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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Abolish the Borderless White Font

By RAWKHAWK2010 - It's a typeface only a mother could love.

Frankly, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of trying to raise awareness of critical Nintendo Switch issues hoping they'll be fixed by the time the console generation ends, only to be swatted down by fans who won't acknowledge a single flaw with the system such as the Joy-Cons' minus button being totally unpressable. (If it's such a perfect button then where are all the videos demonstrating such? *thinking face emoji*)

The problem detailed in this article isn't an issue with the system per se, but more an issue that plagues the Switch's double-whammy of "best Zelda ever" and "best Mario ever", at least as lauded by many reviewers and fans. The issue in question? A new brand of borderless white font that actively attempts to hide itself from the player.

With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it's not...too offensive and is more just the fiend in its larval stage. The game's in-game text, if without stylization (outside of the Shrine names anyway), is at least overlayed on top of translucent shadowy text boxes -- you know, as you'd typically expect from a game with borderless white font. But then you shift your attention to the Memory cutscenes, etc. where Nintendo clearly thinks too much UI would distract from the cinematography. They want the font to be as non-distracting as possible...except that too little distraction means it won't actually be legible.

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Princess Zelda Champions' Ballad DLC memory cutscene
It's not like this is out in Hebra Mountains. Princess Zelda is the cutscene protagonist and just her clothes are enough to cause trouble.

Again though, bad font design mostly only plagues Breath of the Wild's cutscenes, things Breath of a Wild as a whole doesn't exactly revolve around. But Super Mario Odyssey is a whole 'nother story, where cloaked text defines the entire user interface and is with you at all times.

Super Mario Odyssey Cappy Bonneter New Donk City Moon
It has the gall to regularly impose itself over a Bonneter WHO ARE LITERALLY THE SAME COLOR ALL OVER.

I think the caption puts it pretty straight. And oh yeah, before you think I screen captured a Moon name with the word "Trump" in it just so I could go "Trump's right, this font really DOES need borders." in a KoopaTV article ten months down the road, keep in mind this is from release week when I was still ensnared by Nintendo's Fake News "Jump Up Super Star!" marketing and wanted to believe Super Mario Odyssey was perfect in every way. Silly political references were the last thing on my mind at the time, despite this coincidentally being the only "YOU GOT A MOON!" screen I have.

...But it's far from the only screen displaying the egregious white font period. Here it is again in Odyssey, this time affecting actual gameplay:

Super Mario Odyssey Luigi Balloon World
Seeking the hidden letters and numbers in this game is enough, but thx.

Ignore Luigi's dialogue for a second and examine the "66m" in the center of the screen, aka the distance from Mario to his Balloon World objective. I honestly didn't know that was there until rotating the camera from its default position. Also, on the screen where you select a balloon to seek (not that you'll ever find it since they're now exclusively hidden on the other side of glitched-through walls), there's an "Enter Balloon Code" option in the top-right corner that I didn't notice until hours later because it was obscured by clouds. That's kind of what happens when you put borderless white UI at the top of a screen that happens to be even remotely outdoors. Clouds conceal it and it's obviously not the clouds' fault.

Super Mario Odyssey Cloud Kingdom Nimbus Arena Hint Toad Uncle amiibo
"Menu" and "Map" are almost completely invisible. ...But at least the health bars aren't white?

It's funny we're talking about clouds, because Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is all about clouds. Everything takes place on clouds. It has beaches on clouds, something KoopaTV couldn't quite process when Leftheria Archipelago was featured during the game's dedicated Direct. And you know what else Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is all about? Dialogue! Some would say self-indulgently so, but that doesn't matter because the point is that the two were able to get along just fine.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 XC2 Azurda Gramps Cloud Sea intro introduction World Tree titan
It's called borders/outlines/shadows, you skull-faced ninnies.
Luckily it's the right size too, but Xenoblade Chronicles X's ant-farm text (admittedly a far worse problem) is for another article.

A year ago I thought I partially "got it", or at least I tried to make myself think I got it. I thought the zero-style font present in demos of Odyssey was an effort by Nintendo to make their Japanese and English fonts more easily-translatable. A common-denominator font that would be more compatible with weird third-world alphabets in which privileges like font borders were never developed. But the more I think about it the more I think that's kind of fucking stupid. Maybe the devs looked at this font for so long that it became visible to the point of non-controversy, and Bill Trinen and the Treehouse Boys (not a band) were too busy watching soccer or something to give their outside input. Hell if I know.

Anyway, get this font direction the fuck out of here. It's never been a thing until this console generation and I see no need for it to last beyond it. If it completely takes over then maybe the next Paper Mario should have the color-sucking Shy Guys come back and this time suck all the black paint out of the game's Hey Gorgeous!™ font -- rendering dialogue impossible, reducing character driven-ness to absolutely nothing, and overall being a 100x worse experience than Sticker Star with the stakes being that Paper Mario stays that way forever. As in forever forever. It would be like when Cackletta and Fawful stole Peach's voice but without even the weird symbols.

And you know, those are pretty dangerous stakes -- both in-universe and out. But if it raises font awareness then I say bring it on.


Help if you can, please wake Nintendo up; not to sound cliche, but this font sucks! Email your national Nintendo representatives and let your voice be heard font be read.

This isn't the first KoopaTV article raising font-related issues with Nintendo — the font size on their eShop cards is far too small.


  1. Rawk declined to use Splatoon 2 (specifically the Octo Expansion) for this article's example pictures, but they're even more egregious than anything ever done in Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Check them out here:

  2. Is it wierd that I didn't really notice this until you pointed it out?

    1. Same. And yeah it just seems at least kind of inconvenient for no real reason.

    2. I think it's hard to notice something that you can't see.


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