Early on in Super Chibi Knight, I received a quest to carve a statue. I met a pirate on the pier who decided he wanted to quit pirating and become an art collector instead. He asked me to carve him a statue, which I couldn’t do unless I found an item called “Diamond Dust,” an item that allowed me to break stone blocks. I didn’t know where to find it – the game didn’t tell me – but I eventually found it. At about the same time I found diamond dust, I also found a “Phoenix Key.” I knew what to do with it, but I decided to help out my pirate friend first and carve him a statue. He was so grateful that he offered me a boat ride to a far off island. I thought, “Cool! A new place to explore, why not! I’ll help out the phoenix later.” I took the boat ride, but once I got to the next island, the boat crashed into the dock and launched me onto the pier. There was a fisherman nearby who seemed more than happy to laugh at me and tell me I’m trapped on that island. “But what about the phoenix?” I said aloud, wondering if anyone heard me. After exploring the island a bit, I discovered there were a whole slew of problems in this new land. I felt it was up to me to solve those problems and get back home before the coming apocalypse.
Thus is the spirit of Super Chibi Knight, an adorable action/adventure/RPG that encourages exploration and truly feels like an epic journey, despite its relatively short length. The game is an act of love in many ways; love for the games that inspired it, love for the games of the community to which it belongs, and love for an eight year old girl named Bella, who served as one half of the development team, helped playtest, and provided all the voice work for the game. The effort shows with a carefully crafted game made with so much heart and charm and care that it’s hard to not fall in love.
Super Chibi Knight is the creation of talented game designer Pestoforce, who’s also one third of the triumvirate that built the similarly incredible web-browser game Abobo’s Big Adventure. Super Chibi Knight is the successor to an unbearably adorable web browser game Chibi Knight, an action-adventure-RPG in the vein of Zelda 2 that sets off to defeat a trio of monsters terrorizing the land, and along the way, somehow manages to deforest the entire world.
Actually, “in the vein of” might be downplaying it a little; Chibi Knight really wanted to be Zelda 2. The player starts off in the over-world and treks across forests, deserts, bridges, occasionally coming across monsters who also wander the land. When the player comes in contact with one of these monsters, they’re then taken to a battle scene, which plays out like a hacky-slashy platformer – you know, just like Zelda 2. The game was very short – it can be finished in less than an hour – but it was so charming and so similar to Zelda 2 that it was ultimately very satisfying.
Though if Chibi Knight simply wanted to be Zelda 2, Super Chibi Knight rips Zelda 2 off for everything it’s worth and gleefully dances in Zelda’s clothes and perfume, all while pointing and laughing. It’s an absolute joy to see.
The story is simple: Pick a specialty and save the world. Early on, the hero is asked (not told) to visit the library and read a series of texts that recount the events of the original Chibi Knight, as well as set the scene for the rest of the game. Interestingly, the texts at the library are the only clues about how to progress in the game. The main objectives are suggested, but not explicitly told. I remember my first play through: I only read the texts because it was given to me as a side quest, but I mostly ignored them. After finishing the game once and feeling an overwhelming sense that I missed a huge portion of the stoty, I paid more attention in that library early on and realized that the main goals were given right there, but the game doesn’t keep track of them like any of the side quests.
The controls are tight, responsive, and fluid. The only potential frustration is the dash ability. To dash, the player must tap a directional button twice, which can be confusing at times. There are challenges that require the player to dash in mid air, and this can get frustrating, though these moments are too few and far between to really be a bother.
Super Chibi Knight is designed in a way to make the player feel like a tiny person in a large, frightening world. The bad guys are simply too powerful at the very start, and even the weakest enemy has the potential to defeat you. The player will probably have to grind a little bit at the very start, but after rising a few levels, and with a little patience and practice, you will overcome all challenges.
The game is also designed to encourage exploration. Aside from the flashy blips on the map, the game never explicitly tells the player what to do next. Nor does it tell the player what quests are required to progress through the game. The game simply delivers the playground and lets the player out on their own. In order to access a whole different section of the game on my second playthrough, I had to make a choice that felt strangely counter intuitive; it felt like the game was leading me into a specific direction, but in order to access a different part of the game, I had to deviate from that path. It felt strange, but also liberating.
Each player must choose one of two paths to learn a set of skills that are required to defeat the main villain: Become a wizard or a beast master. Players can only pick one or the other, and those choices are made entirely through exploration. Whichever path the player chooses will send them to different parts of the game with completely different play styles. These paths present whole new slews of challenges and monsters, and will ultimately determine how the final stages are played.
One of these sections is also where the aforementioned Zelda 2 influences really come into play. Pestoforce’s attention to detail is impeccable; there are a series of castles that feel just like the castle’s from Zelda 2, and they feature even the most minute details, such as slashing a statue and finding a bag of money, or slashing a statue of a knight only to materialize an angry knight of the exact same form coming to fight the player. There’s also a secret boss, which I didn’t discover until my third play through, strangely, and it took me a number of tries to beat it.
Although there are two different paths that lead to two different play styles in the later sections, those final areas are the exact same despite the different skills gained through the different paths. In fact, only one of those paths feels like a logical progression to the end, and the other makes the game far too easy, making many of the skills redundant. I was hoping that the game would do something distinct and special depending on the path the player chose, but no such thing ever occurred. Especially considering the way the game kicks off, it feels like SCK couldn’t live up to it’s own ambition, or it simply got burned out and decided to end things too soon.
And that’s probably the biggest disappointment about Super Chibi Knight: It ended too soon. It feels like there is so much potential that the game simply didn’t live up to. I would have loved to have seen a Chapter 3 that imitated another classic Nintendo game the same way this one imitated Zelda 2. Metroid perhaps? Heck, this game has a nod to Contra! There’s so much it could have done.
But despite all that, this is a wonderful game and it never gets old to hear the hero defeat a giant monster while shouting “Booya!” The game exists to make Bella the hero of her own game, sending her off into a beautiful world, and to encourage creativity and spark the imagination. The very last image of the game leaves players with a satisfying cliffhanger, and it feels safe to say there’s a bright future ahead for the Chibi series.