Shovel Knight and Shield Knight were two heroes who shone brighter than any other. That light faded on the day Shovel Knight lost his partner and love when a cursed amulet sealed her away inside the Tower of Fate.
The bereaved Shovel Knight trudged onward, the ever-looming thought of what happened to his beloved fixed in the back of his mind. That day would forever haunt him and afflict him with grief, until one day, the Tower of Fate was unsealed and a devastation loomed over the lands. Shovel Knight needed to know what happened on that fateful day. He decided to venture away from his isolation with a sliver of hope in the back of his mind.
Shield Knight is not an overused Damsel In Distress trope. Shovel Knight and Shield Knight were equal partners adventuring across the lands. They were love interests. They were strong. They were heroes. The fact that they were equal partners who adventured together, fought together, and lived life together makes for a far more emotional and engaging tale than a Damsel In Distress motive ever would; i.e., it’s hard to care or have any emotional investment for someone like Peach.
Shield Knight is the reason that there is any emotional drive and any real character development in Shovel Knight.
Shovel Knight rests after each stage at a campfire. This scene shows us how each stage occurs over a whole day cycle, and provides us with a calm and melancholy end to each exhausting day on his journey. During these nights, he often dreams of catching Shield Knight. These dream sequences put us in control and lets us experience the emotional drive behind Shovel Knight and his ongoing journey.
The first sequence occurs after the first level of the game, where Shovel Knight reaches his hand out toward his beloved but the dream ends before he can catch her. Future sequences have bouts of enemies that not only add to his dedication and struggle of reaching Shield Knight, but also provide the player with a bonus round where gold and gems drop like Europe’s economy.
If these dream sequences occurred after every level, they would lose some of their effect and importance. The gentle calmness of the flickering campfire ends each day, but the dream sequence occurs only three times throughout the game.
-Bring Her Home-
When The Enchantress is defeated, the cursed amulet breaks, sending Shield Knight falling from the heavens for Shovel Knight to catch. After the dreams, the foreshadowing, the slow buildup, and the hope and the dread lingering inside his mind — in the end, Shovel Knight caught his beloved partner.
The story and the character development ends up coming together here because of the twist that the cursed magic inside the amulet was what turned Shield Knight into The Enchantress. Shield Knight was its vessel, and she was strong enough to endure it (considering the implications this has on a person’s body and mind).
Both Shovel Knight and Black Knight knew that The Enchantress was Shield Knight, but neither of them knew about the cursed amulet. While Black Knight thought that killing The Enchantress would kill Shield Knight, Shovel Knight thought that he would try to bring her back no matter what, and if not, then it was for the better. For this very reason is why Shovel Knight and Black Knight are antithetical.
After such a sweet reunion comes a purely teamwork-driven fight against the true and pure form of The Enchantress. The teamwork is brilliant because it further develops her character through gameplay and it allows us to see a glimpse of their teamwork back in their pre-Tower adventuring days.
Despite Shield Knight having very little screen time, we have an emotional connection with her. She’s not a Damsel In Distress; she’s his partner. Our experiences with Shield Knight are all gameplay-driven, and the game drives her gameplay-driven characterization until the very end when they lie at the place we have been a hundred times before, but this time in comfort.