It’s been six years since the last Marvel vs. Capcom installment, the flashier, more frenetic sibling to Street Fighter. Thanks to its deep character combinations and robust mechanics, the series has a reputation for being difficult for newcomers cutting their teeth on single player content to get into. This time around, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite introduces the first story mode in the series and over 100 challenge missions to show players the ropes.
That being said, there is a HUGE difference in knowing HOW to do something, and knowing WHY you should do something. Players might learn how to do Ryu’s Shoryuken move in a basic tutorial, but not WHY or when they should do it. Few tutorials actually go past the point of rote execution, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is no exception. A natural next step past simple move execution would be teaching intent. Generally speaking, the Shoryuken is a class of move called a reversal and is extremely safe on startup, but leaves the player wide open if they miss their target. Coupled with visually showing players consequences of both success and failure situations, you are preparing them for the why of the move, and not just the how.
This lack of intent becomes a problem when players encounter obstacles in the form of A.I. or other players that they may not be able to brute force, and without the understanding of why they failed to win a fight. Many fighting game beginners may recall the first time they were fireball spammed by their opponent. The solution to the intent brick wall in Infinite’s story mode is simply to ask the player if they want to lower the difficulty level, and even then there is a limit to how low you can go. This is especially bad, because moving forward by adjusting the A.I. gives players a bye that actually makes them worse at the game. A player succeeds with bad habits instead of learning from their mistakes and further reinforces a wrong purpose of intent in the player.
Huge hosts of new and extremely important mechanics introduced in Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite are shown execution-wise to the player, but the intent never is. The player is shown each Infinity Stone in the tutorials and sees what happens when you hit an opponent with them, but the level of understanding stops there.
We can see that a Power Stone surge will knock opponents back, but when should I use this attack when I have all these other super cool moves at my disposal? This could have naturally been incorporated into story mode if the player fought Xgardian soldiers that frequently used armored moves. These enemies would not be stopped by normal moves, but could easily be interrupted by the Power Stone surge. This would have been a perfect time to show to the player naturally through the story one of the key uses of the Power Stone. However, in the actual tutorial for the Power Stone, it simply asks you to hit the activation button 3 times without any regard to what the intent and purpose of the move is.
This gets even worse with the Infinity Storm and character tutorials. You might remember simply memorizing math formulas in high school and regurgitating them back out with no idea what they’re used for, but you would remember them for one extremely specific use case. This is how Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’s tutorials teach players. Take a look at Captain Marvel’s Power Infinity Storm that asks you to use the Storm and then hit a combo without the player really understanding what is going on. Even though the player will walk away from character tutorials with a general understanding of a fighter’s tools, there is no still no understanding how to really use them in true gameplay situation. Part of the joy of fighting games is discovering how to build interesting combos using each character’s tools, but without knowing the intent of each tool most players miss out on what makes the game fun to play.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is all about a player effectively using two characters simultaneously, switching them in and out fluidly to create a whirlwind of offense and defense. This lack of teaching intent cripples players when it comes to critical mechanics such as the Switch system. The game doesn’t even mention the Counter Switch mechanic that allows players to tag in their partner while they’re being hit. What is arguably the most crucial mechanic and key to success in the game is given one tutorial section on what button you should press and that’s it.
The true purpose of single player content in fighting games is to prepare the player for versus mode, be it in person or online. Imagine if you had a friend that you could always hit with a specific move that was actually very dangerous in that situation. Suddenly when you play against someone else that knows how to counter it, you would be baffled thinking “but this always works!”. More is not always better, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’s single player content may actually leave new players in a worse position knowledge wise to deal with the challenges of fighting other players.