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Ultimate Fantasy XVI’s lack of various characters makes an enormous world really feel small

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Early in Ultimate Fantasy XVI’s advertising cycle, producer Naoki Yoshida was requested in regards to the obvious lack of inclusion of individuals of coloration within the sport. His answer wasn’t great, basically stating that together with individuals of coloration would violate the narrative boundaries established by the fantasy world the builders created. 

Earlier this 12 months, I had the opportunity to follow up with Yoshida about that answer, asking him if he had the chance to listen to the response to his phrases and if he had something to say to the followers of coloration that he upset with them.

“I imagine that with Ultimate Fantasy XVI, we weave collectively quite a lot of peoples and cultures set in this sort of sweeping fantasy narrative and world, and one which we strived to create with care and respect,” Yoshida responded. “We hope that when gamers lastly are in a position to take up the sport in their very own fingers, that they are going to be capable of see what we’ve aimed for and can hopefully in the end be capable of join with that distinctive expertise.”

With the game now in my hands, I can lastly see what Yoshida and the narrative workforce have been going for — and I don’t get the care or the respect.

The world of Valisthea is made up of six nations, every evoking a real-world counterpart. Sanbreque, with its title and imperial designs of conquest, ought to call to mind Napoleonic France, whereas the Crystalline Dominion, with its unfastened alliance of free cities, screams Holy Roman Empire. And Dhalmekia is meant to be paying homage to the Center East as a result of the second you’re launched to it, all the colours shift from blues and greens to sandy browns and yellows, and the service provider stalls swap out root greens for hookahs.

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Are you able to inform which one’s purported to be the place the Brown individuals dwell?
Picture: Sq. Enix and Picture: Sq. Enix

However for all of the stereotypical shorthands the sport makes use of to scream on the viewer, “Hey, you’re within the non-white place now! You possibly can inform as a result of males are sporting turbans, their swords are curved, and there’s a sitar taking part in,” FFXVI fails to really decide to the bit. 

Everybody in Dhalmekia speaks with a cockney accent and passes the paper bag check with flying (lack of) colours. The darkest pores and skin tone within the sport is on Hugo Kupka, the Dominant of Titan, and he’s one of many unhealthy guys.

Hugo Kupka, the Dominant of Titan and one of the best instance of an individual of coloration Ultimate Fantasy XVI options.
Picture: Sq. Enix

Past that, the tension that defines most of the game’s plot rings as hollow as its weak try at portraying non-white cultures. Ultimate Fantasy XVI’s story facilities on a battle between individuals who can use magic and individuals who can’t.

Magic customers, known as Bearers, are tattooed, bodily distinguishing them from non-magic customers. They’re handled as chattel, purchased, bought, and in the end discarded when their magic dries up. Although Bearers are socially ostracized, not everybody on the planet of Valisthea treats them with contempt, and there’s a secret community of sympathizers who work to assist them escape bondage, sending them to locations the place they will dwell as free individuals. 

As for Bearers themselves, they appear uncharacteristically meek and servile regardless of the very fact they’re extra inherently highly effective than their masters. It’s at all times Clive or different non-Bearers who come to their rescue, performing as their protectors and guardians.

There’s additionally no point out of Bearers who’ve taken a stand towards their remedy — which looks like a obtrusive error given the breadth of the game’s lore feature. You imply to inform me, Harpocrates, that in all of Valisthean historical past, no one pulled the Ultimate Fantasy equal of a Toussaint L’ouverture? 

Very like the political entities of Valisthea, Ultimate Fantasy XVI itself doesn’t consider Bearers as individuals. Each by the sport and within the sport, Bearers are handled as instruments, created and utilized in service to a plot. They exist solely to be a everlasting underclass of damsels in misery or as hacky object classes on why discrimination is unhealthy.  

Realizing all this in regards to the sport’s plot, I feel I perceive why Yoshida and FFXVI’s builders have been so reluctant to speak in regards to the inclusion of individuals of coloration within the sport. Possibly they thought that with a monochrome forged, no one would assume too exhausting in regards to the uncomfortable parallels between the way in which Bearers are handled and the way in which African and Jewish individuals have been handled all through historical past. Or they thought to dodge accusations of racism if the individuals subjected to this remedy have been all white or white-adjacent.

No matter regardless of the builders have been considering, regardless of how a lot I loved the sport and really feel it’s value taking part in, the way in which the sport tackles inclusion manages to really feel each lazy and non-existent. 

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