I decided to do something a little different today, and created a small collection of some of the staff’s reactions to the Shovel Knight rumor. While we don’t know 100% if Shovel Knight is going to be in Smash, I thought it would be interesting to post our reactions to it. In case the last two sentences weren’t clear: as of right now this is just a RUMOR and not a leak.
Sometimes hardcore Smash fans ask, why is Shovel Knight so requested?
The reason that Shovel Knight is popular is because his game is “NES” style retro, which resonates with a lot of people who had the console growing up. Reportedly, his game is very well made. In addition, his fanbase extends past the regular group of Smash fans, and general gaming fans have taken a liken to him. A lot of people apparently think of him as a Nintendo inspired character which is why they voted for him in the Smash Ballot (plus their are fans that believe that there should have been some sort of indie representation). If you think of it like that it makes sense why he’s popular on places like reddit.
Personally, my main issue with Shovel Knight is that he has one game, from an indie developer and he is an obscure choice if you consider a worldwide view. He appears nowhere on the list of characters that are talked about on Japanese forums (tentative data). In addition, third party characters are a special guest in Smash, and honestly having Shovel Knight in kind of ruins the special recognition that the honor is. For example, I consider 3rd party Smash characters as the ‘hall of fame of video gaming’, and right now we have no idea if Shovel Knight is going to have any long term relevance like Pac-Man or Ryu. He’s had a lot of crossovers, and DLC is coming for his game all the time + new amiibo…so for an indie game he is one of the top contenders. But for overall gaming? That is still very debatable.
I’ve been against indies in Smash since day one (I wrote that post about Indies not being likely in Smash at the start of the ballot if you remember) and my feelings haven’t changed. I even repeated some of my sentiments a day or two before the rumor went live. This is honestly my #1 concern with the rumor. Sakurai has surprised us before (sometimes on purpose), and SK could be a “surprise selection” while still being confined to the ballot. I’m not denying that he got a sizable number of votes, but his inclusion in Smash would be unprecedented in a lot of ways, and it’s still hard to believe. I’m eagerly awaiting additional information.
In the end, I’ll accept Shovel Knight if he’s in it, and I’m sure he will be fun to play as. Its probably the interesting/ unique aspect of Shovel Knight that got him a spot in the roster. How many other character’s in the roster use a Shovel as a weapon? Are knights? Are light blue? That’s probably why he got in (again, besides the large amount of suggestions).
I’ve talked about how if Shovel Knight is indeed in, the two newcomers so far are 3rd party. It’s almost a theme. Maybe Nintendo/ Sakurai are using DLC for 3rd parties because it’s easier to negotiate the rights/ distribute the profits. After all they did stress you could vote for whoever you wanted to, as long as it was a video game character.
I get why people are both upset or happy if he ends up getting in (again, if the rumor is true). However, at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world.
I want to start by saying that i am a huge fan of Shovel Knight. The character is incredibly likeable with an interesting yet simple design that throws back to the NES era of gaming. The game itself is wonderful. Shovel Knight was one of my favourite games last year despite being fairly short. The music is great, the art direction is great, the humour is great and the gameplay is solid all around. With all this said, Shovel Knight really does not deserve to be in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS.
Shovel Knight comes with a massive list of problems that all contradict Sakurai in how he picks out his characters. Shovel Knight has had one game that launched last year. He is not iconic to video games, not even in the Indie scene where characters like Shantae and Super Meat Boy are leagues above him. He might be iconic in the Kickstarter scene as that is where it all began for the character but to be honest, there is not that many iconic kickstarter games in the first place. Shovel Knight is the ‘any’ character and his inclusion opens the floodgates for all kinds of suggestions.
In terms of how important they are to Nintendo, Shovel Knight is hardly the forerunner. He has had 1 game that has been multi-platform. The only Nintendo exclusive stuff that Shovel Knight has is that it launched first for Nintendo systems and then the newly announced Shovel Knight amiibo. That is it. There are many other 3rd party characters that mean so much more to Nintendo like Rayman, Bomberman and Simon Belmont. Any one of them would have made a better representative than Shovel Knight. You can try and argue that Shovel Knight represents Nintendo’s indie support but even then he is not the forerunner for that either; if we had to pick an indie character Shantae should have been the one as Wayforward have been avid Nintendo supporters for 25 years now.
Shovel Knight really lowers the bar for characters to get into Smash however
there is a way his inclusion can be justified. The first way for me is that Nintendo are publishing Shovel Knight in Japan. Another problem with Shovel Knight’s inclusion in Smash is that he is entirely unknown to Japanese audience. But, if Nintendo is publishing Shovel Knight in Japan then they will want to market the game as much as possible. The best ways to do this are through their games. Super Smash Bros. and amiibo are the best way to do this and it would not be the first case of Smash being used to advertise an upcoming game (Roy in Melee). This would all make sense and then it becomes understandable that Nintendo would want to push forth a small character like this because they have a stake in him now as well.
When all is said and done, I will still buy and play Shovel Knight in Super Smash Bros for Wii U & 3DS. I do enjoy the character and style wise, he would fit right in. The problem just comes down to why he is in the game, because it really feels like a let down from Sakurai, especially if he is only 1 of 2 characters left to be added.
If Shovel Knight has gotten in, I feel it would be less on his game’s own merits or “worth” (a concept I find to be almost unquantifiable in Smash), and more for two things: some sort of Nintendo/Yacht Club deal, and more important, a general representative of indie games. They’ve taken a disproportionate amount of focus of the ballot, but it’s understandable why. Many of them directly cite Nintendo software for their games’ inspiration (Shovel Knight being the most recent example), their own publishers have been galvanizing fans to vote for them, they’re often exciting, and yet even their biggest successes are often small, niche, and region-specific works in the industry despite having such a huge impact collectively. Should sales numbers and international appeal limit who could get in? Does the concept of an “all-star” cast diminish from minor guest fighters? I’m somewhat unconvinced by either side, though the issue of DLC purchasing makes me question their likelihood in general.
The economics involved would be an incredible risk, because Sakurai would be asking an international audience to pay single purchase for characters many of them will not know. Some Japanese fans are familiar with the game, but to most he’ll be an odd, unknown quantity at best – and at worst, another example of this game paying undue focus to odd western choices like Little Mac and Duck Hunt. Even in the center of his popularity (hardcore, English-speaking Smash fans), you can see just from many of the comments to articles here he’s incredibly divisive. He would not be a character for the benefit of a general audience, or a good percentage of a serious, embedded one. So if Sakurai deems it alright to spend the effort on a character who likely won’t sell as well, it would probably be for a specific or unique reason. And since the purpose of DLC is not for advertising, I doubt he’d do it just for the sake of Nintendo’s marketing wing or relations with smaller publishers.
But if indie representation is valuable – and should go further than a trophy of CommanderVideo – there is also a question of whether Shovel Knight the best choice. Certainly, he lacks the history of Cave Story or Shantae, but Shovel Knight has been very successful for an indie game, and one that seems more likely to continue than most. Most indie games’ success and longevity is fairly short-lived, so maybe going with one that is still resonating with so many fans (and openly tying itself to Nintendo history) is the best bet? To be honest, I’m really unsure about the validity of these claims, which I suppose may in a way be for the best. One of the things that have made this iteration of Smash so enjoyable has been how it plays with fan expectations, with us old hats struggling at times to get our bearings. Shovel Knight, for good and ill, would definitely help keep that feeling going, even through where it was most unexpected.
As a competitive Smash player, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really care that much about characters getting in, or getting cut, from Smash. Similarly, I can’t say I’m all that well attuned to what characters are popular, and which ones are not, from the perspective of the “core” Smash fanbase. All those disclaimers aside, I’ll throw in my two cents.
First, if Shovel Knight is in Smash, that’s great for Yacht Club Games. It gives them a lot of publicity and while they may garner some “hate” from people who believe that Shovel Knight devalues the Smash roster, I feel that this has to be a positive thing for them in the long run. On the other side of the coin, this has to
really sting for Wayforward, given that Yacht Club Games is comprised of former Wayforward employees, and is a company that has a longer association with Nintendo, released a game recently most likely sold comparably to Shovel Knight, and was actively campaigning for Shantae in Smash.
Second, when I first heard of this rumor the only way I really thought it would be possible would be if Shovel Knight was in Smash 4 as more of a Roy/Marth in Melee situation, where they were basically promotional/extra characters, as Fire Emblem hadn’t seen a Western release yet. I assumed that if Shovel Knight got into Smash, Nintendo might have worked some sort of exclusivity deal with them, as either a first or second party studio. I think that if he does get in, this is still a strong possibility, although I have no actual proof to back that up, just a hunch.
Finally, I still don’t really think Shovel Knight will make it into Smash (or at least, not into Smash 4). I just think he’s lacks too much general relevance, and don’t see Sakurai adding Shovel Knight as very likely.
The interesting thing I noted about the Shovel Knight rumors was that there was a lot of fans who were upset by it. It seemed odd since usually third party characters, especially one as requested as Shovel Knight, are met with feverish excitement. But this time, that was not the case. The common factors was that he wasn’t that recognizable as compared to the like of Ryu, Megaman and Pac-Man, and there were too many third party characters. Josh Thomas of the Bit Block even tweet out that Smash isn’t about Nintendo anymore.
The problem with Shovel Knight is just that: he’s not iconic. Third party characters in Smash have worked based on their longevity and their relationship to Nintendo. Fan feverishly requested Sonic because he was Mario’s rival in the eyes of gamers and Megaman ah he is almost a Nintendo character himself. Although Ryu may seem like an odd choice, Street Fighter 2 was a huge success on the SNES. But what claim to fame does Shovel Knight have? Not very much. His game is only a year old and sold about 700,000 copies according to the game’s developer, Yacht Club Games. While 700,000 may seem good for an indie developer, it is nothing compared to the multiple million sellers that have come out of Pac-Man, Megaman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Metal Gear Solid. Smash’s roster thrives on discrimination and careful choices. Adding a character that is so new and not even a Nintendo character throws that concept to the wind.
But the most important fact is that the soul of Super Smash Brothers is Nintendo. Yes, Super Smash Brothers is a very fun game and is successful for multiple reasons, but what gives the games heart is the Nintendo lore. Consider why fans loved the Melee adventure mode. The mode is loved, even to this day and in spite of its shortcomings, because you were exploring the worlds of Nintendo. You jumped through the Mushroom Kingdom, explored dungeons, and escaped Brinstar. The mode was a romp though familiar Nintendo worlds. A major complaint with the Subspace Emissary is that it used generic enemies. We don’t want to fight primids. We want to fight goombas and octorocks.
I think adding Shovel Knight would be Smash jumping the shark. No longer would the soul of Nintendo matter to Smash. Instead, it would be which character would be most interesting from a marketing standpoint, and Shovel Knight would perform that job quite well. Already, Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and 3DS has added 3 new third party characters and has 4 in total, double the amount from Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The only new DLC characters was a third party character. To add another new third party character would be a slap in the face to the concept of Nintendo lore. I’ve longed theorized that there would be an end to third party characters. As I discussed in my DLC Econ 101, the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility states that we eventually reach a negative utility when we consume too much. I think Shovel Knight would be the tipping point where no longer are third parties interesting, but instead would make the game feel cheap.
In closing, I do not think the rumor is real. The original Nintendo Everything article stated that the rumor came from “multiple sources within the video game retail sector.” However, retailers would not know about Smash Brothers DLC, but would know about amiibos. With the Shovel Knight amiibo being revealed, it is likely the tipster and others assumed this meant he was coming to Smash. I also doubt that Nintendo would have two Shovel Knight amiibos running around if the character is coming as DLC soon. It remains to be seen if Shovel Knight is really in the game, but I do feel that his inclusion will not only be met with scorn but may negatively impact the persecution for Super Smash Brothers.