Shovel Knight

#wcw - Shield Knight

Happy Earth Day everyone! What a week for Shovelry, am I right? Last Monday we crushed on Shovel Knight. Naturally, today's woman crush belongs to his fellow knight, the courageous Shield Knight. Fair warning for those of you who may be new to the game—it just released on Sony platforms—or those of you who just haven't beaten it yet: There are major spoilers in this post. If you wish to uncover the mystery of Shield Knight first hand, I advise you to turn back now. After you've beaten the game, come back and tell us what you think!

Now then, if I may, in an effort to garner the true essence and significance of our lady of the day, I'd like to present you all with a hypothetical outline of the events of Shovel Knight through the mind of Shield Knight. After all, the story of the game revolves entirely around her. Even though you never get a chance to play as Shield Knight, she is arguably a more interesting and meaningful character than our titular hero, Shovel Knight. If you aren't already, I encourage you to have today's suggested reading music playing in the background. Trust me, it will enhance your experience. Before I take you through the bowels of the unknown, let's begin with what we do know.

The Story As We Know It

The game opens by introducing Shovel Knight and Shield Knight together as the greatest heroes in the land. They are both presented in a very heroic manner and certainly seem to be successful heroes judging by their massive stash of loot. From there, we learn that upon adventuring to the Tower of Fate one, (ahem), FATEFUL DAY, calamity struck after they encountered a cursed amulet.

What happens next is not explained, but during the chaos, Shovel Knight was rendered unconscious. When he wakes, Shield Knight is no where to be found, her battered helmet the only remains of her existence. The Tower of Fate now sealed, Shovel Knight, stricken with grief over the loss of his questing companion, gives up his life of adventuring for one of mourning and solitude.

One day, the seal on the Tower of Fate breaks and the evil Enchantress and her villainous Order of No Quarter appear to bring devastation and destruction to the land. Shovel Knight, motivated by the chance to discover the fate of Shield Knight for himself, steels his shovel and sets out solo for his biggest adventure yet...

Our Interpretation of Shield Knight's Untold Story

Now for the hypotheticals. If there's one thing I love in narrative, it's the idea of everything coming back full circle to the starting point. That's what made the TV sitcom Seinfeld so successful. Each episode tied everything back together to whatever happened in the very beginning. This post will follow that same pattern, beginning with Shovel Knight's iconic campfire scenes.

Early on, we see Shield Knight and Shovel Knight together at a campfire celebrating a successful quest, as pictured above. At the end of each level in the game (save the last one), Shovel Knight can be scene at a campfire, alone, as pictured to the right. It's a much different and solemn scene than the other. There's no loot. No celebration. Only a stoic knight against the starry night sky. These scenes will sometimes introduce a dream sequence in which Shield Knight is falling. The words "- Catch Her -" appear on the screen and the player is tasked to do so. Whether you catch Shield Knight or not, the dream promptly ends and Shovel Knight wakes up the following morning to continue his quest.

It's interesting that the narrative specifically phrases it as "- Catch Her -" for 2 reasons:

1) It's a command. An order if you will. Shovel Knight is a knight; a type of soldier, and soldiers are suppose to carry out their orders. 

2) The words are accompanied by dash marks, which suggest that they are not spoken, but thought. This could be Shovel Knight's subconscious commanding him during his dream, which is a recurring scenario of potential PTSD in which he attempts to save Shield Knight in a way that he could not in the Tower of Fate. Which brings me to what may have happened that fateful day. Consider the following:

After encountering the cursed amulet, it's magic had a terrible effect on Shield Knight. I believe she was the one who, caught off guard and under the effect of the amulet, rendered Shovel Knight unconscious. Let's assume that Shield Knight is able to fight the effects of the amulet to a certain degree before if fully took over and transformed her into the Enchantress. She carries Shovel Knight away from the Tower of Fate, likely makes a campfire for him, all the while internally battling with the amulet's curse. In narrative, a heroic figure who has reached a critical point of no return will often remove their helmet. Darth Vader does this at the end of Return of the Jedi to reveal himself to Luke, knowing full well he will not survive without his helmet. In Star Craft 2, there is a cutscene where Sarah Kerrigan removes her headwear and drops her weapon when she realizes she's been left for dead by Arcturus Mengsk to the Zerg swarm. It would make sense for Shield Knight to remove her helmet in this way as the effect of the curse takes over, but she doesn't give up there. Shield Knight would then journey back to the Tower of Fate, sealing herself within, where she would use the last of her power to fight the curse. When she is no longer able to fight, she succumbs to the amulet's power, becomes the Enchantress, and the seal of the Tower of Fate breaks. Enter Shovel Knight as you know it, until the end.

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After Shovel Knight manages to free Shield Knight from the curse, the two of them defeat the evil spirit that was none too happy about being beaten out of Shield Knight. It is during this fight that we can gleam something from seeing the two knights in action together for the first time. Shield Knight, as her name suggests, is a protector. I even think that she is Shovel Knight's mentor in a way. He (literally) looks up to her and only seems to have the strength and courage to do battle when she is involved in some way. When Shovel Knight's hope was crushed and he believed Shield Knight to be lost forever, he stopped being a hero. She inspires him. She brings out the heroism in him. She may have even taught him how to fight. The player can feel a sense of this in the way that the final fight plays out. You need her to be able to defeat the evil spirit.

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However, after the final blow is struck, the evil goes berserk and Shovel Knight is, again, rendered unconscious and we are presented with a familiar scene to what I described earlier. Only this time, Shield Knight is prepared. She enlists Black Knight to take Shovel Knight to safety as she holds off the assault. Black Knight is opposed to this idea, but Shield Knight makes him promise. It can be debated that as the Enchantress, Shield Knight was able to provide Black Knight with an opportunity to be a hero himself, which would explain why he was there this time and was not there the first time they reached the Tower. In the next scene, the Tower of Fate collapses and it appears that Shield Knight has gone down with it. Black Knight fulfills his promise and takes Shovel Knight to the safety of a campfire. More credits roll, and then we see a wounded Shield Knight, limping towards the campfire, and she lies down next to Shovel Knight. The game brings us back around, full circle. I find that, for the purposes of this post, the following picture best describes that final scene.

We could go deeper with our theory on this narrative (time travel and alternate timelines anyone?) but we think today's point has been made. Behind every great shovel is a very large shield. For me, that's MasterWife. For you, perhaps a relative, a friend, or a significant other. People who we may think need us, but if we're being honest with ourselves, we need them. And who's not to say that every shield needs a shovel? Appreciating and valuing each other is important. That's what guides us when we lose our way; when we make mistakes or forget who we are. The people in our lives that bring out the heroic qualities in us and have our backs no matter what. That's the essence of Shield Knight.

I can't stress just how amazing this game is and I sincerely hope you give it a go and pick it apart yourself to see what kinds of interpretations you get from it. Shovel Knight dug itself onto Sony platforms yesterday, and news has surfaced that Xbox owners will get their chance to Strike the Earth on April 29th! The Sony release features a special boss battle with Kratos of God of War and the Xbox release will feature content from Battletoads. For Shovelry indeed!

Until next time, peace out heart pieces!

#mcm - Shovel Knight

The most noble of shovel-wielding knights is our man crush of the day. It's been quiet some time since a video game character of such chivalrous caliber has graced the indie-turned-mainstream gaming scene. If you haven't played the game, you're really missing out on something special. Shovel Knight harkens back to a simpler, more pixelated time in gaming that brought us classics like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Duck Tales the game. Born from a successful Kickstarter campaign (like us), the game first launched as a Nintendo exclusive on Wii U and 3DS. It has since been released on Steam and in a few days, it will be coming to all Sony platforms! Everyone who's been manning their respective play stations will have a chance to dig in. Sorry. You just can't write about Shovel Knight without shovel puns.

As much as we love the game, we've selected Shovel Knight as our man crush for a very special reason. As I'm sure you're garnered by now, we are always on the lookout for what real life lessons these fictional characters can teach us about bettering ourselves. Shovel Knight is about a guy who comes out of a long, sad hiatus from adventuring in order to save a dear friend of his against all odds. Or rather, against all Quarters. Throughout his quest, we picked up on one thing that stands out above everything else to us; something that we found to be undeniably relevant to today's day and age. Ladies and gentle knights, I give you...

Art by  oddpenguin

Art by oddpenguin

Let us preface this by saying that 1) there are some spoilers in here and 2) this should not be taken as an excuse to pogo jump on people's heads with a shovel. That will likely land you in prison. Don't do it. What we aim to do here is take an in-depth (omg that one wasn't even intentional) look at how Shovel Knight interacts with several of the main and side bosses in the game. After all, he seems to have some kind of history with nearly every member of the Order of No Quarter and he has more than his fair share of unwarranted confrontations with strangers, including one eccentric hat shop owner/collector. In real life, we also encounter, *ahem, interesting people from time to time who attempt to cause us trouble for one reason or another. However, Shovel Knight, being the honorable knight that he is, always manages to treat his hecklers with fairness and respect, and that's why he's our man crush this week. Here are 3 tips we learned by playing Shovel Knight on how to be a better knight. And by knight, we mean gamer.

1. Raise Your Noble Shovel Higher

If it were up to him, there are several fights in this game that Shovel would not have fought. The most notable of these include his bouts with the Black Knight, Reize, Baz and Polar Knight. Black Knight stands out over the others for being the most intentionally hostile aggressor. In his encounters he mocks Shovel Knight, taunts him with talk of the Enchantress, belittles his quest and attempts to demoralize him from continuing at every turn. Shovel Knight remains focused on his task and largely immune Black Knight's jeers. After their last battle, Black Knight finally breaks and we learn that he and Shovel Knight shared the same goal, but had different methods.

Black Knight wanted to be the hero by any means necessary and didn't see Shovel Knight as being fit for the job, so he lashed out at him. Afterwards, Black Knight would become something of an ally to Shovel Knight. This is the outcome that we like to see in the real world. Sometimes it takes some work to uncover the truth; to get to the real reason behind someone's facade of hate and cruelty. Those of you who are familiar with Dragon Ball Z will recognize this same pattern with Goku and Vegeta. Here's a god-tier real world example from earlier this year. If only we all could demonstrate to that level of uncompromising endurance, we could make a real difference.

2. Remember Who The Enemy Isn't

Shovel Knight's battle with the young boomerang warrior, Reize, is an interesting one. Reize stumbles upon our hero and immediately mistakes him as "The knight with the shovel who's been... MENACING THE VILLAGE!" (You'll just have to imagine that all caps text wiggling). Shovel Knight tries to explain that he's done no such menacing but Reize won't listen and the battle ensues. This fight is pretty challenging in it's own right, so we have to give Reize some credit here for putting Shovel Knight through the ringer in the name of justice, misguided as he was. After Shovel Knight defeats Reize he finally gets a chance to speak his peace, communicating that he's not a threat and that he and Reize are fighting a common enemy. Keyword: common.

To the Dictionary! Good old defines the word "common" as:

  1. belonging equally to, or shared alike by, two or more or all in question:
    common property, common interests.
  2. pertaining or belonging equally to an entire community, nation, orculture; public:
    a common language or history; a common water-supply system.
  3.  joint; united:
    a common defense.

Gaming is something that we, as gamers, share in common with each other. Gaming belongs to all of us and we are united by our common love of gaming. If you have twitter, you may have seen the hashtag #GamersUnite. It was started by a friend of a friend of ours who goes by the handle, @RETR0JOE, for the self-explanatory purpose of uniting gamers on social media (go figure!). For all the common ground we share, we sure do bicker a lot. While our tastes in gaming may not always line up, our general enjoyment of games will, so we must do a better job remembering that just because someone games differently than us or not as much as us or what have you, that does not make them our enemy. Take Black Knight and Shovel Knight for example. They had the same goal, remember? Once they realized what they had in common, they opened the door to achieve more than they could by themselves. That's when knights are strongest. And remember, by knights, we mean gamers.

3. Lose The Game, Not Yourself.

Honorable mention to Polar Knight as we won't be covering his bout with our titular hero in today's post. It should be noted, however, that Polar Knight is the only member of the Order of No Quarter to have explicitly had history with Shovel Knight as a fellow honorable knight on the right side of the code. Having since fallen from grace and under the command of the Enchantress, that fight is particularly meaningful. Perhaps we'll get to it another time.

We'll leave you with this final thought. Gaming and nerd culture in general have the potential to evoke levels of passion and emotion that you would be hard pressed to find in other communities or forms of media. When it's done right, we get things like marathons for Extra Life and Child's Play, genuine new friendships, inspiration stories of courage and good will, and incredible memories at conventions and events. When it's done wrong, well, I'm sure you can think of something. Baz is a good example of how to do things the wrong way. When we encounter Baz, he is visibly upset about not being excepted into the Order of No Quarter despite having purchased the best gear money could buy. Sound familiar? It might if you're into competitive gaming at all. Despite the fancy new controller you bought, the hours you put in practicing your combos, all the money you spent on travel... You see what I mean. Sometimes, it's still not enough to win the tournament or even the match. One of the developers of the indie game Titan Souls once said (I'm paraphrasing here) that gaming is about failure, and through those failures, we are taught not only to win, but the value of winning. Some might even say that the lessons we learned from failure are greater than what we learn from winning. Winning feels good. Failure gives you the chance to grow. So the next time you lose a match and feel the rage coming out, I want you to visualize this image. Burn it deep into your mind's eye and take it with you whenever you are in a competitive situation:

If you haven't had the chance to play Shovel Knight yet, it's coming to PS4, PS3, and PS Vita tomorrow, April 21st, and will feature a boss fight with Kratos!