It’s the last three minutes of the August 8 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate-centric Nintendo Direct. following a whole gauntlet of new item, Pokéball, and assist trophy reveals. Things seem about to wind down, but then the screen implores us to stick around for one more thing “Before we go...”
I see you, Sakurai! I knew there was something missing! Clearly, you are cheekily acknowledging as much! So LAY IT ON ME: What mind-melting surprise do you have in store for your parting shot?
Sakurai appears on screen.
“Before we go...”
This is it, y’all.
“...I’d like us to take a quick look at the main menu.”
When this happened—no lie—I busted out laughing. The fake-out trolling of it all is a part of it, sure, but that’s mostly in retrospect. Most of it, on the other hand, is particular to this series. Although it might seem like the most random-ass thing in the world to highlight, a Super Smash Bros. game presenting it as a selling point, personally introduced by Sakurai himself, immediately made perfect sense to me.
See, the thing about the recent batch of Super Smash Bros. games is that their menu screens...well...they suck. The ones for the 3DS release of SSB4, in fact, were so bad, it even inspired me in my former YouTube days to make a whole video about why they were bad, and some potential ways to make them better.
Nintendo can say all it wants that this whole thing was a ruse to tantalize us with the prospect of
Rule 34 a mysterious game mode that they “cannot” reveal just yet. But their true intent, especially in a game whose overlying theme is shaping up as Sakurai going “jfc I GIVE UP HAVE EVERYTHING YOU EVER ASKED FOR now will you FINALLY leave me alone,” is hard to miss. Alright, ungrateful swine! Complaining day in and day out about our menus! If that’s how you’re gonna be, then FINE!!! We’ll do them RIGHT!!! And HERE THEY ARE, front and center in our Nintendo Direct, just for all you ingrates to see in advance!
As for what they came up with? Well, it’s promising!
For one, though it might be a bit too tablet-y for some people, I overall like the new visual aesthetic they’re going for, distinct from the Brawliness of the 3DS and Wii U releases. It’s especially strong in that let’s-enter-a-universe zoom when going into the Smash sub-menu. Honestly, this is the strongest move Ultimate has made yet into defining itself as an entirely new game rather than a mere port. (though from what I can tell, it would only be a “new” game in the same way that Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers was a “new” Street Fighter II)
More than its style, however, I am also liking some of the functional user interface touches shown off. All of the menu choices are large and easily legible. The radial arrangement of the main menu’s layout, with the menu choices all revolving around that central circular logo, is intuitive. The subtle addition of the small black triangular arrow pointing at the current selection is also a nice touch, making the menu selection even clearer in a gentle manner.
I especially appreciate that they adapted the 3DS menu’s best idea, its battery life/time-showing status bar, into that persistent dashboard on the right. It even has a gear-looking icon, which is almost always shorthand for “options menu.” If that really is the case—Sakurai does say that “options and control descriptions are listed here as well” (emphasis mine), so has to be—that means the options menu would not just be readily available, but constantly available no matter where in the maze of menu screens we are. Praise be!!
That Games & More selection, though. Pfft. It can still screw off, same as it could back when it was a thing in 2014.
Also, I really hope Nintendo goes the extra mile and adds touchscreen controls to the menu whenever the Switch is out of its dock. It could lead to at least a few more conveniences that would make the venture worthwhile to pursue.
All that said, however, this is all entirely based on watching a game preview, rather than personally dealing with the menus myself. Thus, it remains to be seen how well everything will really work when put into practice. Once I start playing the game upon its release in four months, you had best believe that I will be paying close attention to what has been done with the menus.
Updated 8/10/2018 1:41 pm EDT to correct the release month in the last paragraph from September to December, seeing as I’m confusing release dates left and right.