Barring some massive last-minute redesign, the Nintendo Switch will launch with one of the company’s most benign user interfaces. A queue of open slots (for your yet-to-be-built game collection) floats above six small icons: News, eShop, Album, Controllers, System Settings, and Power. There’s no flashy animation or interactive Mii village. It’s less minimal than it is skeletal. Fittingly, the console has two visual themes from which to choose: “Basic White” and “Basic Black.” Yes, those are the real names.
However, the Switch isn’t completely void of personality. Nintendo has placed one charming and recurring detail throughout the menus. Its name is Amelia, and she is a fictional customer support employee. Amelia resembles a Doctor Seuss character, a petite young woman with a robin’s egg blue bob and an orange turtleneck. Every news update is written from the first person, and after the thrust of the news, Amelia amends a personal letter with some additional details.
She’ll give you advice on how to ask for digital storage at the electronics shop (“Ask for UHS-I or higher microSD card. The folks at the store should know what you mean.”) or empathize with the complexity of new hardware (The game card slot is kind of hidden, too. Check the top right of the screen!).
Every note ends the same way:
The inclusion of a fictional guide has plenty of precedent at Nintendo. Super Mario Maker for 3DS. The mobile Mario design game features its own support crew, like a pigeon named Yamamura and a young woman named Mary O., who, like Amelia, sports an old-fashioned phone headset. It also included an unlockable costume inspired by Nikki, the guide of the Nintnedo 3DS application Swapnote. Nikki now appears in a number of Nintendo games, including Art Acadeny: Lessons for Everyone and Swapdoodle.
Perhaps Amelia will develop her own corner of the larger Nintendo mythos. Surely her support skills would be a boon in the next Super Smash Bros. Few characters have the thick skin of a customer support employee. At the very least, I suspect we’ll gradually learn more about Amelia, particularly in the quirky post-scripts that occasionally trade instructions for tiny bits of character.