Shovel Knight

and Self-Reflexivity: The Retrogame as Metafiction and as History

Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight (2014) has been a retro-gaming hit, lauded as much for its crisp gameplay, attractive visuals, and catchy chiptune soundtrack as for its success in channeling and revitalizing the feel of classic 8-bit video games. The game focuses on the eponymous hero’s quest to rescue his companion Shield Knight from the evil Enchantress, doing battle with knights from “The Order of No Quarter” and collecting treasure along the way. As players and reviewers have noted, the game is effective because it does not rely simply on nostalgia, even if (as its developers have stated) it is strongly influenced by games like Zelda II, Castlevania, and Super Mario Bros. 3, among others. Rather, Shovel Knight employs nostalgia as just one of many tools in its impressive arsenal to create a meaningful and rewarding gameplay experience. I’ve now played through it nearly three times (twice normally and once in “New Game Plus” mode, in which I have yet to conquer the final stage). Continue Reading