Shovel Knight is the best Mega Man game I've ever played.
Released in 2014, Shovel Knight is a love letter to everything retro about video games. There are tons of things about Shovel Knight that you can point at and recognize what influences it, ranging from Castlevania to Zelda and even some Mario-- all series' that are respected in their own rights. ...but while their legacies stand the test of time, that's not always the case with the gameplay itself. Rose-tinted glasses are a powerful thing. The games sometimes don't look as good as you remember, their difficulties occasionally out of balance, or their objectives and story may find themselves poorly translated and unclear.
...but Shovel Knight is more than just a retro indie platformer-- Shovel Knight is the game you remember your favorite retro games being, glasses and all. While it strives to look native to a Nintendo Entertainment System, it isn't afraid to cheat to make things look better than the NES was capable of pulling off. It stretches the rules of what soundchip was allowed to create a lively soundtrack. But most importantly, by being so far removed from that era of games it is given the breathing room to take its time and learn from them. It recognizes where retro games succeeded and adapts that style where it can, but it also understands where they falter and substitutes modern game design in its place.
It satiates my craving for the games I used to play... and yet, despite being an amalgamation of games from years past that have since gone on to establish long-lasting histories, Shovel Knight stands tall as a beast of its own. It is Ninja Gaiden and it is DuckTales and it isn't ashamed to show that, but through it all it's remembered not as the parts that it's comprised of but as itself-- Shovel Knight.
Let's pop in the cartridge, gather 'round the CRT, and play.
...it's a metaphorical CRT, of course. While this game has been released on basically every platform, it is not actually out on the NES. No, I'll be playing on the Wii U instead. An amiibo will be involved at some point because what good is it to pretend it's the 90s if you don't have toys to play with?
1 - Main Theme
Untold glory and riches await you on this grand adventure!
"You may not know this, but I compose a unique theme for every new adventurer! I don't merely reuse old music! ...well, sometimes I do."
2 - Steel Thy Shovel!
'Shovel Knight' sounds so formal... You should choose a nickname!
"I used to be the 'house band' at the hero registry... but all the applicants kept yelling and throwing things at me."
3 - One Fateful Knight
As your adventure begins, we are regaled with tales of bravery and despair
"Scoring to a picture is particularly challenging, let alone by dim candlelight! Alas, I press on."
4 - A Decisive Blow
Enter the arena, and feel like a champion! The audience is watching from off-site.
"I used an advanced technique to capture the sound of a cheering crowd!"
5 - No Weapons Here
Every town should have its own anthem. Tough times call for spirited song!
"You know, I used to get hired to write national anthems... sigh..."
6 - Pastorale
A calmer take on our village's anthem, great for relaxing indoors.
"Having my music piped into shopping centers. I... suppose it does pay the bills."
7 - The Local Happenstance
Sound doesn't travel so well down in the juice bar, so we have to keep it simple.
"Last week I was... barred from the juice bar. What are you, some kind of bard-tender?"
8 - Courage Under Fire
Your trials are far from over, but for now, you can rest your shovel.
"Such a surly lot, those blacksmiths. All doom and gloom. At least they pay decently!"
9 - Bucklers and Bonnets
This song just makes you want to try out new types of armor, right?
"My suggestion to incorporate anvils into this composition was tossed aside. PAH! I say, make music not war!"
10 - Waltz of the Troupple King
Word to the wise: do not offer choreography feedback to the Troupple King.
"Upon my first recital, the Troupple King started flapping his fins and said 'I'm so happy, I could spit!' What happened next... I prefer not to talk about it."
11 - Watch Me Dance!
Whatever dangers you face, there's never a bad time to do a little dancing.
"'You should write a tarantella'! Last time I take the advice of a painter."
12 - Spin Ye Bottle
You know, it's really tough to flip those bottles with only a lute!
"The client's only reaction was, 'Oh, it's okay, I guess. Whatever.' Sorry, was it not brooding enough for you?"
13 - Fighting with All of Our Might
Ride into danger, evil beware; our powerful horses carry us there!
"This was written for another land's heroic tales, but it was a perfect fit for a grand battle!"
14 - The Donor's Despair
A bit foreboding for a peaceful, non-threatening portrait gallery, don't you think?
"'Make it spooky,' they said. I don't understand, it's an art gallery! Why spooky?"
15 - Backed Into a Corner
Rumors of the Hall of Champions being haunted are mere nonsense!
"I was honestly too busy to write this song, but it's my policy not to rely on ghost-writers."
16 - The Starlit Wilds
Rest your greaves, toast a marshmallow, and enjoy the starry night.
"I'll have you know, I invented a one-of-a-kind instrument that replicates the sound of crickets in a thicket!"
17 - Requiem of Shield Knight
Your memories still haunt you, even when you dream.
"My string quartet is available to play weddings and funerals. Here, take my bard card!"
18 - The Adventure Awaits
Travel across the land with determination, in high spirits!
"You know, they've done studies; reading maps is far easier with a musical backing."
19 - End of Days
The Order of No Quarter has been cornered, but danger looms large on the horizon.
"You know, they've done studies; reading maps was more fun when we had our freedom..."
20 - Strike the Earth!
Travel the Plains of Passage as your adventure begins!
"Ah, ostinato trumpet triplets. Is there anything you can't render into pure magic?"
21 - The Rival
An unexpected encounter in the Plains of Passage.
"Black Knight has fine musical taste. Should've studied composition! But, then I suppose I'd be the one with the rival..."
22 - The Defender
It's shovel versus shovel! Can your old rival be reasoned with?
"I like to keep my songs simple and less intense, so that I can really highlight the dramatic moments... ...HAHAHAHAHA! I slay myself."
23 - In the Halls of the Usurper
The regal fanfare of Pridemoor, twisted by King Knight's decadence!
"My first publicly performed lair theme. You might say it kickstarted my career!"
24 - The Decadent Dandy
The pretender must be dethroned, even if it's unfashionable.
"You wouldn't believe how many revisions King Knight demanded. He's what we call... A 'Knight-mare Client'!"
25 - La Danse Macabre
Even the dead can dance in this desolate land.
"'Dead crowd tonight,' says I. Lesson learned: Never crack jokes in a graveyard. Never ever."
26 - The Apparition
The Reaper cometh; are you prepared?
"When I presented this theme to Specter Knight, he started 'conducting' with that huge scythe. I'm glad I ducked out of the way in time!"
27 - A Thousand Leagues Below
Deep beneath the waves, riches await the brave... and the crazed.
"Another masterpiece from my foreign colleague. She was serenading adventurers when I was still in bard college!"
28 - The Bounty Hunter
Treasure Knight is certainly crazed, and he's not the type to share...
"This shyster kept trying to low-ball my bid, until I told him he'd win a gold medal for his theme."
29 - Flowers of Antimony
Flasks, beakers, retorts, crucibles, and alembics; what an intriguing hideout!
"Full disclosure: I transcribed this opus from another bard in a faraway land. Brilliant!"
30 - The Vital Vitriol
An explosive encounter with an ether-addled alchemical adversary.
"I was feeling uninspired until Plague Knight threw some kind of potion in my face. When I woke up, the song was somehow finished."
31 - An Underlying Problem
An excavation project of this scope would be respectable, in happier times.
"This driving ditty was meant to increase productivity. But it backfired completely - everyone started dancing!"
32 - The Claws of Fate
It's a shame that Mole Knight has used his digging prowess for evil.
"Mole Knight. Now there's a fellow who understands the concept of crunch time."
33 - Of Devious Machinations
A riveting tale of a mechanical marauder, gearing up for domination.
"I tried explaining noise channel manipulation to Tinker Knight. His response: 'Do your job, Bard.' The nerve!"
34 - The Schemer
Short in stature, short in speech, short in patience!
"Ol' Tinker takes his work seriously, so I wanted to keep things completely serious."
35 - The Destroyer
...But very large in ambition, and heavy in firepower.
"I could hardly hear myself think over that cursed tank, with all those missiles going off!"
36 - A Cool Reception
In the absence of solar heating, prepare to take a polar beating!
"How about you try penning a manuscript when it's so cold you can't feel your highly dexterous hands!?"
37 - The Stalwart
Hmph! Polar Knight has no time for your temperate silliness.
"I told Polar Knight that this was my greatest composition yet. His response? 'Hmph!'"
38 - High Above the Land
A grand airship, once the pinnacle of luxury transportation.
"I penned this track in a mere 3 hours, in front of a live audience! How? YEARS of study!"
39 - The Spin Controller
Don't go overboard, or you will find yourself foiled by Propeller Knight!
"NEVER take a gig on an airship. They made me sleep in the cargo bay! Rubbish!"
40 - The Fateful Return
Climb the Tower of Fate and meet your destiny!
"You know, there's something about that green rain that really gets my creativity flowing."
41 - The Inner Struggle
As the drama mounts, be ready for anything!
"Timpani rolls might be a shortcut to sturm-und-drang, but I've no shame, friend knight."
42 - The Forlorn Sanctum
The quiet is disquieting, but your mission must not fail!
"Ah, an avant-garde concerto for violins and sconces, with audience participation. Bravissimo!"
43 - The Possessor
If you could only convince her to listen to reason! Alas... battle it is.
"Say what you will about The Enchantress, but she was great to work with. Gave me this pretty amulet, too!"
44 - The Betrayer
With the amulet shattered and the Enchantress subdued, the true evil is exposed.
"So, helpful tip for my fellow bards: never accept amulets as payment. Trust me. Don't."
45 - A Return to Order
The land is free, and the danger is over. So ends this adventure...
"The Order is vanquished! Hooray! Perhaps now I can afford a studio in this wretched town."
46 - Reprise
One last celebration is in order! For shovelry!
"My original plan was to just 'copy and paste' our main theme, but the horse lady kept staring daggers at me. Sigh..."
"Hey Shovel Knight, I know things are tough, but don't throw in the trowel!"
"Pshh, that King Knight. You give him an inch, he thinks he's a ruler!"
"I traveled with some horse adventurers, but they were all so neigh-gative!"
"I was afraid as I jumped over the bottomless pit... but then I got over it."
"I wondered why the Black Knight's shovel was getting bigger. Then it hit me!"
"I'm sure your quest will pay off in spades, hero! HAHAHAHAHA!"
"The Goatician? He may feast on valuable Meal Tickets, but overall, he's not a baa-a-a-a-a-ad fellow!"
"Super skeletons are way too serious! They can't take a little humerus ribbing!"
"The Bard performs on the street because when he's inside, he can't conduct himself!"
"Have I told you about the broken sword? Eh, never mind, it's pointless..."
"Plague Knight tried to tell me a joke, but it was too formulaic. He failed to get any reaction!"
"I talked with Mona the other day...bad attitude, breaking breakers everywhere...such a vial woman!"
"Have you talked to the Juice Maid? I tried to squeeze her for information... But I'm not sure she had anything pulpy to extract! My efforts were toadally fruitless."
"I applied to be a Troupple Acolyte, but they said my apple-ication looked fishy... so they hired me!"
"Using a shovel as a weapon... what a groundbreaking idea!"
"Arrow signs are all the rage in the village these days, but I think they're on the way out."
"I forgot what Reize was using as a weapon... but then it came back to me!"
"Propeller Knight can fly around using a bladed propeller helmet. Now that is cutting edge!"
"You visited the nightclub down in the mines yet? A swingin' abyss!"
"How about the new hotel in the Iron Whale? I found their rooms sub-standard, and the place was a wreck."
"The Baz is a master of the rope whip. Natural talent, or was he taut?"
"Thanks for listening to all of my great jokes! I'd ask for a tip, but a well-told pun is its own re-word."
"Why would they just leave the catapult unattended? The operator is out to launch!"
"Why don't the snow wolves make any sound? They don't know howl."
"Why was Treasure Knight talking to a therapist? He had deep sea-ted anchor issues."
"What do they serve for breakfast on the Flying Machine? Two eggs, hover-easy."
"Why is Mona like a math book? Because they both have problems!"
"Why didn't Specter Knight go to the dance? He didn't have any body to go with!"
"Why did King Knight go to the dentist? Because he needed a new crown!"
"Why don't the rats in the Clockwork Tower make good pets? They are full of ticks!"
"Why is it called the Dark Ages? Because there's no shortage of knights!"
"Have you heard the Gastronomer is starting to cook with bullion? I tried some, but my soup was gold!"
"I applied for a job at the Juice Bar... I said 'put me to good juice!'"
"How did Baz feel after being rejected by the Order of No Quarter? Wrestle-less!"
"New disciples always ask about weapons besides the shovel blade... but we'll hear nothing of the sword!"
"I tried to pick up some gauntlets the other day... but the blacksmith said 'arm working on 'em but armor not finished yet!'"
"Did you hear about the time Tinker Knight went on a date? It was heart-wrenching!"
"Did you hear about my battle with Polar Knight? Snow problem!"
"Did you see my painting of the Troupple King? I'm not one to brag, but it's the spitting image!"
"Why does Mole Knight keep digging all the time? Just beclaws."
"What did I say as a rat knocked me into the bottomless pit? Rats!"
Panzer made these dope headers and banners! Thank you very much!