their own difficulty. Theres’ hidden music sheets and breakable check points for added challenge, but theres’ also Ichors, meal tickets, unlimited lives, defense boosting armor, and relics that can make certain bosses a cakewalk – the chaos orbs in particular seems pretty overpowered. I personally found myself deliberately avoiding such assistance as much as possible in my first playthrough, no doubt out of a stubborn, Megaman-inspired desire for purity. But then in new game plus, I needed to utilize every feature available to eke out a win in the Battle Royale. In that way, I got two radically different experiences out of the game.

And that’s before taking the expansions into account, which -despite reusing a ton of assets- still feel like completely new experiences. While I will wait patiently for the next shovel knight podcast to gush over them in detail, I'd like to give a quick shout out to the Body Swap mode. Beyond being admirably inclusive it adds yet more replayability to the game.
As it currently stands, Shovel Knight is possibly my most-value-for-money gaming purchase ever, and has ruined my view of contemporary game publishing practices. How come everything else seems so greedy and customer unfriendly, when this scrappy indie game gives me three free expansions out of complete goodwill?

So, gameplay and content-wise, the game is pretty dang great. But what elevates it even further, is wrapping everything in an incredibly appealing presentation. Of course such things are subjective, but to me the world of Shovel Knight is simply a joy. This obviously includes the colorful environments, the well designed characters and the fantastic music, but also the overall tone of the game. This is a world where you’ll bomb at comedy before a grumpy toad, where every villain gets amusing closure during the credits, where the Troupple King exists, and where you can do pogo jumps on Kratos’ head.

And to top it all off, the game also managed to hook me emotionally, without me even noticing. The overall plot is simple yet charmingly presented, but the game completely sells me the most important thing: the relationship between Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. By tying her into the gameplay, both at the campfires and later on, she becomes more than an abstract goal. And so when I beat the game for the first time, I remember feeling mortified, then tensing up throughout the credits, and then breathing a cathartic sigh of relief at the final shot. That’s when I knew Shovel Knight was not just a collection of fun platforming challenges, but something truly special.

Some may criticize Shovel Knight for not having enough ideas of its own, borrowing from games ranging from Super Mario Bros 3 to Dark Souls. But I find that Shovel Knight syntheses several decades worth of gaming innovation into a cohesive, unique experience, that stands as the platonic ideal of a 2D platformer. Simply put, Shovel Knight is better than any of the retro-games it takes inspiration from, and I can’t wait to see what Yacht Club games cooks up with King of Cards and beyond.



3 word review: STRIKE THE EARTH!

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.6.18) - 325: Shovel Knight

Post by Magical_Isopod » June 17th, 2018, 10:51 pm

Shovel Knight is one of the best NES games ever made, but therein lies the catch. I want to love Shovel Knight - I see the clear love and care they've put into crafting this game, and within the constraints of the type of game they were aiming to make it looks great.

Only one issue.

I simply do not enjoy NES games. My gaming "career" starts with the Sega Genesis, and with the exception of the TG-16 and certain arcade titles, I have a really difficult time enjoying anything more primitive. The limited colour palettes and screeching chiptunes make for an unenjoyable gaming experience, and for better or worse, the NES was projected perfectly onto Shovel Knight's core design.

While I do acknowledge that Shovel Knight is a wonderful achievement for what it is, I personally feel, as a wee lad of 28 with no NES nostalgia, that Shovel Knight is only held back by its commitment to staying "retro". There is nothing here that really feels like a marked improvement from the likes of early-90s NES titles; there was nothing to hook me to say, "This game is special enough to warrant your attention." It's polished to a mirror sheen, but I certainly think the game would have been better by taking even one more half-step towards the fourth console generation... You can write the greatest symphony in human history, but squander it by hiring a high school band instead of a world-renowned orchestra.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.6.18) - 325: Shovel Knight

Post by Todinho » June 23rd, 2018, 4:01 am

Shovel Knight was one of the first and only games I kickstarter, what drew me into back it, despite me not being that big of a mega man fan or into retro plataformers from the 80's and 90's, was how much character and charm all of the art they were showing from the game had and if I had to sum up the game in one word it would be : charming. I think its almost impossible to playthrough the game without chuckling or cracking a smile at all the quirks and details the game has, you can tell just by playing it that this was a passion project and that the people who worked on it loved making the game and this shows in every facet of it.

Gameplaywise the game borrows heavily from 2D plataformers such as Mega Man and Castlevania but rather then feeling like a copy of those games Shovel Knight manages to have an identity of its own by mashing elements of those games together but also introducing new elements and refinements such as doing away with a lives system and having an economy where you can spend money collected in stages to upgrade your character and acquire different tools that will help you progress through the game.
The level design is also great managing to be challenging but fair with each level having its own unique aesthetic and gimmick keeping things fresh and testing different skills, they also encourage exploration by having plenty of secrets hidden often leading to small challenges that wield rewards such as music sheats and sub-weapons.
Last but not least the boss fights here are another highlight, not only is each boss very unique visually and personality wise but no fight is the same with each boss having interesting move sets that require the player to adapt: Plague Knight teleports and throws bombs, Polar Knight cracks the floor with spikes, Tinker Knight jumps into a giant mech that you have to climb so on and so forth.

Visually the game is going for the 80's retro look but once again Shovel Knight goes one step further, personally I find alot of 80's plataformers to be very drab looking, especially compared to their 90's counterparts, but while Shovel goes for that look the work the devs put into each sprite makes the game really pop despite its more limited color palette, from the character sprites, from town npcs to enemies, that are beaming with personality and have great little animations to the backgrounds that range from gothic cemeteries to floating fortresses. I think the spritework here is so good that even if you are sick of the retro aesthetic in indie games you're likely to forgive this one.

The soundtrack is a star apart with the game having amazing tracks from the opening stage to the final boss, with each track complementing their respective enviroments and scenes perfectly. My favorites being Strike the Earth, La dance macabre and Requiem for Shield Knight.

One aspect that i was really impressed and surprised by was actually the story and writing in the game, NES inspired 2D plataformers arent know for great narratives but for what it is Shovel Knight tells a pretty heartwarming story full of funny and likeable characters that I was pretty invested in by the end, its not shakespere but it goes above and beyond what would expect from this type of game and just goes to show once again how much the devs cared about every aspect of the game.

For all its major aspects in the end its the little things that really made me love the game, things like clearing the Litch yard and going back to town and be rewarded by a little dance, being able to leave or save the dangling members of the Order after the boss rush and going through the entire game doing a mini game where you try to catch Shield Knight to go and catch her at the end and then fighting alongside her versus the final boss.
While Shovel Knight is aping 80's plataformers its by no means just a retro throwback, to me the game rises above that and asserts itself as a great game in its own right and in my opinion surpassing the games it was influenced by. I dont know what Yatch Club plans are after the final Shovel Knight expansion but whatever it is if they pour in it half the love they had while making this game then Im sure it will turn out great.

Three word Review:
A great catch.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.6.18) - 325: Shovel Knight

Post by Alex79uk » June 23rd, 2018, 10:28 am

I really enjoyed this game. A real love letter to the classic 8bit era of platform action games. I remember it being really tricky in places too, that boss rush towards the end of the game almost had me throwing my Vita up the wall, but I stuck with it and got through in the end. I would definitely be up for a sequel, for sure.

THREE WORD REVIEW: MegaMan, Mario, ShovelKnight.

Ok, I cheated a bit there.

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Craig
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Re: Shovel Knight

Post by Craig » July 22nd, 2018, 6:56 am

Just listened to the podcast of this and it was lovely stuff. Really positive discussion and really makes me pumped up to play it again.

Just to clear up something about the music and why it sounds a bit "chiptune plus". The soundtrack goes beyond the limitations of the NES. However, it is entirely playable on the Famicom. This is thanks to the Konami's VRC6 chip which added two additional pulse waves and a square wave.

Back in the day, consoles would essentially be given incremental upgrades via additional chips in cartridges (see the famous SFX chip that allowed for the face melting 3D of the original Starfox.) The NES was no stranger to this which means later NES games were capable of far more impressive things, and not just because people had become more accustomed to the hardware. As part of this, Konami developed their own music chip which allowed for improved sound in Famicom games. Likely due to Nintendo of America controlling the production of the cartridges in the states, Konami either couldn't, or decided against using this chip in the US.

If you want to hear how the chip effected the music, the most famous example is Castlevania 3 -


Jake Kaufman used Famitracker to create the soundtrack, which is a program which allows you to make music keeping in line with NES/Famicom limitations and even output a file that can play on original hardware. Like many chiptune artists making 8 bit music, he used the additional VRC6 channel because while it still gives that nostalgic feel, it gives you a lot more freedom (doubling your melodic channels) and most people aren't going to really notice that it's not exactly what they heard as a kid. And hey, that fits in with the graphical style too. Replicating the feel of nostalgia, rather than being pixel perfect recreation.



As a side note, if you want to see just how far the Famicom could be pushed with extra chips audio wise, have a listen to the Lagrange Point soundtrack -

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Re: Shovel Knight

Post by Flabyo » July 22nd, 2018, 10:20 am

Been reading about the Famicom and NES differences in the book ‘I am Error’ recently, so I know this one.

The Famicom has an audio pass through pin on the cart slot which allows the cart to pass additional audio through that is mixed with the audio the machine generates itself. First used by the disk system version of Zelda.

The NES lacks this pass through, so even if the cart has the hardware on board there’s no way for it to pass that extra audio through to the console.

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Craig
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Re: Shovel Knight

Post by Craig » July 22nd, 2018, 11:39 am

Nice, I didn’t realise there was that tech limit baked into the hardware.

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