Final Fantasy 16 proves that sometimes an accessibility menu is better – Studio Varam

Final Fantasy 16 proves that sometimes an accessibility menu is better

The road to Final Fantasy 16 has begun. After introductions, trailers, and a general sense of choking around the latest iteration of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series, an interesting tidbit has emerged. Final Fantasy 16 will include a level of accessibility in the form of equippable rings that will alter the fundamental gameplay experience.

Square Enix has revealed five of these rings that are expected to fit into three slots: one that slows down incoming attacks, another that eliminates the need to command an auxiliary character, another that binds combos to a single button, and one each to automate. you dodge, because every game should have dodge rolls now, apparently, and healing.

If these sound like typical accessibility features, that’s because they are. Square Enix’s intentions behind this system are not immediately clear. As reported by Game Informer, Noaki Yoshida, the game’s producer, suggests that the rings make “something that feels accessible but also customizable so that each player can create something that feels like a difficulty level that matches them.” and then suggests Square Enix had “heard players who maybe aren’t that good at comboing and attacking.” (This is spoken through a translator.) “Some players may not be as good at dodging as other players.” This is the intended audience for the rings, rather than specific considerations for disabled players.

Our preview video of Final Fantasy 16

Regardless, the changes these rings implement are the exact features many disabled players need. Intentional or not, this has already become an accessibility issue.

And a problem is.

It can be tempting to consider unorthodox ways of implementing accessibility as a smart thing to do. In fact, innovative solutions are needed to make the base game as accessible as possible, with accessibility menus to complement it, across the industry. But Final Fantasy 16’s touted system is one that unintentionally puts disabled players at a disadvantage.

By blocking accessibility behind equippable items, the game fundamentally punishes players for asking for help in-game which the developers seem to understand will be inaccessible to many. The intention may well be that the rings become unequipped as one gets used to combat. but as it should be very Clearly by now, developer intent means very little when it comes to accessibility. For those of us who need these features and must keep rings equipped throughout our experience, we are asked to forego other items that can benefit gameplay.

Not least, since five rings must fit into three slots, only three accessibility features can be accessed at a time.

This kind of flawed thinking about accessibility isn’t new. Diablo 3 includes unlockable rewards that are primarily accessibility features and are tied to seasonal content. Elsewhere, Paper Mario: The Origami King allowed players to purchase accessibility features with Mario coins, such as navigation aids and additional time on puzzles.

New and useful accessibility solutions are always welcome, and with Japan’s poor record on accessibility in video games, we can forgive some missteps as Japanese studios take their first faltering steps toward accessibility. But when those missteps run counter to inclusive design, it’s hard to ignore them.

Rather than accessibility failing, Final Fantasy 16’s system feels well-intentioned but ultimately misguided. It feels like an almost accidental step towards accessibility when the intent was to cater to long-term fans rather than disabled gamers. This is something developers can avoid by making sure multiple disabled perspectives are included in comments throughout the development process.

More than anything, it highlights that while accessibility options are not the be all and end all of accessibility, getting too original by adding accessibility to the core gameplay experience can actually have the opposite effect and make the game less accessible. And often, as is definitely the case with Final Fantasy 16’s frankly ridiculous ring system, just letting the player turn these features on and off in settings is a simpler and better solution.

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