Shovel Knight: Showdown is a fighting game featuring over sixteen characters from the series in an all-out brawl. The goal? To best each other in battle. Up to four players can take up arms and scramble for precious red gems in order to be crowned champ, which makes for heated bouts of knight-on-knight action, with plenty of modes and modifiers to expand the fun.
Shovel Knight was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as an assist trophy, but Showdown loads the proper amount of shovelry into a fully-realized fighting game, offering players the opportunity to choose their favorite knight — hero or villain — and use their iconic moves to take down each other in epic action-packed fights. Every character feels unique and just as it takes mastery to learn and utilize their moves in the platforming game, figuring out the nuances of the tight controls to take down formidable foes is a learning process but one that quickly yields results. If at any time you forget what your fighter is capable of, you can pause the match and view a moves list from the pause menu. It’s little touches like these that showcase how respectfully they treated this odd-yet-somehow-appropriate fighting title, and how they want to make it accessible for anyone to play.
There are plenty of multiplayer modes to keep fighters busy in Shovel Knight: Showdown. The standard mode, Treasure Clash, has you bounding from platform to platform, battling to collect six gems that either randomly appear or spill out from defeated players. Showdown mode offers an all-out, stock-based battle putting your raw skills to the test, which will be more familiar to regular players of the Smash series. Chester’s Choice makes up the rest of the modes, providing a sense of randomness as it spins a roulette wheel made up of four modes, each selected from a pool of many more and providing game types not available elsewhere, making it a great choice for parties with friends.
Items are found within bubbles that float around each level and can be used by popping them, either dropping the item or collecting it for use. Bombs seem to drop more than others, these can then be hit around the arena — eventually exploding in a wide space — which makes them great for attacking multiple players at once. Eggs can birth a companion to fight alongside you, such as a fairy or ‘griffoth’, which works as the game’s own version of an assist trophy. There are tons of different items beyond those offerings as well, including food items like the apple and chicken which restore health in times of need and other weapons and tools. You can change both the appearance rate and turn off whole sections of items like recovery or power-ups within the options, giving you control to customize fights to your preference.
Stage selection is an important feature of any fighting game, and Shovel Knight: Showdown offers a good variety of stages to choose from. Each stage is a condensed representation of a location or level from the series and feels perfectly paired with their area’s music and pixel perfect backgrounds. Additional stages and characters can be unlocked by either playing the game for a certain amount of time or completing harder tasks instead. A large assortment of the stages from the game are here, including some new areas created exclusively for Showdown, so it’s certainly worth the time to unlock them all.
Story Mode is a welcome surprise, offering an opportunity to play as your favorite character through a myriad of battles and minigames all while experiencing an additional journey to add to the lore of the Shovel Knight legacy. Depending on the character you pick, you’ll find yourself tackling tailored battles, pitting you against uphill scenarios and often fighting multiple foes at once. There’s a fair challenge found in each of the stages as you work your way towards a final battle, exclusive to this mode, that will strain your skills to their fullest. You can also enlist a co-op partner to help you in this mode, giving you yet another option to play with friends.
Shovel Knight: Showdown is the perfect experience to round out the Treasure Trove as both a testament to how well combat works in the series and how lovable the characters, environments, and music are. While the core experience is the same, the number of customizable modes, each with their own goals and challenge, really add a lot to a game that would already be fun by just jumping around and attacking each other. We were given a taste of Showdown back in the original game with the introduction of the Battle Arena for the Nintendo 3DS version, but this finalized version turns it into a full-fledged game that competes with the best in the fighting game genre — adding this 8-bit brawler to the limited roster of a fading pastime, but absolutely deserving of a spot. With no combos to memorize and a unique roster of characters to play as, Shovel Knight: Showdown offers a little something for everyone and is sure to delight old and new players alike.
Shovel Knight: Showdown is available as a free update for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Steam and Humble Bundle or as a standalone title for the following platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, Sony PS4, Sony PS3, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux, Amazon FireTV.