Cuphead is my most anticipated title of the year and was agreed upon site-wide as a selection for our most anticipated titles of 2017.
That was back in January and while looking at that list today is rather comical given what’s occurred so far this year, Cuphead is really just a few weeks away. With that in mind, my excitement is palpable and I wanted to share several reasons why gamers, particularly those who grew up in the 8 and 16-bit eras, should be excited.
If there’s an aspect of modern games that we are often annoyed with here at SG, it’s the lack of a significant challenge. With games becoming so complex, they’ve required longer tutorials and more in-depth instructions for the player. But this has led to instances where games will spend hours of the player’s time holding their hand, only to then offer no consequences for failure. One of the joys of games from the 8 and 16-bit eras was turning on a game for the first time and figuring out how it should be played through trial and error. While this often meant dying and retrying repeatedly, it created a sense of accomplishment when you finally overcame an obstacle. I miss that feeling. Cuphead thankfully, will offer that experience in spades.
Enemy Behaviors are Randomized
Many games within the shooter or run and gun genres are challenging when you first encounter them, but have patterns which you quickly learn and overcome. Rather than follow that same process, Cuphead uses algorithms to randomize enemy behavior thus presenting a new challenge each time you play.
The last few years have been some of the best ever for gaming in my opinion. There are countless games releasing every week of all shapes and sizes, more than we could ever hope to play. Still, some argue that the market is dominated by titles that have lost their originality due to larger developers and publishers no longer wanting to take risks. Cuphead certainly flies in the face of that mentality. As a hand drawn, 1930s cartoon inspired platformer with shmup mechanics, it’s about as original as you can get.
It Represents an Uncompromising Vision
When the Moldenhauer brothers showed Cuphead to the world during Microsoft’s E3 Conference in 2015, Cuphead consisted of simple select screen featuring 8-10 boss battles. But after receiving a hugely positive reception and partnering with Microsoft, they chose to continue developing the game they’d always envisioned. It is now a much larger game comprised of an overworld, platforming levels, multiple difficulties, nearly 30 bosses, and more.
Despite that expansion, at no time were any compromises made. The soundtrack is comprised of original jazz recordings composed by Kris Maddigan. Every frame in the game is still hand drawn, animated, and inked. In particular, Studio MDHR wanted to re-create the “Rubber Hose Animation” style of the late 20s/early 30s which further adds to its charm.
Panel from GDC 2017 on the Animation Process and Philosophy behind Cuphead
It’s an Homage to Classics Still Played Today
I grew up with 8 and 16-bit classics such as Mega Man, Contra, Metal Slug, Ghouls and Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc… Challenging, side-scrolling, run and gun games that can be played with a buddy next to you were a staple of my youth. They are still admired and cherished today and it’s these games that are a direct inspiration for Cuphead.
It Represents an Era We Don’t Often See in Gaming
While games have depicted everything from Cavemen, to World Wars, to Space, and everything in-between, the early cartoon era is not something that’s been represented often. For those unaware, cartoons in the late 1920s and early 1930s were unregulated and thus contained many aspects that we typically don’t associate with cartoons today (this was prior to the Motion Picture Production or “Hays” Code). Thus they can sometimes be creepy, mature, and bizarre when looked upon reflectively. Cuphead taps into that aesthetic thus creating a look and feel that not only is rarely seen in games, but in media at all.
Cuphead releases on September 29th and at $19.99, represents what looks to be tremendous value. I’m a huge proponent of supporting game developers and knowing the heart and soul that’s been poured into Cuphead, Studio MDHR more than deserves it in my opinion. Here are some additional links that may be of interest to you: