Would it be fair to say that we are in a “Renaissance” for Indies right now? For the span of this generation, Indie Developers got to see such an expansive growth where it feels like they have just as much focus as the AAA Developers.

Perhaps one of the main reasons why we enjoy some of the Indie titles is how some developers can take a familiar formula and truly refine it to make it something truly special. Chances are if you did play titles such as Shovel Knight, Shantae or Bloodstained, you know where they got their influences (or how those involved with said titles are making “Spiritual successors” to what they did before). While we could focus on any one of these titles, but for the sake of this topic, let’s focus on the biggest indie hit of 2017, Cuphead.

Source: Cuphead

While you can point towards a great number of titles that we got during 2017, many would argue that Cuphead was one of the most articularly stunning games we got in recent years. For those who might not know what Cuphead is, it is a “Run-and-Gun” style shooter (i.e. Contra) set during the 1930s. Every aspect of Cuphead is hand-drawn and emulates the feeling of early age animation. It’s hard as hell but visually and musically pleasing. It was a title that many players at the end wanted to see more of, but know it likely wouldn’t happen due to the amount of work it took to get it to where it was.

So what were the chances of us getting another “Animated Run And Gun” title?  The answer is actually much sooner than you might think.

Enchanted Portals

So if we are going off of the trailer alone, it wouldn’t be hard to make a case of how this could look a bit too much like Cuphead.

before we say anything else, to quote Youtube Video description itself:

Enchanted Portals is a cooperative 2D platformer made by Xixo Games Studio, a Spanish studio of two people. It will launch its Kickstarter campaign this October 24th.

We’re both avid fans of Cuphead and wanted to make a similar game, but always from a place of love, respect, and admiration for the original.

They say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” then one could argue that this is almost like a tribute to what came before while perhaps providing a new look at what we previously got.

But to claim that this game as ripping off Cuphead would be complaining that

  • Paladins or Battleborn was ripping off Overwatch,
  • League of Legends taking ideas from DOTA from Warcraft III,
  • Art of Fighting making a 2D fighter like Street Fighter,
  • Fortnite from PUBG,
  • Or literally any other shooter game during the 90s ripping off Doom.

Arguments can vary with each example but in the end, the games did provide enough unique aspects to what they took ideas from to make them their own.

Inspirational Ideas

If we were to say that Cuphead is like Mickey Mouse then perhaps our wizards here will be the “Don Bluth” of the Animated Run-and-Gun shooters. It isn’t that farfetched to consider either if consider a few of the characters we got to see our wizard fights.

We see a fight against a Greaser-Dancing Rooster, which could be a nice nod to “Rock-a-Doodle.” And during another part of the trailer, we see the Wizards come up against a giant Pianist. Someone who looks quite a bit like Beethoven, who also saw an appearance in Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp.

At least our pianist will attack the player instead of his cat
Source: Dragon’s Quest 2

While it is hard to say how many people reading this article have a vast history in animation, it can be difficult to assume the era of animation the game is reflecting. While many would immediately jump to the conclusion and say “1930s!” because Cuphead, this does not feel like the correct answer (unless if the developers choose to overlook a few details).

Let’s just hope that if Enchanted Portals does happen, the quality of the game will be on par with Classics like An American Tail or The Land Before Time and not A Troll in Central Park.

Can this really be classified as 1930s?

Remember the Greaser Rooster? Greasers were prominent around the 1950s-1960s. If Enchanted Portals were to also aim for the 1930s style as Cuphead, this would make no sense at all. It would be like if you could Livestream Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock in real-time. A nice thought, but wouldn’t be accurate to the time.

Does this look like a certain show out of the 90s to anyone?
Source: Enchanted Portals

Hopefully, the creators are taking this into account and won’t try and grab inspirations from the wrong time of animation if this is their intention.  Who knows if they will try and say there will be a kind of aesthetic to the game itself since one could say “This game is set in the 1990s!” because Dragon’s Lair II and Rock-A-Doodle did come out during that time. That and if you consider at the end, we do see a house with a car and satalite and if it fair to say that this is a game that would have its setting set at an entire time.

Does a “Lack of Effort” make a game a rip-off?

While one could have their individual thoughts on how to definite “Inspire vs Rip-Off,” it can help to see other people’s thoughts on what they might think on this. Much like the teaser video itself, there are just as many videos that say “Give this game a chance” as there are “Why this shameless game is a bad thing.” But one detail that seems to cross people’s minds more times than naught as why this is “shameless” is due to the lack of effort Enchanted Portals puts into the game as opposed to Cuphead.

This seems rather unfair, but let’s just dive into this a bit further.

As we said before, Cuphead has the pleasure of how everything in the game is hand-drawn. They also spent many years working on this game because of it. It was pure madness that they did pull it off and because of it, Cuphead rightfully got the praises during the “end of the year awards” of various websites.  But could we see this happen again? Ever? Perhaps if you dump alot of money into the production; otherwise, yeah, it’s probably fair to say Enchanted Portals, while does look smooth and clean in its own right, still doesn’t hold a candle to Cuphead.

But when you look at the animation in motion, yeah, it might not be as smooth as Cuphead, but you do see animation 101 in play. While it would be hard to talk about it without visual examples, I would recommend watching this video by T B Skyen. He goes through to discuss Enchanted Portals and provides interesting reasons why the animation should not be immediately overlooked.

Two things Enchanted Portals Does What Cuphead Does Not.

So for as much as we did discuss how it isn’t fair to call the game a Rip-off, it is only fair to point out a few small tidbits that shows the creators of the game are doing more than their own version of Cuphead.

One thing about Cuphead was how there were three distinct modes in the game. You have your “Run ‘n Gun” stages, your run of the mill boss fight stages, and boss fights where you are in a plane. But consider Space Cow footage we saw in the trailer and take notice to the two parts we see. The first is the two Wizards fighting the cow while it is sitting in the chair while other one is “Mecha Cow” and the characters are flying on brooms. Now it could be possible that these are two separate stages, but perhaps during the fight, the Space Cow could enlarge itself (or shrink the Wizards) and suddenly turns itself into a Terminator Cow and thus they start to fly, that could mean the stages could have you be doing more things.

Hopefully we will see more of these examples than just getting flatten by a hammer-wielding tombstone
Source: Enchanted Portals

The other thing of note was during the fight against the Witch. During the second clip, we see the Tombstone hammer down the boy wizard into a pancake and how he can still move around afterwards. When you get hit in Cuphead, you just take the hit (and we do see this too with the girl wizard right afterwards), but if they were to play with this where getting hit by certain attacks can affect your character in different ways, that could add more depth to the gameplay thank many would give the creators credit for.

What do you think of Enchanted Portals?

So would it be fair to say Enchanted Portals is ripping off Cuphead? It would actually be better to answer this question instead: “Why would we call this a ‘Rip Off’ if there are little to no assets that the game takes from it?” If you want to know what a “Cuphead Rip Off,” actually looks like, just look up “Cuphead for iOS.”

Needless to say, this was not done by Studio MDHR and before it could scam people, it was quickly taken off the iOS store. And this is the point we want to make here: If Enchanted Portals were trying to rip off Cuphead‘s success, do you think they would put in this much work in the animation? Otherwise, if it was trying to be a cheap cash-in, it probably would look as good as the fake iOS app.

Of course, we can’t really jump to any conclusions on how well Enchanted Portals will do as we need to see how successful its Kickstarter will be first. If the quality of the final product were to match the teaser trailer, hopefully, this could lead to the return to run-and-gun style games. Hell knows that after Contra Rogue Corps, a lot of fans have lost all hope in Konami. 

Until we get more details on Enchanted Portals when the Kickstarter Campaign gets going on October 24, the game itself will be rather decisive between those who want to see the genre expand out and those who think that a similar art style means the game will not be worth it. In the end, if you wish to support the game, that choice will be all up to you. Let’s just hope that they have plenty of other ideas that they will explore to differ themselves.

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