Final Fantasy VII Remake is less of a remake and more of a reimagining of the classic game that was originally released in 1998. The remake, like the original game, follows Cloud Strife and a group of eco-terrorists, AVALANCHE, who set out to save the planet from the corrupt Shinra megacorporation. Shinra is harvesting and using the planet’s life essence as an energy source and continued use will lead to the planet’s destruction.
And while the remake is not set to be released on April 10, 2020, the demo dropped for PlayStation 4 users. The demo starts with Cloud, who at this point is nothing more than a hired mercenary, working with AVALANCHE to destroy a Mako Reactor and fighting security guards, dogs, and robots along the way.
At the start of the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo, I was incredibly nervous. The opening cinematic does have any captioning. This means any of the grunts or sound cues that clued in NPCs to turn around or act is lost for deaf/hoh players. The opening cinematic has very little spoken dialogue and what is spoken is subtitled in a clear manner.
Speaker titles and subtitles are turned on by default including subtitles for background conversations. When players are finally able to access the menu, following the opening cinematic, they have the option to turn off subtitles or speaker titles. That being said, seeing them on by default is a breath of fresh air. While there is no option to make subtitles bigger, they are at least a fairly large size.
Most of the dialogue in the game is subtitled. This includes side conversations between NPCs you are not directly speaking with or facing but clearly within the vicinity of. The subtitles for this look a lot different from that of dialogue that is spoken directly to your character or in a cutscene. Instead of at the bottom of the screen, the dialogue moves in the top left-hand corner of the screen. This is not something I have really seen before and overall was a feature I really liked. It helps clarify that not only is this a side-conversation, but a conversation characters do not think Cloud is hearing. The one instance this is seen in the demo, the two members of AVALANCHE, Jessie and Biggs are speaking about Cloud.
Unfortunately, dialogue spoken in the heat of battle is not captioned in any way. It does not make combat impossible but it is sad deaf/hoh players might miss out on some of the quips thrown between Cloud and Barrett. There is one major exception, during the final boss of the demo, there is an attack Cloud tells Barret to avoid and explains how to avoid it. Luckily, that part is subtitled and without subtitles, it would be impossible to know what to do.
In addition to the subtitles, the game does a good job of providing visual cues to where the player needs to go and even what items they have just picked up. The demo also works as a tutorial for the game itself. It teaches you how to face enemies, use magic or special abilities, and even use special action commands through tutorial screens.
I was deeply worried about how friendly this game would be to deaf/hoh players but to be completely honest, I am pleasantly surprised how much the game gets right. It is by no means perfect but it is also eons better than previous Square Enix titles including Kingdom Hearts 3, which was released just last year. The graphics are absolutely stunning and this small sneak peek has me salivating at the mouth in anticipation for the game’s release on April 10.