Game Design Talk – BlazBlue: Continuum Shift’s Tutorial Mode

Over the weekend, I thought a bit more about whether or not to buy BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. After more deliberation and talking about it with my brother, I totally caved and picked it up. I did get it at way less than retail price though. I gathered up a bunch of the free games I got during my Blockbuster raids that I had no intention of playing and traded those in. On top of that, my brother agreed to pay for half of the remaining cost. Sweet!

Unlike 99% of the games we’ve ever played, we started out our experience by jumping into tutorial mode. Knowing the difficulties we had with the first game and hearing that Continuum Shift supposedly has an awesome tutorial mode, it made sense to start at ground level rather than button mash and wonder why this game doesn’t play more like Street Fighter. If you’ve had any reservations about learning BlazBlue, then I have (mostly) good news for you.

It’s always baffled me how complex fighting games are and yet, how little the game actually teaches you to play. Especially now, in the era of in-game tutorials in every other genre, fighting games have done a horrible job of teaching players how to play within the game itself. Even Super Street Fighter IV, which implemented replay features and a challenge mode, never actually tells you how any of the game’s systems work and how to be any good at it.

BlazBlue features what very well could be the most comprehensive tutorial mode in any fighting game. When you enter the mode, you have a choice between beginner, intermediate and advanced training lessons. Within those sections are lessons that cover everything from how to attack to how to string together insanely long combos. Each lesson usually involves the game explaining a technique and then having you do it yourself. The way these lessons are presented are fairly dry, but it’s still a cut above the competition.

We started out at the very beginning, where the game was teaching us how to attack and how to block. As a long-time fighting game player, I found these to be rather boring. However, I’m sure that completely new players will appreciate the detail. These lessons were extremely helpful to me when it got into more advanced tactics, such as wake-up techniques and rapid cancels. Oddly, I could never complete the rapid cancel combo asked of me in tutorial mode, but could do it every time in training mode and in real matches.

I haven’t finished all of the tutorials, but they’re pretty well done. I appreciate Aksys for putting these in there and they will go a long way in my understanding of the BlazBlue fighting engine.

The only real downside is that the tutorial mode isn’t as thorough when it comes to character specific lessons. Instead of featuring interactive lessons, the character tutorials are just paragraphs of text that explain how to play them and some key moves and combos to keep in mind. Considering the fact that BlazBlue is a series where every character plays completely different, leaving out character-specific interactive tutorials flat-out sucks.

As a substitute of sorts for character-specific interactive tutorials, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift features a challenge mode, which is a lot like the challenge mode in the Street Fighter IV series. Players are required to complete a specific move or combo in order to advance. Unlike Street Fighter however, the game actually shows you how to complete the tasks it asks of you. It’s then just a matter of doing it. The problem is, as someone who is still new to the series, I hit my skill peak really quick. I was only on the second or third set of Ragna challenges before the combos were too hard for me. A more gradual difficulty curve would have been much appreciated here.

In the future, I think it should be mandatory for every fighting game to have a tutorial system that is at least as good as the one featured in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Fighting games are really intimidating to learn, but giving players the right tools to succeed is a great step in bridging the gap. I gave up on the first BlazBlue because the only way I could learn how to play it was by watching tutorial videos on YouTube, reading online guides or learning from beat-downs served to me over XBOX Live. This tutorial by no means is perfect; it can be improved upon greatly. For now though, it’s awesome to finally see a fighting game developer actually teach its players how to play within the game. Keep checking up on In Third Person for more impressions on the full game in the future.

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