This Dumb Industry: Tidus is an Okay Guy

By Shamus Posted Tuesday May 17, 2016

Filed under: Column 324 comments

Everyone remembers their first experience with Final Fantasy. I don’t know how true it is, but anecdotally it seems like the first game you play is most likely to be your favorite. And for me, Final Fantasy X is that first game. It just came out on Steam last week, and after spending an unwise number of hours with it I was reminded of just how much I loved the game despite the batshit insane plot.

One of the big draws of the series is just how fresh it is to western sensibilities. Over here we have our established genre conventions, story tropes, and stock characters: Tolkienesque medieval fantasy with dragons and wizards. Space Opera. Cyberpunk. Cowboy westerns. Gothic vampire fantasy. Swords and sandals epic. If an author really wants to shake things up, maybe they’ll put a steam engine in their medieval fantasy, or add some space magic to their Trek riff. Or maybe they’ll put a werewolf in their gunslinger adventure. These are fun, but they still feel like a remix of existing ideas.

In contrast, Final Fantasy feels like the product of some radically different alien culture that can’t even tell the difference between our clothing and sporting goods. Sure, a few western tropes have been woven into the DNA of the series, but seeing bits of western culture in this game is like seeing a Coke machine in a back alley in Shanghai. It doesn’t make the place feel like home, it just makes the unfamiliar elements stand out more.

He sure is a pretty man.
He sure is a pretty man.

I want to talk about the controversial main character, but to do that I’m going to have to spoil large parts of the game. It turns fifteen this year, so I imagine by this point you’ve either played it, read the spoilers, or you don’t care. In any case, spoiling parts of the main story is actually less of a big deal than it might seem at first. Even once I reveal the big plot twists, you probably still won’t have a clear idea of where the story is going or how things will be resolved. After reading this, the game will have lots of mysteries and surprises left for you. These spoilers might even make the game a little more comprehensible for first-time players. I know I struggled to keep up during my first brush with the game.

I’ve heard it said often that Final Fantasy X is “divisive” among FF fans, and I think I understand why. ProtagonistSome people will insist that Yuna is the protagonist, not Tidus. But that’s a discussion for another time and not something I could do justice here. Tidus isn’t your typical hero and he’s often an irritating whiner. But more importantly, he’s actually a realistic teenager in a lot of ways. Okay, the first act introduces him as a time-traveling underwater football player. And maybe that’s a tiny bit atypical among today’s youth? But he’s brash yet whiny, opinionated yet uninformed, idealistic yet hauling around a mother-lode of daddy issues.

Listen to my story.
Listen to my story.

He’s not always an awesome person to be around, but underneath the preposterous backstory and outlandish outfit is someone that feels very genuine. He’s not a teenager as teenagers see themselves, or even as they aspire to be. Instead he’s a teenager as seen by someone looking back from middle age. You can see it in the way he blurts out how he feels without thinking, the way he’s always stretching and fidgeting, the way he thinks he’s invincible, the way that he’s always hungryFor the first act, before the writers swap that out for “I want to go home”., and the fact that his entire purpose in the story is to disrupt the status quo.

Western heroes are so often emotionally invincible. They don’t get scared. They don’t feel weak. They don’t want to go home. But Tidus wears his emotions on his hilariously outlandish sleeves. He’s exuberant and vulnerable and dumb, but he is – underneath it all – a decent person.

I get why people hate him. If you’re here for escapism, then piloting Tidus might not be what you’re looking for in a power fantasy. He’s not cool and the other people in the story often disrespect him. But I felt a strange connection to the guy. Yes, he’s annoying. But he’s annoying in a way that rings true for me. I was the same kind of opinionated annoying dipshit at one time, so his faults make him real to me in a way that (say) Corvo from Dishonored or Joel from Last of Us never were.

This world required exactly this blend of irresponsible idealism and bumbling iconoclasm to solve its problem.

The World of Spira

Sin rises from the ocean. My first time through the game, I thought this guy was, like, summoning a tsunami or something. But no, he's raising his bottle to the world-eater. No, I don't have time to explain that.
Sin rises from the ocean. My first time through the game, I thought this guy was, like, summoning a tsunami or something. But no, he's raising his bottle to the world-eater. No, I don't have time to explain that.

The world of Spira is bonkers. Their religion isn’t yet another blend of Judeo-Christian imagery with the serial numbers filed off. Nor is it another secretive cult like you see in so many fantasy stories. It’s this strange collection of perfectly understandable superstitions blended with lies from a religious leadership that is desperately trying to hold this world together. Unlike most most fantasy apocalypses, the people of Spira don’t really think of themselves as inhabiting a post-apocalyptic world. The apocalypse happened so long ago that this is just the new normal for them.

The religious leaders come off as evil on your first time through the story. And they are. In fact, they’re really evil from the point of view of our protagonists. But once you know the whole story, their treachery seems less like predatory scheming villainy and more like the inevitable result of a long series of moral compromises by people who really thought they were serving the greater good.

The setup works like this:

There’s a huge monster called Sin. It spawn demons, wrecks villages, and is generally a walking natural disaster. Think of the Kaiju from Pacific Rim, only bigger.

The templeI’m trying to keep this as jargon-free as possible. – the main religion of this world – trains summoners. They go on a pilgrimage to the ruins of Zanarkand. As they go, they learn to summon larger and larger supernatural beings – called AeonsIt really is hard to avoid jargon. I’m doing my best. – to fight for them. At the end of their journey they master their powers and summon the Final Aeon. This Aeon battles Sin. If the summoner is strong enough, they defeat Sin. Either way, the summoner always dies in the process.

This brings about a period they call The Calm. No more Sin. No more monsters. People rebuild. They build a statue to the fallen summoner. They pray thanks at the temple. And they pray that maybe this time, Sin will stay dead for good.

But Sin always comes back. Sometimes it takes a decade. Sometimes more. But it always returns. The temple teaches that if people could just be good enough, they could be free of Sin forever.

But now for the real spoilers. Here’s what’s actually happening:

You Can’t Handle The Truth

This is your basic entry-level aeon for new summoners. The latter ones used by advanced summoners get to be really gigantic.
This is your basic entry-level aeon for new summoners. The latter ones used by advanced summoners get to be really gigantic.

Sin isn’t a supernatural punishment for the evil deeds of the people. He’s actually just this guy called Yu Yevon. He was a badass summoner back in the day. You’ll have to play the game if you want the full story, but the short version is that he wound up summoning and controlling a really massive Aeon. He sort of lost himself in the process, and became mindless. Now all he wants to do is control the biggest beast around.

When the summoner calls the Final Aeon to defeat Sin, Yu Yevon just ditches his current monster body and takes control of the new one. It takes him a while to master the new body and build up its power. During this period, he’s generally quiet. This is The Calm. When he’s got control and is feeling like he’s ready to move on, he starts stomping all over civilization again, knowing that the temple will start sending summoners and eventually one of them will show up with a final Aeon that he likes, and he’ll upgrade.

The final twist? Not only does the summoner die when they call the Final Aeon, but they need the soul of a person to power it. And they need to have a strong emotional bond with that person if they want the Aeon to be strong. So they must also sacrifice one of their friends. This last detail isn’t revealed to summoners until they’re at the end of their journey.

So the religion of Spira is a sham. Beating Sin has nothing to do with atonement. It’s a system based on human sacrifice and false hope. Summoners take their friends to their death, and all they do is stave off the world-devouring monster that torments their people.

You can see how the temple leadership – who are in on the secret – came to accept this awful system. They don’t know how to beat Yu Yevon. And (they reason) if people knew that the struggle was hopeless, then maybe we wouldn’t be able to find volunteer summoners and Sin might destroy us allAlso the people might flay us if they realized the truth. So there’s that, too.. We need to keep this sham religion going, for the good of everyone. We need to get people worked up, and give them hope that maybe they can win. Also, the “atonement” angle aims the blame outward. Instead of asking us for answers, people will try to be more virtuous in hopes of ridding the world of Sin. And that’s not a bad thing, right?

This process grinds on for a thousand years, killing people, breaking hearts, destroying cities. Spira is in a rut of misery. It’s grim and ugly, but it’s never so bad that people will get desperate enough to try something new. The temple leaders are the only ones who know the real cause of the problem, and since the teachings are the source of their political power and since they rarely bear the brunt of Sin’s attacks, they don’t have a lot of motivation to rock the boat.

The world needs an outside force to break out of the cycle. And that outside force is Tidus.

Yuna has decided that in order to save the world, she needs an underwater football player along.
Yuna has decided that in order to save the world, she needs an underwater football player along.

As annoying as Tidus is, he’s the perfect solution to their problemAccording to Final Fantasy logic, which is a very… flexible kind of logic.. He’s young, foolish, idealistic, and probably madly in love with Yuna, who is on her way to be the next great summoner / human sacrifice. He hasn’t been raised in the temple teachings and so isn’t afraid of shattering their taboos. He’s a horny teenager with nothing to lose. He’s a wrecking ball aimed at the entire religion. Yes, it’s Yuna who ultimately decides to Do The Shocking Thing when the time comes, and you could argue that Auron was pushing them into it, but I see Tidus and his obstinate optimism as the catalyst for that decisionShe also has the hots for him, which probably helps. It’s amazing how much the fate of Spira owes to teenage hormones..

I know it seems like I’ve spoiled the entire game, but in truth I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’ve never played Final Fantasy before then this is a pretty good place to dive in. The Steam version has a lot of little convenience features that weren’t available to the people who played this on the Playstation 2, and they’ve mostly done a good job of updating the graphics without George Lucas-ing the feel of the gameAlthough I find the high-res faces a little too far from the originals. They’re just as valid and first-time players won’t care, but if you’re here for nostalgia the graphical upgrade might be off-putting.. You don’t need to know anything about the rest of the series and the difficulty bar is on the low sideAside from a couple of completely obnoxious mid-game boss battles, which – I’m not gonna lie – follow pretty long cutscenes. But! The PC version has built-in cheats that can ease you through one battle or break the whole game, depending on what you need..

Maybe you’ll hate Tidus. Maybe you’ll find his quirks endearing. But I do promise the game itself won’t be like anything you’ve played before.

And no, I don’t know why he was designed to look like Meg Ryan.



[1] Some people will insist that Yuna is the protagonist, not Tidus. But that’s a discussion for another time and not something I could do justice here.

[2] For the first act, before the writers swap that out for “I want to go home”.

[3] I’m trying to keep this as jargon-free as possible.

[4] It really is hard to avoid jargon. I’m doing my best.

[5] Also the people might flay us if they realized the truth. So there’s that, too.

[6] According to Final Fantasy logic, which is a very… flexible kind of logic.

[7] She also has the hots for him, which probably helps. It’s amazing how much the fate of Spira owes to teenage hormones.

[8] Although I find the high-res faces a little too far from the originals. They’re just as valid and first-time players won’t care, but if you’re here for nostalgia the graphical upgrade might be off-putting.

[9] Aside from a couple of completely obnoxious mid-game boss battles, which – I’m not gonna lie – follow pretty long cutscenes. But! The PC version has built-in cheats that can ease you through one battle or break the whole game, depending on what you need.

From The Archives:

324 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: Tidus is an Okay Guy

  1. Adalore says:

    I liked tidus fine but FFX was my first “Legit” FF game without doing emulator BS.

    Gotta say though, if you screw up character progression and levels you can get screwed so hard, this is one of the games that show you hard why “EXP SHARE” or “PARTY LEVEL”, instead of character level, is a concept in RPG games now.

    I just remember getting brick walled by the bosses in this game a couple times and then stopping hard, so maybe with the update I’ll play through again.

  2. Syal says:

    Well, it’s also divisive because it’s the first game to really feel like a long hallway. Most games allow you to go back to previous locations or hidden nooks throughout the game, and there’s often new stuff to do there as the story unfolds. Final Fantasy 9 lets you get ultimate weapons pretty early on, and FF8 lets you get them on Disc 1. I tried to cheese 10 once by going back to the beginning to get Wakka’s ultimate weapon immediately after getting the item that lets you pick it up, but you can’t go back through one area until you finish Zanarkand. Have to go forward, have to play fair.

    I don't know how true it is, but anecdotally it seems like the first game you play is most likely to be your favorite.

    I played 4 first (as 2), then played part of 7, then 8 was the first game I owned, then I got 9, and my favorite is a toss-up between 5, 8, 9 and 10.
    But I played Super Mario RPG before any of them so maybe it’s still true because that game utterly rocks.

    Yuna has decided that in order to save the world, she needs an underwater football player along.

    Not just one, but two!

    (Also I envy your internet; I bought it on Steam on the 12th and it’s still downloading.)

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Where’s the break in the critical path? I know that for a surprisingly large chunk of the game (at least up until Operation Mi’ihen), it’s possible to haul ass straight back to Besaid.

      1. Syal says:

        After the desert, the Guado don’t let you back through, which is understandable from a story perspective but obnoxious from my second-playthrough wanting-to-exploit-a-thing perspective.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Oh yes, that time the party was in the frozen Macalania Lake, and then [scene missing] halfway around the world to Bikanel Desert! What a wild ride that was.

          Yeah, editing the second act of FFX was not really in their priorites. Or their budget.

    2. Roland Jones says:

      My first was 7, which a friend was hugely into and which I liked (despite not entirely understanding), but my favorite was and still is 9. Beatrix and Vivi in particular remain some of my favorite characters, the cast in general was great, and Zidane was a refreshing change from Cloud and Squall as a protagonist; rather than the kind of person to angst, he was the sort to, when other members of the part are overcome with existential crises, pick them up and physically carry them off. (Also despite the appearance the story is tragic, and the dread of death versus accepting one’s mortality and doing what you can with the time you have is a major theme of the story. Poor Vivi.)

      It’s a shame the original high-resolution backgrounds were lost when Square and Enix merged; I’ve seen a few of the remaining ones and they are amazing; not having them for the HD remake is a different sort of tragedy.

      1. Destrustor says:

        My first might have been 8, back when little kid-me had an original playstation. The first one I actually completed was 1, I think, on an anthology disk for the same playstation.
        Both of these were just rented at the video store, so the long hours involved with 8 really made it foolish to even try.

        Since then, I’ve played 1,2, most of 3,4,5, a tiny bit of 6, a tiny bit of 7, a bit of 8, 9, most of 10, a bit of 12, 13 and tactics advance.

        My favorite by far is 5. The class system in there is absolutely fantastic.

    3. John says:

      My first Final Fantasy was Tactics Advance, and of the two that I have played it is indeed my favorite. But the thing is, I bought Tactics Advance because I was pretty sure I would enjoy it–having enjoyed similar games in the past. I deliberately avoided the main Final Fantasy games because I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t enjoy them–having gotten thoroughly sick of random encounters in other JRPGs I had played.

      My other Final Fantasy game is Revenat Wings, the RTS sequel to XII for the DS. I got it because I wanted to try an RTS on the DS. The in-mission gameplay is okay. The plot is very, very JRPG. (Why, yes. You do punch God in the face at the end.) But it commits the unforgivable sin of introducing grind, of all things, into an RTS. Monstrous!

    4. Steve C says:

      That reminds me of a really good question- how much does your internet cost per month Shamus?

      1. We have 6 computers with 4 people working online, 5 people hanging out with friends online, 3 tvs with Roku (usually someone is streaming a show while they work), no cable, no home phone. All that to say we use a lot of internet and we need it to have good uptime and put up with our family being home all day and up all night.

        We have internet through our local cable company, have a 2nd tier business account and often go over on usage. $165-$185 a month.

  3. Galad says:

    How do ‘underwater’ and ‘football’ go together??

    Also, “he’s raising his bottle to the world-eater” – does this refer to this Sin, you mentioned or something else?

    1. sweez says:

      ‘Underwater’ and ‘football/soccer’ go toghether ‘horribly’.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Welll they can breathe underwater with no explanation, so having balls that are mysteriously unaffected by water resistance is just another logic jump you have to accept.

        1. Syal says:

          They totally explain the breathing underwater thing; the players just hold their breath for the length of the game!

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            And Tidus can even hold his breath while unconscious, floating face-down, for hours! He really is a natural athlete.

            1. Supah Ewok says:

              Or he doesn’t have any more brain cells to lose.

        2. NotSteve says:

          And the game makes a point of showing this is an in-world ability of underwater football players. You might headcanon it as the arenas using special magic or having some special enchantment or whatever. But no, there are underwater areas of the game that (IIRC) you can only use the football players in. Breathing underwater is apparently just a thing they do, and of course normal people would still have trouble with it.

          1. Galad says:

            This would shatter all my belief in the game world and I’d just quit playing the game. heh

          2. Soylent Dave says:

            But what do they eat?

            1. Alexander The 1st says:


    2. Syal says:

      This is all the explanation you should need.

    3. MichaelGC says:

      Also, “he's raising his bottle to the world-eater” ““ does this refer to this Sin, you mentioned or something else?

      The cheeky & slightly spoilery answer would be ‘both’! :D

      But yes, he does mean that Auron is raising his bottle to Sin.

      1. Nixorbo says:

        Drownball is the best.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        99% of what I know about Final Fantasy comes from 8-Bit Theater.

    4. Phantos says:

      It’s probably easier to follow how a game of Calvinball works.

      (I say that, but I loved playing Blitzball. Even though it’s totally stupid and makes no sense. It’s not even fair most of the time, but I still get lost in it. To the point where it’s like: “Oh right, I have a world to save…”)

    5. Roll-a-Die says:

      Short Answer.
      Yes and no.

      Long Spoiler Filled Answer

      So in Lord Braska’s, Braska being Yuna’s father and the previous human sacrifice, in his time, Jecht(Pronounced Jet) Tidus’ father, got transported forward by the same thing that brought Tidus forward. He made friends with Auron, and Braska, had a choice at Zanarkand, and he chose Jecht over Auron for the final summon. Partially because they were bros partially because he hoped against all odds Auron would survive the final battle(SPOILER:He didn’t, Auron is basically a zombie, surviving on willpower alone to prevent himself from going insane and turning into a monster according to the Yevon faith at least.)

      In reverence to Sin, and the fact that he KNOWS Jecht is somewhere in there, he’s pouring one out for his homie basically. Offering wine to the dead.

  4. Yanni says:


    You’ve mentioned before that you don’t read a lot of fiction. I think that really comes to the fore whenever you discuss the Fantasy genre in general. Especially the western Fantasy genre. You make broad sweeping claims… that haven’t been true for about thirty odd years. It is a bit strange for a writer not to read. Rather like a surgeon who refuses to keep up-to-date on the latest practices and medicinal breakthroughs.

    I concede, these tropes and generalisations you refer to are certainly true of the video game fantasy culture, but you haven’t specified that that is what you’re referring you here. You’ve just encompassed all of western fantasy as this one thing that hasn’t evolved since Tolkien, which isn’t true of other mediums.

    I get that you don’t have a lot of free time for reading given your interests and preoccupations, and Fantasy in particular tend to be rather lengthy reads, but I do wonder if novels might grant you some of the same sensations you find yourself craving in video games that our western games are so lacking? There are some truly wonderful stories of unique world building and character driven fiction that you’re missing out on.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Got any recommendations?

      1. Yanni says:

        Sure! It really depends what sorts of things you’re looking for. But, yes, a few.

        If you like world building with unique non-european settings then Brandon Sanderson is the standard point to direct you to. His Mistborn books take place in a ashen world where the Dark Lord won, its vaguely industrial, sort of held in stasis on the verge of its industrial revolution by an immortal ruler who disdains the notion that guns could bring bring commoners to the level of mages. Think of the setting as rather like Morrowind, or Mordor, but riddled with canals and a really cool magic system. The mages in that world are Mistborn, beings with a variety of powers based on the metals they imbibe ranging from Magneto-style manipulation of metal to enhanced senses, and the ways in which the world interacts and evolves to adapt to the magic users is well thought out. The protagonists are a group of thieves who are attempting to rob the Dark Lord blind.

        Another by him, and a far better one, though still ongoing, would be Way of Kings. A world where everything that has evolved has done so weathering torrential storms that sweep past every few months. Consider the shelf rocks of the shore, the world has evolved to deal with these storms much as crustaceans have the rising and falling tides. There is also power armour and people who can run with the winds. Battles take place on pitched chasms of rock with bridges instead of siege towers and unique varieties of shelled fauna. The protagonists of this one are very diverse as its quite a hefty book, but you have a former tyrant, brother of a murdered king dealing with the results of his actions that brought a nation to heel before it took his brother from him. A surgeon who was sold into slavery and forced to carry the bridges their sieges require. And an aspiring scholar seeking to find a place for herself in the world and rob one of the most powerful rulers blind. I honestly don’t do the characters justice with my summary. This one is a really fun and exciting read.

        If you like the idea of darker fantasy ala GRRM then the Gentleman Bastards series, starting with The Lies of Locke Lamora is a good one. Set in a city riddled with venetian canals it follows conmen and thieves as they plot and rob their way through the underbelly of the city as a turf war breaks out between two crime lords.

        If you can forgive a bit more generic a setting in exchange for some amazing prose then The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss is a must read. The world is familiar enough that you slip into it easily, no Elves or Dwarves, but it is vaguely European. Yet its distinct and fleshed out enough to keep it vivid. Consider the divergence of Witcher from standard fantasy fare, the gap is akin to that. It follows a young minstrel going to a magic school (more a university really), but its far from just Harry Potter with better writing.

        Something a bit more modern and less traditional at all would be American Gods by Neil Gaiman. All gods are real, and its the modern era, with their worship waning so do their powers, how do they cope? Gaiman doesn’t need much of an introduction but he is usually favoured for his horror so I thought he deserved a mention.

        The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher is another funny one. Imagine the Lost Roman Legion with Pokemon. He was actually wagered a bet that he couldn’t write a good story with bad ideas and was given those two ideas as his basis. Its basically that. And its pretty damn cool. A Roman-esque empire in the tropics dealing with furious elemental spirits that they can tame and bind to themselves in exchange for magic.

        There is more, but I’m really just rattling on at this point. I could mention the classics but we’re avoiding the more generic fantasy novels. Discworld is a must if you’re new to the genre, I generally advise people to avoid Robert Jordan and Moorcock. Elric and Wheel of Time may be pivotal works in the history of fantasy but these days their tropes are so tired that unless you’re solely appreciating them for being the progenitors of them they can be a sloggy read.

        1. Syal says:

          While I fully recommend everyone read Way of Kings, it’s more about twisting the old stereotypes into unfamiliar directions than fully breaking from them. There’s a lot of neat things going on and nothing is quite what it would seem, but at the end of the day it’s still Swords and Plate Armor.

          Haven’t read most of the others, but Roman Legion with Pokemon sounds fantastic.

          1. MichaelG says:

            If you can find it, try “Creatures of Light and Darkness” by Roger Zelazny. Old, but really fun.

            1. Will says:

              Pretty much anything by Zelazny is excellent and worth reading. I would particularly recommend Doorways in the Sand, but all his work is very good and quite approachable.

              1. Guile says:

                Zelazny’s Lord Demon was pretty great as far as oddball fantasy-scifi-what-even-is-this goes.

          2. Mattias42 says:

            If you’re checking out Butcher anyway, I’d definitely recommend checking out his The Dresden Files series as well.

            Among the best urban fantasy on the market, if not outright THE best. Seen it compared to Buffy/Angel plenty of times, but frankly I consider the books to be better then that.

            Don’t think I need to throw anything beside that gauntlet at a site like this, actually.

            1. Bloodsquirrel says:

              Dresden Files is amazing. I will fight anyone who tries to tell me that Buffy/Angel holds a candle to it.

              I actually recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Like LotR, they were written before the standard fantasy tropes solidified. Conan is very much not medieval, it’s bronze age stuff (aside from there being actual steel around). A lot of fantasy just aims broadly at ye olden times and misses the difference between what the world was like before the rise of the Roman Empire and what the late middle ages were like. Conan’s world is a lot more raw and primal, one that is in flux rather than being set in a status quo for 1000 years.

              1. Ravens Cry says:

                I read the first one, Storm Front, and while it was all right, and had some awesome moments, it just didn’t ‘click’ with me. I really enjoyed the first Codex Alera book though.

                1. Bloodsquirrel says:

                  The series is generally considered to start picking up steam with the 3rd book where the metaplot gets going. Also, Butcher was a less experienced writer then and it shows in how his plotting tightens up.

              2. Joshua says:

                Just be aware there’s an obnoxious amount of racism in some of the Conan stories. Like, he goes out of his way to say negative things about black people on multiple, multiple occasions. This isn’t just offensive, it’s awfully odd in the Writer on Board way.

                Some of the stories are otherwise pretty good and feel relatively modern, and some are “meh”.

                For a similar series I’d recommend higher, read the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. Despite being over 50 years old, they mostly feel like they could have been written today.

                1. Joe Informatico says:

                  To me the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stories are the clearest influence on how D&D was probably intended to be played. Gygax and his buddies took a lot of world-building ideas and concepts from Tolkien, Lovecraft, Moorcock, and Howard, but F&GM feel the most like your typical D&D adventures.

            2. John says:

              I ditched Dresden after the fourth book or so. The basic idea, “Wizard, PI” is good, but the series doesn’t really deliver on that after the first book or two. “The Adventures of the Superest-Most-Special Wizard Ever” are not for me.

              1. Epopisces says:

                My only real beef with the series was the power creep–it got out of hand around book 10.

                Ok, around book 4. Of 16.

                1. Mattias42 says:

                  If you’re reading the whole thread and got interested in Dresden by this discussion, stop now.

                  A user right below this just spoiled the big twist ten books in of a sixteen book series.

                  1. Loonyyy says:

                    Thanks! Saved me, I only just started them.

                    Shamus, any chance of getting some spoiler tags in?

                    1. Felblood says:

                      Yeah, I really should have marked those.

                      What the hell, past me?

              2. Felblood says:

                It actually does get better after that.

                Dresden’s habit of punching above his weight class and drawing on forbidden sources of power develops a delightful habit of coming back to bite him in the ass. He’s made more pacts with eldritch horrors from beyond the stars than Doctor Strange, but unlike the Marvel Hero, he actually tends to regret having to repay those favors.

                That trope of having to repay desperate favors at a bad time is probably the only really noir-ish element left at this point (that and an endless parade of femme fatales). Now-a-days, it’s a sort-of optimistic Lovecraft, type thing. (so still really cynical, but Lovecraft has a way of forcing you to adjust your scale)

                About halfway through the series, he arranges to have himself assassinated after completing one of his quests, in an attempt to stave off these consequences. As evinced by the existence of more books, this only temporarily gets him off the hook, and generally makes matters even worse.

                TL;DR: It’s not the magical crime adventures in Chicago’s gangland that we signed up for back in Storm Front, but give it a chance to outgrow that baggage and it becomes something else that is quite delightful.

          3. Thanatos Crows says:

            Speaking of twisting and deconstructing, Joe Abercrombie is great for that. The first books of First Law kinda show his inexperince as a writer, but by the end of the trilogy he’s got decent and the fourth book is wonderfully written. His trilogy is deconstruction of the kind of fantasy stories Shamus is probably referring to, the fourth is a quest for vengeance -and what it achieves, if anything- the fifth a war story and the sixth a western. All in a fantasy world that’s just starting to get cannons. Most of the characters he writes are enjoyable in the same way Tidus is, and Jezal from the trilogy sure does share a lot of similiarities with him, now that I think about it.
            I’d recommend starting with the fourth one – Best Served Cold – as the first book might not sell it to you like this one does, and unlike the others it has very little spoilery remarks to the trilogy and doesn’t greatly benefit from having read the trilogy, unlike the fifth one.

            1. Mistwraithe says:

              You have to be in the mood for some pretty dark stories to enjoy Abercrombie though. I find one Abercrombie book at a time is all I can take, then I need a break and some lighter fair. However I must confess that while I have read Best Served Cold, I haven’t read all of his books.

              Sanderson is my favourite author, particularly once you realise the same Cosmos provides a backdrop to almost all of his fantasy books.

        2. Epopisces says:

          I highly, highly recommend Brent Weeks, an author who displaced Sanderson as my favorite. He has two series thus far:

          Night Angel – Urban Fantasy. This series is pretty dark (I’d recommend the other one to those who are looking for something closer to Way of Kings in scale and, er, levity? Opposite of grimdark), but is fantastic nonetheless. A boy grows up to become something greater than the turmoil and corruption surrounding him, finding his way out of the slums through the way of the assassin (trying not to be spoiler-y: there is a LOT more going on). The cover screams ‘Assassin’s Creed’ but that is advertising: it is nothing like the video game.

          The Lightbringer Series – Epic Fantasy. Three (of five) books out so far, fantastically imagined magic and world. The characters–even secondary characters–have depth and motivation, and it is one of the few books where I don’t mind the perspective jumps. Oh, and cliffhangars (between chapters, not between books. Well, ok, there too). Edge-of-your-seat style.

      2. Samrobb says:

        Glen Cook’s Black Company books are a good read, and very non-traditional. P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyr books (starting with “God Stalk”) are wonderful as well, and very… odd. Both are notable in that while their settings may start out in the “vaguely European” category, they diverge pretty darn quickly and put you adrift in a sea of mad immortals, wind whales, dead gods and broken oaths.

        Which reminds me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recommend “Digger” by Ursula Vernon.

        1. Khizan says:

          The Black Company are absolute must-reads for any ‘serious’ fan of the genre. They’re hugely influential in the genre; once you read them you will see them everywhere.

        2. Jenx says:

          I was just starting to get very disappointed in people when I didn’t see Glen Cook and the Black Company being mentioned anywhere, but your post saved it!

          I would double (and triple even) a recommendation for the Black Company books, though I have to say – they’re not an insignificant read and they most certainly aren’t light literature so it might be something to just pick up and read like that.

      3. Ahiya says:

        Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion. Dwarves, elves and gnomes yes, standard fantasy lolno. I’ve never met another writer who could do other races as believably alien but still relatable. Also, the military parts are really welldone and she has a huge cast that’s all handled well.

        Also Andre Norton’s Witch World series, o Scent of Magic if you don’t mind going back to classic fantasy that started from a whole different base than Tolkien.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      I’ve been saying this myself for years, but from a video game perspective–does it really matter how diverse fantasy fiction is if Western video game developers are still fixated on recycling the same collection of D&D fantasy tropes over and over again? Once in a while we get something that tries to be at least a little different like Morrowind or some of the Fade stuff from Dragon Age, but otherwise, we keep seeing the same pretty archer elves, gruff Scottish dwarves*, brutish orcs, hulking warriors in armour and fragile wizards in robes traipsing about in Pseudo-Historical Medieval Europe Theme Park.

      I’m actually impressed by the setting in something like Dishonored. A mash-up of steampunk/clockpunk, early 20th century totalitarian dystopia, 18th century whaling lore, superhero powers based on some kind of fetish magic and devil worship, pre-industrial British honour culture–all brought together in a setting that feels cohesive (too bad so many of the characters feel kind of flat). I wish more Western fantasy games would embrace that kind of creativity in their world-building.

      *Tolkien’s dwarves didn’t even have the Scottish accent thing!

      1. ehlijen says:

        I feel similar. It’s not about what tropes you use or subvert. As TVTropes tries to make clear: tropes aren’t bad, or good. They are just things.

        It doesn’t really make a difference if a writer uses or subverts tropes if he doesn’t have a plan beyond that. The good writers will excite and surprise no matter which culture they’re from, and they’ll mostly do so with little regard as to what tropes they use or break.

        Comparing the best of Japanese game writing to the 08/15 runs of the mill of western game factories as is as unfair as the doing it the other way around. Any culture will have their remarkable examples, and those are the ones most likely to be exported and seen by others.

      2. dp says:

        I think Scottish dwarves first showed up in Raymond E Feist’s Magician.

    3. Loonyyy says:

      Not sure that I agree.

      There is some great stuff, to be sure. But I think people underestimate just how influential a lot of that stuff is just because it’s become the background to a lot of fantasy.

      Elves with bows and pointy ears, short mining dwarves etc, the villains, goblins etc. Tolkien didn’t invent all of them, but whether the name is accurate, it’s stuck, and it has become a series of tropes in and of itself, and for a long time, we did see a lot of very similar stuff, based maybe not on the style of Tolkien’s writing, but of his style of setting, which came to be the default fantasy setting for a lot of people. And like you said, that shows in videogames, and even in films for quite a long while, before the Lord of the Rings even took to the screen, these ideas were concrete.

      I know there’s a lot of stuff that differentiates itself from it, but when people talk about Western fantasy, that’s generally what comes to their mind. To my mind, FFX, from what I’ve seen, represents a series of Japanese tropes and settings, and I think the “freshness” here, is all relative.

      There’s also the degree of relative. Harry Potter is a fantasy novel, Dresden Files are fantasy, hell, you could call the likes of Buffy fantasy, my personal favourite, the Skulduggery Pleasant books are fantasy, but a lot of them essentially modernise Western fantasy tropes by setting them in a more modern world than a pseudo medieval one.

      I think the idea of this sort of general, Tolkien inspired, classic fantasy, elves, dwarves, quests, and Arthurian fantasy, is very much still alive and around, and I mean it no disrespect, but I can appreciate enjoying a deviation from that. I don’t think FFX is a deviation because it’s brilliant, it’s because it’s novel. That can mean a lot, when you’re competing in a well established field, people are going to want to pick the very best executions, standing out on your own gives you more room.

      Recommendations for the thread:

      Skulduggery Pleasant series. There’s a couple of duds in there (Death Bringer in particular was a let down, and Dark Days was a bit odd in places, but overall, I love it, it’s got shark, snappy, sarcastic dialogue between entertaining characters, with highly entertaining prose). It’s a modern fantasy, set in Ireland, secret underground society of mages, yada yada. Like the Harry Potter setting, but with supervillains and detectives rather than a school. Derek Landry.

      Keys to the Kingdom. I liked this one because of the originality of the setting, there are allusions to Arthurian legend but nothing too onerous. It features an alternate world between universes, which governs them all, and runs on text, who’s creator has long since gone missing, and is needed to fix their creation which is failing. It was dragging a bit by the end, but I had a lot of fun. Garth Nix.

      Lastly, the Old Kingdom novels, the “Abhorsen” series. Lotta people know this one. It’s a bit more Tolkein, but I like the style of the setting and the ideas, I’d recommend starting with Sabriel (If you haven’t read it already, it’s a classic), and then following through. Clariel was ok, but you won’t miss it if you don’t read it. More Garth Nix.

  5. Joshua says:

    “Everyone remembers their first experience with Final Fantasy. I don't know how true it is, but anecdotally it seems like the first game you play is most likely to be your favorite.”

    I started with #1, played #IV (2 in the US), but #6 was actually my favorite (3 in the US).

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      The trope is… significantly less reliable than a coin flip.

      I strongly suspect it’s rooted in something far removed from actual correlation.

      1. Jonathan says:

        Final Fantasy 4/2 first, then 6, then 5. Played around with 1 for about an hour and got bored.

        FF4 is my favorite, but I played 6 and 5 more for gameplay.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          FFV was your third? As part of Final Fantasy Anthology, I’m guessing?

          I came to FFV late, as part of Anthology, making it my… Fifth? Sixth? I guess? But it quickly became very dear to me. It’s made me unable to enjoy Bravely Default, unfortunately.

    2. Matt K says:

      I’ve only ever played 7 all the way through, which was my first FF game and I honestly thought it was crap (also why I never really got into the series). Although that’s because I played a ton of Lunar (on the Sega CD, which I save up my allowance to buy) which had voice acting, a great storyline and you brought all your allies into a fight (it seemed so odd to me that FF would only let you choose 3).

    3. tmtvl says:

      VIII was the first one I got, after that I got VI, then VII, X, V,…

      I consider VI to be the best, although VIII does have a special place in my heart. My least favourite is a toss-up between IV or IX.

    4. Ringwraith says:

      I preferred XIII, and I played X first.
      Though they’re both riddled with loads of problems, one of which is having a ridiculous difficulty spike expecting you grind a bunch. They’re always fun.
      Also really long final dungeons with are mostly just padding.

    5. Attercap says:

      I’ve probably had the most replays in FF1 (partial and complete, as it’s available for every platform and/or emulator) and it was my first Final Fantasy game (and one of my first NES games), but Tactics is my favorite of the overall line, with 4 being my favorite of the core line. (I liked a lot of things about 6, but it was too long for multiple replays so never endeared itself as much as 4.)

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    so his faults make him real to me in a way that (say) Corvo from Dishonored or Joel from Last of Us never were.

    Those are some interesting examples because they’re very different characters. Corvo is a silent protagonist with only 10% more characterization than Gordon Freeman, whereas Joel is a movie character (who we get to pilot in gameplay segments). He mourns his dead daughter, establishes a probably-unhealthy relationship with a surrogate daughter figure, and then there’s the deeply flawed thing he does at the end of the game, sacrificing all of humanity for his emotional connection to one girl. I get that Tidus is flawed in entirely different ways, but it seems weird to pick on Joel who is more fleshed out than 90% of videogame characters and more flawed than 99% (those percentages being lower bars to clear than they look like).

    Tangent about the Last of Us ending: People always discuss it as Joel throwing away a chance for humanity, but was he really? We see a situation where society is pretty stable and zombies are only really a threat to people who leave civilization for the wilderness. If you could immunize every human, all you’d achieve is making travel between cities marginally safer. I say marginally because getting mobbed by zombies will still kill you, whether they can infect you or not. A cure would just be a marginal increase to the postapocalypse economy, not some grand hope.

    1. Alex says:

      If you can immunise humans against turning into zombies, then there will eventually be no more zombies. Zombies can only reproduce by infecting humans, so if they can’t do that, the zombie threat goes away through attrition no matter what else happens.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The attrition rate already favours a zombie die-out though. For as dangerous as zombies are, Last of Us shows a world where even an untrained kid with a gun has an easy time mowing down a few of the undead. Immunization would make it slightly faster, but we’re talking marginal to moderate convenience factors, not “Hope for humanity”.

        1. Inwoods says:

          Don’t forget the obvious super power of SAVE, RESPAWN and PLOT_ARMOR that kid has though. Can we be confident that most folks win in these confrontations?

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            That’s why I said a few undead. With respawn and plot armour, the player turns into Rambo, but even on your sloppy first life where you die after twenty seconds of combat, you’ll probably take out a few of them. If every human kills two zombies before they die, the zombie population isn’t sustainable.

            1. Falterfire says:

              Haven’t played Last of Us specifically, but beyond just the two-for-one sustainability problem, Zombie hordes inherently suffer from the way they reproduce working against them as the numbers grow.

              After all, zombies need to bite you and then have you get away. In most things with Zombies, if you get mobbed by zombies they don’t bite you and then back off, they rip you limb from limb. So once a zombie horde gets big enough to overwhelm people instead of doing light damage before they escape, it becomes incapable of growing because new victims are destroyed instead of being turned.

              There’s a reason most zombie media with “Zombie-ism comes from bites” skips from the first couple bites to a full-blown outbreak – the intervening steps just don’t make much sense.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          Well, this is where Shamus’ “what do these people eat?” type questions become relevant. Why the hell are there still so many zombies out there in the wilderness? What the hell sustains them and grants their human hosts enough calories to walk around and run after Joel and Ellie? The codex suggests those giant bloater types only arise when a host’s been infected for over a decade. How do they even survive that long?

          Why are there still such large, organized groups of bandits? The settlements have trained, organized armed forces, organized systems for producing and distributing food, and the industrial capacity to maintain both. Can your average raider group last more than a year in the wilderness without any of that?

  7. Fizban says:

    FF9 was the first I played, but X was really good-except I never finished it since I was underleveled going in to the last area then got spoilered a bit and never came back to it. Been saying for years that if/when they got around to putting on Steam I’d be all over it, and here we are.

  8. The Rocketeer says:

    I find the whole “First Final Fantasy Favorite” thing has always been an allegation from fans who have just found out that someone else’s favorite isn’t the same as their own. “Oh, you don’t like my favorite as much as I do? Here’s an airtight justification for your opinion.”

    In my own experience, this idea took root around the time the new PlayStation brought FFVII to the fore. Prior to FFVII’s release, only three games from the series had been released in America: the original, FFIV, and FFVI. Of these, FFVI had the most outspoken fanbase. Once the new console generation created a wave of neophyte FFVII fans, it and FFVI became locked in an Old Guard/New Guard struggle for dominance- or rather, the Old Guard began campaigning unilaterally against an oblivious New Guard that it perceived as usurping the series.

    “First is the favorite” is merely an extrapolation of a very potent and widespread belief from the late Nineties: “You’d like FFVI better if you’d played it first.” When FFX came out, the high profile of its release, bolstered by the new PlayStation 2 console once again bringing a fresh wave of outsiders into the series, made it, like FFVII, the first game in the series that a great deal of its audience had experienced. Though the technical favorite by default, FFX was, again like FFVII, a great game in its own right, legitimately cementing its place in the hearts of those neophytes.

    And, like FFVII, FFX became ammo for unimpressed members of the self-styled Old Guard to scoff and say, “You like FFX the best because you played it before a real Final Fantasy,” bringing the old trope into the fore once again and cementing its place as a talking point among the notoriously factious fanbase of the series.

    1. Shamus says:

      I found it to be true in my circle of friends. Three of them played FF7 first, so that was their fav.

      Then my younger brother played FF8 first, and that was HIS favorite.

      Then I played FFX first and it became MY fav. (I’ve since played 7, 8, 9, 13. Still Love 10 the best.)

      So when I heard that “people love their first one best” it rang pretty true for me. The only time I run into debates on the series is when I bring it up here on the site. Which isn’t often.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        It must remain true at least some of the time; there is merit in the idea, regardless of how the fanbase tends to use it as a parrying dagger.

        Any game in the series is likely to become a person’s favorite, because they all tend to appeal to different emotions and tones, and they’re all mechanically solid titles whose particular experiments will appeal more or less to a given person. Which is part of why I mistrust the old adage’s form of usage. But the reliably strong showings of each title means that their places in an individual’s internal bookkeeping is a bit more affected by the context they’re experience in.

        An idea is boldest when it is freshest, and a person who’s never played a game in the series is likely unfamiliar with its ideas and mechanics. Really, I’d go so far as to say that someone unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy series is probably unfamiliar with JRPG’s of its ilk in general, despite the late decadence of its star in the gaming firmament. It’s natural for the first title in the series to gain a bit more leverage if the player is truly unfamiliar with games of its kind. But not so much, I think, that it serves as a reliable predictor of that first title’s staying power.

        I’ve also remained heavily skeptical of the idea because it isn’t true of me, yet has often been alleged of me, in absence of fact. When a person responds- reflexively and incorrectly- to hearing your favorite game in the series with, “Well, it’s because you played that first,” you develop an abiding distrust in that idea.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          An idea is boldest when it is freshest, and a person who's never played a game in the series is likely unfamiliar with its ideas and mechanics.

          I think that’s a big part of it. For instance, I enjoyed Mass Effect 1’s combat. Looking back on it, it is objectively not great, and all the criticisms I’ve heard of it are valid, but it was the first cover-based shooter I’d ever played, so there were interesting systems I’d never seen before. I imagine I’d have liked it a lot less if I was used to regenerating health and hiding in cover.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            Though they have a tendency to throw almost everything out with each game too, which means they can be weirdly different but similar.
            They’re barely part of the same series really.

        2. Matt K says:

          You might have a point as my entry into FF was 7 and I thought it was crap but I had played another JRPG a few years prior which I found to be superior in every way (and is still one of my all time favorites, Lunar: The Silver Star).

          ETA: Actually I just remembered and Dragon Warrior 1 was my first JRPG, but since I never got beyond the first dungeon I’d say it doesn’t really count.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            Oh wow, a Lunar: The Silver Star fan! Let me get my Ultra Ball out for this one.

      2. Nixorbo says:

        Seriously though, find a way to play 6, preferably not the awful-looking “updated” mobile version that was recently released and also ported to Steam.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          God in Heaven, the iOS graphics… What did the series do to deserve its stewardship?

        2. Supah Ewok says:

          I’ll say it, and I’ll say it loud: 6 is overrated. It’s not bad, but its insistence on a huge cast without any particular focus on a single character means all the characters are fairly shallow. Kefka is a brat, which might’ve broke the mold of super anime antagonists back in the day but isn’t really a big deal today.

          The game’s not bad; it stands head and ahoulder above 2 and 3. But if you’re playing it for the first time today, there’s very little that’s mindblowing anymore, and not a whole lot else to back it up.

          1. krellen says:

            My favourite parts of FF6 are the Celes bits – the opera, and the island after the apocalypse. But it remains one of the best explorations of a cast of characters in an RPG, instead of having just a single protagonist, and should be admired for that.

            But 9 is my favourite, because it has Steiner and Beatrix.

          2. Hal says:

            This has always been my assessment of it. As much as I adored the game, the characters were far too shallow for my liking.

            Likewise, I didn’t care for the “Magic for everyone!” system. It trivialized the unique abilities each character brought to the table, fostered an over-reliance on the magic, and otherwise made everyone very generic. (i.e. If all you’re doing is casting spells, and everyone knows all the spells, then there’s no particular reason to choose one character over another.)

            1. Deadpool says:

              That’s a common problem with that era of FF. 7 and 8 both did the “magic for everyone.”

              8 being the most egregious of all…

          3. Fred B-C says:

            Kefka is a lot more than a brat. He looks that way until you start realizing (especially with supplementary material) that he’s actually omnicidally crazy and broken. It’s pretty clear that the MagiTek process made him so empty that he wants to destroy everything to prove that it wasn’t important: it’s sour grapes incarnate. Terra is unfortunately underwritten, but as krellen rightly notes, Celes is great. And I loved that I got to spend time with the whole cast: I actually disliked when the later games that returned back to a more single-protagonist focus, because it often meant that characters that I liked a lot, like Irvine from FFVIII or Amarant from IX, ended up being sharply underwritten. The part in VI where you play the characters when they’ve split up from the Lethe River is one of my favorite gaming moments in general, and it is nice to actually play out a Star Wars “battle the empire” story that takes a decidedly interesting turn.

      3. Darren says:

        VII was my first, but I find it hasn’t aged well in really any regard. My personal favorite is IX, which I think is underrated by a lot of people but actually has a lot going on thematically and mechanically and is fairly well written and structurally ambitious compared even to later entries in the franchise.

        1. NotSteve says:

          I think I’m also fondest of IX. It felt like a breath of fresh air, getting back to a somewhat lighter plot and more fantasy themes. I should really see if there’s a good Let’s Play of it somewhere.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            I’d recommend Lorerunner – well, if you like your LPs heavy on analysis & suchlike!


            1. NotSteve says:

              I do!


              1. Felblood says:

                Watch Later: Engaged!

        2. Triggerhappy938 says:

          I would love to see Shamus’s thoughts on IX. It’s so much more early Final Fantasy than X. In hindsight, it’s almost a farewell to that style of game.

      4. Cilvre says:

        my first was final fantasy 1, but it isn’t my favorite by far, just hits nostalgia factors for me. of the series ff9 is my favorite story and gameplay wise, and while i replayed all of them last year, i skipped 8 and 10 because they have the worst combat systems by far.

      5. Radkatsu says:

        I played 7 first (shortly after it released over here). Then 8. 8 was my favourite by far, loved the junction system and finding all the fun ways to utterly break myself via the draw system and refining cards (figured out how to get Lionheart on disc 1 without any help, internet wasn’t a thing for me back then lol).

      6. Felblood says:

        FFX was my first FF, and I have no love for it, especially compared to FF5, FF9 and FFTA.

        However, among the people I know, I am the exception to the rule. Everyone else sees their first FF game as the one that is most true, much like everyone has a special place in their heart for their first Batman.

        It’s possible you blog attracts people who are weird in that respect. They again, Concerned and DM of the Rings were both about barbecuing sacred cows, so this theory might hold water.

      7. Hector says:

        I played every FF game up through 12, plus 13-2 and all the spinoffs. While FF1 is surprisingly good, although moreso with the more-playable re-release, my single fave is FF6. Why bring this up? Well, it’s because an awful lot of people who played a Final Fantasy game didn’t actually play that many, so the real differences may get lost in the shuffle. It’s not easy in a series this long, with so many different styles.

        One major breakpoints was the split at FF7. The people who came in with that generally never went back to try earlier FF games, and often had no understanding where the series came from. Another breakpoint came in the PS3/XBox 360 era. Nowadays, the MMO FF14 is probably the leading game in the series and will be indefinitely.

      8. Deadpool says:

        I find this is true more regularly in the PSX+ era.

        In the SNES era, 4 and 6 are almost always considered favorites regardless of which one you played first.

      9. Fred B-C says:

        I played I and IV before VI, but VI is high up there. However, I don’t know if VI to me beats out Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Terranigma, Tactics Advance 1 and 2, and some of my other favorite JRPGs. What I found after very much enjoying Dissidia 1 and 2 is that Square Enix is actually good enough to present characters that are disliked by large portions of the fanbase well in other contexts: there’s some reason that they still put stuff out. So even when I get a kneejerk negative response, like to XIII, I always resolve to eventually at least give them a shot, and if I don’t like them, I usually say it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

        But then again I actually liked Spirits Within a lot, so…

    2. Naota says:

      This is even further broken up by what exactly people liked about the games in the first place.

      Was it the freedom to travel around the world on their own objectives with no guiding hand (or even a quest tracker?) The combat systems and mechanics? The bevy of minigames, secrets, and one-off interactive elements that define the time period and would never be found in a modern triple-A title? The art style, which changes radically every game all the way up to FFX? The quirky, crazy writing that values theme, resonance and cool factor over realism or common sense? The not-so-quirky writing that feels surprisingly honest between the bouts of crazy?

      Final Fantasy is this bizarre mixture of elements that never manifest quite the same way twice. Even if you narrow it to just one developer you can see, for instance, Nomura’s art direction change over three games from random cool stuff without much cohesion (VII) to sharp, sleek fashion real people would be expected to wear (VIII) to asymmetry, colours, belts and zippers (X). It’s not surprising that people gravitate towards the first few FF games they played – an installment or two later the series has likely moved on to looking, playing, and feeling like something else in so many ways.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Precisely. The novelty of the first title played must have some discrete amount of influence, but not so much, I think, to reliably countermand the unique focus and style of each title, in a field of strong contenders.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        I also suspect that there’s some confirmation bias in the fact that, with all the various renditions, there’s probably something about the first one you played that encouraged you to give it a try to begin with, which will means that the game is your first because it appeals to you most, rather than the other way around. At this point, FF is one of those games everyone has heard of–if you change from not-playing it to playing one, it’s probably because one of the incantations appealed to you in a way the others won’t.

        FFVIII isn’t the first FF I played, but it’s the first one I went out of my way to obtain and complete (the rest were sibling-hand-me-downs or play-at-a-friend’s-house games) so it still feels like a “first” for me. Oddly enough, I have always agreed with the “first is always best” camp until I stopped, thought about it just now, and realized I am personally an exception to the rule.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Or, on the other side, if you played an FF game and didn’t like it you were less likely to try any others, so the chances of the first one you played being your favorite are higher since your love of it is why you became invested enough in the series to have an opinion.

      3. Merlin says:

        to asymmetry, colours, belts and zippers (X)

        While there had been dubious fashion choices in the past (as fond as I am for FF9, Eiko’s outfit will never not be terrible in a dozen different ways, and Zidane’s free-floating cuffs are certainly A Thing), my understanding is that the heavy asymmetry and dangly bits in FF10 were added in after the initial design work out of a desire to show off the PS2’s processing power. There isn’t a ton of concept art flying around, but a quick google shows a few with Tidus in reasonable shirt + short outfits.

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          I’ve read in an LP that the reason for Lulu’s belt skirt was to make it a test for the CG team. Although they managed to make it work in the first cutscene they did, it was so miserable that for all other cutscenes in the game Lulu is only shown from the waist up, which when you’re looking for it results in some really odd things going on in the background.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            That’s also not quite true. She’s hardly a focus, but after hearing this myself, I kept a firm lookout for her while reading The Dark Id’s LP of Final Fantasy X. She’s rarely in the foreground, but her and her beltdress are definitely there.

    3. GloatingSwine says:

      The thing where people like their first instance of some long running thing the best is pretty common outside Final Fantasy though.

      People tend to like the Bond or Dr. Who they saw first the best, or the first Star Trek series they watched.

      It’s just a common thing that your expectations are set by the first example of a thing you got.

      (I liked FFX when it was called Grandia 2, which immediately marks me as a dirty hipster. I also preferred Yuna as a protagonist to Tidus)

  9. silver Harloe says:

    7 was the first one I played, but 8 was my favorite. Probably because I had only played 7… the changeover from cartoony world to 3d “realistic” world just really did it for me. And I was in love in Quistis. And I really, really liked the pacing trick they did with the disc-changover from 1 to 2 – something which will be lost on PC players to an extent. Everything built to a climax and then POP “insert disc 2” … and then you’re playing different characters and you wonder if you’ve put in the wrong disc or something for 40 minutes before it goes back and lets you know what happened in the “present day” timeline. And then the school is your airship. I even liked how the gunblade made combat not just a matter of selecting things from menus.
    I was able to buy like 80% of the figurines for it. Sad that I missed some, though I don’t even have the shelf space to properly display the ones I do have.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Not to mention the fact that FF:VIII has a crude predecessor to the Mass Effect codex, which kinda spoils a plot twist which turned many people (like Noah Antwiler) off the game.

    2. Felblood says:

      I could never tolerate the graphics in FF8. I had already been exposed to FF7, and 9’s aesthetics, and they both to great visuals out of the hardware and the technical skills of the era. (though putting them side by side it’s hard to believe they ran on the same hardware)

      FF8 was totally the ugly sister to me. Between the migraine-inducing resolution, and the slapdash color palettes, I just couldn’t get into it.

      Plus, there’s something about a photo-realistic depiction of a world where students routinely have to run away from a tyrannosaurus on their way to class, that my suspension of disbelief wasn’t ready for.

      1. Hydralysk says:

        I disliked 8 a lot as well, but I didn’t really have issues with the art.

        The plot just made no sense to me and seemed to be powered solely by convenience. It also didn’t help that all the big reveal moments just made me think “Well that’s stupid”. The big villain’s motivation also made no sense, even by final fantasy standards.

        The real nail in the coffin though was the Draw mechanic. It just wasted so much of my time and I resented that I needed to spend so much time drawing magic from every 4th enemy. It was probably made worse by my hoarding tendency which forced me to get 100 of every magic ‘just in case’, but considering it was also critical for boosting your character stats it just felt unforgivable.

        To give it credit though, the Fisherman’s Horizon theme is easily in my top 3 final fantasy songs.

        1. Felblood says:

          I think I could have endured the Draw mechanic if t didn’t mean spending those hours staring at pixilated numbers.

          Also, he summon spells were too long, and there was no way to skip the animation.

          FFX really hit the nail on the head in this regard, with it’s summon animation options:

          -New Summons Only

          There were a lot of really good quality-of-life features in that engine, but I could never forgive the sphere grid system for it’s flaws.

          1. Deadpool says:

            The draw mechanic is dumb, but the real problem is the Junction systems and the enemy level.

            Enemies level up with you and your stats can be raised (to max) without leveling up. This creates a system the disincentives leveling, which incentivized combat avoidance. And since EncNone, a skill that prevents random encounters, is readily available before your first big mission, this creates a system where the best way to play the game is to not play it…

            Also, an incentive to NOT use magic combined with the only other skill being “attack” or “lint break” doesn’t help…

  10. Naota says:

    FFX is the only post-SNES game in the series that I’ve never played, but it’s interesting just how many of Tidus’s flaws and foibles also ring true of Cloud from FFVII (my first Final Fantasy, though maybe not my definitive favourite after replaying it).

    Sure, Cloud is a bit older and more obviously “cool” to look at, but for all the sharp clothing (and hair!) his coolness is a wafer-thin veneer that disintegrates after more than a few minutes in his presence. He alternates randomly between dramatic statements and stoic one-word replies. He’s garrulous and roguish until the moment the girls flirt back, at which point his confidence completely disappears. He has a special flourish prepared just for the ends of battles that he happily teaches to eager newbies. This man pens the shitty self-insert fanfiction that is his life.

    Cloud sounds and acts like a poser imitating what he thinks a hard-boiled mercenary should be like… because he is. His life so far is a lie that he’s tricked himself into believing, and in truth he’s more failure than success. His constant, accidental fumbling into uncoolness humanizes him, and sets a great starting point for a character arc of self-discovery, and his story is a charming mixture of bothing faking it until you make it and being true to yourself.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I’d say the more strict comparison with FFX is Final Fantasy VIII. I eventually had much the same experience with FFVIII as Shamus did with Tidus. When I first played it as a kid, I hated the cast of FFVIII because I didn’t understand why they didn’t act reliably and heroically, like I expected. It wasn’t until many years later, looking back from the other side, I realized that, in defiance of gaming tradition, FFVIII’s cast of immature teenagers actually acted like immature teenagers, and that this was core to the game.

      Once I came around to what they were shooting for, I became much more endeared to the title- though I still don’t fault anyone that hates it.

      1. Syal says:

        Really, all of the Final Fantasies do that. The furthest away from it you get is probably 4, and while Cecil may or may not avoid it, plenty of the other characters fill the gap.

        (The characters are far from 8’s only problems, and that is what makes that game so very, very special.)

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I’m not so sure. FFVI and FFIX have a more swashbuckling aesthetic, FFV is more a lighthearted send-up of the iconic style, and in FFVII, the characters just hitting their twenties (Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris) don’t really grapple with immaturity so much as they cope with general human weakness. FFXII has some pretty young characters, but they certainly don’t act their age- not in a realistic, human way.

          FFVIII and FFX, the former more so than the latter, focused on the specific foibles of youth and immaturity, the virtues and follies of not-yet-fully-formed persons that, unfortunately, a lot of us come to resent.

          (The characters are far from 8's only problems, and that is what makes that game so very, very special.)

          Well, see, that’s… Yeah. Yes.

        2. Abnaxis says:

          I’m one of the freaks that actually likes FFVIII for it’s gameplay as well as the story. I devised a clever system involving rubber-bands and paperclips whenever I saw magic I wanted to stock up on, and read while I played. Also, it had the best card game.

          FFVIII wasn’t my first Final Fantasy, but it’s my favorite just because it resonated with me the best.

          1. Syal says:

            I love the gameplay for how exploitable it is. The card game will get you junctioned with end-game stat-boosts before the first dungeon if you want.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Yeah, if you’re willing to play it enough, you can grind the items you need for the ultimate weapons too. It’s nice having a side-game that gives in-game incentives for playing it (unlike FFIX card game), without locking powerful equipment behind it completely (unlike FFX drownball/chocobo racing/etc)

              1. Syal says:

                And also unlike 9’s game you never lose a 246-power card to a 3-power card.

                I’m still mad about that fifteen years later.

      2. Naota says:

        I remember thinking the same thing when I played VIII as a kid, though I never really faulted the cast for their so much as I relegated them to a mental purgatory of “all right, but not particularly cool”. Going back to the game later on, though, I loved VIII’s characters and writing even more than I was expecting, and the world it established still gives me neat ideas to this day (ever had to stop a warhead launch from a computer prompt written in a different fantasy language than your characters’ existing fantasy language? How about reactivating broadcast television for a political maneuver, which hasn’t been a thing in this world for what seems like decades?).

        This comparison is not helped by VII’s terrible translation on the original PC CD. I wish it had occurred to me to take a screenshot when Hojo said “Sephiroth’s phantasmal pain…”, to open a conversation, apropos of nothing, followed by silence.

        Also worthy of note:
        “This message. Who left it here?”
        “A researcher.”
        Regarding a major reveal about Dr. Gast; a central character – who while indeed a researcher – is never named in or around this scene for you to have any idea what they’re talking about. It’s like finding a suicide note that’s supposed to seed doubt about a murder victim, only the detective identifies the note as belonging to “a taxpayer” in a scene well after the murder.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I wish it had occurred to me to take a screenshot when Hojo said “Sephiroth's phantasmal pain…”, to open a conversation, apropos of nothing, followed by silence.

          I wish it had occurred to you to, because, uh, I’m not sure anyone says that. I can’t remember it, and a quick Ctrl+F through a script dump finds nothing. Or were you playing a different region’s localization of the game? Come to think of it, were the PSX and PC translations different, other than censorship?

          The only thing similar I can remember is when the party confronts Hojo for the final time, and Cloud refers to “the illusionary crime against Sephiroth.” This stuck out to me, because it doesn’t really make any sense in context.

          And it’s worth pointing out that Hojo and Gast are both professors; neither is ever referred to as a doctor. Which, frankly, explains a lot about their… unique interpretations of the scientific method.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Speaking as someone who works with research doctors…there’s a serious gap when it comes to teaching MDs how to properly formulate a hypothesis. It gets even worse when you look at the doctors who aren’t scientists, who are trying to interpret study results…

          2. Naota says:

            Ah, my bad – I must have Megaman inexplicably on the mind. The translation is indeed different on the PC CD however, though how much it differs from the PSX version I’m not entirely sure.

            I’m told only one guy worked on the entire thing, but choice lines aside, the whole affair always felt a bit like half a dozen translators went at the script piecemeal, didn’t communicate as much as they clearly needed to, and slotted their finished work into place without looking ahead or behind. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s completely head-scratching or requires knowledge of how Japanese works to connect the dots in English. I suppose it makes sense, given that the same issues hold true for FFVI and FF: Tactics, both of which came out during the same period in Square’s localization history.

            1. The Rocketeer says:

              Without looking it up, I’m almost totally certain that the only discrepancies between the American PSX and PC releases’ translations was in differing standards of censorship, and then only with what particular expletives are replaced with a grawlix.

              Though as bad as the translation was, I hear that other languages’ translations of the game are far worse, which is why I thought you might be referring to one of them. Even though, as you allude to, it has nothing at all on Final Fantasy Tactic’s abominable translation. It’s a good thing that game’s strength wasn’t its writing, hardy-har-har.

        2. Syal says:

          How about reactivating broadcast television for a political maneuver, which hasn't been a thing in this world for what seems like decades?

          Something I never realized until a Youtube comment on VoiceofDog’s playthrough pointed it out; the white noise on the television is actually a repeating message. No one has been able to broadcast because a forgotten villain has been drowning out signals for decades.

        3. Hal says:

          The original FF7 PC CD’s major problem was abominable stability issues. I had awful crashes with certain cutscenes that sometimes warranted complete reinstalls just to get the game functional again. I never actually finished the game because of this.

    2. Chris says:

      I suspect a big reason why Tidus is so much more irritating than similar characters in previous games in the series is that he’s voiced. It’s one thing to read a text box of Cloud being a whinging little prat. It’s quite another to actually have to listen to Tidus. I think I would have hated him much, much less if there had been no voice acting. It’s been years since I’ve played FFX, so it may have become exaggerated in memory, but I remember him sounding like a little kid who is mad that mommy isn’t letting him get the toy that he reaaaaaaaally reaaaaaaally wants and whyyyyyyyyyyyyy can’t he have it and whaaaaa.

      I guess you could say I don’t like kids.

      1. Merlin says:

        Yeah, character-Tidus is preeeetty whiny sounding. Narrator-Tidus (which really makes no sense given that he’s gone at the end of the story) is okay though.

        On the subject of voice acting… The English VAs weren’t exactly stellar on their own, but they were further hamstrung by needing their lip flaps to at least approximately match the Japanese dialogue. There’s a reason that Auron’s vocals are head and shoulders above the rest; his mouth is constantly obscured by his scarf, which gave the localization team & performer more freedom in his lines and delivery.

      2. This is the reason i love the person who made the mod for the PC release that allows the use of JP audio with english HUD and subtitles

    3. Locke says:

      FF VII, FF VIII, and FF X were all fundamentally about having a main character with a common teenage personality/worldview and then kicking them in the teeth for having it.

      1. Felblood says:

        I think this is actually one of the reason’s that I liked FF9 better. Zidane has plenty of character flaws, but he’s a lot more mature than the rest of the cast, and finds himself cast in the role of Team Dad, for Garnet and Vivi.

        Steiner needs the same kick in the teeth, but he has no respect for Zidane, so it falls to Beatrice too teach him the humility that he needs, in order to act like a grown-up.

        The fact that we get to see Zidane as a role model for the younger members of the cast, before we explore his daddy issues, really makes him a lot easier to tolerate. Plus he’s actually good enough at it that the other characters are more tolerable for having known him.

    4. Fred B-C says:

      Yeah, the thing I like about Cloud after disliking him initially is that he’s simultaneously a construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of the archetype he created. He’s a badass, stoic JRPG character, but we realize that’s a shallow veneer… but then it becomes clear that not only is that not really his fault, given that his memory alteration isn’t entirely up to him, and that an extremely powerful and noble person ultimately saddled him with a great mission because of an immense potential. Think about the fact that no one really beat Sephiroth except for him. In Dissidia, we even see that he’s afraid, but willing to admit that fear to himself, and his fear actually makes him able to keep Firion, Cecil and Tidus safe because those three are prone to recklessness and getting caught in traps (even if you’d think Cecil, a king, career soldier, father and Paladin, should be less irresponsible).

  11. Zekiel says:

    I’m in the same boat as you Shamus. I *loved* FFX, and it was my first Final Fantasy. (In fact its the only one I’ve played, apart from half of FFX-2 which is… different.) I had pretty much the same opinion of Tidus too – he’s not the most likeable character ever, but he feels quite genuine and he genuinely has an impact on the world rather than just being someone who gets yanked around by other people, like a lot of videogame protagonists.

    The fact that its not obvious by the end of the story whether Tidus or Yuna is the true protagonist – by design, not accident – is a point in this story’s favour.

    I loved the fact that the official religion’s lies really do seem logical. They’re keeping people in the dark, but that’s the price they pay for having the world be calm for most of the time, and keeping it from being destroyed entirely by Sin.

  12. Abnaxis says:

    If you're here for escapism, then piloting Tidus might not be what you're looking for in a power fantasy.

    It really frustrates me when critics say something like this. It always feels like they’re saying “Well, I get that you’re just here for low-brow feel-good fuzzy feelings, but this character is more than that. You just can’t see it.” I’ve been around here long enough to know better as far as you are concerned, but I just want to put it out there–as someone who didn’t like the Tidus character, please don’t put words in my mouth.

    For my part, I disliked Tidus because at no part during my growing up did I ever resemble him. In fact, and no point during my growing up did I ever do anything but despise people like Tidus. It was drilled into my head early and often, that all the whining and complaining about bad shit happening to you is just not what you do. Like, acting like Tidus was treated akin to lying or disrespecting your elders; it went beyond “annoying” and veered into “immoral” territory. The fact that Tidus whinged constantly about petty daddy issues–at the beginning, when he is probably the richest, best-made person in his known world, all the way through most of the game, when there are really more pressing concerns–just grated on me in a fundamental way above and beyond a “I don’t like this person” sort of feeling.

    Of course, FFX is on the short list of games I actually finished all the way to the end, so obviously I learned to put up with the pretty boy. He did ring true for people I have known, which made him tolerable even if I always wanted to sock him one so he could have something real to complain about. I think it helped that I didn’t notice the writers doing that thing, where they sort of wink at the audience and say “teenagers, right?” Tidus felt more like and individual character I didn’t like and less like a broad generalization that I don’t identify with, so I could not-like him without developing a hate relationship with the writer.

    For my part, the youthfully stupid character actually starred in FFVIII, in Squall. Socially awkward, let down by adults who should have been there for him while growing up, he was all like “fuck people, the only person I need is me.” It was melodramatic and narrow sighted, and I couldn’t suppress cringing the last time I replayed FFVIII, but I see a lot of young-me in that character. And I’m pretty sure Squall would be at least as loathed as Tidus if FFVIII had managed to hit as wide of an audience as FFX did.

    1. Syal says:

      It helps that Tidus also gradually de-emphasizes himself, eventually spending most of his free time with Rikku, who’s kind of like the little kid the group is letting tag along.

      Same here with Squall. I hated everybody growing up, just shut up and leave me alone.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Have you actually played VIII since growing up?

        I distinctly remember feeling betrayed when Squall has his <a href="Loner-Turned-Friend epiphany. However, playing it with more age and maturity under me then has me actually sympathizing with the other characters more than Squall for the first act, and leaves a weird feeling in the back of my mind from how I remember experience the story the first time. It’s uncannily awkward…

        1. Matt K says:

          I’ve actually run into this in a few pieces of fiction where which characters I sympathise with and my feelings about the plot developments changed as I got older re-reading it. It is a pretty neat phenomenon.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Definitely – my favourite novel I’ve read more than 20 times over the years because this keeps happening! An amazing thing to pull off, when done well.

        2. Syal says:

          I did not have that experience upon replaying. Everyone leads with the wrong foot and Squall’s essentially assigned the job of cat herder, while taking orders from more cats, I still relate to him the most.

          Are you talking about the knight scene, or something else? I don’t think I felt betrayed the first time I saw it because it was clearly a Seifer parallel, but it still seems out of place.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Again, it’s been a day or two (I’ve replayed FFVIII since my first playthrough, but it was still years ago), but I think the betrayal was…the orphanage scene? Something immediately preceding it? Was that the knight scene? I dunno.

            As far as what stood out when I played it later, I don’t remember a particular scene but I vaguely remember a few places in the earlier game where Squall is thinking about doing stuff all by himself he is clearly in the middle of being helped, but his writing off the people around him that made me feel awkward for sympathizing with him. Like, I still relate to him, but not acknowledging the contributions of people around you is crossing a line that now-me recognizes back-then-me was particularly guilty of.

            1. Syal says:

              I don’t remember those. There’s a few scenes where he’s a callous ass, but the characters haven’t made me want Squall to act differently. It’s basic sympathy stuff that I’ve never been comfortable with when people ask it of me, and am fine with the main character not doing. (“I messed up big, but it’ll be okay, right?” “Depends.” “But we’ll get through it right?” “Maybe“) Like Quistis getting demoted and wanting a shoulder to cry on, and I’m just wondering how much of her demotion had to do with her getting overly emotional and/or friendly around students. He softens a bit as time goes on, but I never felt he was further off base than the other folks (apart from the “past tense” line which is ludicrous and awesome because of it).

              It probably doesn’t help that I inevitably load up Squall with all the GFs so he really is doing everything by himself.

              The one I’m thinking of is at the orphanage after the Ragnorok, where he’s saying he’ll be Rinoa’s knight and defend her against the world if he has to. It’s clearly another “you’re not so different from Seifer” moment, but it seems a massive swing from his stoicism before.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                Maybe the scene you’re talking about is the same location, but a different scenethan what I’m talking about? The “betrayal” scene I remember was a whole-party thing, where I think Rinoa had been kidnapped or whatever and Squall realizes he’s going to need help to get her back? I think that scene was in the same orphanage as the “knight” scene.

                As I remember his arc, in the beginning Squall wasn’t just a “callous ass,” he was a “callous ass who is brutally honest with other people while lying to himself.” I have no problem with the Quistis scene–people would probably still consider me a “callous ass” today because I value honest assessments over sugarcoating–but whenever Squall goes off on his “I totally don’t need anybody I’m completely self-sufficient” inner monologues I cringe. Because even if he would prefer not to, Squall depends on other people and he’s consistently lying to himself and inflating his own ego to think otherwise.

                IIRC, the scene I’m talking about is the one where Squall goes from “I don’t need nobody” to “oh hey I’ve been leaning on people this whole time haven’t I?” Young-me was in a “I don’t need nobody” mindset, and didn’t really like that transition because young-me was at least as self-absorbed as Squall was.

                1. Syal says:

                  …I don’t remember that scene at all. I don’t think Rinoa gets captured except in the super-late game. Maybe it’s about getting to Esther? I might need to replay it now.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    Yeah, it might have been earlier too, like the dance scene that you assign everyone an instrument for or the scene where they figure out GFs are bad for you or something. I just remember there being an epiphany scene somewhere where most of the characters were present that young-me hated because it was where Squall stopped lying to himself.

                    1. Syal says:

                      Well, I refuse to believe anyone learns anything from the GF scene, so I’m guessing it’s either the music, the Garden fight, or waking up Rinoa.

                      Although I would count the whole Seifer rivalry as a much longer version of the same thing; they build them up to be pseudo-mirrors of each other so don’t you see Squall, you’re really bitter with yourself.

    2. Supah Ewok says:

      I’ve tried a couple of times to play X but I’ve never got to the end. I don’t care how “real” Tidus is. A serial wife beater can be “real” and I wouldn’t want to play that game either. Everybody was a dipshit when they were a teen, and personally, after acknowledging the fact I’d rather not be reminded of it. I don’t need a power fantasy, but I shouldn’t be having tension from wanting to smack Tidus bringing the rest of the game down.

      On an unrelated note, I think having an undead guy who has basically read the script of the game to be at least an equal factor to the plot’s resolution as Tidus’ optimism. Auron breaks the system in so many ways.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I don’t want to get too much into it (mea culpa), but looking back and scrutinizing the narrative in hindsight, Auron is… a problem, at best. A total monster, at worst.

        1. Shamus says:

          My read on Auron is that he’s consumed by guilt that he let his two best friends die, and that only after did he realize that it was all a sham, and for “nothing”. (Laying aside the objection that a decade of peace isn’t “nothing”.) His quest is essentially an attempted do-over of his original pilgrimage, but this time he hopes to reject LY.

          Then again, I’m not sure you needed to kill her in order to look for an alternative.

          Then AGAIN… she picked the fight. And I assume she’s been doing this for a thousand years. If someone rejects The Deal, it’s possible she kills them rather than allow them to escape with the truth.

          But I’d like to hear the interpretation that frames him as a monster.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            Let me say I don’t think this is a problem for anyone playing through the game for the first time. In total, I think the game is near-bulletproof as a fresh experience, and one totally focused on its priorities: to function first as a sentimental story.

            But I don’t think the game holds up to even the barest scrutiny. Which I don’t fault the game for, really; it wants to function the first, critical time through, and it does. It just makes some things… odd, in hindsight. And Auron’s character is one of the largest of those things.

            I see Auron as an extraordinarily selfish and manipulative person, to the extent that the people around him are tools for his own ambition. Really, his whole character can be summed up by his first meeting with Tidus in Luca, in which he baits Tidus with the shocking knowledge that, somehow, Sin is his father, Jecht. When Tidus demands more and says he doesn’t believe Auron and won’t go along with him, Auron, in his typically flippant manner, tells him he doesn’t have to, and that it’s his choice… even though, as Tidus immediately shoots back, he doesn’t have a choice, that by revealing precisely what he has, Auron has obligated his cooperation. What’s Auron’s response? He just laughs. He laughs and laughs and laughs.

            This is Auron’s sole function in the group, both from the writer’s perspective and from his own. Nevermind the fact that the things he seems to implicitly know can’t be totally explained by his having already taken the Pilgrimage once; he’s blatantly just read ahead in the script on a few occasions. But no, nevermind that. Auron, motivated by his own feelings of betrayal and loss, has only one goal in the world: end the Final Summoning. “This is your story,” Auron is given to saying. But the implied second half of that statement is always, “So you’ll do what I want, or else.”

            Auron deliberately keeps everyone in the dark about things they definitely deserve to know. You can make a case that he couldn’t have broken the narrative wide open for the party immediately, but Auron never lets on more than he absolutely has to to keep the party going along his plot. And he does this because he seems to know, with total certainty, how delaying various epiphanies will motivate the cast emotionally.

            He begins the game by forcing Tidus to come with him in Zanarkand, riding Sin to Spira. (However that works). He reunites with Tidus in Luca, telling him Sin is Jecht to obligate him to cooperate emotionally, refusing to explain any more. He, alone of all the other party members, refused to tell Tidus what he needed to know- that Yuna would die at the end- for reasons other than his own discomfort with the fact. Rather, he needed Tidus to be so enamored with Yuna that the late revelation of her imminent death was certain to overwhelm him emotionally, to force him to reject the Pilgrimage and the Final Summoning totally for the sake of someone he had come to love too much. It couldn’t have been something he learned earlier, or had time to cope with; that would have endangered Auron’s plot. Along these same lines, with the revelation that Sin is Jecht, he commands Tidus not to tell Yuna. When Tidus asks why, he lets slip a line critical to my interpretation of Auron: “She would distance herself from you.” Why does that matter? Because Auron implicitly understands that Tidus and Yuna must fall in love, and that this state of affairs must be arranged to exploit their emotional vulnerability to his ends. Finally, Auron knows the truth of the Final Aeon. He knows that Yuna must sacrifice the person dearest to her. And he knows that person must be Tidus, because he arranged it that way. And he knows that Yuna will reject this proposal, because he arranged it that way. He could have told the party the truth about Yevon and its corruption, and about the Final Aeon, but he never did. He always let the party discover it on their own, at the latest, most hurtful moments possible, to keep their emotions as raw as possible, never chipping in a word of clarification except to rub it in that little bit more.

            It is as you say: Yunalesca attacked the party… after the emotionally and spiritually compromised party rejected her, exactly as Auron had been so careful to arrange from the start. It was their choice… but it wasn’t, really, was it? *cue Auron laughing*

            In closing, what sells it for me is this: defeating Yunalesca and ending the Final Summoning was the end of Auron’s plan. In so callously manipulating the party in acting as his assassins, he ends the only tradition known to be able to defeat Sin. This is an act that has consequences not only for Auron, and for the party, but for the entire world. Auron’s plan has been a unilateral decision for every being in Spira. The only thing that could possibly justify this, the sole mitigating factor significant enough to redeem Auron’s self-motivated and irrevocable cruelty, is if he had a next step, an airtight plan to truly defeat Sin once and for all, not only doing away with the Final Summoning but obviating the need for its existence. But Auron has no plan for Sin.

            At most, his “plan” for Sin is an extension of his plan to destroy Yunalesca: manipulate the party’s emotions and priorities to the point they choose to pursue his own aims in his stead. But unlike everything leading up to Zanarkand, Auron is flying blind in this matter. He has no idea if or how Sin can be defeated without the Final Summoning. He has no advice, no secret trump card. Really, the fact that- once Zanarkand is concluded- the party’s plan is to distract Sin momentarily, then fly up and punch it in the face- and worse, that this plan succeeds!- is about the sloppiest part of the game even for a first time player doesn’t say much in Auron’s favor in this matter. My interpretation of Auron’s absolute selfishness is sealed tight by the fact that his plan, his decision to painfully manipulate the people closest to him at the expense of the entire world ended the moment Auron’s personal vengeance was satisfied and everyone else was forced to clean up the consequences. His highest priorities are necessarily revealed by what he was more willing to sacrifice.

            You can’t argue with results, I guess. In the end, his narrowly-yet-painfully incomplete plan to rid Spira of Sin worked. But it was a plan that, from beginning to end, ran on cruelly twisting the emotions of the party, subordinating them to his devices at their expense and without their knowledge. Even the core emotional tie of the game, the budding romance between Tidus and Yuna, was not only a key element in his design, but one he saw fit to ensure despite knowing that Tidus would ultimately cease to exist entirely and leave Yuna alone, guaranteeing the exact loss he leveraged to force their cooperation. Fuck you; got mine. Auron’s absolute lack of respect for the party’s volition, for his total rejection of earning their cooperation by sharing his knowledge in favor obligating their cooperation by selectively withholding it, puts Auron’s character beyond the domain of an unyielding, if well-meaning, selfishness into a chilling inhumanity.

            But at least his costume is good.

            1. Shamus says:

              I know that must have taken some time to write up, but I REALLY appreciated it. Great insights.

            2. Ninety-Three says:

              I feel like this interpretation hinges on “Auron was irresponsible to end the Final Summoning without a way to defeat Sin”. Granting that, he’s a callous manipulator fixated on revenge at the cost of humanity’s fate. But FFX has a… loose relationship with logic and JRPGs are the genre that spawned the trope of “kill God by punching him in the face”.

              If we accept that Sin is more of an anime villain than a Lovecraft villain, something that can be defeated in combat, Auron’s plan is, while still callous, in service of the greater good and arguably necessary. Yes the Final Summoning buys a decade of peace, but it also gives Sin an upgrade, and that’s been going on for ages. I got the vibe that that was not a sustainable process, eventually Sin is going to reach maximum power and wipe out all civilization.

              The only way to save humanity in the long term, is to stop the Final Summoning and punch Sin in the face, and Auron did his best to make sure that happened. He was a jerk about it, but if he didn’t engineer things to make them reject the Summoning, then there’s a risk that they wouldn’t, Sin would get stronger, and the world’s chances of ever winning would dwindle even further.

              1. The Rocketeer says:

                That’s why I say I don’t really hold it against the game that much. A lot of FFX suffers upon close examination, I think, but that close examination is only possible in hindight. The game is focused totally on the emotional, sentimental level, and that first time through the game, I think it works smashingly. It manages its numerous dramatic reveals cunningly, and it keeps most players engaged to the point where they don’t bother picking at the story’s cracks before its delivered its narrative payload already.

                1. Felblood says:

                  I agree that FFX is very much a drama-first-details-maybe kind of story, but I think Auron, out of everyone, has the most excuse to behave this way.

                  He is, after all, a cryptic messenger from beyond the grave, and therefore bound to provide only the most tantalizing but unhelpful clues possible.

                  Hey, it worked for Shakespeare.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                I think you can make a valid argument that “Auron was irresponsible to end the Final Summoning without a way to defeat Sin” after Sin curb-stomped the Al Bhed in that one huge battle earlier, explicitly establishing in no uncertain terms that you can’t defeat Sin by punching it in the face.

                1. SougoXIII says:

                  That’s not really the best chance they get for defeating Sin since the Yu Yevon leaders have an interest in keeping Sin undefeated. The fact that they ban technology and made the al-bhed outcast seem to speak volumes on how much more prepare they would be if everyone were to be focus on beating Sin and not rely on blind faith. Also Auron have Tidus’ connection to Jetch on his side – that’s why he brought Tidus to Spira – He and Jetch both know that Tidus have an influence on Jetch as Sin and that allow the party to get close in the final battle.

                  1. tremor3258 says:

                    Isn’t there some implications that the church manipulated the situation to make sure the Knights (and technology) failed spectacularly? I remember getting that implication, but it’s been a while.

                    1. Syal says:

                      If there were I missed them, but the Church had a presence there so it’s not impossible.

                    2. John the Savage says:

                      The church did benefit from the defeat, as it caused more people to seek atonement, but I don’t think they were ever explicitly shown to sabotage the attack, even though Kinoc and Seyour were both there.

                    3. John the Savage says:

                      Also, the sabotage angle is given some amount of credence later in the game, when Sin gets wrecked by the airship; it manages to cut off two of his limbs before the main cannon malfunctions. Granted, they were able to get the shot off because Spira’s singing has distracted Sin long enough to prevent him from attacking, but you really get the sense that a fleet of well-maintained airships (rather than the salvaged one the Al-Bhed use) would have a decent chance of killing sin.

              3. SougoXIII says:

                It would also be noted that Tidus and Yuna already have tons of chemistry for each other before Auron show up in Luca. It wouldn’t take much for Tidus to fall head over heels for Yuna. Furthermore, even if Auron didn’t tell Tidus that Sin is his father, Tidus would still have to continue the pilgrimage with Yuna anyways since he have no other way of going home.

                Also, during the Yunalesca’s confrontation, Auron wasn’t using the fact the Yuna have to sacrifice Tidus to emotionally compromise her in to refusing the deal. The requirement was for a strong bond – not the strongest bond. In fact, the game made it clear that she could have choose any of the party members instead. He was banking on the fact that everything they know is a lie, that there is no chance of beating Sin with this method and the fact that they have spent thousands of years being trick into sending human sacrifices. That seem to be the biggest emotional gut punch to me than teenagers hormones.

              4. Locke says:

                The thing is, “lure out Sin and punch him very hard in the face” is something that gets tried during the game itself, and it still fails. Seymour gets the Chocobo Knights and all those cannons and a third army I completely forgot about and they all attack Sin together and the end result is still a decisive loss. It’s not clear if Sin was even wounded, but even if he was, an army multiple orders of magnitude larger than the party threw everything they had at Sin and lost.

                The only reason the party seems to have won at the end (and “reason” is kind of out of place in Final Fantasy to begin with, but it’s important to any thorough analysis of Auron’s character so we’re going to have to try) is that, at some point, Yu Yevon and the string of Final Aeons built to combat him got him into an arms race tied to size. Maybe Yu Yevon consistently took monsters that were bigger because they helped him do his kaiju thing and perpetuate the system, which ultimately led to him accidentally opening up a weakness: His form was now so big that a party of humans could walk through his pores and cut up his internal organs. His internal defenses were formidable, but evidently not so formidable that a determined strike team comprised of whatever random yahoos Yuna happened to be friends with couldn’t get past them (being fair, at this stage every one of the party is also a seasoned veteran and they do just so happen to have really strong party synergy).

                But trying to argue that Auron has identified a vulnerability that can be exploited without any super summons is a lot like papering over the holes in Mass Effect 3 with headcanon. None of these excuses are in the game. What is in the game is people attempting a plan almost identical to what the party attempted at the end of the game, and that first attempt failed spectacularly and horrifically.

            3. Abnaxis says:

              This reads true along my own understanding of Auron’s character. Even in the first run-through, I always understood Auron as a man so dedicated to ending the Final Summoning he is willing to step on anyone and everyone in order to make it happen. He already died once trying to kill Yunalesca on his own, and yet is willing to remain Unsent, manipulate those around him and to damn the consequences of never having a Calm again in order to enact his revenge.

              Rocketeer put it much better than I can (though I also remember the Yunalesca fight being a “you either do what I say or my secret dies with out” ordeal) because my memory is rough, but I wanted to add that I thought this is central to the way you’re supposed to see Auron initially, not just when looking back on it in Fridge Horror. I thought I remembered the characters confronting Auron about it, but again my memory is sketchy since it’s been so long.

              1. The Rocketeer says:

                Tidus initially raves at Auron for baiting him, but beyond that, everyone seems to accept that’s just how Auron is.

                I think the cast’s treatment of Auron discounts the idea you aren’t supposed to like him. Everyone speaks of him in respectful terms, and defers to his knowledge without real complaint. His send-off at the end of the game illustrates that they think well of him. It’s more, “there goes that noble man” than “at least it was worth it, you snake.”

                1. Abnaxis says:

                  I don’t remember Auron’s sendoff as being particularly noble but rather as serene, more along the lines of “restless spirit put to rest” than “hero riding off into the sunset.”

                  I always read the party’s reaction as “you manipulated us to get here, but you were right the Final Summoning is horrible and needed to end so we’re with you” more than “we don’t even notice your behavior.” Tidus just blows up because he isn’t able to cope with difficult truths in stride as well as everyone else has demonstrated they are able to.

                  In other words, I don’t think Auron was the only monster. Everyone (except maybe the emotional Tidus) participated in killing Yunalesca knowing full well that they had no backup plan for dealing with Sin.

                  1. The Rocketeer says:

                    Once Yuna herself rejected the idea, I don’t think anyone else had much of a choice. But I don’t want to quibble too hard. Reasonable minds may differ.

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      Yeah I don’t mean to quibble either, I just remember having a gut feeling that differed. Usually that means I was picking up on something somewhere but it’s hard to put finger on it after all this time.

                  2. Locke says:

                    I think it’s also worth noting that the entire party was keeping the sacrifice of Yuna secret from Tidus. They all knew Yuna was going to bite it at the end, and they didn’t tell him even when he blundered into saying things that were horrifyingly insensitive because he didn’t know. Like the time when, I forget the details, but there was some famously beautiful natural phenomenon that happened every night at one of the locations they were passing through, but it was mid-day and they’d be well on their way before nightfall. The practical members of the party immediately shoot down his plan to stay until nightfall, so instead Tidus resolves to come back after they beat Sin. Except, ha, he’s saying this to everyone including Yuna, who is going to die, which he doesn’t know, but every single other party member does. They all get quiet, Tidus wonders what it is he said that was so terrible, and everyone just moves on.

                    Maybe Tidus assumed (like I did) that they didn’t like his cavalier attitude, the way he’s all “well then we’ll just beat Sin and come back later, no big deal” like beating Sin is going to be as easy as visiting another temple to get a new summon. But whatever he assumed, the party is willfully keeping a secret from him. So maybe Tidus is the only one who gets mad at Auron because the others all know they’d be raging hypocrites to do so.

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      Meh, I think there’s a difference between the two secrets themselves. Even if he keeps gaffing, I would probably not want to reveal the secret to Tidus either, seeing as it is really Yuna’s secret to tell, Tidus hasn’t really demonstrated the emotional maturity to take learning the secret in stride, and everyone is miserable enough with the situation without having to explain it to the whiny newbie. It’s not like Tidus knowing that Yuna is sacrificing herself really makes a difference in what the party plans to do or how they plan to do it.

                      Understanding what Sin is and what waits for them at the end of the pilgrimage is integral from a tactical perspective, however. Auron could tell the party what to expect what challenges to expect and how to prepare for them. But he doesn’t, because by not telling them it would change what the party plans to do and how they plan to do it. Auron doesn’t want that.

            4. Supah Ewok says:

              I don’t really agree with your interpretation of Auron. Granted, I’ve never beaten the game, but I’ve seen my brother play through most of it, and I just recently finished reading the LP of FFX that I think you (maybe somebody else) linked to a while back in the forums.

              Firstly, Auron makes sure that Yuna will be cared for in a nice environment well away from the political stage, where she won’t have to live as a celebrity (I mean, she still kinda does, but not to the extant that growing up in Bevelle would have entailed). Then he travels between worlds to look after Tidus in Dreamworld. He only actually leaves, bringing Tidus along, because that’s Jecht’s wish. He even asks Jecht, “Are you sure?” before the… whatever the hell happens, happens. So the genesis of the journey, was not his decision.

              As far as the rest of it goes, Tidus meets Yuna and they start their little mutual crushes a long time before Auron ever shows back up. Given that he’s been in Zanarkand for a decade, Auron has no way of knowing exactly who Yuna has grown up to be, nor would he know if she and Tidus would be attracted to one another. That’s one part of the script he can’t possibly know. And once he does see it, he doesn’t necessarily keep them together for his own use; he’s Tidus’ familial guardian, and Lord knows Jecht didn’t teach Tidus how to talk to girls. Or anything else. And letting the party discover the truth about the cycle, rather than tell them himself? Wakka for sure wouldn’t have believed it, his faith was too strong. Who knows what anyone else would’ve thought. He let the party proceed as any other party both because seeing is believing and because he is letting the party make their own choices. Does he guide them? Yes. But he doesn’t interfere with their choices. He could’ve shut down Yuna’s marriage to Seymour if he wanted (which, by the by, is an action that would, and to a certain extent, did push Tidus from Yuna, which goes against another point you made). He didn’t, even before knowing that Seymour had murdered his father and what not. He lets the party stand on its own two feet and grow because honestly, if they didn’t have the full experience of the summoner’s journey they wouldn’t be mature enough to survive beating Sin.

              His machinations throughout the game were less preparing the party as tools for his own revenge and more preparing them to make the choice they would want to make but that the cyclical nature of Spira wouldn’t give them the confidence to make. As for ultimately defeating Sin, he’s got confidence in Tidus’ and Jecht’s connection, and that Jecht wants Tidus to beat him. Is it a gamble? Yeah. But after a thousand years of status quo its one that had to be made. And if all he really cared about was using the party to defeat Yunalesca, he would’ve either got Yuna to Send him right there or he could’ve left to find someone else who could do it; sticking through to fight somebody else’s battle, and hell, possibly getting stuck in whatever dimension that is Sin’s insides for eternity, doesn’t really match the avatar of selfishness you’ve attempted to portray him as.

              Honestly your whole thesis seems to be penned on Auron laughing at Tidus, while ignoring that Tidus is imminently laughable.

            5. galacticplumber says:

              Suffers? What are you talking about? That was interesting. That was a look at a deeply complex character with powerful motivations and traits that make him not entirely comfortable to be around but damned good for the story on an emotional level. As MrBtongue once said: ”When you reach the part of your story that is uncomfortable don’t shy away from it. Explore.”

            6. John the Savage says:

              I’m not convinced that Auron had no post-Yunalesca plan. The story is handled kind of awkwardly right after Yunalesca, where Auron and everybody else basically just tells Titus to “Wait” and “Think”. Auron gets the ball rolling by pointing out that Sin is Jecht, and telling Titus to think about how that could be exploited. The thing is, after a few minutes, we’re shown a cutscene where Titus walks in on a meeting after the rest of the party has formulated the plan (I suspect that the rest of the party telling Titus to “Wait and Think” was basically the parents telling a noisy kid to go play in the next room). We’re not privy to how much of that plan was Auron’s, but I really can’t imagine any of the other characters contributing to it in a meaningful way.

              Also, Auron spent ten years in Dream Zanarkand, which is maintained by the Fayth (who played a crucial part in the plan). The Fayth have been in contact with Titus since he was a child, because they see him as the one who can break the cycle. It’s likely that they would have informed Auron of Yu Yevon, and hatched some sort of plan over that time. I know that when fans try to fill in plot holes in Mass Effect, Shamus likes to emphasize what the story never explicitly mentions, but in this case it would actually be really strange for the Fayth to have Auron be the first outsider to travel into their dream, live there for so long, taking care of their Messiah, and never touch base with him.

              Additionally, Auron and Jecht are shown to be capable of communicating with each other despite Jecht being Sin. Maybe not as advanced as language, but Jecht can convey his feelings and wishes; it’s how Auron is able to ride him to Dream Zanarkand, and how he knows that Jecht wants to bring Titus to Spira. Jecht is just as much a product of the Fayth as Titus, and so they can communicate with him as well. I always got the impression that Auron, Jecht and the Fayth spent those ten years getting this plan together.

              Now, you might ask why, if Auron had this plan from the start, why he never revealed it to the party, even after Yunalesca was killed? First of all, it would have necessitated explaining the whole Dream Zanarkand thing to the party, which I can barely understand, having played through the game, watched two full LP’s and consulted several outside sources for clarification. Second, it would have revealed that Auron is an unsent (which, to be fair, I’m not entirely sure why he was keeping a secret at that point, but it seemed to be important to him). Third, and perhaps most importantly, it would reveal (if the party could understand it well enough) that destroying Yu Yevon would cause Titus to stop existing. I have a lot of objections to your claim that Auron manipulated Yuna into rejecting the final summoning, as I think it was clear that she would NEVER sacrifice one of her friends. That would come up here, since it might cause her to reject this plan the same as the final summoning. Hence, Auron would have to lead the party to information that he was already privy to and guide them toward the plan that he and the Fayth had come up with.

              1. Alexander The 1st says:

                Hence, Auron would have to lead the party to information that he was already privy to and guide them toward the plan that he and the Fayth had come up with.

                So what you’re saying is he ended up having to pull a Durkula?

                EDIT: That makes him really sound like a vampire though.

            7. GloatingSwine says:

              All of this presumes Auron as the sole instigator of events.

              He isn’t.

              Auron, Braska, and Jecht all planned together to find a way to end the cycle, Auron was the one who had to stay behind to make sure the plan worked.

              Also, Yuna was in on the plan from the start. She doesn’t make the decision there in the room facing Yunalesca, she set out to reject and break the cycle. The reason that she immediately confides much more in Tidus than any of the people she’s known all her life is that he isn’t a believer. What seems like her hesitation as someone who is walking to her own sacrifice is, all along, born out of her decision to lie to everyone she knows about the most important thing in the entire world. Tidus is the one person present who doesn’t care about the summoner’s pilgimmage, so he’s the one person she can talk to.

              Why do you think so many times in the game Yuna will just not tell anyone what she’s planning? (Basically Seymour’s entire plot thread), because that deception has been foundational to everything she’s been doing.

            8. natureguy85 says:

              I never played this game but I loved reading this post! Thanks for writing it up. It sounds like Auron is a cruel SOB, but totally necessary and has a real, not merely perceived, greater good in mind. It’s a great character type to pull off.

              1. John the Savage says:

                Auron and Jecht (Tidus’ dad) are arguably the best characters in the game, and the undisputed the coolest ones. They’re actually in the running for the biggest badasses in any Final Fantasy game.

                BTW if you’re interested in learning more about the game but hesitant to buy it, Two Best Friends just finished a great LP of it.

      2. SougoXIII says:

        The thing with Tidus is that he’s not a ‘dipshit’ just to be use as a cheap tool to move the plot forward – like what most annoying teenagers in video game are (aka Ben). His whinning is a direct contrast to the other party members’ acceptance of the status quo. It is actually necessary for the party to start questioning Yu Yevon’s teaching and gamble everything on finding another method to defeating sin.

        This is why I like the character even though he is annoying and dumb. He isn’t a dumb teenagers for the sake of being a dumb teenager. Hell if they manage to do the same thing for a wife beater then I would have no problem playing as one too.

        1. Supah Ewok says:

          You miss my point; I don’t care if the protagonist being a whiny and intentionally obtuse brat is a critical part of the game’s part. The point is that you have to follow and listen to a whiny and intentionally obtuse brat as part of the plot, and I found that prospect endlessly frustrating. Dammit, I have memories from less than a decade ago when I was an endlessly annoying prick, and they make me cringe and feel so very sorry for the people, who I ostensibly called friends, who had to put up with my shit. I hope I’m a better man now, I try, but I don’t find any part of being a teenager to be particularly endearing with hindsight, and I don’t want to have my face shoved in it in order to interact with the characters I actually like and care about. Tidus could have be rewritten to be an ignorant doofus while not being an annoying prick, whose optimism is what gives Yuna the motivation to break the cycle, and sure, that’s a trope that’s been done to death, but I’d rather have a tired trope than one that actively makes me want to staple my own ears shut.

          I really don’t care for Tidus.

          Edit: You could say that what I really want to do is go back in time and smack myself. You would be right. Still doesn’t change how unenjoyable following Tidus around is, and I’m not the only one with that complaint.

          1. SougoXIII says:

            Well yeah, the tolerant to brattiness is subjective to everyone. I mean I was an even more obnoxious brat than Tidus in my teenage years and yes it’s so cringe-worthy for me to remember them that I actively try to block them for my mind. I also have a reflex on hating many teenager characters in videogames because they’re so god damn annoying. However, I guess Tidus’ inner monologues throughout the story helped endear me to him becuase it shows that being a whinny brat is not all of his character.

          2. John the Savage says:

            My reaction to Titus was not as visceral as yours, but I can definitely relate. It reminds me of something that happened to me in college: I’m an opera singer, and one time, while I was in a workshop, this girl had to sing one of Cherubino’s songs from Marriage of Figaro. Now, Cherubino is a 15 year old boy (who is always played by a woman; it’s a thing), and in the song he’s singing a love-letter that he wrote. Our professor thought that the actress wasn’t convincing as a 15 year old boy, so she instructed all the men in the workshop to get up there with her while she sang. “You were all 15 at some point,” she told us, “So act like 15 year olds!” Some of the guys dove right in, but for me it was one of the most profoundly uncomfortable acting experiences I’ve ever had: I had successfully buried a lot of unpleasant memories from that time in my life, and they all resurfaced, especially when a lot of the guys started mocking Cherubino.

      3. Will says:

        Yep. Tidus is way too obnoxious for me to put up with, even though I think the writing and world building for the rest of the game is actually really interesting and well-done. Sure, he’s a very real character””but he’s a very real portrayal of a sort of person I go very far out of my way to avoid in real life, and I’m certainly not going to put up with him in a video game.

        It’s the same reason I really didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye””I find Holden Caulfield intolerable, even though I can recognize that his character and the book as a whole are objectively very well executed.

        Off-topic, I’m really happy to see more stuff like this, whether I agree with its conclusions or not. Shamus’s critical writing is the big draw to this site for me, and little one-offs like this are always a nice thoughtful-but-not-too-heavy blip in my week.

    3. Merlin says:

      And I'm pretty sure Squall would be at least as loathed as Tidus if FFVIII had managed to hit as wide of an audience as FFX did.

      I think that FF8 failed to hit as wide an audience as FF10 because Squall was so loathed. Not great word of mouth on that one.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Everyone I have talked to didn’t like FFVIII because of the gameplay. There’s a lot of hate for the junctioning system out there, though I’m sure Squall didn’t encourage people to bear with it.

    4. Retsam says:

      It really frustrates me when critics say something like this. It always feels like they're saying “Well, I get that you're just here for low-brow feel-good fuzzy feelings, but this character is more than that. You just can't see it.” I've been around here long enough to know better as far as you are concerned, but I just want to put it out there”“as someone who didn't like the Tidus character, please don't put words in my mouth.

      Shamus did say “if you’re here for a power fantasy”. He didn’t say or imply that that was true for everyone who dislikes the game (or just dislikes Tidus). A lot of people do play games as escapism or power fantasy (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that), and so Shamus’s point is legitimate. If his point doesn’t apply to you, don’t take offense.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Again, I have been a reader here long enough to know that Shamus goes well and out of his way to avoid alienating people if he can help it. I know exactly what spirit the sentence was uttered in, and have taken no offense.

        However, you are being disingenuous in your interpretation of Shamus’s words. From context, Shamus is not making a strict “if/then/else” statement as you imply. Rather he is saying that he likes Tidus as a character but he can empathize with people who do not like Tidus because he recognizes that Tidus does not conform to power fantasy tropes and he can see how that might be upsetting audience expectations.

        My problem with the words themselves is that they implicitly paint all the “reasonable” opposition with a broad brush. My objections to Tidus don’t stem from an inherent expectation for a power fantasy, they come from the fact that Tidus does not personally resonate with me regardless of his power aura, and I resent the implication otherwise.

        It’d be like me saying “I totally liked Geralt, but I can see how you might not enjoy The Witcher if you came in expecting a bog-standard, goody-two-shoes, black-and-white-morality fantasy hero.” It’s a poor turn of phrase that invites conflict.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I totally liked Geralt, but I can see how you might not enjoy The Witcher if you came in expecting a bog-standard, goody-two-shoes, black-and-white-morality fantasy hero.

          Well yeah,thats exactly how Id describe the witcher games.

          Just kidding.I dont like geralt even though I love witcher 3.

        2. Retsam says:

          My problem with the words themselves is that they implicitly paint all the “reasonable” opposition with a broad brush.

          I really don’t see that. I don’t see where you’re getting from Shamus listing one legitimate possible reason why people might not like a character, to the idea that Shamus is trying to pigeonhole all opposition into a single category.

          I’m not “being disingenuous”, I legitimately have no idea how you’re drawing that implication from what he actually said.

          It’s odd that you’re complaining about Shamus putting words in other people’s mouths… by putting words in Shamus mouth.

          And, yeah, I’m not seeing the problem with your Geralt example, either. I’m sure a lot of people expecting a more traditionally “heroic” hero might not enjoy playing as Geralt. IIRC, this is a bit part how Shamus felt about Witcher 1 & 2, actually.

          1. Syal says:

            He could have compared Tidus to Cloud or Zidane, but instead he got compared to a blank slate player avatar like Doom Guy.

            It’s like saying you wouldn’t like Geralt in the Witcher if you were expecting a cutesy Mario platformer game. Sure it’s just one possible argument, but is it the narrowest argument you can think of for why someone wouldn’t like Geralt, that they must have shown up for a different genre with a different tone?

            I don’t think anyone here thinks that’s what Shamus is saying, but you need multiple alternatives to really avoid the problem, and if you’re going to only use one argument to sum up every alternative, it should be as close to the control topic as possible. The farther away you get, the more you imply you have to get far away to reasonably object to it.

            1. Shamus says:

              I compared Tidus to Joel and Corvo, neither of which is a blank slate like Doom guy. I thought this nicely threw a blanket over a wide range of possible names without me needing to stop and pedantically list each and every one.

              The terrible thing is that I threw this line in there SPECIFICALLY to head off knee-jerk rejections from people with a specific expectation of what they want from a protagonist, because it’s a complaint I see a lot. I wasn’t trying to exhaustively catalog every possible reason someone might play one of these games.

              And so instead of arguing over the lack of disclaimer, we can argue that the disclaimer wasn’t specific and didn’t contain enough sub-disclaimers to satisfy OTHER people.

              Regardless of what everyone THINKS I was saying: Everyone’s objections are duly noted. Can we move on now?

              1. Locke says:

                “Regardless of what everyone THINKS I was saying: Everyone's objections are duly noted. Can we move on now?”

                Please rigorously define every word in these sentences.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                It makes me sad that the point I was bringing up went completely off the rails there. I started off with “don’t put words in my mouth” and it somehow meandered off to whether Corvo or Doom Guy is an appropriate comparison for Tidus?

                Sorry about that. Truly.

              3. Syal says:

                Bah, that’s what I get for posting tired.

                For what it’s worth, that post was exclusively an attempt to magnify the problem so Retsam could see it, and wasn’t meant as part of the general discussion. In real life (on a smart day) it’s something I would tap someone on the shoulder for and mention as an aside, instead of shouting it across the commons.

    5. Felblood says:

      I don’t think the guy who created Good Robot has any problem with people wanting a good power fantasy, but if you go into FFX looking for Good Robot, you are in for a sour surprise.

      I also would not recommend Good Robot as a FFX substitute. They are both great games, but just becasue I’m in the mood for pizza doesn’t mean I am hungry for popcorn.

  13. Grudgeal says:

    My first FF experience was FFVI, followed by FFIX. I have a soft spot for steampunk fantasy as a result. Currently replaying FFIX as that one just came out on Steam, too.

  14. Darren says:

    One small but crucial detail you’ve omitted is that Sin came into existence because the summoners’ nation was locked in endless war with a nation of machinists. Yu Yevon didn’t just summon a monster to be summoning a monster, he is a victim of a desperate gamble to save his people.

    Have you ever played X-2? I actually prefer it to X, myself, though it only really works if you’ve played through X. I’m fairly sure you’d dislike it, but I’d still be curious to hear your thoughts. Like X, it upends a lot of what we in the West expect from sequels; it’s rather committed to it’s “post-post-apocalypse” setting and is much more about Yuna and the world at large adapting to Spira’s new reality than in finding some new threat to face or in outright escalation.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      The problem with X-2 is that I’m too self-conscious to play it in a room with other people in it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but that game was…uniquely styled, for a AAA big-budget title.

      1. Kelira Telian says:

        I always find this reaction curious

        Is it because of the girl cooties? Its the girl cooties isn’t it.

        1. krellen says:

          Actually, the dress-sphere stuff can easily make a fully grown heterosexual man uncomfortable because of societal assumptions that the reason we would play such a game is to ogle young women magically undressing on screen, regardless of the gameplay or story of the game that might be our actual draw.

          1. Supah Ewok says:

            And even if you find it titillating, when you’re a teen and your family’s only got the single TV in the living room, and you’re playing the game and Mom passes by with the laundry during a what is basically a soft core striptease… Well. That’s gonna be uncomfortable all around.

          2. Kelira Telian says:

            A) So its the girl cooties by proxy

            B) You can turn the Dressphere transformations off

            1. SougoXIII says:

              A – That’s incredibly reductive. If we want to see suggestive female transformation, there are plenty of places on the internet to do so. I don’t like X-2’s transformation because it shows the devs clearly thinks that we are a bunch of horny teenagers who go nuts at a chance of seeing a female form. Or are you implying that we think girls are gross because we can’t ‘handle’ it’s laughable transformation sequence?

              B – You can turn it off but that doesn’t explain why is it there in the first place? What purpose does the transformation serve other than pointless fanservice?

              1. Kelira Telian says:

                There are a couple levels here, but one of the big things the transformations are are direct callbacks to Magical Girl stories. And it owes a lot to Magical Girl aesthetics and concepts. FFX-2 is interesting in how it front and centers femininity in a way very, very few RPGs, even ones with female leads, do. Like, its pretty cheesy to say things like “Girl Power”, but if ever there was a Girl Power JRPG, its FFX-2.

                You can like or dislike the Dresspheres, or their individual designs, but they were integrated into the gameplay in a very unique and interesting way. I’ve never seen any other RPG that actually had mid-battle job/class change as its core mechanic.

                And, lets not pretend this isn’t the truth, a LOT of the objection to FFX-2 comes down to “EWW GIRLS”. There is a reason its one of the most roundly and unfairly dunked upon entries in the franchise, and its not because it is particularly bad. FFX-2 was a joke in the western fandom from the day it was announced, and the reasons were obvious enough in 2003, and they DAMN well better be obvious here in the year Two Thousand Sixteen.

                (this of course doesn’t mean you have to like it, but the blithe dismissals it constantly gets irritates me immensely)

                1. krellen says:

                  I’ve been a fan of Sailor Moon since 1996. I don’t really need a lecture on the history of Magical Girls. Yes, X-2 is pretty Magical Girl-esque, but that does absolutely nothing to temper the societal stigma associated with being a male fan. (This isn’t just a Western thing; Japanese male fans of Magical Girls suffer the same stigma.)

                  It’s not just “ew girls”. It’s an assumption that girls are only good for one thing, and that boys only want that one thing from girls. No matter how much I love Usagi because of her endless capacity for love, her openness and dedication to her friends and saving absolutely everyone, no matter how I express that admiration, there’s always going to be an element of society that snickers “yeah, it’s just about those ‘boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing’.”

                  Sometimes it’s not worth fighting that, and you just hide your fandom instead.

                  (This seems to be at least a bit of a generational problem – I’m 40 – as younger men get a fair bit more support for liking “girly” things. Even with the advent of Bronies, however, it’s still not okay to be a 40-year-old Brony. Especially when you’re single. Then it just reinforces the things people already assume of single 40-year-old men (which is either that we’re gay, or that we’re paedophiles).)

                2. Abnaxis says:

                  I agree with what Krellen is saying, I just also want to point out that I wasn’t intending to “dunk” on FFX-2, though I can see why you read that in my initial comment. The entry definitely was regarded as a joke by many from the day it was released, very unjustly. I actually thoroughly enjoy the game myself.

                  That doesn’t change the fact that the only place I’m ever going to play FFX-2 is in a closet, though.

                3. Guile says:

                  I thought X-2 was overall pretty great, even if the idol sections made me cringe.

            2. Abnaxis says:

              Meh, “girl cooties by proxy” is probably a fair assessment. I might enjoy the characters and the banter in Charlie’s Angels, but that doesn’t mean I want to put up with the stigma that comes with being a heterosexual male fan of the series and at that point it doesn’t matter what I think. People judge harshly for that sort of thing here in my corner of the Midwest, especially back in the 90s when I was in high school.

            3. Felblood says:

              There’s a censored version of Hunnie Pop, too.

              That didn’t make me feel less skeezy when I tried to play it.

              1. Kelira Telian says:

                Thats a pretty amazingly disingenuous comparison.

                1. Felblood says:

                  Is it? The mechanics in this game are brilliantly tuned and much deeper than they appear, but the aesthetic that it’s wrapped in is made of uncomfortably sexualized women, including barely-legal teenage girls.

                  Whether you personally agree with the ideas that one game is promoting about the sexualizions of barely-legal teen girls, and disagree with the other is immaterial. I still wouldn’t be caught playing these games by anyone whose respect I valued.

                  1. Kelira Telian says:

                    One is LITERALLY ABOUT HAVING SEX (and is very gross and sexist in a number of ways, most of which do not actually relate directly to the nudity)

                    The other has some skimpy outfits.

                    Like, this isn’t even on the same level. Like I said, intensely disingenuous.

                    1. Shamus says:

                      The word “disingenuous” means insincere. You’re literally accusing Felblood of lying about the game.

                      You both have different views on the game. And that’s fine. But the way you’re phrasing it makes it sound like you think Felblood agrees with your appraisal but says differently in order to deceive people.

                      I bring this up now so that hopefully we can skip ten comments of frustrated back-and-forth where you talk past each other.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Wait,you get to literally have sex with characters in x2?Im sold!

    2. Daimbert says:

      I might have enjoyed it, but I hated the combat system … which I understand was pretty much the “traditional” FF combat system, which pretty much precluded my ever finishing one of those games.

      There’s a reason I finished the Shadow Hearts games — except for “From the New World” — and never one of the FF games …

      1. Kelira Telian says:

        Not…really? Like, it was technically Active Time Battle (unlike FFX) but it was also very, very different.

        If you tun off wait time and crank the speed all the way up its probably the most active battle system I’ve ever seen that wasn’t an action RPG

        1. Daimbert says:

          I wanted it to be LESS active and more turn-based, not MORE active [grin]. Even with the Judgement Ring system, Shadow Hearts was turn-based and so something I could keep up with.

          Real-time or semi-real-time combat systems are also what stopped me from playing Rogue Galaxy.

          Interestingly, I can tolerate it in games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but in JRPGs it tends to frustrate me too much to bother with. Admittedly, the last time I really tried was BEFORE playing more action-oriented combat systems like those, so maybe I should give it another shot.

          1. GloatingSwine says:

            Most ATB games have a “pause” mode where it stops and waits for you when you’re in any menu other than the base level one, so you can make them “more” turn based, albeit not completely so.

            FFX-2 is the best iteration of the ATB system in the series.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      So basically this guys is davros?And since tidus is a time traveler that inspires everyone to break the status quo,he is the doctor.

      *searches google*

      How am I the first one to think of this?You disappoint me internet

      1. MichaelGC says:

        I mean, it’s actually a blatant ripoff, now that you put it like that!

    4. Locke says:

      I didn’t like X-2 because of how tonally dissonant it was to X. X-2 wasn’t entirely rainbows and sugar, but it was pretty bright and peppy, and I didn’t like setting something so hopeful so immediately in the aftermath of a millennium of chaos barely contained by tyranny. I find X-2 a lot more fun if I imagine it’s in an entirely different world that happens to be shaped like Spira, or that Yuna is actually Yuna Jr. and it’s been 20-ish years. Things getting more hopeful after the defeat of the kaiju that’s menaced them for centuries is to be expected and it’d be depressing if Spira was still as desperate as it was in X, but going from “continuous apocalypse” to “Yuna is the star of a J-pop concert” in like three years seems like too radical a shift.

  15. Abnaxis says:

    I always felt like the ending to FFX was a missed opportunity. After the Yunalesca twist, I thought I had the perfect story arc figured out for what would happen. Here is how I would have gone with the story BIG SPOILERS I WARNED YOU.

    You have Yu Yevon, who has been jumping between world-destroying summons for centuries. The solution, then, is to defeat Yu Yevon without a world-destroying summon.

    The game has spent considerable screen time showing us that Sin cannot be killed conventionally. You can’t just walk walk up to Sin, engage it in a boss battle, and win. This is why a whole religion popped up around false hope hope and human sacrifice–nothing else works.

    This time, though, Sin is different. Instead of being bound to a living person, Sin is bound to Jecht–a shadow-person from the city of Zanarkand, which is basically a spirit-powered Matrix. No more Zanarkand means no more Jecht, no more Jecht means no more Sin, without needing to reincarnate Sin. The final Act then, should involve journeying to Zanarkand and destroying it somehow in an appropriately climactic way.

    To my mind, this worked perfectly with what the story had set up so far. No more Zanarkand also means no more Tidus, which inverts the Yuna-Tidus relationship–now Tidus is deliberately sacrificing himself for the greater good instead of Yuna. It also creates tension because Act I Tidus was driven by an overwhelming desire to go back to the home he knows, but now he has to destroy it. Most importantly, it gives a reason why Tidus is Special, and why nobody else in the past millennia has beaten Sin yet, because being from Zanardkand means both Tidus and Jecht are Special.

    Instead, the party actually does just walk up to Sin and beat it in a boss fight, because despite their crappy relationship Jecht and Tidus share an Unbreakable Bond (because no other Sin faythe would ever have a close relationship with someone who followed in their footsteps in a thousand years, right?) that gets the party past Sin’s defenses. Then, thanks to the Power of Love we get to fight Yu Yevon as it bounces between Yuna’s summons and we kick Yevon’s ass (because we are badass and powerful unlike all those other armies who have given their all to defeat Sin for the last 1000 years), and then because of Reasons defeating Yu Yevon means all the faythe in the world wind up destroyed including Zanarkand, so Tidus winds up sacrificing himself in a way that is poorly telegraphed and poorly conveyed as to why exactly it happens.

    Basically, the only thing that makes the protagonists succeed where others fail is a mix of Deux Ex Machina, characters who have Read the Script, and a healthy helping of collective stupidity from the people who should have had sufficient knowledge and power to put down Sin hundreds of years ago. I feel like the ending was a waste of potential, and I suspect it mostly came about because this is Final Fantasy, and FF conventions demand a final encounter like the one we got.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I like your ending! That would have been cool.

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      This was a major fault of FFXII, as well. The game spends its runtime building up a dilemma: the impossibility of a conventional victory, versus the abhorrence of the only alternative. Then they win a totally conventional victory anyway, because… well, because it would suck if they lost, I guess!

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I never got to the end of XII, because the Gambit system was just awesome enough to utterly frustrate me since they prevent you from buying 90% of the useful gambits for most of the game.

        Tried as I might to find the appropriate Gameshark code, I could never find a way to cheat my way into the game I actually wanted to play. I really wish someone would release an action RPG with a customizable expert-system AI system like that without locking it behind insipid leveling/shopping mechanics (DA:O had this problem as well)

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I don’t know how many hoops you’re willing to jump through, but when I played the IZJS version of the game on an emulator, I also picked up this editor, which is easy to use and allows an abundance of things. Theoretically, you could use it to just give yourself all gambits right out of the gate, which I’m pretty sure is what I did.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            I don’t have an overabundance of time right now, but I will definitely look into that for the future. Thanks!

        2. Locke says:

          I completely ignored XII’s gambit system until I got about 75% of the way through the game, at which point I had enough gambits to actually set up an effective party. It really is a huge missed opportunity. We’re already unlocking character abilities throughout the game, we should be able to program our party members to use them intelligently from the word go.

    3. Henson says:

      It seems that a lot of JRPG stories resolve themselves through the power of Love and Friendship. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t always so abstract and vague. Yes, show me how the characters’ love redeems the villain, or unites the people, or whatever, but if you don’t explain how this is going to work, I’ll just get annoyed.

      Now that I think of it, Earthbound handled that pretty well in the end.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        The abstract and vague is … kind of a culture thing. It’s just kind of a handwave to thousands and thousands of pushes and hints that it’s coming from a place where… not actually FRIENDSHIP but more COMRADESHIP is what is really important. In a lot of Western material, the hand-waving over victory conditions is romantic partnership. Two people overcome many hindrances and in the final scene board the train for Niagara Falls, then a new life far from the old, or whatever. In these other games, though, coming through for your group is more important than coming through for the Power of Love, and as long as you’re doing the best you can for the group, you’ll overcome everything. A person leaving the group for a romantic partner far away is the sad ending, and the Lone Wolf (anti)hero isn’t a thing seen much/at all. Someone showing up alone instead gets to struggle for acceptance and then becomes leader through effort and a little bit of excellence. But they don’t ride off into the sunset afterward because that would be failure. (Even Heroic Sacrifice is better. Even if it DOESN’T lead to success, it’s still a better ending in these games than “victory” and separation.)

  16. Naota says:

    The world of Spira is bonkers. Their religion isn't yet another blend of Judeo-Christian imagery with the serial numbers filed off. Nor is it another secretive cult like you see in so many fantasy stories.

    A subtle irony: the religion and iconography in FFX are actually inspired by the apocryphal Key of Solomon, which perhaps unsurprisingly features the summoning and binding of demons, the building of a great temple to honour the Judeo-Christian god, the raising up of a great pillar (the fall of which heralds the end of days) using said demons, and a one-winged angel. Come to think of it, this is also used as the plot of Final Fantasy VII.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      There’s a tonne of weirdness to be mined from pre-modern Abrahamic religions. I recently learned that medieval Christian priests sometimes delved into summoning and controlling demons (or at least were accused of it), based on the logic that if they had power over demons in exorcism, they could have power over demons in other contexts. It’s something that was probably matter-of-fact reasoning to medieval people but completely blew me away.

    2. Felblood says:

      –and the Key of Solomon, in turn, drew a lot of it’s iconography from both pre-islammic Arabic deities and East Orthodox Christianity.

      Also, the garb and political corruption of the priests is intended to evoke the Roman Catholic clergy, during some of their less fondly remembered eras.

  17. Corsair says:

    I’ve actually recently begun replaying FFX with the new steam release, and I have a few comments.

    A: Yuna and Tidus seem to be the only one with high-res textured faces, and it is -creepy-

    B: Tidus isn’t nearly as bad as I remembered. Oh, he’s dumb, he’s dumb as a box of hammers, but I can’t really fault him for a lot of his issues even if I might mock him. I hated him at the time because I -was- him and I never noticed. Now I’m in my twenties and I still -am- that weird guy who is always fidgeting and saying the wrong thing.

    1. I also recently started a replay with the steam version and realised that I find Tidus (like many other JRPG characters) alot less annoying when i play with JP audio instead of english, i think it mostly have to do with the fact that since i dont understand what is said i won’t notice cringeworthy dialog as much, and i read faster then the english voices speak so even when the dialoge is bad atleast i can get it over with fast and then just listen to the alien language and ignore the actual words =)

  18. Christopher says:

    I like these articles. They are a much better read than the ones for the Escapist magazine. I don’t know anything about FFX from personal experience, so I don’t have any thoughts to add, but it was nice to read yours. And it’s been aaaages since I’ve seen Final Fantasy content on this website, so that was cool.

  19. Hal says:

    While I enjoyed FFX for what it was, I have to say that it really annoyed me from a mechanical perspective.

    In most of the other games, the characters leveled up along a given track according to a mathematical formula. Your warriors had fast growing HP and strength, your mages developed high MP and Will (or whatever the magic stat that game used.) It was a reasonable progression of Get XP –> Gain Level –> Higher Stats.*

    FFX had . . . The Grid. This monstrous behemoth of a multi-track pathway for each character to progress. You still needed XP to progress, but now XP just let you move along the Grid. To get the stat boosts from The Grid, you needed spheres, which turned out to be a finite resource.

    Most characters could only progress along their particular track (so the warriors and mages would get appropriate boosts in their starting tracks), but eventually characters could unlock the other tracks. If you played long enough, every character could have every stat boost and skill unlocked from The Grid.

    Over all, it just felt intimidating and unwieldy.

    The other mechanical thing that drove me nuts was the side-quest stuff. Every FF game had this sort of content, where you could trawl the nooks and crannies of the world for super weapons or new powers, etc. These things got more complicated as the series rolled on, and some of the series put this stuff in the form of card games (I’ll never understand why.) But in general, they were manageable things and were generally part of playing the game.

    In FFX, much of that side content seemed punishing. Extreme tests of skill and patience. Tests of your ability to exploit the system. Some were even entirely random as to whether they were worth anything or not (I’m looking at you, Omega Ruins.)

    If you were a die-hard lover of the game, then these things extended the entertainment value of the game tremendously. Otherwise, you likely found them tremendously frustrating and left wondering what little bits you were missing out on.

    I certainly enjoyed the game, don’t misunderstand me. I just also remember the flaws that came with it.

    * – Yes, this started getting complicated as the series went on, also. Despite espers, materia, magic draw, or gems, it was still the general pathway to improvement, even with those other factors in play.

    1. Retsam says:

      I really like the sphere grid system. I think it’s a neat way to provide a standard leveling path for each character while still leaving some freedom and allowing more “advanced” players to do more unconventional things with their characters. You want to make Auron the white mage? Sure, you can do that.

    2. Merlin says:

      Agreed. I’d go so far as to say that the Sphere Grid is the worst core mechanical system of the FF4-10 golden age. The amount of busy work is staggering. Every battle, each of your characters gains enough AP to advance a couple of nodes, and each one needs to be activated manually. And combat encourages you to swap characters in and out on the fly, so you do want the entire party up to speed. While you can in theory bank your advancement for a while and plow through everything a dozen nodes at a time, there’s no real reason to do so, and the upgrades being incredibly valuable in the early game effectively trains the player to slurp up every little bonus as soon as possible. By the end of the game, you’ve probably spent more time in menus than in the world.

      But the real kicker? It’s actually extremely linear (as seen here). Even if you ignore the fact that significant key spheres, warp spheres, and so on aren’t available until the end game, most of your characters spend most of their time trudging down a straight line. For all that micromanaging, you aren’t actually getting results any more interesting than a traditional leveling system.

      1. Syal says:

        While it does nothing for the busy work problem, the Expert Grid in the International/Steam version connects most of the characters around an unlocked central hub,, so you can send them down someone else’s path from the start if you want. (Six black mages.)

  20. Mephane says:

    Great write-up, and I love the ideas behind this story. But I’m not likely to play it anytime soon (for various reasons, time being among them), so since we are in spoiler territory anyway. What is

    The Shocking Thing


    1. Shamus says:

      When you get to the end of your pilgrimage you meet this guide. She’s ghost of Yunalesca, the very FIRST summoner. When she tells Yuna “Not only do you need to give YOUR life, but you also need to sacrifice the life of whoever you love most” Yuna rejects it. And is then willing to fight Yunalesca to the death. It’s possibly the most sacrilegious she could ever do. I can’t think of a good western analog. Maybe this is like a Catholic priest going to the gates of heaven and killing St. Peter? Something along those lines.

      It basically breaks the entire religion. Not only can Yuna not get the Final Aeon, but it’s possible that maybe NOBODY can.

      1. SAeN says:

        Also it turns out that the leaders of the religion are also ghosts.

      2. Mephane says:

        Okay, I expected some form of “breaks the rules and does the opposite”, so I am not really shocked. :D

        I suppose Yuna wins the battle and thus the world is saved and this scheme is no longer necessary?

        1. krellen says:

          Look for the comments about “punching God in the face” and read those threads if you want a spoileriffic coverage of the ending of the game.

      3. Joe Informatico says:

        Well, maybe if Abraham had told Yahweh to get bent instead of sacrificing Isaac? Yeah, it was ultimately just a test of Abraham’s faith and God didn’t really want Isaac sacrificed anyway, but Abraham didn’t know that–he was perfectly willing to sacrifice his son because God had commanded it. And if his grandson Jacob was later able to wrestle an angel, maybe Abraham could have too.

        1. Taellosse says:

          Close. But only if Abraham then fought the messenger angel that had instructed him to sacrifice Isaac to the death, got together with Isaac, Sarah, Ishmael, Hagar, and a few other friends and family, and went and fought God. And then won. ;-P

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      That could be… a lot of things, really. FFX is one big shock-reveal machine.

      There’s the fact Yuna will die at the end of the pilgrimage, the fact Jecht is Sin, that fact he became Sin because that’s always what happens when Sin is defeated, the fact that the Summoner must sacrifice someone to make the Final Aeon (and therefore Sin), the fact that Tidus and Jecht were from a dreamworld and were essentially illusory, and therefore the fact that Tidus would cease to exist after Yevon was defeated, the fac that Yevon was a cutesy tick monster inside Sin that used to be a summoner that summoned Sin, the fact that the Yevon church is super corrupt (not a twist for anyone that’s ever played a JRPG before)… The entire narrative runs on dramatic reveals, of widely varying quality.

    3. Hal says:

      At the end of the pilgrimage, Summoners find a person who teaches them the Final Summon to become the Final Aeon that defeats Sin and perpetuates the cycle.

      Yuna refuses to participate, which is kind of a big deal. She (and co.) kill this person, which actually seems to doom Spira, since without this person, no one can learn the Final Summon to defeat Sin and bring The Calm.

    4. Syal says:

      Thunder Plains.

  21. Jabrwock says:

    I think Tidus would have worked better had they not dialed the things that made him an annoying teenager up to 11. It went from character trait to grating constant irritation. At one point I assumed he was a robot like that kid in AI, who knows that humans laugh, but hasn’t quite mastered what human emotion is yet, so he just abruptly bursts out in simulaugh at awkward times.

    It’s hard to explain, maybe he just fell into the uncanny valley for me.

  22. Hal says:

    By the way, if Final Fantasy nostalgia is a thing for you, I’d recommend Final Fantasy Record Keeper to you. It’s a mobile game premised on the idea that all of the Final Fantasy games are “stories” told in the world. You’re the record keeper, and following some magical cataclysm, you are tasked with restoring the stories by adventuring through dungeons from the various games while gathering equipment and recruiting characters from the various games.

    Oh, it’s a veritable treadmill, like any other mobile game, but it certainly has a good deal of entertainment to offer nonetheless.

    1. Merlin says:

      I love how delightfully self-servingly meta the “main plot” is, similar to the recent Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Your goal isn’t to save the world or Save Earth; naturally, it’s instead to save the canon that you are clearly a fan of.

  23. Deda says:

    I never even imagined that I was supposed to hate tidus until the internet told me so, and I don’t think I’m the only one, everyone seemed to like this game until suddenly one day hating final fantasy became the cool thing to do, and tidus in particular become the biggest punching bag. All the “cool kids” where saying that jrpgs suck (because, in case you don’t know jrpgs = final fantasy) and that western rpgs are so much more mature, so much more realistic and give so much more freedom, I was still new to internet forums back then so I was really surprised at all the vile I got for saying that I liked final fantasy x, so I decided to try some of those amazing games that everyone was saying where so much better than my favorite genre (in particular I tried mass effect 1, fallout new vegas and skyrim) and they were…. extremely boring and bad.

    I wonder what my views on wrpgs would be if I had been introduced to them in a different way, I guess I would put them in the same box as shooters (a really overrated genre that I don’t care about but can still be fun once in a while), instead of actively despising them as I do now.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      that western rpgs are so much more mature, so much more realistic and give so much more freedom

      Ha!Hahaha!Were you punked!And I say that as someone who likes the genre and praises plenty of it.

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        That’s not to say that the western RPG genre isn’t capable of (relatively) abundant player freedom and mature storytelling, it’s just that the vast majority of it is kind of…okay. And if you’re not prepared to tolerate all of the weird quirks and deficiencies that the genre is saddled with, okay isn’t enough. Even the good ones have a lot of problems in some department or other, whether it be narrative, pacing, mechanics, railroading, you name it.

  24. Ringwraith says:

    Of the few Final Fantasies I’ve played, I preferred the Wild ARMs series.
    JRPGs set in more Old-West-inspired worlds.
    The third one goes all-out on this, and even likes subverting many of the standard JRPG standbys in the process. Like letting you skip most random encounters, and any backtracking you opt to do lets you skip them almost entirely, or you don’t consume your secondary resource to cast magic, to from everyone using guns (it’s a Western!)
    Also the young leader of the party is the sole female member who’s the youngest at 18 (which is practically ancient for a party leader by JRPG standards), but it’s mostly everyone’s story, as there’s only four of them anyway.
    And the mysterious white-haired aloof character is actually a bit of a loser.
    It even starts on a train! Which is being robbed, obviously.
    Whistles included.

    1. Ronixis says:

      Also, Wild ARMs 3 just got released for PS4 via PSN today.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        But only for North America! :(

    2. Guile says:

      I loved that game! Real classic friendship in the midst of adversity stuff.

      Shame I could never beat, uh, what’s his face… Janus? Blue haired guy.

  25. dan says:

    My personal theory is that the real strength of Final Fantasy for like two solid decades was a formula like:
    Teenagers going through identity crises mediated by Magical Bullshit.

    Supporting that, central character arcs. Not the plots exactly, but the central arc of the most-developed character was about:
    6: Ceres was secretly an Esper quasi-human with her memories wiped finding out about that while a clownish nihilist tries to destroy the world for the lolz.
    7: Cloud had SuperTrooper memories (from two guys!) installed by a madman with experimental surgery and has to 1) figure that out and 2) deal with it.
    8: Squall (and his friends) all have magic antereograde amnesia while their parents (adoptive and birth) use them as pawns (on at least two levels) against a time-traveling bodysnatcher.
    9: Zidane is actually a scout for alien invaders from a dying world! (Also Garnet was adopted and her mom was mind-controlled by said invaders into starting a war).
    10: Tidus is forcibly extracted from the Ghost Matrix by Auron (playing Morpheus) and has to learn about the real, super-terrible, world. Also his dad is Kaijuu Darth Vader.

    So Final Fantasy did that whole “teenager growing up and finding themselves” thing, that story arc, dialed up so far that the self-alienation is on the same scale as the impending global apocalypse.

    Maybe it’s so over-wrought it’s hard to take serious, but I think that was what made it work for so many people: there was a central story about a young person coming of age, and the challenges to their internal concept of self were as severe as the existential threat to their external world.

    12 fell flat: Vaan or Ashe was the closest to that for 12, but none of their “everything you thought you knew is a lie” twists was enough like a bad drug trip.

    13 was a horrible slog because none of the cast had a genuine crises of identity, they were just 2D cardboard character cutouts reacting to a Science Fantasy world half-written by M Night Shyamalan.

    6 to 10 all had that balance, where the threat to and deception of internal identity was as extreme as the external threat of destruction. I think that was the sauce that made Final Fantasy special and unique.

    1. Locke says:

      Vaan definitely had a much more restrained identity crisis than the others. Generally speaking Final Fantasy XII seemed like it was trying to be a bit more down-to-earth, and I think a big part of its unpopularity is that people show up to Final Fantasy to save the world from a bad acid trip, not to resolve the occupation of one particular kingdom caught between two major empires in a cold war. Likewise, it’s expected that the teenager’s identity crisis be that he was secretly a swarm of bees in a skinsuit who forgot about being a swarm of bees in a skinsuit because of amnesia from being immersed in the raw, undiluted Power of Beeness that runs through the heart of the world, and instead FF XII delivered a kid who became obsessed with becoming a sky pirate because having a goal to focus on helped him ignore the feeling of loss from losing his brother and the feeling of helplessness from being at the mercy of an occupying army. There’s only one crazy noun in that concept, “sky pirate,” and it’s not even that crazy.

      1. dan says:

        Yeah, and from what I’ve heard Vaan was, like, slapped into the script at the last minute because there was pushback against the first draft protagonist (Bosch) being too “old”.

        Like the aborted Ashe/Vaan romance arc that was still in some of the cut scene blocking, but pretty much got cut from the script; it was a half-hearted way to include him in the story about other people, he didn’t have much of anything to do with the plot.

        For example, Vaan’s brother was killed during the invasion, but his parents died during a plague while Ashe’s dad was sitting on the throne. I could see him wanting the occupiers out, but I also couldn’t see why he’d give half a hoot about putting the Old Monarchy back on the throne.

        So as a result, Vaan was basically a bus driver whose only dog in the fight was his life and his friend Penelo’s life because they kept getting attacked; compared to Ashe and Bosch who were trying to reinstall the Monarchy and Balthier who was trying to dig up the conspiracy, Vaan’s motive was pretty much “no, I won’t roll over and let you kill me.” His Pokemon-esque side-quest of Hunting All The Monsters and becoming a respected elite member of a professional society was a way better story arc for him than anything that actually got voice-acted.

        Plus the backstory setting of 12 was bonkers enough to fit Final Fantasy — Malevolent Space Ghosts are manipulating history as part of some goofy Uplift Program by secretly propping up Magical Super-Kings with enslaved undead monsters — but, like, they were used as Exposition Fairies to give Ashe a series of Fetch Quests, they weren’t the Final Dungeon Bosses you needed to go dig up Precursor Magic to defeat.

        All they needed to do was have Vaan be like a Sleeper Agent Puppet Person (he never had a brother or dead parents, that was the explanation programmed in so people wouldn’t question where they were) that the Space Ghosts created as a back-up way to manipulate Ashe… but then he went ahead and developed enough emotional connections with a bunch of riff-raff that his Sleeper Agent Personality was too real to be easily manipulated.

        1. Locke says:

          The bonkers backstory of FFXII is, I think, part of the reason people were disappointed when the main story ended up mostly being about the fate of one kingdom. Fantasy America and Fantasy Russia were having a scuffle over Fantasy Vietnam, and meanwhile in the background there’s a conspiracy of ghost kings with forbidden magical nukes who…Have already been completely defanged by the passage of time and have been reduced to (ineffectual) kingmakers in the scuffle over Fantasy Vietnam. Instead of the acid trip plot consuming the geopolitical plot, the geopolitical plot consumed the acid trip plot.

        2. Fred B-C says:

          Vaan is very interesting in Tactics Advance 2, Dissidia and the RTS. He’s actually a pretty proactive air pirate type.

  26. Arstan says:

    Interesting! I haven’t played any of FF games, but played Phantasy Star 2,3,4. And yep, played 4th as the first one, and it remains my favourite. And most people think it’s the third installment that is the best one. Well, of all who heard of those series, ahem.

  27. Ramsus says:

    Final Fantasy 8 was my first experience with the series, then I went back and played 7, then 5, then 9, then X, then X-2, then 1 (for abut 15 minutes), then 12, then 3, then 13.
    (This list not including the Tactics games or any other various spin-offs. Even though the Tactics games are great.)

    Out of all of those X-2 is my favorite. I loved the system and whimsical nature so much that every other concern was rendered completely meaningless. Second favorite would be 9 as it’s just really solid in the mechanics, characters, and plot department. Third place is 5 because I absolutely love class changing stuff. (Sadly this didn’t work out as anything I want in 13.) X comes in a very close fourth place.

    The point being that my first game wasn’t my favorite. It’s not even in my top four. Nor is the second entry I played (and I have a lot of trouble excusing that one as people’s favorites for lots of reasons even).

    Of course my first console RPG (that wasn’t the original Zelda if we’re really going to count that) was Xenogears. So my standards for the genre were set up at the top from the start, which I gather is not the typical experience.

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Some people will insist that Yuna is the protagonist, not Tidus.

    Thats silly.Protagonist is simply the main character in the story,the one we follow.It doesnt matter if they are good,evil,active,passive,brave hero,or whiny douchebag.Yuna may be the hero,but tidus is the one we follow so he is the protagonist.

    1. Cinebeast says:

      Yep. At best she’s the Deuteragonist, I think, although my knowledge of the game is admittedly lacking. It would be like saying Sherlock Holmes is the protagonist of his stories — he isn’t, Watson is. One is more active than the other, but still, not the protagonist.

      I think this is actually a pretty rare dichotomy in videogames, actually. How often do we get a game where the player character is not, strictly speaking, the main character?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        In strategies?

    2. Retsam says:

      Actually, your simple definition of “protagonist” isn’t the only way to define the term. Quoting from the wikipedia page on the word. (Bolding mine)

      The word protagonist has more than one definition… the definition may simply be the leading actor, or the principal character in the story. But in addition the word takes on more formalized definitions. For example, the protagonist, while still defined as a leading character, may also be defined as the character whose fate is most closely followed by the reader or audience, and who is opposed by a character known as the antagonist.

      The protagonist should be at the center of the story, should be making the difficult choices and key decisions, and should be experiencing the consequences of those decisions. The protagonist should be propelling the story forward.

      For a large section of the story, that second definition applies a lot more to Yuna than to Tidus. The middle half or so of the story is really the story of Yuna’s pilgrimage, and while Tidus is certainly a player in that story, it really is her story, not his.

      It’s not until a number of the late game reveals about Zanarkand and Tidus that the story really shifts back to being centered on Tidus again.

  29. Cinebeast says:

    My only experience with FFX is through Spoony’s series of scathing reviews — which I’ve watched several times — and I’ve never heard the story explained so concisely. When laid bare it actually sounds pretty interesting.

    And what an exciting comment section! You should write about Final Fantasy more often, Shamus, it spawns some fascinating discussion.

    1. Retsam says:

      Yeah; Spoony’s reviews are entertaining… but they’re definitely to be taken with a massive grain of salt.

      It always reminds me of Hulk and Shamus’s back-and-forth over plotholes: plotholes are less the problem themselves and more the symptom of a more fundamental issue with the story.

      The fact that Spoony is able to complain for hours about FFX’s plot is more a symptom of the fact that FFX’s plot just didn’t work for Spoony on some fundamental level than anything else.

    2. Locke says:

      Final Fantasy plots are very often much more engaging when competently summarized than they are when half-competently delivered across 40 hours of gameplay and then incompetently translated to English.

  30. Vermander says:

    I had almost exactly the opposite reaction the first time I played FFX. I remember thinking “wow, I do not get this at all.” It was the first really popular game that everyone I knew liked but I didn't. That was the game where I finally decided that JRPGs just weren't for me. I remember it as a sort of perfect storm of everything I didn't like about the genre:

    1) An incomprehensible (for me) storyline, that seemed to be full of cultural signifiers and references that I didn't understand
    2) Random monster attacks that made travel and exploration a tedious chore
    3) A juvenile protagonist who I didn't relate to or understand (even though I was just barely out of my teen years)
    4) Bizarre and distracting stylized designs for everything from the characters' hair and clothing to the weapons they used and the vehicles they drove

    I remember making it about 2/3 of the way through (I think) before I stopped playing because I just couldn’t get invested in the story. For some reason I was unable to understand why so many of my friends liked this particular game, to the point that it soured me on the whole genre.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Don’t worry, you’re not alone. That was almost exactly my reaction to FF. Though I didn’t make it 2/3s through.

  31. Blackbird71 says:

    Aside from the one released on the GameBoy (yes, the original one with the spinach-green screen) in which the whole game is spent ascending a tower, I haven’t really played any FF games.

    So I guess I would have to say my favorite Final Fantasy was “The Spirits Within”.

    *ducks for cover after lobbing that grenade into the discussion*

    1. krellen says:

      I saw that in theatres. I honestly cannot remember a single thing about it.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I remember the CGI was impressive for it’s day…

        That’s about it though.

      2. acronix says:

        That’s because it had space marines* in it and there’s nothing that wipes a human’s memory like space marines.

        *Not of the Warhammer 40k kind.

      3. John says:

        Lucky you. It’s pretty bad. It’s got inconsistent art–the male and female leads are rendered with much more detail than secondary characters in the same scene at the same time, for example–and a terrible tonal clash between the realistically rendered space marines and the utterly goofy 16-bit Final Fantasy plot.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          That’s what happens when ~60% of all the lines of code for the CGI were devoted to animating the female lead’s hair. That’s what news sites were saying at the time, anyway. It would explain why every other character is bald or has their hair thoroughly cemented to their scalps.

      4. Syal says:

        I remember that when I saw it there was only one other group of people in the theater.

      5. Joe Informatico says:

        It’s almost exactly the plot of the Miyazaki anime Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. Unsurprisingly, Miyazaki did it better.

      6. Rayen says:

        I remember thinking it had bad guys alot like Titan AE and Titan AE was better.

  32. cloudropis says:

    Why don’t people who live in coastal areas just… Move?
    Yes, Sin is big, ugly and almighty, but areas like Luca appear much more apocalypse-by-tsunami–free than Kilika or Besaid.

    1. Grampy_bone says:

      Sin actually flies and even shows up in lakes somehow, so no where is safe.

    2. Locke says:

      Luca is a port city, as vulnerable to a Sin attack as anyplace else. I get the feeling that Yu Yevon was intentionally avoiding targeting his pet kaiju at major cities too often in order to keep civilization going and producing a steady diet of Final Aeons for him.

  33. Joey245 says:

    “The PC version has built-in cheats that can ease you through one battle or completely break the game, depending on what you need.”

    Okay. Now I NEED to get this at some point for the PC. I ragequit against the first of the final bosses so many times, I can’t even bring myself to play it on the PS2 anymore. This is exactly what I need.

    I’ll wait for the Steam Summer sale, because I’ll have actual money at that point. But still. This is great news, and just sold me on this.

  34. Grampy_bone says:

    I’ve played every FF game, starting with FF1, and FFX is my favorite of the series. So no, I don’t think it’s just “first game nostalgia.”

  35. Genericide says:

    It’s really neat to see all the JRPG opinions floating around the comment section. This neck of the woods tends to focus on the western variety, and more mainstream game sites have held sour opinions of the genre in recent years. My friends are mostly indifferent to these games as well, so it’s fairly interesting getting a snapshot of how other people view them in a way that isn’t boredom or rage.

    On topic, I similarly had no problem with Tidus. If nothing else, he does grow slightly more mature as the story progresses. But then, I first played FFX at a relatively young age and it became one of my favorites, not just in the series but in games. I try to be aware of that bias, but it runs pretty deep. The story was flawed but interesting, and I think the combat system holds up great. I was always disappointed to find later games (and recent JRPGs in general) won’t touch pure turn-based systems with a 10-foot buster sword.

    Thanks for the cool article and comments!

    1. Xedo says:

      If you’re looking for a modern turn-based JRPG, I’d recommend Bravely Default and Bravely Second. They’re turn-based but have a lot of modern quality of life touches that should be industry standard (Turn off or double the encounter rate at will, chain random encounters for skyrocketing rewards, set automatic attacks for random encounters and greatly increase combat speed). They also allow you to ‘stack’ turns. Each character can take up to 4 actions at once, which means you’ll spend 3 turns afterward letting the enemy hit you… or you can defend multiple times, stacking up a bank of attacks to use at once. It’s especially great if you like a job system (think FF5 or FFX-2).

      1. Daimbert says:

        Lost Dimension is turn-based … and unique.

      2. Genericide says:

        I can tell you that’s a good recommendation, because I’ve already played Bravely Default not long ago. In fact, I wrote several articles and like 10,000 words on it! First one of gushing praise, then one of grumbling analysis, then one of frustrated ranting. But it’s worth noting that my gripes are mostly story-related, and I still enjoyed the game overall. I’m set on playing the sequel, but given the first one took like 80+ hours from me I’m waiting to clear up some free time. Still, I’d be interested in it for that excellent combat system and alone.

        1. Xedo says:

          Well at least we’re on the same wavelength!

          Probably the next best turn-based games I’ve played recently are Persona 4 and the various Legend of Heroes games – Trails in the Sky 1 and 2 on PC and Trails of Cold Steel on PS3/Vita.

          Also Radiant Historia. It’s a little old, I think from 2011, but very good. Turn-based RPG with a time travel story. But rather than Chrono Trigger’s style of visiting different eras, you hop back and forth between a few days in two parallel timelines to see the impact of how you could make different decisions.

  36. Rayen says:

    My first FF game was IX, followed by VIII followed by VII followed by XI online followed by Kingdom Hearts. And if you don’t think Kingdom Hearts is an FF game you obviously haven’t played them and drew conclusions from screenshots.

    BTW my favorite FF games are IX and Kingdoms Hearts II(.5: Final Mix).

  37. Kelerak says:

    I wrote about this over on the forums, but I only got about four hours into X and ultimately gave up because of the painful writing and dialogue. Probably got spoiled by having played a few of the Shin Megami Tensei games beforehand, but playing X gave me a terrible impression of the series, and I’m pretty reluctant to play any of the others.

    So yeah.

    1. Syal says:

      Assuming it’s not the voice acting that’s bothering you, I don’t think any of the Final Fantasy games have better writing than 10.

      Depending on your tastes you might want to try 8, or the earlier games like 5. 5’s plot is pretty loose and silly so you can kind of brush it off, and 8 is So Bad It’s Good levels of incoherence.

  38. Malimar says:

    I played FFIII almost to the very end, couldn’t beat the final boss. Then I played some of I and II, but they were too primitive compared to III for me to get into. Then I played IV, V, and VI until I got stuck in each of them several hours in. At that point, I realized I hated the entire series for being pointless grindfests with crap for plot. Never even bothered with VII, which is allegedly the first FF that’s actually any good.

    But hey, “the first game you play is most likely to be your favorite” is true for me — III is the one I hate the least! If only by virtue of it being the one I came closest to beating.

  39. The Specktre says:


    Shamus’s enthusiasm for this game, from old posts, is what turned me on to trying FFX (or any FF game) in the first place, and I ended up loving the world and its characters way more than I thought I would. So thanks for that.

  40. MadTinkerer says:

    Here’s why I hate Tidus [MAJOR SPOILERS]:

    Full disclosure: I hate my father. I won’t go into the horrible details, but he is an abusive monster who I loved dearly until I realized that the abusive things I was witnessing with my own senses were actually happening. He once seriously threatened to murder my entire family (which, remember, is also his entire family) if he went to jail because I talked to the police. I don’t even consider that to be in the top five reasons why I wish he was dead.

    So I consider myself an expert on father-hating.

    So anyway, Tidus is a cocky Blitzball player in Zanarkand who doesn’t like his father because he feels like his father abandoned him. Then Tidus gets dragged into Spira and learns a few pertinent facts:

    1) Tidus and Jecht are both dreams of a long-dead civilization and kinda-sorta not completely real.

    2) Jecht also got dragged into Spira against his will.

    3) Jecht also went around on a world-saving tour instead of hanging around in Zanarkand.

    4) Auron and Sin seem to be the only ones who can even maybe travel back and forth, so it was a one-way trip for both Tidus and Jecht.

    So not only was it not even a little bit Jecht’s fault for not being around when Tidus wanted him to be, Tidus is actually doing the exact same things his father was doing. Also, they’re both basically the same thing as Aeons (though Tidus never fully changes into an inhuman form), so it’s not like either of them have any choice in any of this.

    So at the end of the game Tidus tells Jecht that he hates him.


    The only way this could possibly be justified is if Tidus actually doesn’t hate Jecht but he feels he can’t fight him if he admits he doesn’t hate him anymore. But it really seems like the this was not the writers’ intent. I actually restarted the game at this point, before the fight started, just to make sure I understood correctly that Tidus still actually hated Jecht even after everything he learned.

    Now, maybe I missed something. Some clue that made what Tidus was saying make some small kind of sense. That Tidus wasn’t a little bastard who hated his father for trying to save the world exactly like he’s trying to do. If it’s there, it seems like it was lost in translation.

    As someone who has very, very good reasons for hating his own father, I can’t accept this. Tidus’ story, the intended main story of the game, should have ended with him forgiving his father at some point. I don’t need every story like this to end in reconciliation…

    (Darth Vader murdered a whole planet, so I really feel Luke shouldn’t have forgiven him so easily. Yes, Anakin was dying, and Luke could forgive him for what he did to Luke and his friends, but it’s not even Luke’s business to forgive Anakin for murdering billions of people.)

    …but Tidus not forgiving Jecht means that Tidus never grew as a character, certainly not as a hero, and does not deserve to be considered the protagonist of Final Fantasy X.

    EDIT: Okay, I looked it up to refresh my memory and apparently Tidus’ mom died of depression after Jecht left. This is still not Jecht’s fault at all. But worse when you consider that she’s also a dream of a dead civilization so did she actually even die and also we learn in X-2 that Tidus is actually somehow a copy of Jecht’s real son AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGHHHH TOO MANY MYSTICISM-INDUCED PLOT HOLES

    1. Syal says:

      I thought it was more a mixed-emotion line; Jecht’s turned out to be a self-sacrificing hero in Spira, but all of Tidus’ memories of him are his father telling him he’s a weakling. It’s not just that his father left, it’s that he always thought he knew why, and the real reason doesn’t fully change the relationship they had before Jecht left.

      So he doesn’t know quite how he feels anymore but he’s been wanting to tell Jecht he hates him for years, so that’s his default answer.

      1. Corsair says:

        Jecht was a hero. He was also an awful, asshole father. That’s something that rings true to me – some people are just not suited to have children at all. That and I think it’s possible that Jecht became a better man during his own journey through Spira. For whatever good he had done Jecht had wronged his son, and never earned Tidus’ forgiveness.

      2. Xedo says:

        I agree that it’s a mixed-emotions line there. My personal reading was that he no longer hated his father outright, but rather the circumstances that had driven their family apart – and that now he had to kill Jecht as soon as he found him again.

        Try watching the ending to FFX, after the final boss is beaten and Tidus jumps off the ship. (You may not have seen this if you literally restarted the game right then?). He meets Jecht again and they have the best damn high-five. I think it gives all the catharsis you could need and shows that they understand and forgive each other – and accomplished something important together too.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Some, ah, major spoilers for the life of MadTinkerer too, there! Sorry to hear about those… I mean, it sounds like you have a good handle on it all, but, even so, well, that sucks.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        Yeah, I didn’t want to get too much into personal drama, but I had to clearly establish where I was coming from. Some people don’t have good reasons for hating one or more of their parents (my relationship with my Mom is fine, by the way), and I just wanted to make it clear that I would totally sympathize with Tidus if, and only if, he had good reason.

    3. Shamus says:

      A couple of minor things:

      Even before Jehct left, Mom ignored Tidus when Jecht was around. She very clearly wasn’t interested in the kid. That’s more mom’s problem than Jecht’s (I wonder if the writer understood or thought about this?) but kids aren’t always good at assigning blame. And emotional hurt doesn’t go away just because you understand the reason for the other person’s behavior. And Jecht was also really “mean”: When Tidus would cry, Jecht would mock him instead of comfort them. Again, the reason for this was because crying makes Jecht uncomfortable and he doesn’t know HOW to comfort the kid, but to the kid this sort of behavior feels like the parent is saying, “I don’t care about your pain.”

      I agree that it would have made a better arc if Tidus had been able to change his view on his father. Resenting his father would make sense, but his hate always seemed too intense.

      I think this is something writers struggle with: Having a kid with a broken relationship with their parent is a pretty good character quirk. It’s a blank check for anger, non-rational behavior, emotional outbursts, etc. It’s irresistible to a writer.

      On the other hand, it’s really hard to keep the story from going someplace dark. That stuff with your father? No sane writer would put that kind of trauma into their character’s backstory unless it was central to the story. That stuff is hard to write, easy to get wrong, and lots of people will put the book / movie / game down because it’s just too uncomfortable for them to process. You can’t just shove those kind of intense details into a B plot.

      So writers want to have broken kid / parent relationships, but they don’t actually want to depict the kind of disturbing behavior normally required to create such a break. So instead we get stories about kids who seem to hate a parent for really tame parental failures.

      I’m not saying it’s right. That’s just my guess on how this happens.

      Hopefully I managed to say all that without making it sound like I was trivializing your experience. I’m certainly not going to argue with how you personally responded to Tidus.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        I don’t mind people liking Tidus, I just don’t like him myself. It’s kind of like how I hate the protagonist of Prey. I wouldn’t hate them nearly as much if control wasn’t taken away from me in-between combat for the character to make horrible decisions.

        It’s fine to make characters with flaws. It’s not fine to force those flaws onto players. It’s better to make the protagonists blank slates than to force the player to sit through bad decisions they wouldn’t make if they were allowed to make the decision, and then let the player have total control over combat, just to yank the controls away to make another bad decision, and then keep doing that the entire game.

      2. Fred B-C says:

        Shamus, precisely that happens in their duel in Dissidia. After Tidus beats Jecht, we see them reconcile to some degree.

  41. Scerro says:

    FFVII/VIII was the first one out of the console games that I played, but FFX polished it and brought it all together for me. As the last good Final Fantasy in my book, the progression through the game felt natural. For some reason it didn’t seem as Point A to Point B ridden as a lot of games, the traveling just seemed right.

    Despite some weird characters, the game comes together very cohesively. The party has the right amount of tension and unity, and the game world never felt like filler. The combat was clean and mostly balanced (I’ll be honest, Auron carried my party). Sure, they simplified the battle system to purely turn based, but it practically was before in VII/VII/IX.

    Overall how the end plot tied the party together was what made the game memorable. The fact that at the end of the day Yuna was on the road to her death with really close friends was heartbreaking. I’d even go so far as to argue that it’s the Final Fantasy with the best plot.

    Shamus, now that you’re inching towards Japanese culture a bit more, are you ever going to get back to Anime?

  42. Guile says:

    So, I’m gonna come clean here. I liked Final Fantasy 7, and 8, and 9, and 10 and 10-2 and 12 even though I never beat that one and I play the MMO sometimes and I like that too.

    But my favorites are probably 13 and 13-2. I know that makes me some kind of aberration that should be locked away for the good of society. But damn, I like that game.

    The protagonist is a bitch on wheels who practically carries the team for half the game even though she hates them almost as much as she hates herself. The rest are a wonderful blend of Tidus’s naive optimism and a whole bag of neuroses. People die on them, or as near as makes no difference, they’re hounded from place to place, and then they’re constantly manipulated and led on by both sides of some mysterious proxy war between god-beings. They have no idea what they’re doing except that it’s probably serving some asshole’s grand design, but they keep on walking because the only other option is to lay down and die. And also turn into a monster, possibly not in that order.

    Most of the Final Fantasy games are kind of dark end of the world stuff in the background, but they’ve got this weird optimism underlying it all. You can go kill time at the Golden Saucer and play some minigames, or breed chocobos or fly around looking for cool swag or whatever. Not here.

    The animation is great. The voice acting is great (yes, even Hope, the whiny little bitch; he’s like 13 years old and on a death march, cut him some slack). I don’t care that everything is a corridor with monsters in it; it fits the narrative of being locked on a track by circumstance and design and running on your hamster wheel until your little heart finally gives out.

    Also, Shiva can turn into a motorcycle and you can ride her around shooting ice blasts and stuff. I don’t care if it makes no sense, it’s cool!

    1. Sleepyfoo says:

      I also liked 13 (though I haven’t played any of the sequels). It’s not my favorite, that was my first (FF4/2) with 7 a close second and 9 third.

      I didn’t find the crazy of 13, nor the 12 chapters of linear path as off putting as most people, and couldn’t properly articulate why. You have done so, and given me a new appreciation for what they were trying to do. Thank you.

      As for 10, I liked it well enough, but I was put off by Tidus (due to my youth or not I couldn’t say), and never felt the need to replay the game. This article and the comment section in particular have given me the impetus to fire it up again. I’m probably going to have a very different opinion of the game this playthrough. : )

      I enjoyed 10-2, but have mostly forgotten it except for one particularly dramatic random encounter (absolutely 100% not part of the story or any sidequests).

  43. thark says:

    My problem with Tidus isn’t that he’s a shallow or badly developed character, it’s precisely the fact that he’s a realistic teenager. A realistic teenager is a character I don’t want to interact with any more than I absolutely have to, whether in a video game, book, movie or real life. Now, granted, the proposed typical stoic white guy isn’t exactly a fascinating idea and something more interesting would be preferable, but I’ll still take boring over outright annoying.

  44. Crystalgate says:

    When I played Final Fantasy X, I was in my early twenties. I was out of the teens, but I still had a fresh memory of it. I could not recognize Tidus in myself or any other teen I knew back then. Now that I’m 35, I’m still having problem recognizing a real teenager in Tidus. Maybe a small portion of Tidus exists in a small portion of the teenagers, but overall, I find Tidus an extremely unconvincing teenager. Then there’s also the problem that his family issues didn’t interest me at all, I didn’t even care if it was realistic or not.

    As for my favorite Final Fantasy, I started with VII followed by VIII. Neither are even close to my favorite. My favorite is V followed by X (in spite of Tidus).

  45. Robyrt says:

    My favorite Final Fantasy was the first one I finished: Phantasy Star IV. (Which, despite being a 16-bit game, had automated combat similar to FF XII.) I rebounded off FFX pretty hard after getting lost in the first non-tutorial area. I have a really bad sense of direction, so I rely on games to signpost themselves clearly or have some sort of quest indicator, neither of which I could really figure out.

  46. John the Savage says:

    Shamus, when you talk about your problem with the high-res faces, do you mean the switch from in-game to FMV? Because I promise you, this was every bit as jarring on the PS2.

  47. Hermocrates says:

    it seems like the first game you play is most likely to be your favorite

    My first was Final Fantasy XIII, so there are definitely exceptions.

  48. CoyoteSans says:

    Theory checks out, my favorite Final Fantasy game was Tales of Symphonia!

    Okay, that’s a bad joke, but even though the two series tend to tread similar narrative ground (they have quite different battle systems), I find myself preferring the Tales Of “eleven herbs and spices” better than Final Fantasy’s “secret sauce”, everytime. Whenever I read a writeup of FF X, I find myself thinking “Man, Symphonia sure did this basic plot way better.” Probably helps it has the least cringeworthy exploration of racism in any Japanese work I’ve seen in addition to the evil organized religion and trying to avoid pointless sacrifice stuff.

    I did play one FF game, which is my “favorite” by default. That one game was the GBA remake of FF 1 and 2, and I have felt no desire to play any of the others since.

    1. GloatingSwine says:

      My favourite Tales game is still Star Ocean 2…

    2. natureguy85 says:

      I was also thinking of Symphonia while reading the plot recap!

  49. natureguy85 says:

    I probably would not have played this game, but after reading this post and the comment string started by Rocketeer’s long post, I’m somewhat sad that I didn’t.

    Unfortunately, what I knew of this game before was the laughing scene.

  50. Phantos says:

    But I felt a strange connection to the guy. Yes, he's annoying. But he's annoying in a way that rings true for me.

    Tidus always struck me as someone whose thoughts are deeper and more engaging than he’s capable of expressing. I think this is why the way he talks when narrating the story is so much less grating than the stuff he blurts out, when he’s put on the spot and doesn’t have time to prepare.

    This also applies to his voice. I can’t really hate the guy, even during the laughing scene. I know firsthand what it’s like to have a voice that makes it hard for people to take you seriously. For some reason that didn’t feel like a failure of the dub. I think there’s a purpose to that.

    Plus, he wasn’t just “White Bald Guy With Guns”, so maybe the novelty of Tidus alone makes me more forgiving.

    1. Supah Ewok says:

      Nah, the reason why narrator Tidus sounds better is because there weren’t any Japanese lip flaps that the localization team had to religiously follow. There wasn’t room in the budget to go back and do lip flaps specifically for English, so the translators had to come up with plausible translations that would follow the mouth movement of Japanese lines.

      That’s why Auron appears to be the best voiced and least awkward character: his collar covered his mouth, so the translation team had a much freer hand in what he could say. Same for Narrator Tidus.

  51. Michael Søndberg Olsen says:

    My only experience playing Final Fantasy was this game… and I hated it. Sorry. Nothing worked as far as themes in the story.. There’s a huge threat about to consume everything, yet jaunty people everywhere and let’s play Blitzball! And even if Tidus is supposed to be insufferable from a writing standpoint… guess what, he still is, and fuck if I want to be saddled with such a prick. An unlikeable protagonist is fine, but not someone you want to throw off a cliff. And he’s unnecassary, since it’s Yuna’s story anyway.
    And if you hated the Temple of Trials in Fallout 2, get ready for the abomination that is the temples in this game. And don’t get me started on the minigames and collection shit. And I should have loved this, since I love turn based combat, but no… there’s combat every few steps and they’re the same, more of the same, oh and here have this, the same combat again. That and having to put up with Wakka and Seymour and other utter stupidity….Sheesh. *regains composure, get’s off stage*

  52. I’m saddened that no one mentioned Dissidia. Every character, with the noteworthy exception of Terra, comes off far more interesting in Dissidia than they do in their native games, especially Bartz, Squall and Tidus. Tidus in Dissidia works incredibly well: His anger at his father and his resentment and sadness are all appropriately expressed, not dominating his characterization in scenes where they’re not relevant but definitely there when they are.

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