I spoke with Nick Wozniak (Pixel Art) and Sean Velasco (Design/Director) regarding Shovel Knights. They came from a team called WayForward Games – BloodRayne: Betrayal, Double Dragon Neon, and the most recently released Duck Tales Remastered. To join of the same-game fame, Jake Kaufman provides the kick-ass soundtrack all across the board. Now they’ve made a cadre of their own: Yacht Club Games.
Nick and I met back in October-November during the last IndieCade and we connected on the fact that the whole game palette was taking a piss to old NES games. Most famously, I remembered a bad game from my childhood Athena, of which the color palette was vivid, pukey, and obnoxious. However, Nick’s skill set actually made those colors harmonize and work well within the game. The fact that he took an abomination from my childhood and made it into something great was awesome. (I did send Nick a sample of Athena – he hated it too.)
One of the things that stood out to me was the ability for the Shovel Knight to “pogo” off of his shovel from objects and enemies. Ironically, Sean said that the main reason wasn’t Duck Tales, but rather they were motivated by the downward thrust move from the NES Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. As for the knight not having a sword – one could chalk it up to randomness, or a logic that would even rival the new SATs. It all makes sense, dammit!
Sean and Nick explained that the lack of the knight’s sword and the emergence of the shovel appeared as they wanted something sturdier and to make sense according to the environment. They wanted in the old style of NES games where you took a very limited set of skills, yet expanded them into endless possibilities. They also wanted a world much like a Mario 3 style worldmap, where you would have varying tiers revealed after you beat the final boss of the level. There will be 8 boss levels. (I did ask if you could cheap the game like a jackass by having a warp flute. They told me no.) However, the screen by screen gameplay will be like a lot of the old NES style of games like Megaman. In fact, they patterned their tutorial level for the Shovel Knight after Megaman X’s thoroughness.
Speaking of Megaman, Manami Matsumae came on board. If one doesn’t know her, she has contributed tracks and sounds to Megaman 1 through X, and contributed to UN Squadron. They were introduced via their Kickstarter through Mohammed Taher, who runs Brave Wave. Matsumae had already completed a chiptune album called World 1-2 and was looking for another project to be a part of. She really loved the concept of Shovel Knight and it most likely heralded a call back to a wonderfully nostalgic time.
I asked what Shovel Knight’s future was after this. Currently the team is working on more downloadable content and a possible alternate game as one of the bosses. The Plague Knight Boss (looking like the plague doctors of old) will be a playable character and you will be able to play the game with a whole new different skill set and a story from his angle. They will also be adding in more content to flesh out the background of the Shovel Knight’s story – but otherwise he’s a loveable and quite formidable character and you should play him a lot.
Shovel Knight will be available in the US on June 26 on Mac, PC, Linux, OSX, Steam, Humble Store, WiiU/3Ds via digital download. The international markets will come at a later date.