In the long awaited remake of the 1997 Final Fantasy game, you play as Cloud, a mercenary that has joined Avalanche, a group of eco terrorists, out to save Midgar from corporate greed.
Before we get into Deaf accessibility, I have a few questions. Namely, how does Cloud actually use his sword? He has child-sized arms and his sword is as tall and wide as he is. Does Midgar have some kind of special weightless metal? Is there a hidden Materia somewhere on the sword that makes it float? I don’t understand.
More seriously and more importantly, I have questions about how Square Enix has chosen to portray Barret. His voice actor is fantastic but the dialogue he has to voice act? It feels very much like a racist caricature. Did SE not learn anything from their racist portrayal of Letitia in Deus Ex?
Now, let’s dive into how the game serves its Deaf and hard of hearing players.
Prior to starting the game, players only have the ability to turn subtitles on or off. There is no customization beyond that, which is a problem for a game coming a triple-A studio in 2020.
While the text is decently sized and there are speaker names shown, the lack of a background for said text makes it difficult to read much of the time.
I love that NPC chatter is subtitled (and oddly more legible than the main subtitles thanks to a bolder font). But I did run into a problem I’ve not encountered in any game previously. While walking through the slums area with Tifa near the beginning of the game, there were so many NPCs chattering and their volume was just as loud as Tifa’s, making it impossible for me to make out any of it. It wasn’t a huge problem, as I could simply choose to only read the main subtitles, but it was an annoyance I’d love to be able to fix via options.
The last annoyance related to subtitles comes in the battle scenes. Cloud and other party members all have dialogue lines during battle but none of them are subtitled, leaving Deaf/hoh players missing out.
Playing on easy mode (I can’t speak to how this works in other difficulties) the auto-targeting of enemies made it so combat and enemies didn’t sneak up on me or take me by surprise, which is a problem in most games with large onslaughts of enemies in open-ish worlds.
All in all, Final Fantasy VII Remake is fine for Deaf/hoh players. The subtitles leave a lot to be desired and I hope a background option will be patched in, but the game is still playable and the story enjoyable, at least when the subtitles are legible.
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