Review – Shovel Knight Showdown

When I first heard of Shovel Knight Showdown, my first thought was of how unfair it is that Shovel Knight himself is relegated to being a simple assist trophy in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Meanwhile, other useless characters like Piranha Plant, Dark Pit, and two thirds of the Fire Emblem fighters are happily filling up undeserved spots in that game’s roster. Was this Yacht Club Games’ answer to all of the Shovel Knight fans begging for the character’s inclusion in a Smash game of any kind? Whatever the case, I’m really glad they developed this game.

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The 8-bit equivalent of the “Snake vs. The Boss” fight.

Shovel Knight Showdown is more than simply a “Smash clone”. In fact, while you can theoretically play the game with rules akin to Nintendo’s flagship title, it features lots of rules and modes for you to choose, making this game a very unique breed of party brawler. To top things off, the game runs with the same visual assets and soundtrack from the original Shovel Knight and its expansions, both of them being fantastic. I don’t even mind that a good chunk of Shovel Knight Showdown‘s soundtrack is a bunch of reused songs, because there’s nothing wrong in reusing perfection.

Shovel Knight Showdown‘s two main modes are Treasure Clash and the eponymous Showdown. The latter is easy to describe: it’s basically Smash’s stock mode. Keep on attacking your opponents until they run out of health and lose a life. Last one standing wins. Treasure Clash is a more interesting party approach to the Smash formula. Red gems will gradually spawn onscreen, and it’s your objective to collect them. If you defeat an enemy, you can get one of their gems, and if you die, you lose a gem. The first one to acquire a certain number of gems wins. You can tweak a lot of settings, such as the amount of players, the frequency of item spawns, the size of your health bars, the height of your jumps, and so on, but those are the two main modes featured in here. It’s mayhem.

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I am so grateful they kept the soundtrack intact.

The controls are almost identical to the ones featured in Shovel Knight. Using the titular hero as an example, his moveset is comprised of a single slash with Y, a charged slash also with Y, a fireball attack with X, a parry with L/R, and a downward thrust by pressing down on the d-pad while jumping. Each character has a different moveset, but there are no combos or complicated button prompts. Shovel Knight Showdown is very easy to pick up and play, but very hard to master given how chaotic its overall gameplay is.

Sometimes it’s pretty hard to figure out what’s happening onscreen. There are tons of enemies, projectiles, bombs, items and special effects scattered onscreen, making things occasionally difficult to see. The biggest issue lies in the fact that, given the game’s 8-bit nature, the camera doesn’t zoom in or out depending on the amount of action going on. This is specially noticeable during 4-player matches. The physics are identical to Shovel Knight‘s, which can result in some occasional cheap deaths due to the lack of room for your character to gain momentum before a jump, for instance. It’s all about getting used to the game’s chaotic nature, which can take a while depending on how much you’re accustomed to Smash’s fluid gameplay.

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There are tons of characters to unlock. Remember when that was a standard practice in fighting games?

Shovel Knight Showdown isn’t only recommended for multiplayer mayhem, however. There is a small story mode in here, one that lasts for a few minutes, but it’s highly replayable given how much content you can unlock by constantly beating it with different characters. You can unlock a ton of characters, stages, and pallette swaps by beating the story mode, all depending on who you’re playing as, the difficulty you choose, and whether or not you use continues before reaching the final boss.

I was caught off guard with the small character roster when I first booted up the game, as it’s pretty uncommon to see fighting games actually featuring unlockable fighters nowadays. Yacht Club’s first attempt at making a fighting game ended up offering way more bang for your buck than other recent titles by fighting game veterans, such as Capcom’s Street Fighter V or SNK’s Samurai Shodown.

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As you can see, this game is pure freaking mayhem.

Now that Shovel Knight Showdown is out, I’m not even mad that the titular character isn’t a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. He now has a fantastic game of his own, filled with a ton of content, the same acclaimed visuals and soundtrack from before, and above anything else, addictive gameplay. At this point, it feels like Yacht Club Games is unable to deliver a bad game and I couldn’t be happier about that.

 

Graphics: 8.5

The same graphics featured in Shovel Knight. They are a sight for sore eyes, but the sheer amount of chaos onscreen makes it hard for you to even figure out where your character is at times.

Gameplay: 8.0

The same gameplay from Shovel Knight adapted to a party brawler game. The controls are simple and precise, but the gameplay is hindered by the amount of mayhem happening onscreen.

Sound: 10

Most of the game’s soundtrack is identical to the one featured in Shovel Knight, but given how perfect that game’s soundtrack was, I am more than okay with that. The new tunes are equally excellent.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Shovel Knight Showdown is more than just pure fanservice for Shovel Knight devotees. It’s a fantastic party game in its own right, with a lot of modes, fighters, stages, and only a handful of issues.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Shovel Knight Showdown is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Shovel Knight Showdown was provided by the publisher.

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