Celebrating Retroary with a True Tribute to the Classics
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Most gamer nowadays would find themselves hard pressed to trade in their ergonomic controllers, surround-sound headsets, and 52″ Ultra HD displays for the days of light guns, indestructible cartridges, and wired controllers that would barely reach 3 feet from the console but the spirit of gaming in decades past hasn’t been lost completely!
We’re living in a world so rapidly shaped and changed by technology that nostalgia is created faster than ever. This fascination with the past is rampant in today’s modern culture, though admittedly it’s not always treated reverently. Like land lines, a world with no caller ID, cassette tapes, and renting VHS’s, colorful video games with the familiar “bloops,” “beeps,” and “blorps” from our childhood are nostalgic gold when it comes to (sometimes) affectionately mining our technological limitations from the past 3 decades. We may even be on the verge of a full-blown retro revival, with the likes of various “Flashback” machines on shelves now (small units built to look like the original console, pre-loaded with several dozen popular titles) such as the Genesis, Atari 2600, Intellivision, and ColecoVision; Nintendo has also made vast swaths of both popular and obscure games from their past catalog available at low cost via its Virtual Console service. Additionally the past several years have given us a wealth of tributes, homages, and other appreciative nods to an era past.
Not all have been successful or even all that well publicized outside of niche gaming circles, though many are finding a steady and dedicated fanbase in digital-only formats. Games such as Resogun and Axiom Verge available via the PlayStation Network have been lauded for their retro flavor, including the simple but addictive design of the former and the “Metroidvania” style of the latter. However, there’s one that stands tall and towers over the pack: Shovel Knight!
And it’s not just me that thinks so. Starting initially as a small digital-only game for Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS, and PC, over the course of a year it was ported first to Mac and Linux systems, followed by physical releases for the 3DS, Wii U, and PlayStation 4, and digital releases for the PS3, PS Vita, and Xbox One. Nintendo fans were even granted an Amiibo of the titular character earlier this year (despite the game being over a year and a half old at this point) and the developers (Yacht Club Games) kept it interesting by adding in some appreciable version-exclusive features. Moreover, Yacht Club raised over 4 times their stated funding goal over Kickstarter, released a substantial expansion to the game (allowing the player to play through an altered version of the game as one of the villains), and have concrete plans to release 2 more such expansions based on 2 other characters! In our current gaming culture of “here today, gone tomorrow,” it’s amazing that Shovel Knight has not only maintained interest for so long, but that they’ve created enough momentum to continue updating and refining their product after over a year.
No, Shovel Knight is not truly a Retroary-eligible game, but it’s definitely worthy of sharing the spotlight. This isn’t a game that appropriated or adapted or adopted retrogaming elements, it’s a game that is firmly built on these concepts of yesteryear, albeit with a few minor tweaks to alleviate some of the frustrations caused by the then-current technology (save points, streamlined inventory system) and some of the outmoded thinking that that prevailed at the time (arbitrary points, finite lives). There are probably some other corners that have been cut to make for a smoother or more appealing experience, but overall the developers have done a fine job of crafting what would’ve surely been a memorable title even were it released alongside other retro heavyweights.
The creators specifically cite the NES Mega Man games, Super Mario Bros. 3, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, DuckTales, and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as direct influences, as well as UN Squadron and Dark Souls. You’ll also find traces of the original The Legend of Zelda, StarTropics, Faxandu, and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles peppered in as well. The overworld concept is lifted almost exactly from SMB3; the scenery draws heavily from all 3 Castlevania entries on the NES – particularly Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – as well as Zelda II; combat is 85% Castlevania, 10% DuckTales, and the other 5% gleaned from later Mega Man releases with a touch of Zelda/Zelda II; raw level design bounces around between Castlevania and Mega Man; and the music reminds me equally of TMNT II and Mega Man, particularly games 3 and 5 for whatever reason. Thematically the games draw from all these sources. Propeller Knight’s level, the Flying Machine, feels almost exactly what a “Propeller Man” level from Mega Man might feel like. Pridemoor Keep (King Knight), the Plains, the Lost City (Mole Knight), and the last few stages based in the Tower of Fate owe a good deal to the moody, subdued stylings of Faxanadu (there’s even a strong Bowser-esque flavor present in Mole Knight’s lava-coated lair), and of course Clockwork Tower – home of Tinker Knight – is a gear and cog-based level that would feel at home in any of the first 5 Castlevania games, as would Specter Knight’s home (The Lich Yard).
So in honor of Retroary and this astounding game that manages to celebrate retrogaming, I’ve compiled a video playthrough of the entire main game! It’s not a “perfect” playthrough, though I have edited out some of my deaths to make for a more watchable final product. And for those interested, it’s also a 100% playthrough: all items and relics purchased, all 6 music scores retrieved and returned, and all non-essential areas completed. Exclusive to ony versions of the game is a battle with God of War’s Kratos, which I’ve included as well!
The game isn’t really that long compared to most games, but it’s long enough that watching an entire playthrough is going to take a while. I’ve divided the game into roughly 20 minute chunks, sometimes perhaps a little more or a little less as to not interrupt a particular level. So without further ado, check out this 100% playthrough of Shovel Knight! And if you haven’t already, subscribe to our YouTube channel keep your eyes open for a playthrough of the Plague of Shadows expansion, were the player assumes the role of Plague Knight!
Part 2: The Lich Yard (18:17)
Part 5: Reize Seatland | Baz (8:26)
Part 9: Armor of Chaos | Mr. Hat (17:39)
Part 10: Stranded Ship (19:41)
Part 12: The Flying Machine (16:54)
Part 13: Frigid Flight (4:11)
Part 14: Tower of Fate: Entrance (14:00)
Written, played, and edited by The Cubist
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