Greetings Gentleladies and men! Today I’ll be discussing a subject that can only end with this blog going down in flame-wars. Thank fuck I don’t enable Disqus on my blog. Yup. We’re talking about Shovel Knight’s Body Swap mode. Strap on folks, because this is gonna be a juicy one!
Shovel Knight is receiving a major update this month. The primary feature (aside from bug fixes) is of course the Specter Knight campaign, the second of three campaigns that were promised as Kickstarter stretch goals. The campaign is a full-sized game on it’s own, and I’ll post my thoughts on it as soon as I finish it. All I’ll say for now is that it’s a fun and exciting campaign.
If that were the only content in the update, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’d be slightly dissapointed. Shovel Knight has gone with no updates for more than a year, and I’d expect at least a little more. Thankfully, Yacht delivered on said expectation by also releasing ‘body swap mode’, an interesting little gem where it’s possible to switch both the sprites and pronouns around in gender.
As it’s a minor feature, I personally don’t think it really warrants a full review, but at least a rant on it would be appropriate. So, let’s jump into it.
Body Swap is of course strictly optional. It’s entirely possible to skip it and just play the game and you won’t really miss any content. The primary changes are in the sprites of the three main characters and The Order of No Quarter (read: SK’s Robot Masters). Some of them look better than others in my personal opinion, so let’s break them down. Of course, opinions are opinions so if your jimmies get rustled, then go somewhere else.
Opinions are of course strictly on sprites, as I’m not an English teacher who has to check the games grammar and grade it.
Shovel Knight/Black Knight: Personally, I like these changes. Shovel Knights sprite is ambigious enough and the changes are subtle enough to make Shovel Knight female without forcibly changing the character too much. Black Knight is a bit harder to make out the differences (aside from official artwork), but again, I like these changes.
Shield Knight: I like this one about as much as I like Shield Knight normally, which is to say, meh. The changes are once again subtle, but I think they add a nice touch to the sprite.
The Enchanter: Urgh. Not a fan. Really, the problem here lies with the sprite. Whereas the Enchantress was designed around ‘slick, dangerous and evil’, The Enchanter looks more like a physical brute who is interested in punching you into next week. I guess it’s because the Enchantress’s hitbox is practically designed for her sprite, whereas the Enchanter had to fit in said hitbox (part of YC’s design standards of body swap). Not a fan at all. Probably the worst out of all genderswaps.
Queen Knight: As with everything about King Knight, Queen Knight is absolutley hilarious to me. They nailed the ‘overdone and gaudy’ part of King Knight very well in the gender swap. Very much a fan.
Specter Knight: Once again, subtle design differences. Yet despite that, I think Specter Knight probably looks the best out of all genderswaps (with the possible exception of Treasure Knight). Differences are subtle, yet I like them.
Plague Knight: She’s literally one of the spies from Spy vs. Spy. The hat looks a bit iffy, but I guess they had to differentiate somehow aside from adding breasts to the character. Looks good though.
Treasure Knight: One of the best genderswaps, I personally think that this one is really cool. The switch from a Bomber Jacket to a Noir style trenchcoat looks cool and gives an interesting different vibe from Treasure Knight. Truly up there with Specter Knights genderswap as my favorite of the bunch.
Mole Knight: She looks kinda odd. I’m guessing it’s the additions in complexity in the lower half. Like what they did with the hair/fire plume though. A true meh.
Tinker Knight: Eh…. she looks alright. I guess they didn’t have much to work with here, so what they changed is alright.
Polar Knight: Urgh. Not a fan. Really not a fan. I know why this is. Polar Knight’s hitbox is atrocious and only really works with someone as broadly-shouldered and heavy cloaked as Polar Knight. Unfortunately, they missed the heavy cloak Polar has. Having said that, it’s still better than the Enchanter’s sprite in that it sorta works.
Propeller Knight: As with everything Propeller Knight related, I both love and hate this one. I love it because the changes in the spritework are perfect and the major changes for once really feel like changes that would need to fit in for a female Propeller Knight (since PK is designed around being overtly flamboyant). I dislike it for much the same reason I dislike Propeller Knight: It’s too over the top, a little too flamboyant. Not that it really diminishes from the sprite as a whole. Truly one of the better genderswaps.
And I think that’s all of them. Personally speaking though, Specter and Treasure are by far the best, whereas Polar and the Enchanter are the worst.
Of course, if that were all it would be, my opening paragraph wouldn’t make much sense. You know my thoughts on Bodyswap, but that (hopefully) isn’t enough to make this blog go down in flames. Instead, let’s talk about how everyone else perceived these changes!
Everyone else’s thoughts
I normally try to refrain from getting into fanbases when reviewing games, but since this isn’t a review but a rant, I think this might be appropriate. So… let’s jump into it.
As entirely expected, people both started loving and hating genderswap mode. Those that loved it claimed that it ‘improved inclusion in video games’, whereas the haters claim that it ‘was just another case of SJW-pandering!’. Let me disprove both sides to you.
Before we start though, I’d like to direct you to the Kickstarter for Shovel Knight. More specifically to the Stretch Goals. Guess what is listed there? Yup. Gender Swap mode (the name for Bodyswap at the time). Now imagine that in some stroke of unfortunate luck, Gender Swap mode wasn’t reached, and unlike other Kickstarters Yacht Club sticked to not doing their failed stretch goals. Would anyone care at that point? No. We would just have moved on with our lives, and maybe one or two tumblr blogs would start raging at Yacht Club for not including Gender Swap. In short, nobody cared. But alas, it did.
Now back to the argument. Within regards to ‘improved inclusion’. While I’m not going to put myself in Yacht Club’s shoes, I’d like to direct you to the previous paragraph. Gender Swap was a stretch goal. If it failed, it wouldn’t even be there. Of course it’s going to ‘improve inclusion’ because it was reached, but if it wasn’t it wouldn’t even do that. I personally just applaud Yacht Club for just taking so much time in actually making it work out by redesigning their characters to fit a genderswap. They didn’t have to do that, they could just have slapped a bow on their characters and called it a day. Instead, they went the extra mile and made completely new designs for their characters. And that is what I applaud them for. For the amount of dedication they put in what is essentially a small side feature a large portion of gamers will just look at, maybe try out once, but in the end will toss aside. That is worth it. ‘Improved inclusion’ may be a nice thing, but don’t treat it like that was the main goal with Bodyswap mode. It just wasn’t. It’s nice that it does, but really it doesn’t.
Now to those screaming ‘SJW-pandering!!1!’. Really, a large portion of the argument against the ‘improved inclusion’ screamers applies to this argument as well. Again, it’s a stretch goal. Again, it shows a good side of Yacht Club that they didn’t go the easy way but actually went for something that a large portion of gamers won’t really care about. The new addition to this argument is this: It’s entirely optional. If you want to play with the original genders, then that is your choice. You can skip the selection if you want and just play the original game. Yes, some people are going to play the game with fully swapped genders. But is that really worth for you to get SO worked up about? Is that really worth it? Just because Yacht Club made genderswap a serious effort, doesn’t mean they’re forcing it upon you. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. Some people are going to like it, but nobody will hate you if you don’t. Just don’t go into fucking arguments with others on this matter. It’s just not worth it.
In the end though, in my not-so humble opinion, Bodyswap is a nice addition to Shovel Knight that truly showcases how far Yacht Club has come in not skimping on their games features. And as a reminder: Steel Thy Shovel!
Also, check out Yacht Club games’ article on designing Bodyswap. It’s an interesting article that helped me tremendously in forming my opinions on the bodyswaps. Just stay away from the comment section.
Since I will likely shill this in the usual places (tumblr, twitter etc.) and this will likely get tagged with popular tags, If you enjoyed this type of rant and want to know when I post more blog content, check out the RSS feed: http://ev1l0rd.github.io/feed.xml . It’s not very well advertised, but it’s there. Add it to your feed reader to never miss a blogpost again!