Cuphead on Switch Review: A Former Exclusive That Comes ‘Home’

While most Xbox fanboys refuse to admit that this generation has lacked greatly in Microsoft exclusives, both PS4 and Switch owners were envious of Studio MDHR’s side-scrolling masterpiece. There is not a single frame animation, level design, or boss battle that is lacking both in quality or variation in Cuphead. This is the go-to game that can greatly influence the decisions of consumers worldwide with the mere glimpse at its retro cartoon visual aesthetics. Cuphead gave the Xbox what it needed at the time of its September 29, 2017 launch. An exclusive through and through, a work of art that combined the best of 16-bit era platformers with the vintage feel of a studio-era nickelodeon. It seemed poised to enter the cannon of Microsoft’s long list of gems that go far back to the sixth generation of gaming. But April 18th, 2019 marked the beginning of Cuphead’s cross platforming to Nintendo’s new flagship system. If there is ever more of a company that matches Cuphead’s visual vibe it is Nintendo, and the game’s relaunch on a new platform symbolizes the game’s appeal into a new market. 

The System Built on the Platformer

Anyone who knows anything about the history of gaming knows that the Nintendo corporation built its empire on the platform genre. From Super Mario Brothers to Donkey Kong Country, every iteration of Nintendo’s ever-burgeoning console generational wars has been marked by titles that excelled in this particular genre. Cuphead falls perfectly in line with its forebearers, bridging the gap between animation level design and run n’ gun boss battles. Visual Designer Jared Moldenhauer utilizes the aesthetics of 1930’s hand-drawn animation sprites with the rotoscoping effects of past 8 and 16-bit adventure games that provide the game with a perfect place on the Switch. From the watercolor backdrops to its intense boss battles, Moldenhauer and his team rarely skimp on the retro flair. Complimenting all this vintage appeal is the 60 fps that this indy title churns out across its varied landscapes. Sweetening this deal for the Switch are the all-inclusive DLC packs, The Delicious Last Course, which feature new characters and maps. The Nintendo Switch can easily handle all this without pushing the limits of its hardware too much. The soundtrack is once again shining potently in the game, as jazz composer Kristofer Maddigan provides a 3-hour soundtrack that incorporates over five dozen compositions. Everything is thrown at the Nintendo Switch owner with this rerelease, and this port lacks nothing when compared to its big brother Xbox predecessor. 

Is It Worth the Revisit?

For those who haven’t played this former Microsoft exclusive, the answer to this question is self-evident. The fact that the game still does not have a physical release is a let down truly but as a downloadable title from an indy publisher, this work of art offers more than any major market release title across platforms. Cuphead strikes at the heart of what Nintendo is trying to do with its new system by bridging the gap between the niche market of indy throwback titles with the mainstream of millennial culture. The Switch captures many markets but mainly its throwback consumers and younger audiences are its target demographic. With Nintendo online giving away from modified NES games, it is easy to see that the company is tugging at the heartstrings of those players who long for the days of simplified gaming mechanics. Cuphead is all this rolled into a final product that is both easily accessible and frustratingly difficult as you progress. Cuphead crystalizes the ambitions of a studio that visually and mechanically harkens back to the yesteryears of animation. The parallels between this indy platformer and Nintendo as a whole are astonishingly made stronger when all one has to do is visit the console’s online and witness the abundance of independently produced games that replicate the vintage aesthetics of the early days of gaming. The Switch is by far the system for indy gaming fans and Cuphead feels more at home than ever before. Granted, the game still lacks proper online support, expansive DLC packs, and a physical cartridge on the Switch. But that does not detract from its overall quality as a port.

The infinite lives for each player do not soften the blow of this difficult platformer but it also does not take away from the achievement one feels when completing this animation masterpiece. As ports proliferate the modern gaming market it becomes increasingly difficult for players to keep track of what is truly quality over sheer quantity. But this port is truly a gem in the mine of shameful cash grabs. In the end, Cuphead for the Nintendo Switch is a must own title that in many ways emulates but also supersedes its Xbox forebearer. 

The Verdict 

Cuphead is a marvel to behold and its breath of scope is brought to greater heights on the Nintendo Switch. For an exclusive to translate so brilliantly onto a competitors platform is a testament to the power of the game’s creative prowess. From its origins in 2017, Cuphead proves the tried and true formula that big budgets are nothing compared to great level design and imagination. Everything that Nintendo’s new flagship system stands for. In essence, the perfect home for a game so heavily ensconced in a vintage flair. 
About Patrick Hickey Jr. 8901 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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