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Street Fighter 6: Accessibility Review

Introduction

I've never really got into Street Fighter, in spite of trying it once every so often to play it with friends or attempting to learn the ins and outs of this historic franchise every few years. Whilst I enjoyed my time with Street Fighter V, me being the trophy hunter that I am meant that I knew there were goals that would be unattainable whether due to my lack of skill, online connectivity issues or lack of menu accessibility in certain modes making them needlessly tricky to navigate. Couple that with not having too many friends who played the game and those that did doing so to a level that I didn't feel able to match without a massive amount of luck as opposed to skill, it wasn't a series I felt all that comfortable with.

However, when playing the Street Fighter 6 (SF6) beta and seeing how the accessibility features in-match worked first-hand as shown in the linked video, I was much more excited, even if accessibility issues I had within that build did show themselves far earlier than I'd anticipated.

With all that said though, how does the retail version of SF6 stack up as a gamer without sight?

First Boot

Let me clarify first that none of the following screens are narrated, so I had to use either sighted assistance or OCR to know what screen I was on, let alone what option I was selecting.

First we have to pick our language. Somewhat frustratingly, it doesn't select the language of your system as some games do, instead starting on Japanese and forcing you to go down 1 to English in my case.

Unfortunately, this, as with various other menus throughout the title, does wrap (i.e. scroll from bottom to top or vice versa) so it can be very easy to get lost.

Then we get a fairly common prompt about the game autosaving, which you can dismiss by pressing cross on PS5 to hit the OK button.

Now we get introduced to the first of many agree prompts, in this case for the End User License Agreement (EULA). Pressing right one and confirming will let you agree and take you to the next screen.

Next we are presented with the privacy policy, including about data statistics and marketing, which you can agree to in the same way as above (right once then confirm).

At this point in the setup procedure, the SF6 logo plays. After it finishes, pressing any button as instructed will allow you to move to the next screen.

Now we are told to confirm if we want to play with a Capcom ID. Once again, going right once and pressing confirm worked for me, but this might be because I had everything linked prior to playing the retail game, as a part of the beta.

The game then updates to the latest version (in a similar manner to SFV), and you are prompted that the game will now restart. Hitting confirm allows this to go ahead, bringing us back through the SF6 title and press any button screens.

Once again agreeing to play using a Capcom ID (via the now familiar right once then confirm process), brings you to where you would almost certainly need assistance, choosing a player name.

Choosing A Player Name

Our previous actions have now brought us to the screen where we have to choose a player name. The PS5 onscreen keyboard doesn't speak here, which is standard for in-game interfaces as of the time of writing sadly. Even when managing to get a physical one working, however, there was no typing feedback of any kind either, making it feel frustrating to use, though I can't necessarily blame this aspect on the game itself.

After pressing enter on your player name, going down once and hitting confirm will allow you to proceed.

Region and other menus

Now we have to select our region. In my case, Pressing R1 3 times to get to Europe then moving around to select my country was how I progressed, though of course where you are in the world would make things different here, thus illustrating the need for narration in this and other screens.

The next screen after confirming your region shows information you've registered with. This did include a user code, which I had no idea if I could retrieve later.

Now we get our first cutscene, but if you want to skip it, simply pressing pause then confirm will allow you to do so.

The final thing to dismiss before we get to the actual main menu is the game news, which can be achieved by pressing circle.

Battle Accessibility Settings

Now to the first and arguably most important order of the day in terms of actual gameplay, adjusting the in-battle accessibility options.

We're starting in the main menu, which is a left/right formatted set of options. From here, though, press your start button/pause button depending on your controller, then moving down 1 and right 4 takes you to options.

Now pressing R1 4 times for audio, then down 2 should have you arrive at in-battle accessibility settings

The following options are available here:

None of these options are on by default, so you have to press right once to enable each of them in turn. Moreover, they wrap and there is no sound cue to determine when they've been enabled or disabled.

Setting Controls To Classic

When you first arrive in the options menu (see above for how to get there), R1 once takes you to controls. Given the game's modern control scheme isn't for everyone, I'll highlight here how to use what might be termed as "traditional" Street Fighter controls, called Classic in this game.

All control settings are individual, as follows

Note that Avatar battle control type has only modern or classic as the options, starting on modern, with no save dialogue in contrast to the rest of the settings listed in this section.

After pressing confirm on a setting to adjust it, right once is dynamic and right again will take you to classic.

When backing out of one of these sub options, go left twice and confirm to save any changes

Now, with that all out of the way, you are then presented with an automatic non narrated tutorial.

You can exit the tutorial a couple of screens in via the pause menu, though on initial boot it was uncertain if you could complete it later. It turned out that you could run it again, though given its lack of narration it's not the most helpful thing in the world unfortunately.

Navigating Menus

Having earlier selected to have character/stage announcement be on cursor rather than on button, we've also ended up with essentially menu narration to a point, but only for the main horizontal items (VS, special Match, Online Arcade, Practice) rather than the vertical items within those categories. When selecting a vertical item, you'll hear its name spoken, so it is a little strange that the vertical items couldn't have their lines attached to them when moved over as well.

When you select an item for the first time, you get a text-only explanation of what the options do, rather than being able to select things straight away. Moving all the way to the right will let you close with confirm and then select options as usual

Arcade Matches

Given online seemed as though it might be having issues at the time I first tried it, as well as being extremely complicated to get set up in the first place (I discovered after the fact), I thought I'd try arcade mode. Finding the correct icon with the aforementioned menu narration was a comparative breeze in contrast to previous games in the series, though granted having the vertical options narrated with the audio that already exists (heard when selecting them) would be a massive improvement to ease of use.

Using optical character recognition (OCR) worked surprisingly well in terms of being able to check what I was selecting in terms of difficulty, though as many who've read my reviews will know, OCR should only be used as a last resort as it can be a kind of usable jumble at best and completely garbled at worst.

We find ourselves towards the better end of the spectrum here though, as any lists of what modes allow you to do seem to read cleanly with NVDA and the game's font.

Arcade mode did seem like it was going on for a large amount of time, longer than I'd have anticipated at least. However, when the music stopped playing for the introduction of a fight, I knew something was different. It turned out that I'd got to the final stage and managed to clear it, thus completing my first run with little issue aside from one particular AI opponent who I eventually strategised around.

There are also a couple of bonus rounds in this title, one of which is completely doable (scrapping a car as is now historic tradition), but the other involves parrying an object, namely a ball. As much as there is audio for the ball itself, there is very little in the way of travel audio to time your parries. This means, in practice, that I personally fail pretty much every time this minigame appears.

Battle Hub

As much as I had experience with this mode during the beta and found it to have no accessibility, I took a dive in to it to see if anything had changed, in part as it was required for trophies. After some poking and prodding of the menus I managed to create an avatar and wandered around until I heard the clacking of arcade buttons. Getting into a match, again with more menu manipulation courtesy of OCR, I realised that I didn't have my character set correctly, so I was stuck playing as someone other than Ryu or Ken, characters that I felt like I could've done well with.

Thankfully, the trophy I was going for didn't care if you won or lost and my opponent didn't get a perfect round on me, so that was a relief and an arguable win win, pun intended.

However, the fact still remains that Battle Hub still does not have the degree of accessibility required for it to be utilised without sighted assistance, at least in my personal opinion, thus meaning you should stick to fighting grounds instead if you want your Street Fighter fix.

World Tour

Astute readers among you probably already know how this is going to go, but I wanted to document my findings anyway.

Keeping in mind that I was testing this with no sighted assistance, entering this mode launches a cutscene/dialogue sequence from an unidentified character. We then see someone, later identified as Luke, practicing martial arts. We then have to create another avatar for this mode, contrary to what you might expect after creating one for the Battle Hub.

This starts off with tutorials, which aren't narrated, including the idea that body size matters during a fight. Pressing confirm on these tutorials will allow you to proceed, and after dismissing them, pressing pause will eventually let you proceed by entering in a name. Fortunately, moving down once on the name screen and hitting confirm seems to work in terms of letting you progress once you've put something in.

Continuing to press confirm will put you into yet another cutscene which, as you might not be surprised to learn are not audio described. When you have the option to play the tutorial, this is not narrated either, similar to the rest of the game.

Annoyingly, once I'd started the tutorial for testing, I couldn't seem to exit it, leaving me to have to forcibly close the game instead. But once I'd launched back in and could play the game again, I focused on the audio design and other aspects that weren't quite so frustrating.

Gameplay And Audio Design

Street Fighter as a series is usually known for fairly hard hitting, if anime-style audio and this game is no exception, with powerful punches, kicks and special moves. These are accompanied by voice acting that, whilst it felt a little cringe to me at times, was serviceable, something I've come to expect from Street Fighter over the past several years.

The soundtrack in this version is closer to that seen in Third Strike rather than the cinematic nature of its fifth main-line entry, which though for some is a bonus, for me is a turn-off as I'm really not a fan of the genres it strays into, nor its abandonment of classic themes.

The audio accessibility features in-match are much appreciated too, as you can tell the distance between you and your opponent, as well as what kindes of attacks are landing and when your various gages are full, amongst other elements. Having this information is fantastic as it means you have a better understanding of how your moves work in practice, what ranges they connect at and how your opponent might have to block them as well, something that was lacking previously.

All in all it's a solid package and, combined with the announcer's delivery and the slower but fluid gameplay experience, it's a reasonable showing overall, aside from any accessibility issues as a gamer without sight discussed above.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Conclusions

Street Fighter 6 could've been a fully accessible fighting game. However, with the addition of world tour mode and the battle hub utilising primarily 3d navigation, the conscious effort to allow for in-match accessibility is outweighed by the inaccessibility of the menus and user interfaces.

Moreover, I would like to give a shout out to various individuals working to put together accessible SF6 resources for gamers without sight to account for some of these frustration points, such as instructions on how to set up online, which I can provide links to if requested though they are still being worked on.

That being said, I'd like to hope that Capcom will read feedback from players including reviews like this one and add necessary features accordingly where they can to help turn this into what most were hoping it could be before launch.

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