Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
I’ve always thought that a well made game shows the effort put into the production, in every aspect. One area I always try to pay attention to are menu screens and navigation of the game before you play. I feel that if the creators put effort into a part of the game such as that, then they’re willing to in other, more obvious areas as well. It also helps to make the game unique when even the menu isn’t generic, showing that this game, from the developer’s perspective, isn’t supposed to be like the other games you’ve played.
Today I’m counting down my personal Top 5 character select screens from fighting games only. These are my personal best that fulfill some of, if not all of a few key points:
-Gives Good Idea of What Character Will Look Like in Gameplay
-Good Presentation/Unique or Easy to Use Interface
Street Fighter 3rd Strike’s character select screen only makes it on this list mainly due to the music. The presentation of the characters in the bubble style, almost comic book format is cool, yet basic, but it gets some points off for the use of portraits instead of any character models. Don’t get me wrong, the portraits are great, but I think at some point before you select and play as the character, you should get an idea of what and who you’re in for, especially as an arcade style game that wants to attract first time players.
Regardless of that, the amount of effort put into Third Strike’s soundtrack is mind-blowing, and the underground hip hop track that plays over the character select will forever be embedded in my mind. This is just my opinion, but I think the music is good enough that it’s better than some tracks I’ve heard on the radio! The jazzy, funky beat in the background and lyrics from Ontario based rapper Infinite (a member of the group Ghetto Concept) are incredible.
It’s a 5 minute long underground hip hop song about selecting a fighting game character, and a summary about what will take place in the fight you’re about to enter. He could’ve phoned this in by all means, or not put forth as much effort as he did, but did he ever do it. Between this song and the three others that he penned for the game, and the effort Capcom went to in hiring such an artist, this character select screen has to make the list.
Killer Instinct has all the key points I mentioned for the basics of what make a good character select to me, with the soundtrack to this screen and in fact the entire game being on point. As opposed to the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games I remember at the time, Killer Instinct was one of the first I remember that displayed the full character to you, not just a portrait, but showing you exactly what to expect when you chose the character.
Instead of having to know what button coordinates with a certain color for your character, you can easily toggle up and down for your character’s color and see find out that way, as opposed to the other games at the time where either you memorized which button meant which color, or it was a surprise.
Killer Instinct’s select theme, with what sounds like a clanking metal anvil in the background, on top of the aggressive metal, perfectly summarizes the feeling and violence of the game, and gets you psyched up for what’s about to take place.
The original MvC, usually pushed to the side over MvC2 and sometimes 3, had a great presentation and concept in its select screen. We had a simple character sheet you could pick from, with custom illustrations of each character, even in those small squares. On top of that, we get to see the characters full-bodied before the match starts, so we know what we’re in for, and further than that, there’s really cool custom portraits of half the character’s face that shows up on either side of the character sheet.
It almost looks like the kind of effect you would see on an actual boxing or sport fighting poster, and really shows the effort the art direction team put into the finished product. Another seemingly small detail of the select screen is that every character has their own custom font under their name.
In Marvel Comics, when a new character is created, they always get their own custom font for their name to be spelled out in, a unique touch and a way to draw the eye to their comic on the magazine rack. For this game, Capcom also created custom fonts for all of their characters, bringing a unique appearance and vibe to this select screen, that really makes your character feel like a big deal.
Before they met any of the Capcom characters in the versus series, many of the Marvel sprites used in later games to come came from Marvel Super Heroes, which was a follow-up to Capcom’s War of the Gems a few years earlier.
Featuring the Infinity Gems themselves as a way to power up your characters with different abilities, the game had clean animations and was an exciting way to branch out past the X-Men, who had received a lot of gaming attention in the 90’s at that point.
The character select screen instantly drew me in, featuring two large screen televisions showing your character in a well-drawn comic book portrait clearly displaying who you’re selecting. It’s cool at first, but doesn’t really have more to it until you actually select your character, and then you can see them break out of the screen and fall a great distance, so that you can see the character you’ve picked as they appear in the game.
It’s a memorable, very cool yet simple effect that shows an extra bit of innovation and adds a lot of excitement to the upcoming match.
Small details like that extra bit of animation before the fight starts aren’t necessary, but that’s why it’s so impressive: because they didn’t have to do it.
Doing research for this article, I found that most of the Mortal Kombat series didn’t have exactly what I was looking for in terms of a stand out character select, despite many of the older themes being fairly catchy. In showing that nostalgia doesn’t always mean quality, I’ve found that the most recent character select of Mortal Kombat X, as well as many other aspects about the game, was very impressive.
From the moment it starts up, you get the idea a serious, epic confrontation is about to go down, and on top of that, we see in-game models looking mean and ready to fight. One of the coolest things about this select screen are the animations each character does to ready themselves before the match. It’s either preparing their weapon, doing a quick set of moves, a salute, but they’re all unique animations, and they all give you an idea about who this character is, and what they’re about.
If you think about it, this select screen is a great shorthand way to show players who are new to the game or maybe new to some of these characters who they are and what they can do. It’s a great bit of presentation that looks just like style at first, but really has substance as well.
The screen makes it easy to see what the alternate costumes and forms of your character’s skill set will do to your character’s appearance, and is easy to use. For their innovative style and using design in a great way, Mortal Kombat X gets my top pick for best character select screen in a fighting game.
So there you have my Top 5 Character Select Screens in Fighting Games. Was there a select screen I missed or that you’d like to see featured as an honorable mention? Disagree with everything I said entirely? Sign off in the comments below, and select your comment carefully.
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