The Cuphead Influence

Cuphead was one of my favorite games released in 2017. Everything about it I adored. From the 1930 cartoon style visuals right out of the old Fleischer cartoons to the big band jazz ensembles to the cutthroat difficulty, this game has it all. Alas, it’s not on the Switch, or any Nintendo console for that matter, so you may be wondering why it’s appearing here. The reason is I believe that Cuphead would be an amazing fit on the Switch, and I hope it opens the door to other creative talent to hit the Switch in the future. Before you comment, “But Matt, Cuphead will never come to the Switch because Microsoft helped Studio MDHR fund the game”, I’m aware, so please don’t. The focus of this blog is to simply discuss why Cuphead would be a great fit for the Switch and what sets it apart from most other Indie titles.

It doesn’t take one long to figure out that there are a plethora of Indie titles on the Switch. Unfortunately, for me at least, it’s like wading through a dumpster trying to find jewels. I’m not saying that Indie developers should be discouraged from putting games up, nor dissing any one game in particular. But the majority of the games posted seem as though the developer put almost no thought or effort into the art direction, and some of these games even carry a $20 price tag. It baffles me that someone can put time and effort into something they obviously care about, but aren’t willing to go the extra mile to make it great. I know that indie developers have to deal with an extraordinarily reduced budget, and they don’t have a lot of time to work with. I really do get that, but there is no excuse for some of the games I have seen.

Every boss battle is fresh and meticulously crafted

What makes Cuphead stand out? Well, for one, the level of polish is evident. It looks and feels nearly perfect. Never have I thought that I would enjoy playing a 1930’s cartoon so much. Even though it’s old, it’s new. It’s a fresh concept and they took a risk that paid off. Whenever the debate arises whether or not videogames are art (this discussion warrants its own blog), it’s games like Cuphead that I think of.  Next, the difficulty. Yes, to this day, I have over 400 deaths. That is what it took for me to complete my expert run, and not once did I get upset. For every single one, I accounted for a mistake that I made. Once I corrected my mistake, I moved on until I made the next mistake, where I learned and moved on progressively until a boss or level was defeated.

So what is my point? Simply put, Quality > Quantity. I would rather have one game that takes 3 years to complete than 100 games that take 3 months to complete. I’m not saying that all developers need to remortgage their homes, or draw everything frame by frame like the Moldenhauers of Cuphead, but just a little more time on the presentation and polish go a long way. My hope is that Cuphead will encourage developers to try unique art styles and better yet, follow their dreams. Gamers want quality games where passion is oozing out of everything seen on screen. Unfortunately, Cuphead will likely never see the light of day on the Switch, even though it would be a phenomenal addition to a fairly lackluster Indie library. Nonetheless, hopefully game designers are inspired and this will translate into better quality games. Perhaps you agree, or alternately you’ve been eating up the Switch eShop and loving it. That’s fine too. Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that gamers will always appreciate the extra mile. Hopefully Cuphead and Mugman will pave the way for the future, without dealing with the devil.