Shovel Knight II: Deeper Above Ground would be a sequel to the highly acclaimed indie game Shovel Knight for PC and Nintendo systems. When I played through the first one on Wii U, I absolutely fell in love with its theming, its unique characters, and its excellent design. It truly is an instant classic, and I quickly decided that I wanted to create my own idea for a sequel, with new boss knights, new levels, and new relics in the mix.
Something you should all know about this idea is also that the ideas for rival knights in this game were drawn entirely from fan suggestions that I got off of the first game's fans on Miiverse! Although they'll likely never see this, I want to thank everybody who contributed ideas; they're very creative, and I really enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm they had for participating.
Shovel Knight II would follow the story arcs of three different characters: you have the brave main protagonist of the first game, Shovel Knight, his partner Shield Knight, and a special up-and-coming third character named Spade Knight, who is looking to become the apprentice of the former two. Spade Knight approaches the other two at their mountain fortress hideout to make his case for why they should take him under their wing. They remain reluctant, but suddenly, a flash of light erupts from the spacious floor that sends the three through time and space to completely different places.
Unknown to them, this is the work of a galactic warlock named Galex, who is looking to destroy the world by replacing it with a star from the inside out with his castle-like spaceship. Meanwhile, each of our heroes has been sent careening through different parts of the universe, with each of them having to fight three mysterious rival knights before finally bringing themselves back into the proper dimension.
When they finally return to their own world, Shovel Knight, Shield Knight, and Spade Knight find their own world in disarray as the world is beginning to be consumed by Galex's blazing star magic. They all try to make their way to the hideout and rally, after fighting through Galex's armies overland.
Eventually they reach their meeting room, now torn up from the force that sent them away at the beginning of the game. Galex is simply waiting there, surrounded by bizarre technology, seemingly monitoring the progress of the planet's consumption, and waiting until the climactic moment when the surface is destroyed. After a fierce fight, Galex's combat machinery is dismantled, and the trio force him to provide answers.
It turns out that Galex was the brother of the woman whose spirit became the Enchantress, the evil presence that was the antagonist of the previous game. In life, she was as he was; they were powerful beings, with knowledge and scope beyond that of average humans. However, his sister became fascinated with the human race, and simply couldn't give up the thought that they should intervene in human affairs. Galex disagreed, the two fell out, and she ended up getting corrupted through meddling with humanity. She became preoccupied with witchcraft and sorcery, and decided she wanted to exist forever as a ghost.
After learning of his sister's true undoing, Galex became distraught, and resolved to eliminate the world that took her away from him. Moreover, he wanted to relish in the destruction of those who destroyed her spirit permanently, and still there remained nothing they could do to stop it, even if it meant he would die along with them. Shovel Knight and Shield Knight quickly begin to lose hope of convincing Galex not to go through with his plan, but then Spade Knight steps in.
Spade Knight explains the entire reason why he came so far to try to become a trained knight is because the same thing happened to him. Before his adventure, he was simply a young man living life with his big sister, with his head in the clouds, living simply in the country. One day, the parts near their home are attacked by an invading army. Neither of them are killed, but their home is destroyed. In the aftermath, Spade Knight's sister puts all his needs before her own, merely to keep him alive where she couldn't do the same for herself. While he ultimately did survive the hard times, he suffered a fate almost worse than death, having to see his sister fade away until eventually dying.
Spade Knight found his path in life after having to bury his sister with the spade from their tool shed, representing the moment when the harshness of real life had finally found him. He resolved to honor his sister's memory by protecting those who weren't finished dreaming in life with his mighty spade, so that they would have time to learn who they really were. Spade Knight tells Galex that if he really loved his sister, he shouldn't waste his life and the lives of everyone in the world, but should instead take the time to find out who he truly is.
Galex, moved by Spade Knight's words, reverses the star generator at the very last second before the world is consumed, and a failsafe triggered that reverses the time stream within the planet and restores it to its original state. Almost without words, Galex sends Shovel, Spade, and Shield Knight back down to their hideout, and when they recover themselves, Shovel and Shield Knight agree to teach Spade Knight whatever they can, and decide to take up his cause as their own.
This game would have gameplay similar to its predecessor, but there would be three different protagonists instead of just one, each of whom would bring different playstyles to the table, and thus there would be several different types of level design to match them.
The three playable characters would be Shovel Knight, Shield Knight, and Spade Knight; Shield Knight would be able to jump more skillfully and perform intricate acts involving her shield, so her stages would be oriented more towards platforming and clever enemy placement. Spade Knight's gameplay would involve more fast-paced action, combat, and quick platforming. Shovel Knight's would be much more of a cross between the two, like in the first game.
Each knight would follow a different path, fighting three rival knights along the way, and obtaining unique relics from each of them. In order to make things more interesting and increase the game's longevity, there would be more of a lead-up to each one, with two levels dedicated to getting to each knight's castle along with the actual castle as the climax.
This game would also bring back different armors and relics, and each knight would be able to buy different upgrades to make them more powerful in battle. I won't detail all the combat upgrades, but suffice it to say they will give the player a sense of progression by making them better able to take on the more daunting levels they encounter. For instance, Shovel Knight would get his famous charge slash, Shield Knight might get a shield throw, and Spade Knight might get a spin attack of some kind. They would change things up the same way they did in the first game.
As for everything else, here's what I have in mind!
Each knight gets transported to a different village that serves as a hub world for each of them individually. All of them contain different armor pieces exclusive to their respective knight, all of which have different effects.
More importantly, though, each village has a different flair to it. Also, similarly to the other game, each village will have two "halves" containing different people, things, and activities. The second half of each village will be unlockable by beating a single nearby castle.
The Shovel Knight village would be called Meditterania, a village not unlike Tuscany, embodying all the cultures of medieval Europe.
The Shield Knight village would be called Peak of Isolation, a more Asian-style village placed atop the side of a tall mountain.
The Spade Knight village would be called Faerydale, a fantasy-style village full of mythical creatures.
Different armors would return in this game, with two different armors available to each character from the different armorers in each village. Instead of being solely purchasable, however, each will require a different specific material found somewhere in-game before they can be bought. The player would be able to switch armor between levels by visiting a blacksmith.
Shovel Knight's first upgrade would be the Dynamo Mail, returning from the first game, which allows a charged slash for every two successful shovel drop attacks, and can be constructed by bringing iron to a blacksmith. His second upgrade would be the Gleaming Plate, a sparkling armor constructed using a gold bar and similar in appearance to the golden Ornate Plate from the first game; however, it would not be practically useless as in the first game, but would rather convert each jump into an automatic 360 spin attack in exchange for the player being more vulnerable.
Shield Knight's first upgrade would be the Amazon Mail, which would allow for double damage in exchange for the player suffering from double the knockback. Her second upgrade would be the Sterling Plate, constructed with a silver bar, that would provide her with a handy double jump in exchange for her dropping 10% more gold with every death.
Spade Knight's first upgrade would be the Berserker Mail, constructed with tempered copper, which would allow him to deal out powerful strikes as quickly as the player can hit the attack button, at the cost of being stunned slightly longer with every hit. His second upgrade would be the Diamond Plate, which would give him a 10% chance of reflecting any attack, physical or ranged, back at the user, at the cost of taking 15% more damage with every hit.
- Plant Knight - A commander of all things botanical and a clever biological genius, whose domain is littered with a mix of dangerous plant monsters and majestic, soaring vines. He resides at his Screamhouse.
- Chef Knight - A connoisseur of killer cuisine, who lives to create food that reaches new levels of excitement and flavor, but will not tolerate anyone invading his territory, for fear that they'll steal his ideas. His paranoia is well-defended by his arsenal of fiery appliances and steel utensils. He resides in his Infernal Kitchen.
- Pharaoh Knight - A cruel, calculating tyrant fascinated with the extravagant lifestyle of the ancient Egyptian royalty. He lives to luxuriate in his ornate throne room in the center of his grand pyramid, secure in his knowledge that his minions will do whatever he wishes. He resides in his Pyramid of Leezha.
- Poker Knight - A conniving mastermind obsessed with the game of chance, he fancies himself a suitor of Lady Luck herself through his construction of a casino-like lair that lures even the most intelligent of people into gambling away everything, down to their free will. He resides at his Morningnight Casino.
- Hunter Knight - The definition of man crossed with beast, he's one of the most powerful humanoid predators the world has ever known. He thrives on the use of traps and generally exploits the element of surprise, and he also has a small army of fearsome beasts at his command. He resides in his Stranded Grove.
- Lunar Knight - A mysterious figure who admires the contrast, the yin-and-yang, between light and dark. He lives in isolation, contemplating and learning more about the universe around him rather than bothering with the affairs of other beings. He turns out to be an old acquaintance of Galex, but the two grew apart as Lunar Knight became more antisocial. He resides in his Silent Observatory.
- Sweet Knight - A sugar-mad, hyperactive young girl who surrounds herself with colorful things made from sugar. She constantly pops up to annoy Spade Knight from the sidelines throughout his trip to her castle. She lives in her Gingerdread House.
- Music Knight - An indifferent and creative musical master whose domain contains the living embodiments of music. His castle is rife with rhythm and creative, speedy platforming. He lives in his Symphonium.
- Draco Knight - A stoical knight who has existed since the ancient days of men against dragons, and has obtained a number of dragons as his allies. Invaders of his lair can expect an onslaught of fire and claws. He lives in his Cave of Trial.
Like in the first game, each stage would have a characteristic relic that may or may not be useful against the actual castle boss. The relic would be located somewhere in the first stage of each line of stages leading up to a boss. Again, like the first game, they would be in a secluded area to be sold by Chester, the travelling relic merchant.
For the first play-through of the game, a given relic can only be used by the knight who obtained it. However, all items for all knights would be unlockable by cheat code, and it would be a reward in the new game plus (a second harder play-through).
Relics would also receive upgrades for purchase after bringing them to another traveling merchant, the Mercantilist of Death, who will upgrade them for a price.
- Vine Lasso - Allows the user to attach to certain walls for a moment. It takes 3 magic per use and the upgraded version allows a slightly longer range and is aimable up, diagonally, or to the sides, at the cost of 4 magic per use. Has the added effect of reeling in enemies of a certain size towards the user and causing damage upon collision with the character; however, the player then has to fight close up with the enemy.
- Jousting Fork - Allows the player to charge forward and build momentum to do damage, as well as propel himself from a ledge, similar to pole vaulting, except easier to control. Charging and vaulting both cost 5 magic, and the upgraded version allows the player to use a straight downward airborne thrust with the fork for 1 magic, creating slight shockwaves to clear the area below, but leaving the player vulnerable for a moment.
- Mummy Scepter - Slows down and confuses enemies; its effect is stronger on weaker enemies, but it lessens with more difficult opponents. The upgraded version doubles its power in all aspects. It costs a flat 6 magic, so it must be used wisely.
- Devil's Cards - Ricocheting, kinetically-charged playing cards that damage enemies upon hitting them, but fly in randomized directions every time they're tossed. They're good for squabbles with lots of enemies, and cost 2 magic per toss. The upgraded version releases four cards at once instead of two, at the cost of 3 magic.
- Demigod Bow - A swift, shining arrow that goes through enemies and serves as a temporary but unstable platform upon hitting a wall, and costs 3 magic per shot. The upgraded version has a larger damage hitbox and stays in walls for longer, but costs 4 magic per shot.
- Moonbeam Pendant - A necklace that creates a barrier and shields the player from enemies, objects, and hazards, forcing everything back, for 3 seconds per use at the cost of 5 magic. The upgraded version has a wider area of effect and lasts 4 seconds, but costs 6 magic per use.
- Bubble Tumbler - Allows the player to surround himself with a bubble gum orb, bouncing across enemies and dangerous terrain. Creating the orb would cost 4 magic, and holding down the item button will result in a series of short hops, each costing 1 magic point. However, timing the button presses as the bubble hits the ground results in larger hops, to reach larger heights.
- Sir Hendrik's Guitar - Sends out a sound wave costing 5 magic points that spreads widely in all directions through large areas, but narrows in close quarters in exchange for more damage. The upgraded version increases the range of the sound waves, and the waves have more knockback, but each use costs 6 magic.
- Dragon's Wings - Allows for a short burst of flight in eight directions to help out with sketchy platforming and allows the player to execute interesting maneuvers. Each flight costs 4 magic, and direction can be changed mid-flight. The upgraded version allows continual flight at the cost of 2 magic per second.
The soundtrack of this game would aim to be complex and diverse much like the previous game, with themes tailored to the feel and design of each level. Since Shovel Knight II would have more total levels than its predecessor, I would have three composers work on the game, working on the levels for the three different knights. Granted, there might be some overlap, especially in the levels that don't fall into a definite category (like the last couple stages), but this would be the general pattern followed.
The three composers I would have make the music would be:
Jake Kaufman, AKA Virt - One of the foremost 8-bit chiptune composers of modern gaming, and the highly praised lead composer for the first Shovel Knight. True to form, he would lead composition on Shovel Knight's stages.
Tadd Nuznov, AKA RushJet1 - The lead composer of the ultra-hard retro style indie gauntlet game 1001 Spikes for various platforms. He would lead composition on Shield Knight's more evenly-paced, platform-heavy stages.
Matt Creamer, AKA Norrin Radd - One of the composers of 8-bit indie playground game Retro City Rampage, who worked alongside Virt in creating high-energy pieces to match the heated criminal action. He would head up Spade Knight's more frenetic stages.