The road to Cuphead’s release has no doubt been a long one. Details of the game first surfaced around 2013-2014. The game was expected to be out shortly thereafter. However, Studio MDHR didn’t realize just how much work it would take to bring their vision to life. This led to delay after agonizing delay, with the final product finally hitting PCs and the Xbox store on September 29th. Fortunately, all that time spent getting the look and feel of the game just right bode well for the game we finally received. Cuphead sold over one million copies between the XB1 and PC in just a few weeks of being out on the market. It also received two Golden Joystick Awards, including best visual design and Xbox Game Of The Year.
In the process, quite a lot of content was cut from the final game. Given that Inkwell and its inhabitants were all painstakingly drawn and animated by hand to give off that Fleischer-styled appearance, it’s hard to believe how much was crumpled up and thrown in the recycling bin.
The Original Overworld, Goopy and HUD Differences
Some of the earliest footage of Cuphead from 2013 shows a completely different overworld/map from the final product that can be seen in the first twenty seconds in the video above. There’s a single house in the northeastern part, which may have housed the tutorial given the weightlifting symbol. We can also see Goopy on the overworld with a sign numbered “1”.
In the final game, bosses do not show up on the overworld and are simply marked by flagpoles. The inclusion of numbers suggest that there may have been a specific order the player had to fight the bosses in at one point in development. The final game gives the player some liberties in deciding which boss to tackle first, although some of them block off access to other fights as well as shops and the few “Run ‘n’ Gun” stages.
We can also see the first glimpses of actual gameplay from this video. Since Goopy is marked by the sign as number one and is the only boss character on the map as far as I can see, it’s safe to assume that he was probably the first boss designed for the game. It looks like the fight would have taken place in an open field instead of a deep forest like in the final product. Not only that, but there’s two Goopys as opposed to one. At the five second mark in the video, we can see that there is only one. His startup animation is pretty much the same as it was in the final product before the footage cuts. When it goes back to the fight, there is another copy of the boss on the screen at the same time. Not only this, but they seem to move much faster than they did in the final game. My guess is that, at some point in the fight, Goopy would have split in two. This never happens in the final game. I’m guessing this was cut due to how difficult it might have been to fight two Goopys with increased speed at the same time.
Here is what the HUD was originally going to look like. It’s much different from the final game. My guess is that the gray and black blocks at the upper left hand corner would have represented the Special Meter (replaced by card icons in the final game) and that the red bar directly underneath could have been a health meter of sorts. The most interesting aspect of this HUD is the number at the far right. This appears in almost every snippet of old boss fight footage and decreases whenever the boss is struck. It’s safe to assume that the player would have been able to see how much damage they did to a boss at one point in development. In the final game, the boss only flickers to show that he/she is taking damage. The only way to tell how far the player has gotten in the encounter in the final game is the progress bar with tick mars that displays if he/she dies.
At about fifty seconds into the video, another version of the HUD can be seen in some footage from 2016. The hearts most likely represented hit points, with the bar beneath representing the Special Meter. Gone are the digits that representing the boss’ health.
Early Tutorial Room
Around the 1:18 mark, we can see an early version of the Tutorial that a certain gaming journalist struggled with. There don’t appear to be any objects here for the player to jump over or shoot at as with the final game. In addition, there are icons shaped like a hybrid of the NES/SNES controllers to represent which button performs what action. These controller doodles are not in the final game. An interesting side note- the life bars at the bottom are identical to the final game. It would appear that Studio MDHR went back and forth (the 2016 footage shows something completely different as you can see above) during development.
Scrapped Boss Characters
There are quite a few boss characters that didn’t make the cut. This 2014 trailer for the game shows one of them around the seventeen second mark.
His name is supposedly M.Fang, and the backdrop looks like it would be set in a cave or perhaps even Hell (judging from the fire). Given that the final boss of the game is the Devil himself and that the last island included some representations of Hell, one could assume that this guy would have been fought near the end of the game. Perhaps he would have been the penultimate encounter in place of Mr.Dice in the final game.
The video above shows some more footage of this boss (as well as the old HUD with the boss’ health represented) as well as two other boss fights with a squid-like character and a dapper spider. The spider appears as if it would have been fought using the airplane. The squid encounter takes place on a boat and doesn’t appear to be fully programmed as he primarily just moves back and forth. I believe that the Captain Silver encounter (which takes place on a dock with the boat being alive instead of its own unique setting) took the place of this encounter in the final game.
The Original Title Song
The last thing I’ll be taking a look at is this unused/alternate title song. It’s a bit more energetic than the one used in the final game. Hints of the melody used in the final version are present. The lyrics are much different, though:
Cuphead has gambled away his last dime!
Entered a tournament to buy him time!
If he can win his head’ll be sworn!
And this was how the adventure was born!
The one thing to take away from these changed lyrics is that instead of collecting contracts for the Devil, this song hints that Cuphead “entered a tournament”.
While I’m sure there is a lot of content that went unused in the game that will turn up once hackers and dedicated fans dig into the game’s code, these were the biggest changes I could find. Was there anything here that you wish would have made it into the final game? Let me know on Twitter over @retrorev96!