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Shovel Knight interview - 'Nintendo are indie-friendly!'

Sean Velasco talks us through making his "next-gen 8 bit game" before its Kickstarter campaign closes

We're starting to see a groundswell of indie games headed for Nintendo's two eShops, but very few have been getting quite as much attention as Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games. Looking at the vibrant 8-bit visuals and hearing the team's influences and ideas, you can see why.

This is Yacht Club's first game as a developer, but the team's previous work at WayForward - a company we trust more than most to pull off modernised retro experiences - means we're pretty confident the final product will satisfy those of us who enjoy an eShop experience. Not least because it's coming to Wii U and 3DS.

Harking back to the 8 bit age, Shovel Knight's an action-platformer the elders among you will be very familiar with, but with a distinct twist: you use that shovel to do everything. Fighting, defending, puzzling - your solutions will come through a mixture of quick reflexes and a complex knowledge of garden tools.

We talked to Captain of the Yacht Club, Sean Velasco about the game's Kickstarter campaign (which is still running, as it happens), their choice to work with Nintendo from the start and just how much a shovel can do.

You reached your funding goal with almost two weeks to go on the campaign. Congratulations! What does that extra time mean for the project?

Sean Velasco: We just added Stretch Goals, and we have been surprised and elated by how fast we are burning through them! So far we have unlocked a music player, global achievements, New Game Plus, a playable boss knight, and Linux and Mac versions! We are still working on other fun stuff like gender-swap mode (play as a female Shovel Knight against an evil Enchanter!) and at 200k, we can do a 4-player battle mode! These goals seemed so far away, but we've had a groundswell of support. We're all crossing our fingers.

You've clearly got a retro aesthetic for the game, but you also talk about adding modern touches. Is that simply in the visuals, or can we expect it to play like a contemporary game too?

Sean Velasco: We're trying to make Shovel Knight a next-gen 8-bit game. The visuals, audio, and gameplay philosophy are 8-bit inspired, but beneath those pixels lies a bleeding edge heart. The game's moment-to-moment action is like a smoother version of a classic game, and we're injecting two decades worth of design know-how. Shovel Knight should feel the wonderful way you remember classic games feeling, not how they actually felt! We're also hoping that our focus on quality over gimmicks will also help younger players into the fold; people who may have not seen the days of the NES.

We've already seen how versatile that eponymous shovel can be in trailers. How many ways can it be used in total?

Sean Velasco: We haven't finished yet, so we can't say for sure! However, the ShovelBlade is quite versatile. You can dig, slash, flip, bounce, reflect, parry, and more! We hope to come up with many other uses during development. Maybe Shovel Knight could use the Shovel as a boomerang, or even a snowboard!

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  1. gazamataz Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:18

    I'll start by saying I'm not much of a retro gamer. I did really enjoy Kid Icarus 3d classic but i would usually rather play something shiny and new looking given a choice.Having said all of that this game looks amazing and is an exception to the rule.It's cracked the look of a later day N.E.S game perfectly and the controls look very responsive and inventive, but it's that music thats made Me want to hit people with a shovel it's heroically cool.I'm very surprised that I want this game as much as I now do.

  2. TOMB Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:29

    If they let you slide down a slope while sitting on the shovel then i getting this game. :D

  3. MJTH Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:35

    I backed this game on Kickstarter when it first went up. I like how it's going. Looking good.

  4. JoeOdranDoran Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 14:55

    I've backed this. If you pledge $15, you'll get a code letting you download the game for Wii U or 3DS, for free! I can't wait :)

  5. Waldy565 Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 16:28

    I love anything retro, even though I'm a 2000 kid (born 96) so this sounds amazing, and I love all of WayForward's ideas and stuff. It's great Nintendo are finally embracing indie companies, which reminds me... I must really get on with my project :P

  6. ultimatebuffalo Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 16:46

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.

  7. Mmmyeah Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 17:07

    I like how I have now seen a couple of developers saying that they want to release their game on Nintendo consoles in honour of the fact that their game is heavily inspired by Nintendo. Adding to that hearing now that Nintendo are great for independent developers to work with.

  8. Commandervideo Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 17:51

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.


    I suppose there is still some hope, if cult country gets approved then why not issac. Does Nintendo expect us all to go buy a vita to play handheld isaac or what.
    But anyway, Shovel knight looks awesome!

  9. MartinIsAwesome Wednesday 10th Apr 2013 at 11:28

    Great interview, Joe. I really like the look of Shovel Knight and I'm really looking forward to seeing it's release on the eShop, especially considering how Jake Kaufman is attatched to do the music.

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.


    I suppose there is still some hope, if cult country gets approved then why not issac. Does Nintendo expect us all to go buy a vita to play handheld isaac or what.


    The difference is Nintendo's strict policies regarding the depiction and representation of religion; Renegade Kid have already established that thier upcoming Cult Country is NOT about christianity or any other existing religion, whereas The Binding of Isaac makes blatant references to christianity.

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