Game Reviews

Shovel Knight Showdown Review

Shovel Knight meets Super Smash Bros.

by Dean James
Shovel Knight Showdown

Since his debut back in 2014, Shovel Knight as a character has cameoed across more than 30 games in different capacities. A few of those appearances came in fighting games such as Brawlhalla and even as an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Utimate, but now Yacht Club Games have decided to try out that genre for themselves. Releasing alongside the King of Cards expansion, Shovel Knight has now received its first official spin-off with Shovel Knight Showdown.

Up to this point, all of the expansions for Shovel Knight have been similar platforming experiences overall, with the main changes being the abilities of the character you are playing as. Shovel Knight Showdown on the other hand is a completely different experience entirely as a fighting game, while still maintaining much of what you should expect from the main expansions.

Each character in the game comes with their own moveset, albeit a very straightforward one. The main attack button performs your character’s signature attack, whether that be Shovel Knight’s shovel attack or King Knight’s Shoulder Bash attack. Then each character also has a projectile attack, which is definitely needed in this style of game. While each character does feel distinct in their movesets, the combat system as a whole feels lacking. There is no question you could some have good times playing with friends, but you likely will not find yourself coming back again and again like other fighters.

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When first starting up Shovel Knight Showdown, the character roster seems a bit small with only eight characters that includes the four lead protagonists of the four expansions thus far, Shield Knight and Black Knight, and then two other unique characters in Propeller Knight and Polar Knight. Just like the starting roster of characters, there are also eight stages to choose from at the start as well. Both of these give you enough variety to begin the game, with unlockables starting to pop up pretty gradually after similar to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It appears the developers wanted to keep the game fresh for players throughout their initial playthrough of unlocking everything by introducing new unlocks often.

After unlocking everything in the game, Shovel Knight Showdown has 20 total characters to play as and 29 stages to choose. These are both very impressive expansions of the base roster that are available free in the game and just require unlocking them. In addition, the developers also included something neat that far too few games have these days, cheat codes. For those that do not feel like waiting to unlock everything, you can simply enter a code at the title screen that Yacht Club Games has released online that will unlock everything in the game. In fact, there are two codes available to use, one that unlocks everything just for that game session, while the other unlocks everything permanently. This allows players to either give a trial run on the additional content to see if its worth trying to unlocks or as a way to unlock everything for a get together with friends before reverting back to what you have unlocked yourself so far.

Shovel Knight Showdown offers players two different games modes to choose from with Battle and Story. Battle is your local versus mode, where you are playing against friends or the CPU in either Showdown and Treasure Clash. Showdown is your basic stock battle, where the goal is to be the last man standing when all is said and done. This can be fun, but it definitely feels quite limited due to the minimal moveset for characters mentioned above. Even with the large variety of characters available in the game when all is said and done, most fights still feel pretty similar to one another even with the varying characters.

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Treasure Clash takes the same overall setup as Showdown, but has a completely different win condition. While you can still fight the other opponents and knock them out, the goal here is to collect a certain number of gems. These gems will keep appearing all throughout the relatively small maps, so you have to be on your toes to collect them. Being knocked out will cause you to lose some of your gems too, so staying alive is crucial to winning. You can also set a timer to where the person with the most by the end of the match is the winner.

Combat system as a whole feels lacking

The game also features a Story mode, which is essentially an arcade ladder for each character in the game. The opening animation is the exact same for every character, which introduces the story surrounding the Tower of Fate and Specter Knight’s upcoming showdown with the Enchantress. A failed spell with the Magic Mirror has summoned all of the characters and you must do battle along the way with the current unlocked roster of characters. Each character does have some other story segments found throughout, such as Shovel Knight coming across Shield Knight here.

Regardless of the three difficulty levels you choose, there are nine stages for you to complete to finish each respective character’s story mode. The individual battle lineups are crafted for each character, similar to how it is handled in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This mixes up between Treasure Clash and Battle, along with a Targets stage against Percy. While not exactly like it, Targets is essentially the game’s take on the fan favorite Break the Targets from the older Super Smash Bros. games. The Targets just keep coming and your goal is to hit as many as you can to reach a certain score to pass the stage. While this is all considered story mode, there really isn’t all that much story to it. However, there is nothing wrong with that in this type of game, as the arcade ladder setup is more than enough here.

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Most modern fighting games find a way to implement online play in some capacity to help extend the replayability of the game for players. However, Shovel Knight Showdown is a local player experience online. This does mean the game can be a good option for parties and such with friends, but it definitely feels like it could have had some sort of online play added to the game for those that may not have the opportunity to play with friends all that often.

Shovel Knight as a whole has been a real steal for players thanks to Yacht Club Games offering free expansions over the years. While Shovel Knight Showdown can be purchased as a standalone game, those who purchased Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove will also get it for free on top of the King of Cards expansion. Even if this was not the case, Shovel Knight Showdown is still an enjoyable local multiplayer experience with friends and would be worth the money just for that alone. Those looking for a fighting game with a very complex and in depth combat system, though, are likely going to want to avoid the very simplistic Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.

The Verdict

After cameoing in multiple fighters over the years, Shovel Knight finally has one to call his own with Shovel Knight Showdown. While the combat system is very basic, Shovel Knight fans should still find some fun here with friends and even the first few times through the game’s arcade ladder.

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Shovel Knight Showdown

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Yacht Club Games
  • Developed By: Yacht Club Games
  • Genre: Fighting
  • US Release Date: December 10, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "After cameoing in multiple fighters over the years, Shovel Knight finally has one to call his own with Shovel Knight Showdown. While the combat system is very basic, Shovel Knight fans should still find some fun here with friends and even the first few times through the game's arcade ladder."
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