Spyro Fails Its Audience Without Subtitles

The Spyro Reignited Trilogy was an obvious attempt to take the series back to its roots. Like the Crash Bandicoots N. Sane Trilogy, it is a loving remaster of the original games for current consoles for both nostalgic oldies and younger players who missed out. After the rise and fall of Spyro’s Skylander franchise, Activision wanted to recapture the audience of the original series. Unfortunately, in remaking the original games, it forgot one thing: the subtitles. Subtitles are an important aspect of so many games, and by not including them, Toys for Bob and Activision have let down their fans.

Subtitles are one of the most common accessibility practices in video games, with nearly every title with dialogue including subtitles as an option for those who are hard of hearing or just prefer it. Before games had spoken lines of dialogue, all players had were the text boxes, so to include nothing written down is almost laughable. While the latter two games in the collection do include instructional subtitles for any of the in-game conversations, the newly introduced, pre-rendered cut scenes that deliver a lot of the story beats for the trilogy are completely missing them.

But after the mistake was discovered, Activision and Toys for Bob doubled down on their decision, rather than apologizing. Trying to deflect some of the growing anger at the problem, they mentioned in a press statement that they had localized the game for languages which weren’t included in the original, which is great. Then they said that there was no industry standard for subtitles, which is not great.

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spyro subtitles

While they claim there is no standard practice, accessibility has become a huge consideration for the industry over the last several years. Content creators like Mark Brown have recently been campaigning for greater accessibility in games. His video series dedicated to accessibility options and how they can be improved is becoming a touchstone for developers big and small creating their own game.

Charities like Special Effect having be working directly with developers and players in an attempt to make games more accessible and inclusive for players that need more assistance. Several games have adapted their color schemes and control options output to assist people with everything from color blindness to motor issues.

This year Microsoft has even created a new controller specifically with accessibility in mind. The electronics giant spent a lot of money, time, and resources to create a tool to make it easier for players to enjoy their games. Then it promised to share the revolutionary technology to their competitors to make sure that everyone could hopefully enjoy games, because even large corporations know that accessibility is something to be addressed. Someone even got the controller to work on the Switch.

I know the internet is filled with laypeople telling developers how easy it is to do their job, and I don’t want to be a part of that crowd. But saying that, I can only imagine that implementing subtitles is far easier than developing an adaptive controller. Claiming that subtitles are not standard practice is to try and absolve yourself of any responsibility is sad and an dishonest way to ignore an audience that has been sadly ignored for far too long.

At this stage, there are a lot of assumed standards within the industry and subtitles are one of them. When even live television events have half decent subtitles, it is ridiculous to assume that video games will not. Activision has let down their fans by neglecting this aspect of the game. A simple apology and promise to correct the issue would have been most likely been accepted, but their refusal to take responsibility for their actions is appalling. It’s especially gross considering that the industry as a whole has been generally making strides in accessibility.

Accessibility Should Be Celebrated

Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review - Still a Gem

The stigma surrounding accessibility in other mediums is beginning to wash away. Audio books are becoming more popular and less shunned. Cinemas continue to adapt their screening to best suit the audiences with audio descriptive headphones, subtitles, and even less severe light. Accessibility is becoming more common across all forms of entertainment media. Even the difficulty options of video games, normally a source of ridicule, is becoming more friendly to users who for whatever reason, can’t play on the toughest difficulty.

People with needs—especially benign ones like subtitles—should not have to fight for them. They should not have to accept half apologies and promises to do better next time. Common features like subtitles should be a standard practice but Activision has sadly proved that accessibility options are a norm, not a rule. And if this debacle has taught us anything, maybe they should be. Anything less is inexcusable.