Final Fantasy X Part 2: More Like… ZanarCAN’T

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 16, 2016

Filed under: Retrospectives 104 comments

Final Fantasy X begins in the technological wonderland of Zanarkand. Tidus is a star Blitzball player. He’s famous enough that he’s got fans who want autographs, which implies some sort of pro-league position. The game doesn’t explain how it works, and we’re not here long enough to find out, but we do get the sense that this guy is a big deal.

Now Leaving Zanarkand

Not only does Tidus live in the shadow of his father, he has to walk below his father's looming billboard on his way to work.
Not only does Tidus live in the shadow of his father, he has to walk below his father's looming billboard on his way to work.

On his way to the gameHe walks there on what looks like a highway, but there aren’t any cars and everyone else is also on foot. I wonder how transport works in this world?, he passes a hologram billboard of Jecht. The voice-over explains that this guy was a superstar Blitzball player before he vanished ten years ago. Tidus makes a comment that indicates this guy is his dad.

Everyone in this story talks to Tidus about “Your Father”, but Tidus himself always calls him, “My old man”. I strongly suspect this is a bit of Japanese language getting lost or warped in translation. I imagine Tidus is using a really informal (perhaps disrespectful?) word for father, and “old man” is the closest thing we have in English. But “old man” isn’t necessarily disrespectful and it has a rural vibe I’m sure isn’t intendedPossibly also a gender vibe. I haven’t heard “old man” used often in reference to someone’s father, but in every case it’s always been a female. I’m not sure if that means anything or if it’s just a fluke.. I’m not faulting the translator. This is probably as close as you can get.

We’re treated to a CGI cutscene of the Blitzball game. Even 15 years after release, these scenes still look really good. And I don’t just mean graphically. This scene shows how much time and effort Square Enix has poured into mastering the use of this style of short-form cinema.

There are a lot of details in here that exist not because the scene demands it, but because the artists apparently love pushing themselves. There is a lot of really advancedFor the day water physics, lighting effects, reflective surfaces, and other time-consuming rendering challenges. The shots zoom in close so we can see the drops of water on someone’s face and the texture of someone’s clothing, and then the camera pulls back to show us the entire city. We have motion-captured people, light refraction, non-Newtonian liquid surfacesThe animation of the Sin hurricane. and dense crowds. And all of this work was put into a single location that isn’t going to appear in any later CGI scenes. This showcase of technical and artistic effort feels almost decadent.

I wonder how long it took the Square Enix render farm to draw this crowd in 1999?
I wonder how long it took the Square Enix render farm to draw this crowd in 1999?

A stadium-size Kaiju rises out of the sea and destroys the city, cutting the Blitzball game short. Tidus runs away, meets his friend Auron, and they escape the disaster together. Auron explains that this monster is called Sin.

I know this is a Final Fantasy game, but I still find it hilarious when Auron gives Tidus a surfboard-sized sword and says, “I hope you know how to use it.”

Not only do they live in a techno-future world where people use wildly archaic and impractical swords, but Auron hopes that Blitzball player Tidus has – somehow, in secret – gotten experience using one before. And apparently he has, because it turns out Tidus does okay with the surfboard sword.

But this is Final Fantasy. If you’re asking this kind of question, then you are not in the proper mindset for this game. It’s actually important that the storyteller leads off with underwater football and buster swords. It helps set the tone and (if you’re not familiar with the series) can free you of your western expectations. Later, when undead priests start talking about summoning simulated underwater football players from dream worlds to fight endlessly reborn kaiju Satan, you can’t claim the game has been leading you on with promises of grounded realism.

This is it. This is your story. It all begins when I chuck you into Satan's butthole.
This is it. This is your story. It all begins when I chuck you into Satan's butthole.

Auron and Tidus fight their way through a bunch of crawling Sin-spawn and we get our basic combat tutorials out of the way. At the end of the road, Auron and Tidus find themselves on a crumbling platform, directly under this disturbing, undulating storm of goop. Auron asks the goop, “Are you sure?” Apparently the goop is, because Auron tosses Tidus into it and the adventure begins.

Tidus wakes up in a world of stone ruins and grey fog. The player is very likely wondering the same thing Tidus is: Where am I, and how did I get here? It’s going to take the game a long time to get around to answering this. And even once it does answer it, we still won’t know. The game will eventually explain (sort of) how Tidus traveled from his world to Spira, but it doesn’t ever explain why he arrived here in these particular ruins.


I'm so temporarily worried about my body temperature!
I'm so temporarily worried about my body temperature!

Like in the new Tomb Raider game, the story begins with a struggle to keep warm and fed that will be completely forgotten about later on. Once you’re warm and full, you’ll be able to swim in ice water and never need to eat again. It’s really just a blunt tool to humanize the character by giving them some immediate needs that we can empathize with.

It’s clear that the writer is trying to set a mood here. They want Tidus alone in these ghostly ruins. Based on what the game tells us, it would be slightly less confusing if we appeared in the ruins of Zanarkand. But the story needs Zanarkand to be our destination, so Tidus couldn’t land there. Instead we’ve landed on the opposite side of the world map.

You could be forgiven for thinking this is supposed to be the ruins of Zanarkand. This is clearly ZanarianI made that up, but it seems to fit. architecture, to the point where the staircase leading into the main hall is a copy of the staircase entrance to the Blitzball arena at the end of the game.

This place does turn out to be tangentially relevant to the plot. There’s a secret Aeon buried hereMore on her later in the series. and if you’re very lucky (or you read the Wiki) you might discover this place exists and come back to it much later. But there’s no explanation why Tidus is dropped off hereThere are some extratextual explanations in the Ultimania guide, if you can get your hands on those kinds of rare collector’s items. And if you can read Japanese.. The same is true of the Aeon, actually. Both of them would make more sense if they were in Zanarkand right now.

Tidus fumbles around the ruins doing adventure-game stuff. Again, I think the storyteller just wanted to establish a mood of forlorn isolation before having Tidus meet the locals. I guess if your game is 60 hours long and has an unlimited art budget then you can afford to expend half an hour and an entire location on “setting the mood” before the story moves on.

Al Bhed

Al Bhed? More like... All Bad, amirite?
Al Bhed? More like... All Bad, amirite?

A monster attacks, and it’s a bit too much for Tidus. Some folks bust in through a door and save him. After the fight, they jump him and rough him up. One holds a knife up to his throat. These guys are the Al Bhed.

If this is your first time through the game, then you can’t understand what they’re saying. Their language is a simple letter-substitution replacement of English (or whatever language you’re playing in) and so I guess you could translate their dialog yourself if you’re in the mood to write down all their subtitles and play cryptogram with them. You can actually learn the language as you play through the game, and the subtitles will gradually become more intelligible as more letters are translated. If you play through a second timeOr a third, or a tenth… then you (the player) will be able to carry over your language-learning progress and read what they’re saying, even if Tidus himself can’t understand them.

Even though you can’t normally read their subtitles, their dialog indicates they think you might be a fiend. (A monster.) Tidus is a walking talking human and there is literally no reason in the world to suspect him of being anything other than a person, but these guys don’t even care. The guy holding the knife says something to the effect of “Fiend or not, it’s all the same if he’s dead.”

The girl – who we learn later is named Rikku – talks them out of it. Instead they knock Tidus out and take him to an oceangoing platform they’re using as a base. They pound on him rather than trying to talk to him, even though Rikku speaks both languages and could easily act as a translator. Eventually Rikku steps in and says Tidus can stay if he makes himself useful. There’s a wreck at the bottom of the ocean and they want him to go down and help salvage it. (The wreck is actually the airship we’ll have access to much later in the story.)

Sure, we could have our translator tell you our demands, but we'd rather punch you until you figure it out on your own. And remember to feel sorry for us later!
Sure, we could have our translator tell you our demands, but we'd rather punch you until you figure it out on your own. And remember to feel sorry for us later!

Later on we learn that the Al Bhed are an oppressed minority. They’re called “heathens” – and worse – by basically everyone else in the world. The writer will eventually portray them as idealistic to a fault. They will fight and die to save the lives of others, simply because they think the current system of sacrificing people to stave off Sin is deeply unfair. The Al Bhed would rather risk being devoured by Sin than let someone else (someone willing, even!) die on their behalf. Which makes this entire scene deeply confusing in retrospect.

The Al Bhed were going to kill Tidus for basically no reason. But when Rikku pleaded for mercy they instead kidnapped and enslaved him. Rikku frames this like a job offer, “You can stay if you make yourself useful!” But since they knocked him out and brought him to the middle of the ocean, he can’t really say no. It’s not like he blundered into their village and asked to stay. They brought him out here and insisted that he work.

Also, since these guys were too busy acting like violent assholes to make even a basic effort to communicate with Tidus, they have no idea what his situation was. Yes, he was probably going to starve or die of exposure in those freezing ruins. But the Al Bhed didn’t know that. For all they know, Tidus was separated from family or friends who might still be looking for him.

You Broke My Protagonist!

I think I understand why you idiots have an image problem.
I think I understand why you idiots have an image problem.

Even after Tidus helps them salvage the wreck, they still treat him like cattle. They make him sleep outside on the metal deck instead of allowing him to come below. Even Rikku – who is elsewhere in the story a deeply empathetic teenage girl – abuses him. When she brings him food, she doesn’t get his attention by speaking to him and hand him the plate like a human being. Instead she kicks him while he’s lying on the deck. Then she puts the food down on the floor like she’s feeding a dog.

The writer has stuck a giant flashing neon sign on the Al Bhed saying, “THESE PEOPLE ARE BAD GUYS”. At this point in the story we might even assume they are THE bad guys. Even if Riiku didn’t speak his language, their behavior is still naked villainy. Just image the same scene with Tidus replaced with some sympathetic animal: They beat it, argue over killing it, beat it some more, make it work, and then make it sleep alone out in the cold. The audience would be clenching their teeth, just waiting until these guys taste justice in Act 3. They’re not just villains. They’re cartoonish, shallow, strawmen villains.

When Rikku is finally done treating Tidus like a mule and deigns to talk to him, she tells him about the Al Bhed. She says at one point, “You’re not an Al Bhed hater, are you?”

“Well, I AM NOW”, I usually yell at my screen.

Aw man. Being enslaved is such a bummer.
Aw man. Being enslaved is such a bummer.

I think this is one of the main problems with Tidus. People say he’s “whiny”. Sometimes even a “whiny bitch”. But up until this point he’s simply reacting to being alone, cold, and hungry. He’s a teenage boy and he’s suffering and in danger. Expressing those things isn’t being “whiny”, it’s being human.

The problem comes when we get to this scene. He’s put up with their abuse. He’s worked hard. He’s even risked his life in deadly combat. And now they’re reaping the material benefit from his hard work, and they don’t even allow him the basic courtesy of sleeping with a roof over his head. They communicate through hitting rather than relying on the translator and they go out of their way to treat Tidus like an animal.

But instead of getting angry, Tidus whines, “Hey, I helped didn’t I?” He doesn’t stand up for his own humanity. He doesn’t insist on being treated like a person. He doesn’t begin plotting revenge or escape when he sees his captors are amoral brutes who would kill him without a second thought if doing so would be more convenient for them.

The writer has created a giant gap between what we’re being told and what we’re being shown. It’s telling us the Al Bhed are basically good people who have been oppressed by society. But it shows us they’re enthusiastic villains. Tidus tells us (through his understated reaction) that these people are being rude to him, while the story shows that they’re actually murderous slave-drivers.

Being hungry and cold humanizes him, but having him oblivious to the ill-treatment is actually alienating. The writer just spent half an hour building an emotional connection between us and this character, and now they’re breaking it by having the character act in a way that we can’t identify with.

No matter how you look at it, something is broken in this scene. How you process this dissonance probably has a lot to do with how you feel about Tidus from now on. I found myself blaming the story / storyteller, not Tidus. But if you’re a little more generous and accept what the storyteller is showing you, then Tidus is a moron and a doormat for being so apathetic about the things that are happening to him. Why are we more angry at his abuse than he is?

I don’t think people dislike Tidus for complaining when he’s hungry. I think they hate him because he complains instead of fighting against naked cruelty and injustice.

Accidental Villains

Gosh. It sure is nice to make new friends!
Gosh. It sure is nice to make new friends!

As evil and as unsympathetic as the Al Bhed seem here, I’m pretty sure this was unintentional. Or at least, the animosity towards the Al Bhed is supposed to be something we get over quickly. Once Tidus is fed, he and Rikku have a friendly expositional conversation where they both seem to completely forget what brought the two of them together.

We’ll get to know the Al Bhed later in the story. When Tidus sees Rikku again, he introduces her as one of the people who saved his life, not as one of the people who beat, kidnapped, and briefly enslaved him. There’s no grudge. None of these people come and apologize. Nobody else seems to be the victim of Al Bhed mistreatment. It never comes up again. Every other part of the story portrays them as sympathetic. Well, there’s another kidnapping later. And another attempted murder via submarine. And then the unfortunate business with the tank. And…

Actually, I guess this game is pretty confused about how the Al Bhed moral compass works and who these people are supposed to be.

Here is how I think this happened: I think the hitting, shoving, knife-threatening, and “kidnapping” were all just intended to contribute to the overall sense of isolation. The writer was trying to sell the notion that Tidus is alone in a new world of danger where he doesn’t even know the language. If the writer had skipped this section, then Tidus would have (I suppose) simply appeared on the beach on Besaid Island. That would have broken the story in several different ways.

This first chapter of the story needs to establish that Sin is an insidious force of evil. And we also need to empathize with Tidus and his struggle to return home. We also need Tidus to feel a sense of relief when he finally meets someone nice. Skipping the isolation of the ruins and hostility of the Al Bhed would have screwed up all of these. The story would be saying “Sin steals Tidus from his home and leaves him in a tropical island paradise full of welcoming people.” That wouldn’t work.

So I understand there were good reasons in terms of story and tone to have the Al Bhed act like such villains here. And I understand that the basic economics of dramatic storytelling demand that we re-use characters whenever possible. But this scene breaks the Al Bhed and alienates us from the protagonist. The Al Bhed who would casually murder Tidus are very different from the Al Bhed who would stop the pilgrimages, and the story does nothing to reconcile them. I think the writer is trying to play this scene off as a “misunderstanding”, and it flat-out doesn’t work.

If nothing else, the writer should have done more to keep Rikku blameless in the whole thing.



[1] He walks there on what looks like a highway, but there aren’t any cars and everyone else is also on foot. I wonder how transport works in this world?

[2] Possibly also a gender vibe. I haven’t heard “old man” used often in reference to someone’s father, but in every case it’s always been a female. I’m not sure if that means anything or if it’s just a fluke.

[3] For the day

[4] The animation of the Sin hurricane.

[5] I made that up, but it seems to fit.

[6] More on her later in the series.

[7] There are some extratextual explanations in the Ultimania guide, if you can get your hands on those kinds of rare collector’s items. And if you can read Japanese.

[8] Or a third, or a tenth…

From The Archives:

104 thoughts on “Final Fantasy X Part 2: More Like… ZanarCAN’T

  1. MichaelGC says:

    ‘Old man’ is a slangy British way of saying ‘father’, so it may just be that the translator was British. It’s informal, certainly, but typically not disrespectful – Tidus using it probably says more about him (as laid-back/informal/not vastly concerned with protocol) than it does about his relationship with his dad for the moment.

    (And whilst he does have his problems with Jecht, he tends not to actually diss him – rather the opposite, almost to a fault.)

    1. Zaxares says:

      Yeah, I’m deeply curious about that too. Does anyone know what the original Japanese word(s) was?

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        caveat: Not Japanese person speaking.

        What seems to be the case is … mixed. “Old man” is probably “ojisan” (or possibly “ojiisan”, depending on how irked he is) and the term gets used pretty flexibly. Technically, that’s “uncle”, but used in reference to a father, it’s kind of distancing, while used in the context of someone who’s unrelated it’s kind of inclusive. It’s also a term that would perfectly apply to Auron’s role in Tidus’s life as well, so referring to Jeckt as ojisan pretty consistently is basically setting the two up as counterpoised roles.

        1. Radkatsu says:

          He uses 親父, Oyaji.

          ‘one’s father; old man; one’s boss’

          It’s a familiar, almost irreverent usage in Tidus’ case. He doesn’t much like his father and therefore uses a word like this instead of something more respectful.

          1. NotSteve says:

            From what I’ve seen people in Japanese media who use “Oyaji” are usually teenage guys, usually kind of rough and rude. It generally indicates a somewhat-to-very adversarial relationship with their dad.

            1. Radkatsu says:

              Yup, it can be used in various ways but that’s pretty common in various media. If you’ve seen Clannad, Tomoya refers to his estranged father as Oyaji as well. Same deal, doesn’t like or get on with him, uses this familiar but not affectionate term instead of otou or whatever.

            2. NotSteve says:

              I am able to provide some insight into Japanese since I’ve been studying it for a long time. I know what at least twenty of the letters are in English, so I can usually infer the rest.

        2. tmtvl says:

          So I just went to NIoNico to check it out (’cause unskippable cutscenes irk me to no end), I’d completely forgot how Japanese Tidus sounds, it’s hilariously different, he sounds like such a traditional jock.

          (Link for anyone interested)

          Anyway, Tidus says ‘oyaji’, which is pretty standard informal Japanese, it could’ve been translated as ‘my dad?’, but that would’ve left some dead air in the scene. ‘Old man’ works well for what it needs to be.

          EDIT: Ninja’d by Radkatsu.

    2. Thom says:

      This. Its not unusual around these parts. If Auron was British, he would probably talk to Tidus about going on adventures with “your old man”.

      I got the impression that Tidus used the term in a slightly irreverent but never actively disrespectful way – he didn’t really buy into the legend of Jecht – the man was just his dad.

      1. Phill says:

        If they are going for the British usage of ‘old man’ I guess the best American equivalent would be ‘Pops’. Is that your father up there on the screen? Yeah, that’s Pops. It’s informal and familiar but not disrespectful.

        No idea what the Japanese version implies though.

      2. Fists says:

        Yeah, to me (Australian, from Canberra) ‘My old man’ comes across as being sort of possessive when compared to ‘my dad’ or ‘my father’. By using the informal and faintly insulting term he’s demonstrating that he has a personal relationship with Jecht and the need to express that whenever he’s mentioned shows Tidus’ jealousy at the rest of the world trying to claim/take away his dad due to his fame.

        Maybe I’ve been watching too much Team Four Star but I think a similar relationship is played off between Gohan and Goku in DBZ so it could be a trope in Japanese culture.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          I’m not an expert on Japanese culture or even personally familiar with it, but according to some things I’ve read on the net (so take it with a pound of salt) their social and family values can be summarised as ‘very different’ from how most western europeans see things. Tidus’ family situation probably has an entirely different context in Japan than it has in the US, just as Goku and Gohan’s situation does.

          I think Dragonball The Abridged Series mostly makes light of how Goku’s treatment of Gohan in Dragonball, while possibly reasonable (or at least much less severe) in a Japanese context, seems like some kind of child abuse to us.

    3. Felblood says:

      I think they are definitely going for the American implications of “My Old Man.” The tone with which the VA reads it just sells me on this one.

      It’s a largely depreciated piece of slang on this side of the pond, which I think is another reason that Tidus comes across as a square, however it does give a pretty clear impression of how his relationship with his dad works.

      There is a possessive element there. An American might refer to his parents as “my old man,” and “my old lady,” but he could still take offence if someone else referred to his father as, “your old man” and treating someone else’s mother with such disrespect could be fighting works, depending on how much alcohol is present.

      However, it’s primary function is to assert a level of rebellion. “My old man wants to put me on a curfew. Why can’t he understand, that it’d make me look like a total choad?”

      An adult might adopt it as an ironic term of endearment, but at the base level it’s derogatory.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        I’m from the southern US, and referring to someone’s dad as “your old man” wouldn’t be out of place (and would be more casual than inherently disrespectful).

        1. Syal says:

          I guess this is the best spot to link the song My Old Man

        2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Here in Kentucky I hear it periodically from my students (18-22 in age) from the more rural parts of the state. It does have a strange combination of distance and affection. It’s usually used to preface a story of some awesome deed -like winning a fight or a race, or some other feat of masculine skill.

          I’ve never heard the phrase “my old man is the judge back home…” but the student did talk about their old man being a great hunter.

      2. ngthagg says:

        It doesn’t make any sense to me, but I’ve always heard “my old man” used to refer to the speaker’s father, while “my old lady” is used to refer to the speaker’s wife.

    4. Henson says:

      I’m finding this discussion of native terminology quite interesting. As an American, I’ve heard the phrase ‘my old man’ before, but mostly in fiction or the arts, like this Smothers Brothers cover of an Oscar Brand song. I’ve not really heard the term used in real life, though I wonder if perhaps it has regional and/or generational differences as well.

      1. Jamey says:

        It’s very much generational. I’m approximately Shamus’ age, and the phrase “my old man” peaked in popularity in the 1960s, which makes it something my parents might have called their fathers as teenagers. It is *extremely* informal. It’s also *usually* negative, but that’s more based on tone and context.

        Example used in a sentence:
        “I want to see the movie this weekend, but my old man won’t let me go out.”

        So the translation is actually pretty perfect, but the translator may have been older and/or learned a lot of their colloquialisms from older media.

        1. Majromax says:

          Google n-grams for “my old man” shows popularity in the 20s, with a spike in the late 50s.

          1. Felblood says:


        2. Felblood says:

          There’s a lot of nuance to learning a living language as she is spoke.

          It’s fair to say that anyone still using the appellation “old man” in real life, is probably using it ironically, with at least some degree of affection, however if you see it used in a work of fiction, it’s likely being used in the older sense, as a show of one’s independence for parental authority. This goes double for works that are translated or have been published in previous decades.

    5. Loonyyy says:

      “My old man” is pretty informal, but it isn’t really indicative of the relationship given the translation that others have given.

      Using a formal “Father” with the right tone would probably do it better, or even referring to them by their first name.

      “Old man” just ends up being loose slang which doesn’t really convey the same thing.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    I think it’s gotta be ‘Zanarkandian’, unfortunately: you’ve got that half-stress on the ‘kand’, so if you hack that off it becomes a completely different word, I reckon!

    Edit: Which is not to say you should change the text! – I’m attempting to win contribute to the debate rather than pointing out a typo, in case that’s not clear…

    1. Syal says:

      Unless we assume ‘Kand’ means Capital or something. Zanar Capital with Zanarian architecture.

      1. Jakale says:

        But the use of the place later makes it sound more like a city state, rather than a place with a capital and other cities. I like Zanarkian, it’s got that “k” that feels significant for the name, but it’s not as long as the whole city name plus more.

        1. Syal says:

          Residents of Spira might not understand the concept of a multi-city nation with a real capital. And any adjective would work; ‘town’, ‘stadium’, ‘low-price gas station’.

          Possible architectural term: ‘Narky.

      2. Grudgeal says:

        I don’t know what it means in-game, but on planet Earth ‘kand’ is a word found in eastern Persian and old Aryan languages. Depending on the language it can mean things like “town”, “castle” or “region”, but it’s always associated with “place where people live”.

        Zanarkand is an obvious re-spelling of the real-life Samarkand, which was a major metropolis on the Silk Road during the middle ages. It was the capital of Timur’s empire and gradully lost its importance following the fall of the Timurids and in-roads of Persia and Imperial Russia in the region. People from Samarkand would most likely call themselves “Persians” or something similar during its heyday; today the city is inhabited mostly by Uzbeks.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Continue reading »

    Who are you,impostor?What have you done with the real Shamus?

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I made that up, but it seems to git.

    It seems to what?

    1. Will says:

      Git. You don’t use source control for all your made-up words?

    2. Chris Robertson says:

      Also, last paragraph,
      …very different from the Al Bhed would would stop the pilgrimages, and the story does nothing to reconcile them. I think the writer is trying to play this scene off as a “misunderstanding”, and tt flat-out doesn't work.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Tidus is a walking talking human and there is literally no reason in the world to suspect him of being anything other than a person, but these guys don't even care.

    What about mimics?There are mimics in this world,right?Cant one of them get a human shape?

    1. Kalil says:

      I’m pretty sure that late-game, Seymour, Mika, and maybe even Auron himself qualify as human-form fiends. I’m not sure how common knowledge ‘unsent’ are, but if you start from the assumption that ‘no living person could be here’, Tidus being something fiend-ish is not a totally unreasonable conclusion.

      Having a bilingual person present does provide some plot difficulties, especially given that, y’know, she fights by your side prior to the ‘misunderstanding’.

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        Yup, exactly, there weren’t supposed to be anyone in those ruins, so I cut the Al Bhed some slack on that part. Exploration of the world is not something that happens often due to Sin being capable of striking anytime, anywhere, and they were being rightfully careful with an unknown.

        There’s no excuse for the beating and forced labour, though, even if it is lessened (for me) by Rikku.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          Maybe it’s just me, but I never felt like their actions against Tidus were quite THAT bad considering he’s a complete unknown to them.

          These guys seemed like the sort to act more out of self-interest than anything, so when they happen upon this random guy in the middle of nowhere they may not really know what to do with him at first. Their first instinct might be that he’s likely to be an enemy, since he’s obviously not one of their kind and no sane person would be out there anyways.

          They don’t really have an obligation (or perhaps even desire) to help him, but at the same time they’re not really inclined to just LEAVE him with so many questions unanswered. So they bring him back, and in an effort to get something out of the deal they decide he’s gotta earn his keep.

          Doesn’t really justify all the beating, but I think it’s a little more reasonable this way. When I went through the scene the Al Bhed didn’t really come across as evil so much as suspicious/paranoid and maybe a bit prejudiced against non-Al Bhed.

          …Still doesn’t really explain why Rikku didn’t speak up earlier when it was clear Tidus couldn’t understand them.

          1. Syal says:

            Thinking about it, it’s possible the charades guy is just isolationist enough that he’d rather make himself look silly than use Spiran on an Al Bhed ship.

            With regard to the forced labor, Rikku goes with Tidus and she seems to be relatively high up the chain, so it’s not like they’re making him do animal labor.

            1. Thomas says:

              One of the funny things I noticed this time round is, I guess they somehow _knew_ he was a Blitzball player? Most Spirans can’t breathe underwater (Rikku is using a breath mask), but one of the bizarre quirks of the game is that Blitzballers can ‘hold their breath’. But the Al Bhed don’t know Tidus plays. For some reason they stumble on a strange guy and just know that he can work underwater. Maybe Tidus jumps in before they can give him a mask, but it doesn’t look like they were going to bring him one.

              1. Syal says:

                It’s the asymmetrical pants. They clearly indicate that one of those legs does work and the other is just there for show. In a one-sport world, that can only mean Blitzball.

                1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

                  Don’t know if you’re joking, but the armour on only one arm is actually a giveaway that someone is a Blitzball player (look at Jecht and Wakka). Not applicable to any other player since they all have a generic model.

                  1. Syal says:

                    It’s both a joke, and the first impression I got when I saw those pants.

                    I just rewatched the opening Zanarkand Blitzball cutscene and it didn’t look like the one-armguard thing applied to the other cutscene players.

                    …I do like the idea that they know he can breathe underwater because he’s got a better model than any of them.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I figured out why people hate tidus.He is basically simon,only without the benefit of being canadian.

  7. Tapkoh says:

    Japanese is complicated when it comes to terms of address and reference. There are several words for most familial relations and pronouns, for example, and there’s no well-defined rules for them. You would use a more “formal” or “out-group” or “distant” term (however you want to describe it) if you were talking about someone else’s father for instance, but how they refer to their own father is dependent on several factors like how close they are, how strict/formal they are as a family, etc.

    I have not played/heard/seen FFX in Japanese, but my guess is that Tidus used the word oyaji, which is informal, but not disrespectful unless they were a very strict / formal / high class family (which they obviously were not). Everyone else would use the more generic term (o)tousan to refer to Jecht I would assume. Oyaji can also be used to refer to actual old(er) men you’re not related to, which lines up well the English slang “old man”.

    1. Radkatsu says:

      Posted at more or less the same time, but yes, he uses Oyaji.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Once again,I have to mention farscape.Crichton finds himself in a very similar situation,lost,captured by alien people who he doesnt understand,who are pretty hostile to him,and who imprison him.However,the main difference is that pretty soon we learn that this is because humans looks exactly like the species of tyrants who did unspeakable things to this bunch of runaway slaves.So him growing fond of them(and vice versa)makes sense.

    I think square tried to make something similar here,but stumbled a bit in the execution of the “we had good reasons” part.

  9. Miral says:

    I don’t really remember being bothered by this at all. I think at the time we were just conditioned by movies etc that this was how foreigners/lost people were always treated.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I’ve noticed a lot of comedic cruelty in manga. Even if it’s not primarily a comedy. Someone flirts with a girl? That needs to be punished! Hit them on the head with a frying pan! Kick them in the face so hard they leave a dent in the wall! If taken literally, that’s a brutal assault that would lead to arrest or at least ruined friendships – yet the characters seem to forget about it five seconds later.

      1. Harold says:

        But this doesn’t really seem like it’s being played for laughs.

    2. Syal says:

      Also Final Fantasy in particular has a trend where Pirates capture you, you fight a few of them and then you get a Pirate party member. I think that’s probably the tone they were going for; steampunk pirates.

      1. Felblood says:

        They’re the techno-magical, faux-moorish Corsairs, to Spira’s techno-magical, faux-catholic Europe.

        Muslims might find those comparisons offensive, but trust me that Catholics are more offended by the portrayal of the Church of Yevon.

  10. I can’t prove this, but given FFX’s story, and the similar problems with the stories in later Final Fantasies, I think the way the story was written was that the very-general outline was written, then each segment was handed to different writers who did not communicate with each other anywhere near as much as they should.

    The result is a story that theoretically works at the large scale, but there’s a lot of shifting characterizations, the characters generally act amnesiac because writer A will stick a hook on that writer B doesn’t even know about, etc. I think Tidus may never mention this treatment again because in some sense, he doesn’t “remember” it, because the next writer doesn’t. “Tidus”/the writer only remembers the high level “Tidus saved” summary of the encounter. And the writers didn’t budget time or whatever they needed to harmonize the stories.

    Thus the disagreement about whether it has a good story. On a moment-by-moment basis it often makes sense, it’s usually doesn’t break down until you’re at a global level.

    This eventually became on of the games that taught me to look at that level, because I enjoyed it well enough when I played it in my early 20s, but eventually I read the criticisms and realized they were true in many ways.

    Great combat system, though.

    1. Volvagia says:

      THIS. Tales of Symphonia (a game often compared to this, and for good reason) is probably at least slightly inferior and is definitely less daring on a moment to moment level, but in the big picture actually has a lot more cohesion and is less irritating.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Considering it spends the first third of the game directly copying FFX’s storyline, that isn’t too hard. Honestly my biggest problem with ToS is how much of the later game seems to be sudden twists that turn out to be filler in the storyline, like they’ve lost the bigger picture.

    2. Locke says:

      The more I think about this, the more I think it was absolutely criminal that the guys developing the sequence that introduced the Al Bhed didn’t get a full brief on their role in the story.

  11. Warclam says:

    Surfboard sword… surfsword?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:


    2. tmtvl says:

      I’d call it more of a harpoon sword. A… sworpoon? A hard? Yes, a ‘hard’.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Nah, a Hard looks like this.

    3. Syal says:

      A well the sword, sword, sword is a board.

    4. Shilfe says:

      A weapon to surpass the gunblade.

  12. ? says:

    I think the Writer wants to present Al Bhed as badass survivalists, and usual shorthand in fiction for it is acting like callous cynical asshole.

    1. Ilseroth says:

      So what you are saying is, if this was a zombie apocalypse game, the Al Bhed would be the guy saying “We need to kill the baby, it eats and eats and doesn’t do anything!”

      1. lucky7 says:

        But what does it eat!?!?

    2. tremor3258 says:

      That’s probably it – the fact they’re also scavengers, even though they’re also the tech guys, is important to establish early, since the next, oh, what, twenty hours basically has all sorts of cool mechs under Al Bhed control, so it’s useful for the setting if the player has it in the back of the mind that they didn’t manage to create anything new in Spira either.

    3. Thomas says:

      I’m not sure it’s quite so badass. Some of that sure, but I think they are meant to come off as a bit aggressively isolationist. I’m pretty sure further in the game you see more examples of the Al Bhed wanting to keep their distance from everybody else and unwilling (initially) to get involved.

      I figured that they’ve been hurt by society enough that they’re willing to take the hard line now to be left to themselves.

  13. djw says:

    I thought a fiend was a dead human who’s spirit was not sent on? It is entirely reasonable to suspect a human found in a dangerous place in the middle of nowhere is a fiend…

    I’m not going to claim that this entirely excuses them for treating him like crap, but it does give them a reason to think that he may be less than human now.

    1. Mintskittle says:

      Yes, humans who died and were unsent usually end up becoming fiends, with some exceptions. A good example is in the Cave of the Stolen Fayth, where a summoner was killed there, and now haunts it, attacking all who enter, even one of her former friends and guardians.

  14. natureguy85 says:

    Since Tidus is a young boy, star athlete or not, I don’t see it as unreasonable that he is broken and despondent rather than defiant. However, since this is a video game and we play as that character, that is less appealing. I think that may be the problem, although even in a movie or book we want to see the protagonist take control at some point. Then again, the tutorial has Tidus killing Monsters. ..

    1. Geebs says:

      He’s also just had a whacking great dose of Sin Toxin, which will get used to explain a whole bunch of stuff over the next few hours of gameplay.

    2. Locke says:

      I’d think Tidus would have to go through a lot more before I’d buy him as broken and despondent rather than defiant. Sure, he’s a teenage kid and he certainly has his limits, but the breaking point should still come after he’s expelled a lot of rage, and to no effect. If the ruins had a moment like that, if he’d already gotten angry once and it didn’t change or fix anything, it would’ve been easier to swallow Tidus’ despondence here.

      1. natureguy85 says:

        You could be right but I’d expect that more as an automatic from an adult than a child.

  15. Yldri says:

    Isn’t Tidus established as having a bad relationship with his father? “This character disappeared some time ago” probably means “he will show up later”, but having not played the game, I don’t know what we learn about them when that happens. I expect some clumsy “I am a monster but I love you deep down” instead of the more realistic “I am a monster and the sympathy I feel for you is just my instinct wanting my DNA to flourish”.

    Working with what the article says, Tidus’ behaviour is actually very believable.

    Children from abusive homes are awful at separating good from evil. To a child, no parental attention means you die, so children act out (despite abuse being justified as a correction mechanism against acting out) because they will always chose negative attention over no attention at all. Therefore to them, abuse, neglect and violence is something that happens, something that caretakers just do.

    Tidus is a successful teenager on an euphoria trip due to financial and social recognition. Remember he is 17, to him his familiy woes just happened yesterday and he is in the middle of a dream, he never went through the process of re-evaluation abuse and violence as something you don’t expect from people that are on your side.

    Then he is yanked out of his escape and when confronted with very base-level threats (hunger, cold, physical violence, rudeness), he instantly becomes the submissive child he never stopped to be. He is offered a narrative of “yes, we are horrible and we mistreat you, but you would be dead without us”. He is back home, this is the childhood he never had the time to leave behind. His weak confrontations are on the same level as an abused child whose rebellion amounts to pouting during dinner.

    From what the article says, the author is probably right that the portrayal of Al Bhed is broken, but the portrayal of Tidus is correct.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Maybe. Even then, believable isn’t the same as likeable. People hold protagonists up to high standards of heroism. We get annoyed when they act out of anger, cowardice, or other normal human emotions.

    2. Corsair says:

      Who the hell talks about “My DNA makes me want to sympathize with you?” If any character said that outside of a Kojima game I’d set the story down and walk away, and the ones who say it in Kojima games I still roll my eyes and laugh at it.

      Also, Jecht’s relationship with Tidus is fairly complicated, but having recently replayed I wouldn’t characterize Jecht as being abusive per se, more just…parentally inept. And also an alcoholic. But in the real scenes with Jecht, not the imagined ones Tidus has, I got the impression Jecht really doesn’t know how to be a father and so he treats Tidus like a new member of his team. He’s trying, he’s just not exactly succeeding. Tidus’ mother, on the other end, was pretty much overtly neglectful.

      1. Volvagia says:

        That wouldn’t be the exact words used to convey that (unless this were a modern Nolan production. Yeah, based on his current track record, Dunkirk is probably going to suck, by the way)), obviously, but that intent is more “realistic” (read: more common).

    3. Felblood says:

      Jecht is another character that I just found unpleasant and annoying, when I was a teenager, but revisiting him as an adult I really get where he’s coming from. Jecht and Tidus’s relationship problems stem primarily from the personality traits they have in common.

      They are both deeply insecure young men, desperately trying to use their physical talents and celebrity status to compensate for a serious lack of intellect or social skills. They both validate their life experiences int terms of their accomplishments in the Blitzball arena, and they both possess a drive to push themselves that made them each the BEST player of their generation. A lot of the habits that make Tidus such a chore to deal with are behaviors he learned from his not-so-dear, old dad.

      Jecht is not an old man, and the life of a golden boy athlete did not prepare him to be a single father. I know people don’t always show their age as much in Japan, but Jecht clearly couldn’t have been much older than the Tidus we know, when the kid was born. Jecht was barely coming to terms that he was going to have to start acting like a grown-up, and suddenly he’s trying to raise a baby and manage a very demanding career.

      Jecht is a man of few words, not because he has some aesthetic ideal of laconic wit, or because he’s TRYING to be an aloof lout, but because he is painfully aware of the fact that he’s stupid, and has terrible social skills, but still stupid enough to think he can hide these facts from other people if he just dazzles them with confidence. When his bottled up emotions reach the point where they boil over out of his mouth, they sound like a lot of selfish whining and arrogant bragging.

      He’s a crappy dad, and he’s self-aware enough to realize that he’s doing a piss poor job at being a role model. Unfortunately, realizing you have a problem is only the first step, and all of his attempts to win back his son’s affection only widen the gap further.

      He knows that he’s supposed to be a role model, and he tries to persuade little Tidus to look up to him and follow in his footsteps, but he obviously has no idea how to do that. Jecht taught his son how to play Blitzball, and even showed him the secrets of his signature special move,* which no-body else can do. He constantly tries to impress Tidus with his success, strength and skill, and not JUST because Jecht’s an ego-maniac who can’t function without the adoration of every person in the room. He’s trying to push the kid to be all he can be, but from Tidus’ position it comes across sounding like verbal abuse, tearing down the kid’s meager accomplishments in order to stoke the father’s already immense ego.

      Young Tidus doesn’t understand why his father never has any praise for him, and develops some similar, but nastier self-esteem issues of his own. He’s left believing that his dad resents him for being a little blonde runt, instead of the roided-out offspring of a greek god and a Samoan beach volleyball champion.** Jecht is huge, BTW. He towers over the people around him, literally, mirroring the way he towers over Tidus’ emotions, metaphorically.

      –and then Jecht vanishes mysteriously, without so much as a note. He’s on a magical quest to prove himself, hoping that this’ll be the accomplishment that proves his worth to his only son. Tidus, being a messed up little kid, is angry at his father for leaving, but also crushed by guilt over hating his dad, even now that he’s missing and presumed dead.

      Tidus is now a young man completely bent around chasing a mythic figure of his father, which he’s built in his mind. How did he get so good that he became the starting center for the most prestigious team in Blitzball? After Jecht’s mysterious disappearance, he attained a legendary status as the greatest Blitzball player of all time. Tidus took this as a personal challenge, and trained ceaselessly trying to unseat that image of his father.

      The fact that his society encouraged this unhealthy behavior, with more money than he could possibly spend on his mobs of screaming fan-girls … probably did not help. The cold fact of the matter is that Zannarkand liked Jecht and Tidus this way, and encouraged them down this path. Until Auron and Sin got involved, they were more or less complacent with this state of affairs. The saddest and most depressing part of this story is that the really depressing stuff is the believable part that mirrors our own world.

      So here’s Tidus and Jecht as we meet them: Two macho, swaggering dude-bros who wear those personas to cover for the fact that neither of them have achieved the one thing that will convince them that they aren’t a total screw-up. They validate their existences entirely on whether or not the other respects them for their accomplishments. They each have a huge respect for the other, and no respect for themselves. All they want is for the other to tell them that they are good enough as a human being, because their counterpart is the one person who could convince them to believe that, themselves.

      Even when they finally meet before the final battle, they can’t put that desperate need into words that the casual observer can easily understand. They’re completely trapped in the swaggering posturing, so that to communicate complex emotional ideas they basically have to invent a new language that is only superficially similar to English.**** However, there’s a lot of subtext to each line.

      Tidus:I hate you, dad!
      Jecht: I know. I know. heh, heh.

      You know what you have to do.

      * Parts of this technique are actually reflected in the animations of many of Tidus’ overdrive attacks. It’s little touches like that that sell the complex nature of this relationship, and it makes me sad that this sort of detail doesn’t seem to be a priority for Square-Enix, anymore.

      ** which is the only origin story that can possibly explain Jecht’s stature and physique. Seriously, he is large. Even before merging with Sin, he stood taller than Auron and Braska, who are some of the tallest humans*** in the cast.

      *** Auron wasn’t a Fiend yet, so he counts as human.

      **** and getting it from Japanese to English at all must have been a massive undertaking.

      1. Supah Ewok says:

        I appreciate the thought you’ve put into this, but you’ve completed discounted Tidus’ mom’s role, how she’d abandon Tidus whenever Jecht was home, and how she let herself die when Jecht went missing. That all also plays its part in Tidus’ resentment.

        1. Felblood says:

          –and I’d feel bad about that, if the game didn’t do the exact same thing.

          Tidus’ story is about his relationship with Jecht, and the mother is mostly just a plot device to force them into situations where their character flaws can really shine.

        2. Felblood says:

          Also, it isn’t so much that I put a lot of thought into this as that this stuff all came rushing at me at once, and I had to write it down right away.

          Having actually had some time to think about this, I think that there are three major changes in my perspective that drove this sudden flash of nostalgia/insight:

          1. I have watched a lot of Japanese film, so I have a better handle on the cinematographic language, even if I don’t speak more than a dozen works of the spoken tongue. In Japanese stories, it is the things that are left unsaid that are most important. That’s why bad Japanese writing seems to be made entirely out of ellipses; If you can’t actually add hidden layers of meaning to your work, just have people avoid verbalizing the obvious.

          2. I’m an overworked, semi-single (Like Titus, my kids have a mother who is around, but not really there for them much, because of her own psychological challenges, which are beyond the scope of this paragraph) parent from a culture that is notoriously bat at teaching people how to be a grown up. Seriously, my society thinks you have to be either immature and happy, or responsible and miserable.

          3. I’m a lot better at/ more proactive about trying to get inside a person’s head when they are acting like a jerk. Years of experience in customer service have made me very empathetic, while teenage me was… a sociopath basically.

      2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        I feel like calling Tidus a swaggering dude bro is over selling it. He’s more like an intern on his first day of work. Really eager to help, unsure of how anything works, and with no idea of the social climate or faux pas that everyone else naturally steers away from.

        1. Felblood says:

          He’s got that, “I’m not really skilled at this, but I know projecting confidence is important” vibe in all of his cut-scene animations, especially early in the game. This is not an accident, and the animators on this thing were true professionals.

          By the final cutscenes, his posture is much more natural and relaxed, because he’s started to learn how to stand up for himself, instead of just dragging people down.

          I think his cutscene model might actually be taller by the end of the game, but mostly they’ve just changed his posture from cringing, sulky brat to confidant hero. He no longer looks like a kid standing next to Auron and Lulu, just a guy who’s a little bit shorter than them.

  16. While ‘my old man’ isn’t as common, I’ve heard the term ‘the old man’ enough times throughout my life that it didn’t even occur to me to think it was a rare or unusual thing. Come to think of it, where I hear it the most tends to be in media rather than real life.

    1. Syal says:

      Same here; this series has already been enlightening.

  17. Jabrwock says:

    I think the Al Behd would have worked better if they tried to play off that they were suspicious of him, hence the hostility. Is he a government agent? A demon in disguise? A mercenary out to cause them trouble?

    Then we get to see the exposition dump, and they find out who he really is, and they begin to treat him differently.

    Instead it seems disjointed with how they treat him later. Why the turnaround?

  18. p_johnston says:

    It might just be me but I always thought the Al Bhed were a divided group. As a whole they want to stop the pilgrimages, but individually a lot of them are kind of warped by the societal hatred. It seems reasonable that a signifigant portion of the Al Bhed, especially younger ones, would be jerks to anyone who’s not an Al Bhed with how much the put up with.

  19. Retsam says:

    I think the Al Bhed treatment of Tidus makes fairly good sense in context: they find an oddly dressed teenager alone in the middle of abandoned ruins in the middle of the ocean, right where they happen to be conducting an operation. He’s obviously not just “lost”; suspicion is a very reasonable response, and the Al Bhed are eventually characterized as generally good-hearted, but untrusting of outsiders, the latter of which would ramp up the suspicion.

    Notice that Rikku when she sees Tidus in danger, immediately jumps to his aid, while her less empathetic kin don’t. Her behavior here is a hint that she is actually a kind person, despite how she subsequently acts. (She also apologizes before knocking him out)

    My guess is that, after Tidus is knocked out, there’s a debate between the Al Bhed with Rikku arguing that Tidus should be helped, the others arguing that he’s either a fiend or a spy and should be left or killed (arguably a mercy over leaving someone to starve to death or get eaten by fiends), and eventually they compromise on taking him as a prisoner, and getting him to help.

    Yes, they’re rude to him rough with him, but then they don’t trust him, and they’ve got some justified dislike for outsiders; and if I think someone is a fiend or a spy or a saboteur, I’m not going to let them near me while I sleep, or give them access to the internals of my ship.

    Plus, I think there’s a good purpose in the story for the Al Bhed being jerks here: so that we’re more willing to initially accept the prejudice against the Al Bhed that the rest of Spira has.

    If we found out Wakka didn’t hated the Al Bhed, and had never met the Al Bhed (or, worse, if they had been kind and helpful), we’d think “Wow, what a racist asshole” and that might entirely wreck Wakka’s characterization, the idea that Wakka was “racist” would probably dominate our perception of him. (Instead of properly allowing our perception of him to be dominated by his accent)

    But since the player thinks of the Al Bhed as the people who mistreat Tidus, it’s a lot more ambiguous, and we wonder if maybe his prejudice is justified. His prejudice is eventually addressed as a character flaw… but by then Wakka is a nuanced enough character that that singular flaw doesn’t entirely make him unsympathetic.

    1. Syal says:

      Plus, I think there's a good purpose in the story for the Al Bhed being jerks here: so that we're more willing to initially accept the prejudice against the Al Bhed that the rest of Spira has.

      I think it has the opposite effect, actually. If you met Wakka when you had never met the Al Bhed, you could get an impression that the Al Bhed were The Threat around here. They’d be this imposing, unknown force in the background. And then when you deal with them and their whole thing is they build and use war machines (and cheat at sports), that feeling would be reinforced for a long while.

      Instead you meet the Al Bhed, you see them struggle with communicating with you, you work with one of them through adversity to accomplish a task. Even if you don’t like them, they’re humanized, so when you’re introduced to people who hate them as a group you have the reaction that “come on, they’re not all bad”.

      1. Jakale says:

        Plus Rikku serves as someone who warns Tidus that most people probably aren’t gonna react well to his story and provides him the excuse he’ll use for most of his blunders.

        Off topic: Shamus, you have a double word typo in “Why we we more angry at his abuse than he is?”

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    One thing to consider is that the Al Bhed have correctly identified Tidus for exactly what he is, and their initial contempt has to do with their worldview. This also perfectly explains Rikku’s behavior.

    So why don’t they just come out and tell Tidus “Okay, you might think you’re human, but you’re actually more like an Aeon that doesn’t realize it’s an Aeon yet.”? Well Tidus has no idea what an Aeon is, but he’s already acting like one with all his “Gee, you humans are pushy, I guess I have to be more helpful” behavior.

    In fact, I just realized: it’s entirely possible that their abuse of Tidus is to confirm whether he’s an Aeon or not. A human would act like a human, resenting that kind of treatment. Tidus isn’t acting quite like a human, but rather how an Aeon treats their summoners.

    None of this is adequately explained the first time through, though.

  21. Solism says:

    I know I’m pre-empting the story…but the breathing underwater is really bothering me now. Head-canon decided that in the context of blitzball, it works…I mean maybe it’s a magical or tech sphere that aids with breathing.

    But, they breathed underwater throughout the entire salvage mission? Wow.

    Also… I didn’t realize that was the airship :O

    1. Syal says:

      The canon explanation is Blitzball players and underwater salvagers can hold their breath for hours. I think it’s Besaid where they say so.

      TheDarkId also offers the explanation that water in Spira is actually just moist air.

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        Yes, the Aurochs on Besaid mention that the best Blitzball players can even sleep underwater, they can hold their breath that long.

  22. Loonyyy says:

    I feel like the way they treat Tidus is a bit of cultural difference. Obviously it’s cruel, irresponsible, exaggerated and villainous, but that’s pretty common in a lot of Japanese media, from romantic interests, to friends. In that context, it’s exaggerated, but you’re not meant to take it literally.

    I think it’s irritating too, I don’t think it does anything for stories, but like the setting, it’s just something you have to get past. It’d be better were it more grounded, but eh.

    You’ll even see that people will defend it, so people will look past it.

  23. RCN says:

    My head cannon is that the Al Bhed saw how Tidus was dressed and, almost understandably, decided he was either a doppelgänger trying to pass for human, or someone who deserved a beating.

    Sure, the Al Bhed aren’t dressed much better either. But Tidus’ wardrobe is famous for being the most absurd and obnoxious in the WHOLE FRANCHISE. And we’re speaking of Final Fantasy here, that is QUITE an accomplishment.

    1. Syal says:

      Rikku’s outfit here is much worse.

      1. RCN says:

        Nah, I give Rikku a pass. At least her outfit, as ridiculous as it is, looks somewhat functional.

        Tidus’ outfit looks like he cobbled it together himself with absolutely no sewing or outfitting skills, just mismatching ideas in the most obnoxious way possible. “Asymmetric shoulder pieces? HAH! I give you… ASYMMETRIC LEGGINGS! Bow down to my superior lameness!”

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          The asymmetric armour on the arm is a sign that someone is a Blitzball player (look at Jecht and Wakka). As for the pants… No idea.

    2. Felblood says:

      Really? The whole franchise? That’s a pretty high bar to clear.

      What about the guy who dresses as a robo-cat, with a crown, riding a battlemech that looks like a moogle? Also his true form? A guy in a green paisley, business suit.

      What about Luso from FFTA2, whose outfit is intended to evoke a combination of Marche, Squall, Titus and Sora, apparently by wearing all of their belts at the same time.

  24. Locke says:

    Tidus being locked out of the ship is reasonable from the perspective of the Al Bhed being merely suspicious, but one thing that made it completely fall down for me: It’s already been established that it is cold outside. So cold that Tidus is facing illness or possibly even death if he can’t get a fire going. The cold is used to reinforce the atmosphere of oppressive isolation and despair that the whole sequence up to encountering the Al Bhed exuded, but then they completely forget about it here. Generally speaking, Spira is tropical and I wouldn’t feel that bad about leaving a suspicious stranger to sleep on the deck of a ship in tropical weather. It’s moderately uncomfortable, not a human rights violation. But they just got finished establishing that this particular part of Spira is, for whatever reason, cold enough that you can see your breath. I wonder if that slipped their mind? It’s a major plot point of the first half of the sequence, though. Maybe the ruins and the Al Bhed salvage operation were developed by different people?

    The way Rikku treated him came across a bit better to me, too, although this might just be because I had read an interview about the game on the internet in advance and knew that the Al Bhed word “cunno,” meaning “sorry,” was used by the dev team in casual conversation by the end of development. It probably made a huge difference to how I perceived her that I knew from the start she was apologizing for hitting him, that she was being pressured into this by the others. It also helped that I’d played other JRPGs. In the PS1 era, character models were crude and cartoonish. Nudging someone awake with your foot could look like they were grinding a sleeper’s body part into the ground and might also result in serious clipping issues. A good solid kick to the abdomen was much more clear and the characters didn’t look realistic enough for it to seem any more cruel than nudging someone awake with your foot. It implies a pretty serious emotional distance, but it’s not villainous. Final Fantasy X is an enormous leap forward in graphical capability and no longer has to rely on cartoon logic like this, but I as a JRPG player was used to seeing it in JRPGs. It’s possible the same was true of the team working on the game.

    I’m not really defending the sequence, here, just trying to find out why exactly the devs went wrong here.

    1. Syal says:

      I thought the cold was just inside the temple that the Geosgaeno had trapped him in. “Into the freezer” implies it wasn’t that cold outside.

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      I thought he was cold because he was tired and had just spent a lot of time in cold water before waking up (I imagine the water in the Blitz stadiums is at least somewhat heated), rather than that area of Spira being cold.

  25. ccesarano says:

    Southeastern PA, formerly of South Jersey, and I have referred to my old man as…well, “my old man” since I was in high school, maybe even middle. Saying “Dad” just seemed a bit too childish, “father” a bit too formal. My old man was the sort of casual irreverence I was seeking while still maintaining its endearment.

    Meanwhile, I’m slowly doing a video series on FFX and dammit, I might want to stop reading this so it doesn’t impact my own thoughts on the series. On the other hand, at the rate I’m going I’ll have forgotten what you’ve written within a handful of episodes.

    Either way, interesting take on Al-Bhed. It’s something I didn’t even think about my first time through in highschool, nor this recent play through. I was more focused on 1) God dammit why no Japanese voice track (on the PS3 version), and 2) how Tidus’ self-narration was never truly reflective of his tone. I empathize with him a lot better now that I’m older, but they’re doing their best to make him sound like a brat…which is technically very much in character, so…

  26. Andrew says:

    Part of the impression of Tidus as whiny comes from the fact that the translation and voice acting in this game both have issues with tone. I’m not criticizing James Arnold Taylor or any of the other voice talent in the game, but it takes a certain amount of work to direct a good voice performance, and it seems like Square didn’t have that machinery in place for X (they did much better by the time XII came around). Taking an example from this chapter, consider the way Tidus says “I need food!” in the cave. It comes out of nowhere with a level of melodrama that simultaneously makes me laugh, and leaves me with the impression that Tidus is a complete loser.

    Playing the game a second or even third time, with full knowledge of what’s going on, it’s easier to adjust for the uneven tone, and see through to (what I assume is) the story that the creators really intended… which is a damn fine one in my opinion. But without that leeway it runs the risk of being downright off-putting.

    As for the Al-Bhed (who are obvious Space Arabs in more ways than one), I think the story is trying to balance their good intentions (and in-universe, their motives are absolutely right even if their methods aren’t) with a sense that because they’re so marginalized, they’re distrustful of outsiders and willing to do some crazy things to fight the injustice they see. Not all of them are as saintly as Rin. Still, there’s very little logic to their treatment of Tidus at the beginning, so you’re probably right, it just comes down to a directorial desire to create conflict and prolong Tidus’s fish-out-of-water state.

  27. GeorgeMonet says:

    We use “old man” all the time in New England. Especially when referring to our dad’s when talking with other people. Or if you and your dad are both pretty old I know that I’ve never actually heard my dad call his dad “dad”. He always calls him “old man”.

    I really think that the Al Bhed needed to be replaced with a faction more aligned with the actual villains. Or maybe have Tidus being saved by his father who we already know treats him like crap and it wouldn’t be out of character for Tidus’s father to treat a fake version of his son even worse. That way we’d REALLY be shown just how awful and evil the entire religion is.

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