No, Cuphead On Switch Won't Be Any Easier

Cuphead for Nintendo Switch. (Screenshot: StudioMDHR)

The retro-themed, hand-animated indie darling Cuphead is headed to Switch on April 18. Its developer is excited for a whole new group of players to try it, and maybe even play some impromptu two-player at a rooftop party with single Joy-Cons. But the studio isn’t about to make the notoriously difficult action game any easier.

“Some people wondered if we were going to tweak the balance or really adjust things, and I don’t see that as being fair,” Cuphead co-director Jared Moldenhauer told Kotaku at a Nintendo indie games event at Game Developers Conference this week. “We wanted to let the next wave of gamers experience it exactly how we intended to make it.”

With an aesthetic directly inspired by vintage Max Fleischer cartoons and gameplay pulled straight from 8-bit run-and-gun shooters, Cuphead wears its influences proudly on its sleeve.

Formerly an Xbox and PC exclusive, it will soon be available to players on Nintendo’s hybrid console. The Switch version will even get Xbox Live features added in later, in a further illustration of the buddy-buddy relationship that seems to be blossoming between the two Seattle console makers.

“There’s something beautiful happening on the scene, where you see more partnerships between the giants,” Moldenhauer said. It was Microsoft that approached Cuphead’s developer, StudioMHDR, with the idea of porting to Nintendo’s platform.

“When it came up that they wanted to get more viewership on indie games, and they wanted to have more gamers capable of playing these games, they said, would you like to jump on the opportunity of going on Switch?”

Cuphead for Nintendo Switch. (Screenshot: StudioMDHR)

“I’d be a crazy person if I didn’t say yes,” Moldenhauer said.

“Any child who grew up in the era of the Sega-Nintendo wars, those two are the legendary gods of gaming. So since there’s only one left in the consoles, it’s like, how do we get on that? How do we validate our young selves? What would make little Jerry the most excited in the future?”

Moldenhauer is excited for the possibilities for Cuphead on Switch. Since all versions of the game only have local multiplayer, the Switch’s dual Joy-Cons mean new ways for folks to play together. “We can finally get what our vision is, which is friends and family playing together,” he said.

But even though a release on Switch will likely mean more younger or less experienced players being able to try Cuphead, the game won’t be getting any sort of difficulty or balance tweaks, or extra modes, for its Switch debut.

As Moldenhauer pointed out during our chat, the game already has an Easy mode, but it’s an abbreviated experience — you don’t get to play every phase of the boss fights, and you can’t play the final stages at all. That decision was made because the studio wasn’t happy with how the game would have played otherwise, he said.

“Some patterns and some things became too complicated that you couldn’t tone down the variables to make that playable” in an Easy mode, he said. “Essentially, you would be playing nothing... or, there was no joy in it. We tried to reduce it down to what could be easier, yet still a challenge.”

“The end result, where people are a little upset that you can’t beat the game is,” he said, “an homage to the era, that there were just a ton of our favourite games as kids where you’d beat the game on Easy… and it would just be like, ‘now try it on Normal’. Another aspect to that is, once you’ve built that skill set, going back and seeing more and putting your skills to use, I never had a problem as a kid.”


Comments

    Surprised Nintendo didn't request this after adding easy modes to the original Zelda and Metroid for Switch players

      It already does have an easy mode, so I guess Nintendo felt that was enough.

      Scrolling down to Kotaku comments sections is great practice for difficult fast twitch games.
      @alexwalker do you guys happen to care at all about the trash navigational experience readers are dealing with? Incidentally, it's entirely fixed with the installation of adblock......

        He knows, but can't use comments as proof of complaints to give to the higher-ups. (I think)

          Of course I care - I'm in the comments frequently myself, and moderating them every day of the week, so I get it. But there's a lot of things out of my control too, so the best course of action for now is continued lobbying to illustrate what parts of the site is impacting readers the most. (Which is why I keep telling people to email in and send screenshots! It sucks, but it also genuinely helps me build a case.)

            Thanks Alex, appreciate it. If it helps at all, the issues are more prevalent when using a phone browser. I think the various ad feeds load in at different times causing the page length to jump around. Sorry to say but it's by far the worst browsing experience I have on any site I visit regularly.

              From the reports I'm getting in, AMP seems to be the worst affected (since there's no comments on that page, only a link which opens up the full site experience).

        Yeah, I hit three other stories trying to post the one comment here, it is becoming impossible.

    So stoked this is coming to switch!!!!

      Same!!! Even better, there's a physical release coming a little later.

    Couldn’t they just give you more lives? Even on easy?

    Although this game looks absolutely beautiful, I'm not one for punishing games so sadly it'll be a miss. Even my wife saw the trailer and her eyes lit up. Had to tell her it was a real tough title. She'll never touch it.

    Too hard = no purchase or play, life is too short

    I miss my (childhood and) Commodore Amiga 500 where every game had a built in trainer.

    I can't recall whether it was reddit or some other forum but someone was complaining about a game's difficulty and was attacked by a user saying things like "don't you have time to learn how to play it properly?!" and the response was quite succinct - "I've got three kids and a job so frankly NO."

    Doesn't Celeste have a dead easy mode? I'm playing through God of War again right now on "just give me the story" and boy what a story it is they give you. I don't doubt the depth of the combat mechanics if I learnt them properly, I just don't have time.

    If Cuphead had a two player infinite lives mode I'd play it with my 8 year old. Otherwise, no money is changing hands.

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