Switched to Switch – Cuphead

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Cuphead is one of the most unique looking games of last decade. 40s Disney’s cartoon aesthetic makes this game feel nostalgic despite its relatively new release date. Being one of the biggest Xbox exclusives in past few years it was quite a shock to see it come to Nintendo Switch. It was a pleasant surprise, but how well did it switch to the Switch?

Let’s start by saying that this is indeed a perfect port. Being a 2D side-scroller, there was no worry that this wouldn’t be the case. Yet, going from Xbox to a sub-powered Switch there is always slight fear. Especially of frame-rate drops, which thankfully don’t happen.

But how does this game translate to a hybrid console? Well, almost perfectly. For those unaware Cuphead is furiously hard boss-rush game with 2D shoot ’em up elements. Most of the game is focused on defeating incredibly tough and inventive bosses. With Contra inspired stages sprinkled in-between. It’s a game in which you die, die, die and die again. It’s incredibly tough and frustrating at stages but once you finally beat it, it’s one of the most satisfying gaming moments ever.

Similar to Dark Souls, Cuphead works really well in a portable format due to its relentless difficulty. Sitting on the couch, with TV on while working on a boss for hours is probably my favourite utilisation of the Switch. I also found myself playing Cuphead on a bus and breaks at work more often than any other games on Switch. Every game session even as short as 10 minutes feels meaningful. Levels are not too long. Even if you don’t manage to beat a stage it doesn’t feel like wasted time. Every try is a lesson that helps you understand the level and memorise the harder bits.

One issue I have with this game are the controls. The original control scheme is just bad. Having all the important actions mapped to face buttons makes the game more difficult than it should be. For levels that require just run and gun it’s fine, but whenever dash becomes a necessity it all goes downhill. You would need god-like reflex and speed to be able to move your thumb fast enough to utilise all the actions to the limit of their potential. Good news is that the controls are re-mappable, and since ZL trigger does absolutely nothing in the game I put the dash there which immediately made the game play much better.

Another issue, is that with classic game like this you really want to play it with a d-pad, but the Joy-Con 4 button alternative just isn’t fit for the job. In Cuphead you need precision as there’s not much room for mistakes, and the 4 button d-pad alternative is just not precise enough. Especially when shooting diagonally. As such you’ll be forced to use the left thumbstick. Which works better, but again is not as precise as proper d-pad would be.

Overall, Cuphead on Switch is a great port and a great fit. There are no real downgrades to this version and the issues with controls don’t break the game, and are a small price to pay to have such an amazing game in a portable format.