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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kirby's Take on Modern Tutorials

As I stated in another blog post, I love watching Egoraptor's Sequelitis: Mega Man Classic vs. Mega Man X. While not a full on versus topic, it's a hilarious take on how the Classic Mega Man series and Mega Man X taught the players how to play the game while they played. What's more, there wasn't even any tutorials in any of those games. As Egoraptor states, the things you need to know about the game or the gimmicks in the level are presented to the player without any annoying hand holding or interrupting the gameplay.

Many modern games have tutorials, which I don't think is a bad thing. Regardless of whether the game is a new IP or a new entry in an ongoing series, that particular game will always be someone's first so it's a good idea to bring them up to speed on how things work. What isn't a good idea is an overly complex tutorial filled with walls of text or as Egoraptor put it, treating the player like an idiot by pointing out pathetically obvious things that he or she could easily figure out on their own. Lots of modern game developers may not think the gaming populace are peons but when they explain the same things over and over, it sure does give you the impression that they think we are.

One of the best examples I can think of for modern gaming tutorials done right comes from 2011's Kirby's Return to Dream Land. The Kirby games are designed for younger players but there's still a good time to be had for adults as well. With that in mind, it's very welcoming that the first level of the game, Cookie Country 1-1 is a tutorial level that respects the intelligence of players of all ages.

Some players do better with visual aid than some text telling you what to do and then acting it out on your own. That's what's awesome about Return to Dream Land's first level. All of it's tutorial bits are entirely visual. No walls of text pop out to order you around and the flow of the game doesn't get disrupted. In this first level you're taught how to dash, how to float, how to inhale, how to super inhale, all without reading any on-screen text or cracking open the instruction booklet. Granted most Kirby vets know all that stuff but again, this could be someone's very first time playing a Kirby game. Thanks to the splendid text-less tutorial, even newbies can be eased into the game.

Every single thing you learn in the first stage of
Return to Dream Land is explained briefly via
background images.

The first level also shows off the Super Copy Ability with the Ultra Sword, which is simple to use. Just attack with it like you world if you had Kirby's normal Sword ability, except the damage output is that much greater because the sword is friggin' huge, decimating anything in it's path. The stage is setup so that you'll unearth a giant star which leads to a pocket dimension. More than likely, your curiosity will entice you and you'll hop in, only to lose your Super Copy Ability or any Copy ability you have if playing as a Kirby. So you now know that whenever you take a trip to the pocket dimension, you lose your Copy powers if you happen to be Kirby.

So if you are playing as a Kirby and you go into the pocket dimension, you're stripped down to your most basic means of self defense: inhaling and shooting anything you suck up at your foes. The dimension itself is pretty gloomy, composed of mostly black and white colors. What you'll most likely notice upon entry is a purple blob-like wall that's coming towards you. Yeah, that advancing wall wants you dead. To hammer the point home further, the music that plays in this pocket world screams of urgency, telling you to move and to move fast, a stark contrast to the upbeat and lively tunes you heard prior to entering this dimension. Once you make it past all the obstacles in your way you'll come across some power ups, which can only mean one thing: there's a mini boss ahead. Every single pocket dimension houses a Sphere Doomer, scary looking creatures that love energy spheres. This fight gives you a good idea on how some of the bosses work since up until now, you've been dealing with D-list canon fodder and Sphere Doomers are all over the place in this game so you'll need to know how to handle them.

We learned quite a bit from just one stage and it was done in such a simple, yet brilliant manner. And the best part about all that you learned? The game never feels the need to remind you about the first level teachings again. That's how much Return to Dream Land respects you. The game is like "You've mastered everything I've taught you. From here on out, you're on your own." Unless you go back to the very first level in Cookie Country, you'll never see any of those things again. Now that's good teaching. And from a "kiddie" game, no less. More tutorials like this one, please.

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