This morning I finally finished Cuphead! After many repeated attempts, I beat the Devil and released all his debtors of their infernal financial responsibilities.
I realize of course that Cuphead is a new game that may or may not technically belong on a retro gaming blog, but it can’t be denied that it has an old soul and should appeal to anybody reading this.
Lots has been written about how frustrating and difficult Cuphead is. I find it disappointing that some major videogame news outlets and blogs are getting so down on it for its difficulty. I prefer to think of it as a solid challenge, with an element of randomness adding just a bit of frustration/cheapness. Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve learned a boss’ habits, the unpredictability of its attacks will just…getcha. This time. So you try again. At no point, no matter how many times I got whacked by the same boss, did I ever want to give up and forget about finishing the game. And it never got to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore. Sure, I’d have a tough time with a stage or boss and decide to put it down for the time being, but I always knew I was gonna come back to it.
And that determination is the only way through the game. This is not a contest that you can phone in. It requires concentration and effort, and if you don’t put in 100%, you aren’t going to make it. But if you keep trying and failing and trying again, you can’t help but get better and eventually learn how to beat that boss or that run ‘n gun stage.
And that’s the way it should be. That’s how games are supposed to work. That’s the way we grew up in the days of the games that inspired Cuphead. Failing miserably and getting back on that horse is how we got through Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania and Mega Man and became badass enough to 1CC a Cave shmup.
No participation trophies. You have to earn bragging rights. That’s the whole point.
And so it is with Cuphead. Challenge a level, die, do it again. Learn the patterns, learn how to react, experiment and figure out the optimal way to handle each situation, impress your friends. Just like the old days!
Actually, if these were the old days, we’d only have three lives to get through Cuphead. It’s actually a more modern concession that we do have unlimited tries, and the more ornery among us might actually say that makes it too easy. But I’m not quite that “get off my lawn” about it.
So play Cuphead. Play it a lot and get killed a lot and get better at it. It’s the right way to play!