Final Fantasy X: an ode to Tidus and Yuna

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GrantHeaslip

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Edited By GrantHeaslip
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I just finished playing Final Fantasy X (the HD remaster of the International version), and I really enjoyed it. While Final Fantasy XIII’s Command Synergy Battle system is still my favourite, I think the Count Time Battle system is a step up from VI and VII’s Active Time Battle system. The rearranged soundtrack – while perhaps not as memorable as others in the series – is pretty superb. FFX has the most coherent, cohesive, and well-presented lore and narrative of the Final Fantasy games I’ve played. The game looks fantastic – while a few untouched character models and rigid animations stand out, the core visual direction and art holds up amazingly well for a game that’s now 13 years old. As with a lot of JRPGs, Final Fantasy X’s final stages feel padded out, and several of its later bosses might have been frustrating as hell if I hadn’t done my research and figured out how to deal with their cheap shots. Final Fantasy X isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a damned good one.

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As I considered writing about Final Fantasy X, I realized that what I really wanted to write about was its cast of characters. Final Fantasy X is – more so than perhaps even XIII – a game about its characters and their journey. Events transpire and facts about the world are revealed, but the moments that really matter – the moments that will really stick with me – happen between the main characters. The writers – and it’s worth nothing here that FFX’s event director was none other than the now-infamous Motomu Toriyama – did a great job of keeping the spotlight on the cast; the lore isn’t all that important, and it’s appropriately sidelined. Elements of the costume design are easy to criticize, but I didn’t find them distracting, and I don’t think Nomura gets enough credit for the fundamental strength of his facial composition. Yes, snark about belts and zippers all you like, but I think Nomura’s faces are the best in the business, and I’ll submit that Yuna in particular is one of the best overall character designs in video games.

I could write paragraphs about Lulu’s dignified maternalistic responsibility, Wakka’s gradual shedding of religious dogma, Auron’s enigmatic severity, Kimahri’s troubled sense of duty, and even Rikku’s empathetic rapport. In the interest of focus and brevity, however, I want to focus on Final Fantasy X’s lead characters: Tidus and Yuna.

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I began FFX with some pretty big reservations about Tidus. He gives early indications of being a bit of a happy-go-lucky dolt – a perception not helped by his over-use of theatrical canned gestures that I’m sure felt a lot more contemporary in 2001. His costume is full-on Nomura, and he has a tendency to make goofy facial expressions. That said, Tidus grew on me. He tends to say what he thinks, and considering the horrible circumstances he finds himself in – his hometown is destroyed, he’s been (seemingly) transported 1000 years into the future, his dad is a giant genocidal sea monster, and he ends up on a near-Sisyphean adventure that will result in the death of the girl he loves – he’s remarkably level-headed, good-natured, and resilient. Tidus is also, notably, not a stereotypical JRPG Chosen One/Mary Sue. He doesn’t have supernatural powers, he’s more awkward than cool, he’s treated fairly condescendingly (especially early on), he doesn’t have a unique role in the lore, and he never really saves the day. He’s not even a particularly great character in battle – I got a lot more mileage out of Yuna, Auron, Lulu, and Wakka.

The infamous, oft-mocked laughing scene was, ironically, one of the scenes that really endeared me to Tidus. It’s easy to mock, but looking past the obvious performance awkwardness (something I’m willing to do, given FFX’s vintage), it’s a pretty charming scene that actually carries a fair bit of narrative weight. What I saw was two overburdened 17-year-olds sharing a childish, awkward, and flirty moment of catharsis amidst pretty bleak circumstances. I could be giving it more credit than it deserves, but I’d much rather be too credulous than too cynical.

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That scene brings me to Yuna, who I think is pretty indisputably the star of Final Fantasy X. Her selfless pilgrimage to Zanarkand is one of the most iconic video game adventures I can recall, and its tragic nature lends FFX a fairly unique bittersweet tone. Yuna isn’t a Strong Female Character in the sense that a lot of contemporary discourse seems to be calling for, but she embodies a quiet, dutiful strength that I found very endearing. Between her heritage, the implied expectations of her Guardians, and her youth, Yuna is carrying a ton of weight, and Square did a great job of portraying her quiet struggle. Her and Tidus’ first conversation succinctly sets the game’s heroic journey and love story in motion, and conveys a lot with very little. Yuna’s first sending was the point at which the game really grabbed me – the combination of beauty, despair, innocence, and a vague foreshadowing of Yuna’s fate is a masterwork in video game storytelling. The way later events re-contextualize this sunset conversation between Yuna and Tidus is pretty powerful – Tidus interrupts her in the midst of recording her posthumous goodbyes and inadvertently twists the knife of her looming mortality. The iconic spring scene is similarly tragic – Yuna and Tidus grasp at a carefree escape each realizes is an impossible dream. From this point on, Yuna’s determination is steadfast – she faces down the Ronso with such determination they fight to the death to protect her, and when the time comes, she resolutely summons and defeats the Aeons and Yu Yevon knowing full well Tidus’s existence depends on them. She falters in the end, but in a way that asserts her own humanity.

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Final Fantasy X is Yuna’s story, and it’s one of my favourite video game character arcs. It’s about falling in love and saving the world; more importantly, it’s about coming of age too early, living in the shadow of a martyr, challenging received wisdom, and navigating what is effectively a terminal illness. It’s a very special story that hit me emotionally in ways games seldom do.

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Nice write-up!

The funny thing about the laughing scene is that it was really meant to be awkward. The laughter is just so obviously forced, and actually rather appropriate for the scene, but people prefer to simply call it out out of contexts. But that aside, Yuna really is one of the game's strongest characters for the arc she endures on all the fronts you mentioned, with all of the ups and downs that it entails. The game as a whole presents an interesting take on religion, and on how she, as a revered figure of that religion, has to turn on it and everything she was raised to represent.

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@hailinel said:

Nice write-up!

The funny thing about the laughing scene is that it was really meant to be awkward. The laughter is just so obviously forced, and actually rather appropriate for the scene, but people prefer to simply call it out out of contexts. But that aside, Yuna really is one of the game's strongest characters for the arc she endures on all the fronts you mentioned, with all of the ups and downs that it entails. The game as a whole presents an interesting take on religion, and on how she, as a revered figure of that religion, has to turn on it and everything she was raised to represent.

I’d concede that the laughing scene has some unintentional awkwardness as well. The game’s script has some issues, and I get the sense the voice actors didn’t always fully understand the context of their lines or how they’d fit together. I ended up not mentioning it in the original post, but there’s some weird stuff like a bizarre over-use of "you know" at the end of sentences. If I was in a worse mood, I could have complained about it more, but as I said, I think I’d rather overlook some of the flaws and try to take away the spirit of the scenes than nitpick a game from different era of voice acting and localization. Either way, X’s script is a huge step up from VI and VII’s.

I agree that this is one of the more interesting portrayals of religion in video games. If I’d written about Wakka more, I’d have mentioned the part where you’re crossing the river and he proclaims that the sunken Machina city collapsed because they were defying Yevon’s teachings. Tidus pushes back somewhat (I think he basically says, "wait, wouldn’t it make sense to build over a water source”), but Wakka stubbornly sticks with the idea that the city was built to defy nature, and predictably ties it into his personal beef with the Al Bhed. He’s irrational and wrong, but he’s irrational and wrong in a way that I think (and I don’t mean this to be too provocative) is pretty true to modern religions, and human nature in general.

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Wow, what a great summing up of FFX. Agree with everything you wrote. I think it's interesting that X used a lot of the common story themes of JRPGs (and some Final Fantasy games), such as teenagers shouldering the burden of saving the world, fighting against a theocracy/higher power for humankind's right to live freely, the love story, etc. etc. and actually made it all emotionally resonate the way it was meant to. It still amazes me and I wish more games could pull that off.

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@hailinel said:

Nice write-up!

The funny thing about the laughing scene is that it was really meant to be awkward. The laughter is just so obviously forced, and actually rather appropriate for the scene, but people prefer to simply call it out out of contexts. But that aside, Yuna really is one of the game's strongest characters for the arc she endures on all the fronts you mentioned, with all of the ups and downs that it entails. The game as a whole presents an interesting take on religion, and on how she, as a revered figure of that religion, has to turn on it and everything she was raised to represent.

I’d concede that the laughing scene has some unintentional awkwardness as well. The game’s script has some issues, and I get the sense the voice actors didn’t always fully understand the context of their lines or how they’d fit together. I ended up not mentioning it in the original post, but there’s some weird stuff like a bizarre over-use of "you know" at the end of sentences. If I was in a worse mood, I could have complained about it more, but as I said, I think I’d rather overlook some of the flaws and try to take away the spirit of the scenes than nitpick a game from different era of voice acting and localization. Either way, X’s script is a huge step up from VI and VII’s.

I agree that this is one of the more interesting portrayals of religion in video games. If I’d written about Wakka more, I’d have mentioned the part where you’re crossing the river and he proclaims that the sunken Machina city collapsed because they were defying Yevon’s teachings. Tidus pushes back somewhat (I think he basically says, "wait, wouldn’t it make sense to build over a water source”), but Wakka stubbornly sticks with the idea that the city was built to defy nature, and predictably ties it into his personal beef with the Al Bhed. He’s irrational and wrong, but he’s irrational and wrong in a way that I think (and I don’t mean this to be too provocative) is pretty true to modern religions, and human nature in general.

I believe there was an interview at some point with Yuna's VA where it was mentioned that the Voice Director for FFX wanted them to match the mouth movements exactly which is why a lot of lines get delivered weird, and things like "ya know" get added a lot to make thing match up better. Even if I'm remembering that wrong, it seems like it makes enough sense.

I also found that while on one hand FFX does do some interesting stuff with religion, the fact that it, Grandia 2, and Tales of Symphonia all basically do the same thing and came out around the same time kind of cheapen that aspect for me. Mind you, I still love all 3 games, it was just kind of a weird coincidence.

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@hailinel said:

Nice write-up!

The funny thing about the laughing scene is that it was really meant to be awkward. The laughter is just so obviously forced, and actually rather appropriate for the scene, but people prefer to simply call it out out of contexts. But that aside, Yuna really is one of the game's strongest characters for the arc she endures on all the fronts you mentioned, with all of the ups and downs that it entails. The game as a whole presents an interesting take on religion, and on how she, as a revered figure of that religion, has to turn on it and everything she was raised to represent.

I’d concede that the laughing scene has some unintentional awkwardness as well. The game’s script has some issues, and I get the sense the voice actors didn’t always fully understand the context of their lines or how they’d fit together. I ended up not mentioning it in the original post, but there’s some weird stuff like a bizarre over-use of "you know" at the end of sentences. If I was in a worse mood, I could have complained about it more, but as I said, I think I’d rather overlook some of the flaws and try to take away the spirit of the scenes than nitpick a game from different era of voice acting and localization. Either way, X’s script is a huge step up from VI and VII’s.

I agree that this is one of the more interesting portrayals of religion in video games. If I’d written about Wakka more, I’d have mentioned the part where you’re crossing the river and he proclaims that the sunken Machina city collapsed because they were defying Yevon’s teachings. Tidus pushes back somewhat (I think he basically says, "wait, wouldn’t it make sense to build over a water source”), but Wakka stubbornly sticks with the idea that the city was built to defy nature, and predictably ties it into his personal beef with the Al Bhed. He’s irrational and wrong, but he’s irrational and wrong in a way that I think (and I don’t mean this to be too provocative) is pretty true to modern religions, and human nature in general.

Either way, X’s script is a huge step up from VI and VII’s.

VII's, perhaps, but I feel like VI's translation usually avoids a lot of X's awkwardness. Did you ever finish VI?

I really need to finish X. At this point most of the game's last third has been spoiled for me but, eh, I'll go see it for myself. I stopped playing after my PS2 disc started messing up during CG cutscenes. From what I have seen of this game's story, though, it really is one of the better Final Fantasy stories, probably right behind VI.

As someone who once wore religion on his sleeve so much that he took "believer" as a username before doubting the whole shebang, some of this game's themes also get a little close to home. What does it take to make a person doubt everything they know about the world's existence? It's a good question that this game at least touches on. Popular culture doesn't usually seem too keen on doing that.

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Nice writeup Grant!

Selfishly really glad you enjoyed the game.

In some ways FF X felt like the peak of the mountain for the series, creatively and critically. I remember being absolutely floored by this game, how different it was from previous Final Fantasies. I wasn't alone in that feeling, I evangelized the game to about 6 of my friends at the time and converted them into fans. In context the game was mind blowingly ahead of its contemporaries

I never honestly thought FF wouldn't remain the king of the game a decade later. They felt unbeatable back then (Spirits Within aside)

Never sure FF has ever reclaimed all the mojo it had Vi-X. I think what I found playing Xiii that surprised me perhaps the most, was how much it aped the X formula and how much I had missed that.

Your points about Wakka are really on point.I don't think I fully appreciate his evolution at the time.

Another thing I don't think I appreciated enough when I played it was the South East Asian aesthetics and influences in the look of the game, can't think of another game of this stature that use those. And that's too bad.

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@epidehl said:

[...] I believe there was an interview at some point with Yuna's VA where it was mentioned that the Voice Director for FFX wanted them to match the mouth movements exactly which is why a lot of lines get delivered weird, and things like "ya know" get added a lot to make thing match up better. Even if I'm remembering that wrong, it seems like it makes enough sense.

Interesting, and you're right, that would explain it. The padding phrases ("you know", "ya?", etc.) stand out so much that it feels like they must be there for a reason, and trying to account for the timing of the original Japanese VO is a pretty good one.

Either way, X’s script is a huge step up from VI and VII’s.

VII's, perhaps, but I feel like VI's translation usually avoids a lot of X's awkwardness. Did you ever finish VI?

I really need to finish X. At this point most of the game's last third has been spoiled for me but, eh, I'll go see it for myself. I stopped playing after my PS2 disc started messing up during CG cutscenes. From what I have seen of this game's story, though, it really is one of the better Final Fantasy stories, probably right behind VI.

I never finished VI -- I hit the Floating Continent and felt like I'd given it enough of a shot to move on. "Huge step up" was probably overstating it, but I did find X to be a good deal easier to follow than VI or VII. Both of those games were some combination of rushed and memory-constrained, and it (presumably) led to a lot of niggling "come again?" moments. Hell, it could just be the fact that X is voiced, but I found the dialogue much easier to mentally process. It's also worth noting here that I played the original SNES translation of VI.

@slag said:

Nice writeup Grant!

Selfishly really glad you enjoyed the game.

In some ways FF X felt like the peak of the mountain for the series, creatively and critically. I remember being absolutely floored by this game, how different it was from previous Final Fantasies. I wasn't alone in that feeling, I evangelized the game to about 6 of my friends at the time and converted them into fans. In context the game was mind blowingly ahead of its contemporaries

I never honestly thought FF wouldn't remain the king of the game a decade later. They felt unbeatable back then (Spirits Within aside)

Never sure FF has ever reclaimed all the mojo it had Vi-X. I think what I found playing Xiii that surprised me perhaps the most, was how much it aped the X formula and how much I had missed that.

Your points about Wakka are really on point.I don't think I fully appreciate his evolution at the time.

Another thing I don't think I appreciated enough when I played it was the South East Asian aesthetics and influences in the look of the game, can't think of another game of this stature that use those. And that's too bad.

I thought about comparing X to XIII here, but in the interest of space and not being "that guy who always wants to talk about XIII," I restrained myself to that one Toriyama comment. X really is remarkably like XIII: the extreme linearity, the simple buffing equipment, the focus on the characters, the general cinematic ambition, even the save spheres. The two are undoubtedly my two favourite FF games -- I prefer XIII's battle system and parts of its aesthetic, and I prefer X's characters and tighter pacing.

Monster Hunter Tri/3 has a somewhat similar aesthetic to Besaid and Kilika, and it's of a higher stature than FFX on a certain island nation :).

Oddly, I have way more recollection of X-2 than X, because I was subscribed to GMR at the time (Electronics Boutique here in Canada was giving away subscriptions like candy) and there was a fair bit of positive coverage for it (I believe editor James Mielke was into it). I certainly know people who played X, and at least a couple of them absolutely loved it, but having never owned a PS2 I never really saw the game so much as heard about it in passing.

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#8  Edited By GrantHeaslip

@pekoe212 said:

Wow, what a great summing up of FFX. Agree with everything you wrote. I think it's interesting that X used a lot of the common story themes of JRPGs (and some Final Fantasy games), such as teenagers shouldering the burden of saving the world, fighting against a theocracy/higher power for humankind's right to live freely, the love story, etc. etc. and actually made it all emotionally resonate the way it was meant to. It still amazes me and I wish more games could pull that off.

Thanks (sorry, almost missed your comment!), and agreed about how well they pulled off the story. It's not all that remarkable on face value, so its success really hinged on the execution.

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@slag said:

Slag says some stuff

I thought about comparing X to XIII here, but in the interest of space and not being "that guy who always wants to talk about XIII," I restrained myself to that one Toriyama comment. X really is remarkably like XIII: the extreme linearity, the simple buffing equipment, the focus on the characters, the general cinematic ambition, even the save spheres. The two are undoubtedly my two favourite FF games -- I prefer XIII's battle system and parts of its aesthetic, and I prefer X's characters and tighter pacing.

Monster Hunter Tri/3 has a somewhat similar aesthetic to Besaid and Kilika, and it's of a higher stature than FFX on a certain island nation :).

Oddly, I have way more recollection of X-2 than X, because I was subscribed to GMR at the time (Electronics Boutique here in Canada was giving away subscriptions like candy) and there was a fair bit of positive coverage for it (I believe editor James Mielke was into it). I certainly know people who played X, and at least a couple of them absolutely loved it, but having never owned a PS2 I never really saw the game so much as heard about it in passing.

Yeah but if there is one FF game where the comparisons to Xiii are appropriate, it's this one :)

Man you are 100% right. Totally forgot about MH 3/Tri.

re: X-2- I think part of the vitriolic reaction to it was how ground breaking and beloved X was. I'm not sure what the "best game " of the PS2 would be but X has to be in the conversation (I'm guessing most folks these days would say GTA: San Andreas but I wouldn't.). It was a truly landmark title. So coming after that was a tough act anyway, and then you have Square facing massive company endangering losses from Spirits Within disaster and the beginning of the height of MMORPG seen, and you deliver a game with reused characters, enemies and locations and well...

X-2 has some serious issues (definitely imo when it comes to difficulty balancing), but I don't think it's as bad as it's commonly made out to be. Just that context and the timing and perhaps branding was poor.

Kinda like how people love to dump on Super Mario World 2 : Yoshi's Island around here. Take that SMW2 moniker off it, it's reputation I think would be totally different.

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I loved FF10.

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@grantheaslip:

I never finished VI -- I hit the Floating Continent and felt like I'd given it enough of a shot to move on. "Huge step up" was probably overstating it, but I did find X to be a good deal easier to follow than VI or VII. Both of those games were some combination of rushed and memory-constrained, and it (presumably) led to a lot of niggling "come again?" moments. Hell, it could just be the fact that X is voiced, but I found the dialogue much easier to mentally process. It's also worth noting here that I played the original SNES translation of VI.

What did you have trouble following, exactly? I felt like it was all pretty clearly laid out. There certainly wasn't an abundance of poorly-defined nouns hanging around a lot of conversations.

I did play the PS1 version. From what I understand, it still uses the Woolsey translation but corrects a few small things. In any case, it sucks that FFVI was ruined for you by a sharp difficulty spike. I had trouble with that area too but went back to spend some time grinding. I also spent a lot of the endgame grinding, perhaps a bit too much, but FFVI's gameplay isn't without issue and if you had trouble right before getting to the World of Ruin, you probably would have hated the last part. Maybe try the game again a few years from now?

As for FFX, I'm glad you wrote up on it and brought it back to the front of my mind, I'll have to finish it now. I was at the part right after Home (a more creative name would have been welcome, perhaps) got destroyed and you have to fight a boss on the airship. Just out of curiosity, does the HD version have the Japanese voices? I feel like a re-translation where they just used the Japanese voices would have done the game's writing wonders and wouldn't have been too expensive to implement.

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So you've convinced me. Next time there is a lull in games I'm going to go back to X/X2 HD collection and finish it. Never finished X tried to start it earlier this year and failed horribly at staying engaged. (Thanks FFXIV) But I do want to finish it so possibly after I finish Dragon Age?

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#13 thatpinguino  Moderator

@grantheaslip: Nice write up duder!

I would agree that Yuna is as much the main character of FFX as Tidus is and she is a emotional center of the story. She is the serious and dutiful constant that perfectly compliments Tidus's largely irrational optimism and boisterousness. That first sending still sends chills up my spine all these years later and it is largely Yuna's movements and characterization that does it. I just wish that the Bevelle wedding rescue didn't happen. Yuna's propensity for self-sacrifice is pretty well established throughout the game and I think the wedding scene is a bit much when it comes to how much of a damsel in distress she is made out to be (at least at first). I mean she can summon freaking ethereal monsters and she is subjecting herself to the whims of some half-dead idiot who she can send to the afterlife at any time. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I remember that scene being a little weird.

If you like true ensemble casts you should check out FFIX if you haven't already. It gives FFX a run for its money (and beats it in my opinion).

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@grantheaslip:

I never finished VI -- I hit the Floating Continent and felt like I'd given it enough of a shot to move on. "Huge step up" was probably overstating it, but I did find X to be a good deal easier to follow than VI or VII. Both of those games were some combination of rushed and memory-constrained, and it (presumably) led to a lot of niggling "come again?" moments. Hell, it could just be the fact that X is voiced, but I found the dialogue much easier to mentally process. It's also worth noting here that I played the original SNES translation of VI.

What did you have trouble following, exactly? I felt like it was all pretty clearly laid out. There certainly wasn't an abundance of poorly-defined nouns hanging around a lot of conversations.

I did play the PS1 version. From what I understand, it still uses the Woolsey translation but corrects a few small things. In any case, it sucks that FFVI was ruined for you by a sharp difficulty spike. I had trouble with that area too but went back to spend some time grinding. I also spent a lot of the endgame grinding, perhaps a bit too much, but FFVI's gameplay isn't without issue and if you had trouble right before getting to the World of Ruin, you probably would have hated the last part. Maybe try the game again a few years from now?

As for FFX, I'm glad you wrote up on it and brought it back to the front of my mind, I'll have to finish it now. I was at the part right after Home (a more creative name would have been welcome, perhaps) got destroyed and you have to fight a boss on the airship. Just out of curiosity, does the HD version have the Japanese voices? I feel like a re-translation where they just used the Japanese voices would have done the game's writing wonders and wouldn't have been too expensive to implement.

My issues were more with syntax and flow than the core concept or lore. It's a sort of intangible thing, but it manifested in FFX being more, well, pleasant to read. It's also been long enough since I was playing it that I've forgotten the specifics -- I was talking about VII's localization much more than VI's in my original comment to Hailinel.

The difficulty spike was more of a last straw than a game-ruiner. I wasn't having a great time with it to begin with, got hit with a cheap countdown death, and thought "ehh, I think I'm good." I do plan on giving it (probably the GBA version, since it seems to be the favourite) another shot at some point.

I don't recall any language choices, unfortunately. I did quite like the dub, filler phrases notwithstanding.

So you've convinced me. Next time there is a lull in games I'm going to go back to X/X2 HD collection and finish it. Never finished X tried to start it earlier this year and failed horribly at staying engaged. (Thanks FFXIV) But I do want to finish it so possibly after I finish Dragon Age?

FFX completely halted my progress in FFXIV, so I can empathize :).

@grantheaslip: Nice write up duder!

I would agree that Yuna is as much the main character of FFX as Tidus is and she is a emotional center of the story. She is the serious and dutiful constant that perfectly compliments Tidus's largely irrational optimism and boisterousness. That first sending still sends chills up my spine all these years later and it is largely Yuna's movements and characterization that does it. I just wish that the Bevelle wedding rescue didn't happen. Yuna's propensity for self-sacrifice is pretty well established throughout the game and I think the wedding scene is a bit much when it comes to how much of a damsel in distress she is made out to be (at least at first). I mean she can summon freaking ethereal monsters and she is subjecting herself to the whims of some half-dead idiot who she can send to the afterlife at any time. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I remember that scene being a little weird.

If you like true ensemble casts you should check out FFIX if you haven't already. It gives FFX a run for its money (and beats it in my opinion).

Yeah, I think the game would have been better without the wedding arc. As you say, it doesn't really add anything to the plot or character development. I actually sort of forgot about it while writing this, which probably speaks volumes.

After I wrap up X-2, VIII and IX (in that order, I think) are next on my FF docket. I don't see myself playing either for a few months, but I do look forward to checking them out. I like how easy to acquire these games are -- if Square Enix ever got around to remastering XII (or even putting it out as a PS2 classic) there wouldn't be a single mainline FF game I wouldn't have easy access to.

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Since I have no shame in being a "guy who always talks about XIII" I'll pick up on those comparisons and say that FFX is arguably why I couldn't get in to XIII. When playing XIII I just had the sense that everything that game was trying to do, every person I talked to, every mechanic, was done better by X.

FFX, like XIII, is a character driven story rather than a traditional "save the world" story, but unlike the world of Cocoon and Gran Pulse, Spira is detailed so much better, doling out information on the way the world works and its history slowly as time goes on, and unlike XIII's love of throwing a bunch of words at you with no explanation (or hammering the same explanation at you over and over again) X takes the time to explain things, does so once, and everyone gets it and moves on. Each one of FFX's characters get back story far more memorably than any of XIII's. And in X-2, unlike XIII-2, you actually see these characters growing in their lives, changing as people.

The Crystarium is a shitty Sphere Grid wanna-be. The combat system of FFX preserves the depth of old Final Fantasies while still encouraging you to use all of your party members in different combinations as the need arises, while XIII's has that depth stripped away in favor of strict archetypes that can only do one thing at a time and doesn't really allow for much creativity. Both games are linear, but X's linearity is softened by occasional moments where you're encouraged to explore around a single area, and does open up meaningfully at the end, whereas XIII's only meaningful side-content are those straightforward hunting quests. X's item customization system puts XIII's to shame with the degree of customization you can have over the weapons you tinker with, and there are actually more than, like, a half-dozen weapons for each character. Oh, and in X, summons aren't completely useless.

FFX also has a very good structure for its story. I've been thinking of blogging about my experience with Dragon Age: Origins and it got me thinking a lot about the formula of RPGs, and the only thing stopping FFX's from being BioWare-esque is the lack of ability to do the temples in your own order. Each temple represents a clear segment of the game and the story, slowly growing toward the game's conclusion as you continue to get stronger, grow closer, and learn about the world around you. Perhaps my biggest complaint toward XIII was the game's bizarre plot structure; everything bad happens to you at the beginning, party splits up, lots of nothing happens, you reunite and beat the villain you barely know anything about (unlike FFX!) and the game's over. I feel like most of that game's plot just consists of flatlining. I spent close to 40 hours with FFXIII and I don't remember huge chunks of that game because there are not really any clear landmarks to the plot, whereas FFX's is cleanly segmented because of the nature of Yuna's pilgrimage.

I think if you watch the FFX HD Quick Look, you might get annoyed by Vinny constantly making fun of the game for seeming stupid and too childish. Perhaps what I love about FFX is that the themes of the story are actually super dark. Best said from the Socksmakepeoplesexy feature about this game:

If the art from the Dark Ages -- particularly the Black Death years -- tells us anything, it's that the culture of the time was preoccupied with death.Final Fantasy X's story illustrates this on a more literal level. Everything in Spira revolves around death. Sin kills everyone. The dead literally rule over the living through the Yevon theocracy. The fiends (for some reason, the word "monster" just isn't good enough anymore) are composed of dead souls who resent the living. The Fayth are limbo-trapped souls who desperately want to die. Summoners ritualistically travel to a dead city to meet a dead queen so they can sacrifice their friends, and then themselves, to hold the big death at bay for a little while.

Don't let the smiling blonde kid and sunny beach on the cover art fool you. Final Fantasy X is one of the most morbid games you'll play.

I agree with @slag that FFX was arguably the creative peak of Final Fantasy, which is why every FF game since it has been a weird hop to the side, and they basically admitted this, saying they didn't want to create any more "traditional" Final Fantasies after the game was released. FFXII ends up being very different, XIII even moreso, and XV is basically an action game. FFX was so beloved, so tight in its story and world, such a fantastic meeting of old and new game design, they couldn't make any more games like it. Perhaps that's why every other main FF game since took fucking forever to make.

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GrantHeaslip

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#16  Edited By GrantHeaslip

@marokai: Playing X has definitely given me a stronger sense of what some people didn't like about XIII. Given that XII was a sort of different thing (I haven't played it, but I get the feeling it's more like Xenoblade, except more automated?), XIII was the most direct follow-up to X, and you're right, its similarities make its issues all the more tangible. As much as I do think XIII's characters somewhat redeem themselves in the game's later stages, X's are more immediately likeable (well, maybe not Tidus), and evolve in more natural-feeling ways.

I'm not a fan of the Sphere Grid or Crystarium. The Sphere Grid's better in the sense that it gives you at least some control, but I only recall a handful of meaningful choices about what direction to proceed in (such as an early choice between magic and strength for Kimahri, who ended up being pretty lacklustre either way). The International Edition gives you the option begin with each character in the centre of the Sphere Grid, but I wanted to play the game with its original archetypes in place. FFX's battle system is one of my favourite turn-based, menu-based systems, but to me it still falls into the trap of most enemy compositions having obvious optimal choices that you end up repeating ad nauseum (I feel the same way about Persona 3 and 4). The "kill all but the least potent enemy then switch in each party member so they all get EXP" dance also got old real fast. You're totally right about the summons -- they're way more useful and way cooler than XIII's. I didn't find the open world side content compelling in either game, so I can't really speak to that.

You've got a point about the way the temples delineate parts of the story, but I'd be much more willing to celebrate that if the temples didn't consist of orb puzzles. Those things never ceased to deflate my enthusiasm. The puzzles weren't difficult so much as obtuse -- the puzzle mechanics weren't well-conveyed, the interactive parts were often hard to suss out, and stuff as simple as pushing pillars was a slippery mess. At one point, you confront Seymour and have an awesome fight with him, them walk out of the room and into an ice block puzzle. It was the most "oh right, this game came out in 2001" moment in the game for me.

You're right, it's a deceptively dark game. The revelation that the pilgrimage was a guaranteed suicide mission for Yuna genuinely caught me by surprise despite the hints. That fatalism -- the way Yuna and the others try to laugh and shout over the looming tragedy -- is pretty powerful. Death and perceived futility aren't unusual in stories like this, but the way the party sees Yuna's death as a foregone conclusion is different than the standard "we'll beat them and save everyone!" theme.

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thatpinguino

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#17 thatpinguino  Moderator

@grantheaslip: The sphere grid is actually pretty flexible if you use teleport and friend spheres to move around the grid. For example, I found Kimari to be the most fun character to build because he basically has no predefined path to follow. He has to jump onto someone else's part of the sphere grid in order to grow. So I usually move him to Auron's part of the grid for some power boost then transition him to Rikku's section to get his speed up. If you don't mind messing up the predefined paths that each character is set on you can get some wonky builds.

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Marokai

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#18  Edited By Marokai

@grantheaslip: In some ways, with experience playing FFXIV, playing XII will feel familiar to you. It was roundly criticized by some back in the day for seeming like a single player MMO, with a lot of inspiration taken from FFXI.

Party members work on macro lists that you build exactly as you would in XI or XIV, loads of sidequests, huge zones with monsters that you fight on the overworld, EXP chains from killing monsters quickly enough, teleport crystals, airships from city to city; pretty much the only thing it's missing is an in-depth crafting system. Even those thin blue and red lines that connect you to mobs that you attack/are attacked by? Those came from XII. The tone of a lot of the voice work is the same sort of haughty, Shakespearean stuff, and the evil empire is (stop me if you've heard this before) a technologically advanced war-monger represented by people who wear armor suspiciously similar to the Garleans'.

If the idea of "single player FFXIV" sounds appealing at all, you'd probably love it. (Though, the low resolution on those wide-open zones don't exactly do the game many favors in 2014.)

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poobumbutt

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#19  Edited By poobumbutt

Yeah, I got an "ode" right here.

youtube com/watch?v=WJotVinhXJ4

Seriously, though, Yuna's pretty great and it would be a pretty awesome story if not told from the perspective of such a misguided protagonist. Tidus is an asshat.

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