I've been talking about Cuphead a LOT since it first came out. Even after beating it on my PC last week, I still keep coming up with more and more thoughts about the whole experience, and what went into making it. I'm hoping to put the remainder of my thoughts on the game here, so I can finally move on to new topics (as well as stop annoying all of my friends by not shutting up about it!).
I'll get the obvious out of the way: this game is a visual masterpiece, and deserves every bit of praise it gets for that. I used to watch some of the very cartoons from the era that this game was based off of (i.e. the 1930's), when I was very young. My grandma used to buy VHS tapes with old cartoons on them, which I'd happily watch while eating whatever cookies she kept in her jar in the kitchen. Some were very fun, cutesy and silly (I especially loved the Fleischer Superman and Popeye cartoons), but others... Wow. When people tell you that 30's cartoons are very trippy and even scary at times, they are NOT lying. I remember being a little disturbed by a few of them, but continued to watch anyway. Years later, I still can't help but be intrigued by hand-drawn animation. There's an artistic quality and freedom of expression that I have a hard time finding in most of today's CG dominated platform. That's not to say CG animation is bad to me of course; it just doesn't capture the same level of imagination. So yes, seeing this style represented (and represented WELL at that!) really took me for a ride.
Something that does not get talked about as much with regards to Cuphead, is it's surprisingly great soundtrack! It's a wonderful combination of free-form jazz and big band music, that further sucks you into the 1930's aesthetic. I had never heard of Alana Bridgewater before, but after hearing her amazing vocal performance in "Die House," you can now call me a fan. The animation is what will likely get the most attention from gamers (and understandably so), but I personally feel the soundtrack is just as important in a case like this.
Cuphead also got me to feel nostalgic in a way I wasn't expecting: old-school difficulty! The game is tough, but not in the way that some modern gamers may be used to. The gameplay clearly channels classic run-and-gun shooters, such as Contra and Metal Slug, which I also have some pretty fond memories of (even though I couldn't really beat either of them without some kind of cheat codes handy!). People saying it's "like Dark Souls" are kind of missing the mark, since there are really no comparisons to make to it, other than "it's another hard game."
To be honest, I wasn't sure if I initially wanted to go back to a gameplay style this difficult. I used to have much more time for games when I was younger, and could easily sit around all day and learn the patterns I needed to for completing them. Now, I'm an adult (or so I'm told), with adult responsibilities and less time to blow on difficult games. That didn't stop me from completing Bloodborne after its release, but it took me over 3 months to actually get there, due to said time/responsibilities.
But I did it. After streaming Cuphead on Twitch for a couple of hours in the course of three nights, I finally completed the game, and didn't regret playing it for a second. What convinced me to go all the way? It's hard to say. I absolutely wanted to see what every level and bossfight in this game looked like, but I think there may have been more to it. Perhaps that feeling of gaming nostalgia really hit me when the bosses in World 2 were already giving me serious trouble. Maybe I just wanted to see it all myself, without having to resort to walkthroughs or videos of other people playing the same thing. I may never really know, but whatever possessed me to do it, I'm glad. I don't remember the last time I felt such a sense of accomplishment from even beating a game. It could be due to the lack of games actually made like this anymore, but it's hard to say for sure.
The difficulty will turn some people off to this game, and that's understandable. I have seen far too many so-called "gamers" out there berating others for not being as good as them at a title like this, or not willing to invest in the fairly large amount of time it takes to "git gud." Please, don't be one of those people. Gaming is for EVERYONE. Some people look for a challenge, but others may just want to get away with some escapism, and have fun while doing it. They're all valid reasons. Nobody is more or less of a gamer for that, and the toxicity is getting out of hand.
With all of that said, I'm really happy that I got to play something like this, and even more so that I got to finish it. Not only did it bring me back to a time where beating a game meant repeating a sequence over and over until you mastered it, but it showed me that I'm still capable of winning a game like this, even now as I'm over 30 years old. I used to think that I was no longer as good at the older titles as I used to be, and I'm glad to discover that's not actually the case.
The experience I got from this was well worth the $20 asking price, and I hope other people at least got some level of enjoyment out of it too. But again, to the people who find it too hard, that's okay too. The game IS hard. There's no shame in having trouble with it. I had trouble with it, and I'm pretty sure I've been a gamer for about 28 years now.
WHEW, okay. I think I've finally gotten it all out of my system now. It's been a blast talking about Cuphead with others, and learning about what it means to them. The answers are very rarely the same, and it's always fun to get new perspectives about it, no matter what side of the fence they come from. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below as well. Until then, look forward to lots of spooky/survival horror game streaming from me during the rest of the month (and maybe even beyond)! I'll see you all then!