(Here’s a real high class battle) (And Begin!) Did you know? Brothers and Cuphead creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer Always had the idea of making a game of their own Though they lack the resources to do so for many years After seeing the success of the indie scene in 2010 Especially with games like Super Meat Boy and Castle Crashers The two realized it was possible for them to make a quality game And development on Cuphead entered its early stages soon after From the start the gameplay was inspired by run-and-gun games Like Contra and Gunstar Heroes But the game’s eventual look was rooted in 1930s cartoons Notably from the works of Fleischer Studios The brothers grew up watching cartoons from the era through VHS tapes They got themselves or as gifts The duo figured that as technology improved, someone would make a game in that style But no one attempted it to the degree they hoped for The idea of 1930’s visuals actually began as a joke they’d shoot around in brainstorming sessions Thinking they’d be unable to pull the look off successfully, they dabbled in other styles But always came back to that idea Despite their lack of training, it was something that resonated with them And they dove right into it When thinking of designs for the game’s protagonist, there had been hundreds of ideas drawn up But nothing was working for them at first They wanted to steer clear of animals due to how common they were in platformers Opting for something they could call their own A Light Bulb character fittingly led to the idea of more inanimate objects for heads And led to them being more experimental with their designs Near the end of the process Chad would study background elements in cartoons for anything he could find And over time they came to the design we now know The designs also said to have roots in a 30s Japanese propaganda film That featured a man with a Teacup Head Some of the scrapped ideas showed up in the final game as NPC’s Such as the Axe and Apple head designs And Mugman’s character came from the desire of a two-player dynamic Being the younger brother, Jared said he always identified as Luigi And they wanted to give off a Mario Brothers vibe with the duo The game started out simple and was planned to have eight bosses In a similar structure to the Mega Man series However with its popularity at tradeshows, the two felt the need to expand the game To feature more content, what they originally envisioned before scaling back It resulted in the team and development time increasing But they were still set on seeing it to the end The game’s animation process was said to slow down production by 80% When compared to doing it digitally They stuck with it because they wanted to be as true to the art style as they could And to help keep traditional animation alive It was even considered to color everything by hand But it only would’ve gone to add years to production time The style lent itself to the gameplay due to the wild, eccentric nature of 30s cartoons Leading to near endless possibilities for boss ideas That said, before coming up with a boss They needed to know how it’d play out in advance Depending on its size or location they designed it with that in mind Coupled with the theme of where they’d appear in the game There was one idea where a boss would be fought on a sheet of music With the patterns relying on the levels actual soundtrack This idea didn’t get off the ground as the pattern couldn’t be changed once implemented Plus the track had to be different for each of the game’s difficulty settings Despite the push backs in the 4 years since its first announcement the game proved popular through it all Selling over 1 million copies in its first two weeks The studio took many chances throughout development But took things in small steps before getting to the game’s current scope Gerardus said that had they known just how much work would go into Cuphead from the start, they likely never would have made it Cuphead’s development was an intimate affair Spouses, Cousins, and Friends of the brothers lend their talents to help bring it to life Being as passionate as they were about the project and gaming as well The game’s composer Chris Madigan was a friend of the brothers since childhood and was their go-to guy Knowing he could deliver on the soundtrack they needed That said the game was also a first for Madigan Though he had studied jazz he didn’t consider it his strong suit on top of doing little actual composing beforehand Game tracks often loop at a points in their songs But for cuphead Madigan wanted each piece to be as long as it needed to be Even if the player wouldn’t hear the full piece in game Though there were limitations to how the music could interact with the action on screen A staple of classic cartoons Madigan instead went for the vibe of excitement and unpredictability, complementing the game’s nature Each piece also has several different mixes and solos when one was recorded that have Soloists play over the finished piece with a variety of instruments and improvised segments Because of this when fighting the same boss again a slight variation of the theme can be heard There are a few nods to other video games in Cuphead’s score The Funfair Fever track has a similar segment to the Athletic Theme from Super Mario World This bit according to Madigan was a crazy coincidence The Mario series helped influence another track more directly The elder kettles theme was initially made for a possible Waterworld that was cut from the final product Madigan looked to Koji Kondo’s method of scoring for water levels in the Mario Brothers Soundtrack 33 and a Third Book, noting that many were based on Waltz Numbers Coincidentally, a master class he attended was covering how to write waltzes, and he saw it fitting to make one There are dozens of references to games and animations sprinkled throughout Cuphead With the team wanting them to act more as subtle nods than direct shoutouts Goopy Le Grande’s look was inspired by early RPGs Where enemies were commonly slime creatures, and was in Cuphead before their own boss formula The third phase of dramatic finatic is another nod to JRPGs With Sally stage play’s cut out bearing a striking resemblance to Kefka from Final Fantasy VI Grim Matchstick has roots in Mega Man 2’s Mecha Dragon Boss And his name references animator Grim Natwick who worked on many Fleischer cartoons And like Matchsticks spoke with a pronounced stutter Dr. Kaul shares his surname with one of Disney’s nine old men Milt Kahl And the level perilous peer shows a building named Hotel Iwerks Referencing animator and co-creator of Mickey Mouse Ub Iwerks Baroness Von Bon Bon has design roots in not only cartoons But also in actresses from the era such as Betty Grable, Bebe Daniels, and Loretta Young The railroad Wrath bosses all have ties to Japanese Yokai The ghost with Tenome, a ghost with eyes on their hands The skeleton with Gashadokuro, a giant skeleton The Train Pistons possibly with long neck Yokai such as Rokurokubi and the head of the Train with Oboruguruma, Ox carts with faces that appear in the dead of night The stage also draws parallels with Final Fantasy 6’s Phantom Train As both have the player making their way through a haunted train before fighting the train itself The level Clip Joint Calamity is one huge shout-out to the Street Fighter series Ribby and Croaks start the fight with Ryu and Ken’s taunts and their moves reference other fighters From E. Honda’s hundred Hand Slap, Guile’s Sonic Boom, Dawson’s Yoga Fire and even Blanca’s Roll Their slot machine phase references the Street Fighter 2 bosses with U.S. Balrog depicted by the machine itself And Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison by the slot patterns As it shows Snakes, Tigers, and Bulls respectively Lastly when the player dies to the devil in his second phase his death quote will be “Anyone who opposes me will be destroyed” Which is directly lifted from M. Bison’s game over quote in Street Fighter II Did you also know that the sonic franchise’s Chaos Emeralds aren’t actually emeralds and should be named the Chaos Diamonds? for more platforming facts check out our video on Sonic secrets and censorship And if you want to hear me talk about cuphead even more here’s a little review I did for just such the occasion check it out and see why I think it’s one of the best games I ever did play Plus some other cool stuff about it too. Later haters!