Final Fantasy X Part 4: Death and Other Puzzles

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 30, 2016

Filed under: Retrospectives 100 comments

Yuna, Lulu, Wakka, Kimari, and Tidus board the boat to begin Yuna’s pilgrimage. Their home of Besaid Island was there to show us Spira in its idealized state. It was there to build empathy and an emotional connection to this world. Our next stop is the island of Kilika, where that connection will pay off. Now that we sort of care about Spira, the storyteller will show us the brutality of Sin. As the ship approaches, Sin strikes the island.

The people of Kilika have built their houses out of wooden sticks. Out on the water. With rickety walkways between them.

Come on, guys.  Even if Sin wasn't a problem, aren't you worried about storms? Waves? HIGH TIDE?!
Come on, guys. Even if Sin wasn't a problem, aren't you worried about storms? Waves? HIGH TIDE?!

But of course they built on the water because it makes for a pretty good show when Sin huffs and puffs and blows their house down. Kilika is the Red Shirt of towns in Spira. Half the town snuffs it, and by the time our heroes arrive the whole place is filled with mourners and smashed huts.

When the party arrives, Yuna volunteers to perform the “sending”. Apparently summoners have a secondary duty. When they’re not on their way to fight Sin, they’re in charge of performing funerals.

And funerals in this world are important, because death in the world of Spira is completely bonkers. A summoner has to do a little dance to guide the spirits of the dead to the Farplane. (Which is apparently an off-brand afterlife.) If she doesn’t do this, then the spirits will linger, grow angry, and eventually turn into fiends. As the sending is performed, little rainbow firefly sparkles come out of the departed and drift into the skyWhat would happen if you did a sending indoors? Would the pyreflies bunch up at the ceiling like cigarette smoke? “Oh man. Looks like someone did a sending in here. Open a window, man.”.

Death Makes No Sense

It looks really awesome when Yuna does this, but if I try to picture some of the older priest dudes doing this dance it makes me laugh. And I hate to laugh at someone's funeral.
It looks really awesome when Yuna does this, but if I try to picture some of the older priest dudes doing this dance it makes me laugh. And I hate to laugh at someone's funeral.

The rules of death are completely vague, here. I know I’ve been pretty forgiving of the writer’s laissez-faire approach to worldbuilding so far. But while I can forgive them not explaining where the food comes from because this story isn’t about fighting over resources, I’m less forgiving of their refusal to establish the rules of death. The cycle of death is a big part of this story, both mechanically and thematically.

Here are a bunch of random confusing things about death in Spira:

Sometimes people die, but then they get back up and keep going. They’re “unsent”, but not “undead”. Their flesh isn’t rotting. The only way you can tell they’re dead is that if you perform a sending nearby, rainbow sparkles come out of them and they’ll collapse. Which leads me to wonder… what about them makes them “dead”? Their bodies are warm. They’re not decomposing. They’re not ghosts. That sounds like “alive” to me.

When Yuna performs this sending we see pyreflies depart from the bodies of the dead, but other times she’ll perform a sending and the body will disappear entirely, along with clothing, gear, and whatever else the person was carrying. So performing a sending on an unsent soldier will cause his metal sword to evaporate along with the rest of him. Well, sometimes. In the ceremony Yuna is performing right now, we see sparkles come out of the dead, but we don’t see the bodies vanish.

Sometimes unsent look like normal folks. Other times they become transparent ghosts. They can still converse with the living and they still seem to be sane, but they’re transparent.

Other times the dead go insane. They may or may not be transparent, but they seem to only want to kill the living.

Hey Tidus, my existential dread is UP HERE.
Hey Tidus, my existential dread is UP HERE.

Other times we run into creatures that aren’t unsent, but undead. There are several zombified foes in this game.

While I can’t think of any examples that we meet, dialog also seems to suggest that leaving someone unsent might eventually turn them into a straight-up monster. Maybe this means the ghost enemy type? Or maybe that’s yet another kind of undead?

Yunalesca (we’ll meet her much later in the story) and Auron are both unsent, but Auron has visibly aged ten years and Yunalesca still looks youthful despite being a thousand years old.

We’re probably not supposed to think about these things in terms of game mechanics, but for extra hilarity: “Zombification” is a status attack in this game. If a character becomes zombified, then casting healing on them will injure them. Auron is already an unsent. Then a monster can inflict zombie on him, making him unsent AND undead. If his hitpoints reach zero, he’ll… die? Now, you might argue that a character falling over in combat should be called KO, not dead. I agree, that makes much more sense. But then to revive him you either cast a “life” spell or use a “phoenix” potion, and the names of those things imply a kind of returning-from-death deal. So if unsent zombie Auron dies then you can bring him “back to life” and he’ll just be an unsent?

How awkward would this funeral be if some of the unsent stood up and asked for a couple of extra days to put their affairs in order before Yuna sends them off? Thankfully, these unsent are content to act like dead people.
How awkward would this funeral be if some of the unsent stood up and asked for a couple of extra days to put their affairs in order before Yuna sends them off? Thankfully, these unsent are content to act like dead people.

And don’t even get me started on Seymour (we’ll meet him soon) who is able to return to the land of the living after having his form killed and even obliterated multiple times. Unsent or not, it seems like after a few hundred sword-stabbings and fireballs, your body ought to have trouble keeping up all those processes that prevent decomposition.

And if having the dead hang around isn’t strange enough, there’s the additional strangeness that we can go to the Farplane and visit them. I’ll talk more about the Farplane in a later entry.

I’m not saying we need a chart of all the different classes of death and their long-term effects. And the ridiculous stuff with zombie unsent Auron is just stock Final Fantasy combat mechanics that we can sort of ignore for story purposes. But I feel like we in the audience should at least understand death as well as the average peasant of Spira. I’m willing to allow for Rule of Cool, but even visually cool things are less impressive when you have no idea what they mean.

Kilika Temple

Interface protip: If you only have two items in a menu and one of those items is 'do nothing', then YOU DON'T NEED A MENU.
Interface protip: If you only have two items in a menu and one of those items is 'do nothing', then YOU DON'T NEED A MENU.

Every temple Yuna visits on her journey has “the trials”, a hilariously contrived puzzle section that mostly consists of putting glowing spheres into holes in combinations to open doors to rooms with more spheres and doors. It’s ostensibly part of becoming a summoner, although I’m not sure how much utility colored-ball sorting will have in the final showdown with Sin.

I think the puzzle sections are a great idea in principle. It makes for a nice little change of pace every few hours, and helps establish the notion that a pilgrimage is supposed to be challenging and not just a casual religious junket. But while I like the idea – and I think the first couple of puzzles are kind of fun – the execution is just awful.

The major problem with these puzzles is that the interface is a disaster. You’ll walk up to some OBJECT and press the action button. You’ll then get a message saying, “You see OBJECT here.” You then dismiss this message with the action button.

This is followed by a popup menu:

  • Take OBJECT.
  • Leave OBJECT alone.

You make your selection and press the action button again. Then you see another message saying, “You take the OBJECT.” One last push of the action button will dismiss this message and you’ll be able to move again.

Damn it, another summoner party came through and used the sphere to burn away the stone door. I'll go down and replace it. We need to talk to Bob about ordering another shipment of disposable replacement doors.
Damn it, another summoner party came through and used the sphere to burn away the stone door. I'll go down and replace it. We need to talk to Bob about ordering another shipment of disposable replacement doors.

That’s two messages, a popup, and four button presses for ONE ACTION. And if you accidentally mash the action button one too many times because you’re trying to shoulder your way through this onerous interface, then you’ll begin the entire process again and need to endure another round of popups and messages.

Ideally you could just walk up to OBJECT and press the action button. The message “You took OBJECT” could appear at the bottom for a few seconds without taking control from you. Or – if the designers are just terrified that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you won’t know what you’re holding, they could add a little message in the corner of the HUD to the effect of, “Holding OBJECT.”

Action button picks up. Action button puts down. Boom. Easy. Since you can only carry one object at a time, this would require zero gameplay changes. There is no reason this needs to be such a chore.

That’s my problem with these trials. They are not good puzzles. They’re incredibly simple puzzles wrapped in multiple layers of inconvenience. They take a lot of time to solve, but only because there’s so much busywork and long canned animations for frequent yet mundane tasks.

Imagine if I asked you to do this puzzle:

Except, your view will be zoomed in so that you can never see more than one piece at a time, and every time you move a piece you have to click four times and watch a ten-second animation. It might take you a couple of minutes to do it, but when you’re done there’s not much satisfaction because you didn’t really do anything challenging. I kept you busy, but I didn’t engage you.

I’m not saying all the puzzles are just 4-piece jigsaws. A few of the trials do have interesting ideas or twists in them. The visuals and the music provide a nice layer of sensory stimulation to make it feel like you’re having fun. But the rare moments of genuine puzzle-solving are hopelessly buried in busywork.

 

Footnotes:

[1] What would happen if you did a sending indoors? Would the pyreflies bunch up at the ceiling like cigarette smoke? “Oh man. Looks like someone did a sending in here. Open a window, man.”



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100 thoughts on “Final Fantasy X Part 4: Death and Other Puzzles

  1. DGM says:

    >> “Death makes no sense”

    When the dearly departed can reenact the “I’m not dead” scene from Monty Python at their own funeral, you’d better be writing a comedy.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      Auron: “I feel fine! I think I’ll go save the world!”

      Jecht: “You’re not fooling anyone, you know.”

  2. Sigilis says:

    Well… That was a bunch of spoilers all at once with very little fanfare.

    The discussion of the inconsistencies unsent was kind of uncharacteristic for your style of writing. A bunch of characters that are unsent were mentioned without any kind of context, which after the care that you usually take when unpacking these joyfully ridiculous narratives threw me for a loop. I went back to the beginning to see if I missed something about this Yunalesca (Is she Yuna?) and eventually gave up and consulted the Wiki (not recommended, they take this seriously).

    To put it another way, I enjoyed reading it, but my compiler threw a bunch of exceptions for uninitialized variables.

    1. Shamus says:

      Added some notes about who will be introduced later. Hopefully this will make it less jarring.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      The game’s 15 years old. What’s the statute of limitations on spoiling plot point for this?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Sephiroth kills aeris!

        1. Felblood says:

          The !Pope is also unsent.

          Darth Vader is Luke’s father!

        2. Sunshine says:

          Keyser Soze kills Dumbledore, who was Obi-Wan Kenobi!

          Soylent Green was Earth all along!

        3. Jeff R says:

          Don’t you know anything? It’s actually spelled ‘Sephiros’.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Glad Im not the only one who thought of that joke.

      2. Incunabulum says:

        One month.

        If you haven’t gotten around to it by a month after release then you don’t get to complain when others talk openly about it.

        1. Felblood says:

          I just want to take a moment to say how terribly grateful I am to everyone who kept their Force Awakens spoilers hidden until after it hit DVD.

          That was totally amazing. Good job internet!

        2. Trix2000 says:

          That’s a little short, especially for games which can take some people a while to get through (even if they pick it up right away, which many do not).

        3. Durican says:

          Incidentally, FFX was released in the US about 8 months before Europe. Dodging spoilers for a game that hadn’t even been released yet was a real joy.

      3. krellen says:

        One week. If you don’t consume media almost immediately, avoiding spoilers is your responsibility, not ours.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          That gets really hard when said spoilers are unmarked and/or unwarned in some fashion. How do you avoid something you don’t know is coming?

          I mean, I don’t expect people to go to incredible lengths for it, but at least having “Hey, I’m gonna spoil some things” beforehand is nice.

          For much older games like this one it’s significantly less of a concern, but still a nice courtesy.

          1. krellen says:

            “I’m talking about <thing>” should be your warning that <thing> can be spoiled.

            This isn’t Twitter. The column didn’t pop up on your screen unannounced.

        2. Joshua says:

          What I’m running into is all of the Game of Thrones Spoilers on Facebook. I’ve only seen the show through the third season, but am waiting on finishing the books (or at least the sixth, whenever it’s released) before watching any more, which is why I’m behind. That becomes incredibly hard when people feel the constant need to post GoT related memes that give away key plot points (that may or may not be in the coming books) and are instantly readable, as opposed to something I would have to sit down and consciously read.

          1. Supah Ewok says:

            I don’t watch the show, but I did binge on wiki diving on it the other day. The show’s taken so many diversions from the books, and looks to have warped so many major characters’ personalities, that I honestly think that the latest season of the show (which is past the books) doesn’t actually have any spoilers in it, because the books will almost certainly be very different by the time they’re released.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except for the canon thing that we discussed in the forums.

      4. Daemian Lucifer says:

        One day.If If you you haven’t don't gotten consume around media to it almost by a immediately, month avoiding after spoilers release is then your you responsibility, don't not get to ours complain when others talk openly about it..

        1. Loonyyy says:

          Pretty sure the analogy at the end explains it. Variables not initialised.

          It’s not that they’re spoilers in the story sense, because they’d be being spoiled anyway. It’s that it jumps to using a bunch of other unexplained stuff as examples for explaining something new. As someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the game, it’s explaining one unknown with more unknowns. It’s not like anyone who’s being spoiled by the series is really annoyed, it’s an old game, and the series is going over everything.

          And hey, look, they explained it below! Oh well.

      5. Hal says:

        Pre-release. If you weren’t on the production team, then you obviously didn’t care enough about spoilers to avoid them before people knew enough about the project to spoil it for you.

        1. Richard says:

          If you didn’t steal a copy of the script before it was given to the actors, then you obviously don’t care enough to avoid spoilers.

      6. Nick-B says:

        “Ok, got to write this movie script for George Lucas. Let's make Vader Luke's father. Oh man, why didn't I warn myself before I spoiled the movie!?!?”

      7. Syal says:

        It’s actually a statute of repose, which is three months after the last re-release.

      8. Sigilis says:

        I think you took this the opposite way that I intended.

        In this case, I prefer to gain information. The significance of the data presented, however, is not readily apparent from the summation so far. As a result, I have no idea why I should care about any of the characters mentioned. In this case, I gave the writer the benefit of the doubt that my time was not being wasted and that these were important facts, as Shamus is usually good for it.

        The only reason I mentioned the lack of prior context for the list of names is that I did not get the impression that this particular series is for FFeXperts only. If lay people are part of the target audience, they might be confused as I was.

        Also, for future reference, the statue of limitations on spoilers is five years.

  3. Abnaxis says:

    My understanding was that those pyerflies you see during a sending are the substance that makes up ALL the fiends you run into in the wild, not just the unsent/ghosts/undead. That’s why every time you kill a (non-mecha) monster (including Sinspawn), you see little pyreflies leak out of it as it dies. This also happens to your summons when they are defeated, because (IIRC) they are made of pyreflies that are shaped by the Faythe. Also, the organs and whatnot of the unsent are made of pyrefly substance, so it doesn’t matter how much stabbing/fireballing they succumb to, because pyreflies will rebuild them.

    Basically, pyreflies are the Applied Phlebotinum of the FFX universe. They’re there to explain how all the bonkers monsters can exist without completely destroying the ecosystem, and they explain where summoners get their power. In fact, I think the Sending is a nice touch–as pyrefly-powered mystics, it falls on summoners to send off the pyreflies of the dead before they cause trouble by turning into fiends, which is more likely to happen if a person dies in tragic circumstances (this is actually shown at some point IIRC, in a little scene where you see a monster materialize from nothing as pyreflies float around it).

    As far as the unsent go, my understanding is that the only people who are unsent are those with the strong convictions and willpower to make their little pyreflies reform into themselves after they die. So Auron isn’t the reanimated corpse of Auron, he’s the Auron-spirit who’s taken physical form. You could, in theory, stand around talking to Auron the Unsent while standing next to his corpse (I actually thought I remembered seeing his corpse during the game at one point? Am I remembering wrong?). That also kinda explains the “clothes disappear during the sending” thing–again, the clothes are made out of pyreflies, though I don’t remember if the game was consistent enough in this idea to only make corpses of unsent fade away during a Sending…

    It’s been too long since I played the game to say this with certainty, but I’m pretty sure most of what I said above is actually spelled out in the main narrative, but all the points are sparsed out through the gigantic narrative so the connections are hard to see.

    1. Darren says:

      I think you’re dead-on. I’d also say that the “unsent” are generally those with a strong will or drive–either good or evil–and so are more about expressing a concept of power than in fitting into a logical scheme. It seems to be a pretty common trope in Japanese fiction, to the point that I wonder if the average Japanese player would even notice.

      Worth pointing out that in FFX-2, the Farplane is in a state of flux and Pyreflies are either escaping or not arriving. The surplus Pyreflies coalesce and form even stronger monsters. In the International Version, there is a monster capturing sidequest that more explicitly draws a connection between fiends and the souls of the dead.

      1. Merlin says:

        I think you're dead-on. I'd also say that the “unsent” are generally those with a strong will or drive”“either good or evil”“and so are more about expressing a concept of power than in fitting into a logical scheme

        Agreed, but I don’t think that this is Japan-specific at all. Monsters as dead people with “unresolved business” is a standard concept in Western folklore & media as well, and the need for appropriate funereal rites is similarly a pretty common deal. The Witcher is drowning in this sort of thing. Woman was wronged and died on her wedding day? She’s a noonwraith. Body got chucked in a lake instead of given a proper funeral? Merry drowner-mas. Horror movies are huge on this as well – think of how many ghost stories involve determining the ghost’s original identity and laying their spirit to rest. Even slashers follow this model to some extent. Jason drowned because camp counselors were making out? Now he (and/or his mother) slaughters nubile camp counselors.

        Where FFX goes a little wackadoo is in having unsent be indistinguishable from the living, and later (particularly in FFX-2) having them all over the dang place.

        1. Darren says:

          That last point is where I think we get into a cultural divide. In Western media, ghosts and undead tend to have very specific rules that apply at all times. In Japanese media, I feel like virtually any rule can be ignored or overcome if the character has sufficient (albeit nebulously defined) power.

        2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

          But even there, the west presents “unresolved business” as a flaw, where the Japanese version (if it really does apply here) would be about a strength. You’re being driven by a purpose that keeps you here rather than being snagged by a hangup that prevents your departure.

          Side note. I wonder how common this sort of thing is in Japan.

          In DBZ, I know concepts of death are pretty fluid. Goku was allowed to keep his body to train in the afterlife. He was later able to visit Earth fully incarnate while dead to attend a tournament. While alive, he was able to teleport Cell to a plane that he had previously accessed in the afterlife. He died, incarnated as dead right in that spot, and started telepathically communicating with the others.

          I know TFS turns death into a running gag in the Abridged series but between that and FFX, I wonder if its just a Japanese thing to portray death kind of like this?

          1. Merlin says:

            Eh, maybe. As soon as you start talking East vs. West, you’re already entering the realm of sweeping generalizations, but even if you set that aside it becomes a question of what particular story you’re looking at. Per Wikipedia, the 1995 Casper movie has the titular character will himself to become a ghost so that he can keep his father company, which shows force of will being on the up and up. The recent board game Mysterium has a ghost helping psychics solve his own murder. Is this justice (mostly good?) or vengeance (mostly bad?), and does it matter? And I’m not directly familiar with them, but apparently Nicholas Sparks romance novels have sexy ghosts all over the place helping former lovers move on and find happiness. Meanwhile, Japan has enough stories of pissed off ghosts that they actually have a dedicated term for it: Onryo.

            Point being, I’m not totally sold that this boils down to an easy dichotomy.

          2. They certainly do it a lot in their media. Depends on the particular work, of course, but death is often trivialized. Yu Yu Hakusho is all about mostly dead people fighting other mostly dead people who can freely and easily interact with the living world. Bleach is functionally about the afterlife police trying to keep order in both the material plane and various immaterial planes. The main cast of Madoka Magica are basically unsuspecting Magical Girl liches complete with soul jars who fight against witches, which are in turn unbeknownst to the heroines magical girls transformed into undead abominations via accumulated grief over the nature of their existence.

            So yeah, I’d say the lingering dead, in one form or another, are a fairly common character trope in Japanese media while not necessarily being “conventional” undead.

          3. Nidokoenig says:

            In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu dies and then continues tearing shit up for several chapters until a Bhuddhist monk convinces him to calm his tits. So the trope of power and determination making an avenging ghost goes back at least to the eleventh century in China, and Japan is quite fond of Rot3K, too. So the trope has some pretty deep roots. Since their beliefs about the afterlife tend to include reincarnation, it makes sense for the soul that’s out and about to be theoretically able to do stuff other than go to the lobby and wait for a respawn.

            1. To be fair, he WAS called the God of War, so a little murder spree after death wouldn’t be too amiss. :P

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      You don’t see Auron’s corpse in the game, other than a flashback, but yes, that’s exactly how the unsent and fiends work. It’s all pyreflies. Hell, Sin is a massive mass of pyreflies.

      1. Felblood says:

        Is this ever explicated in-game?

        I know I always assumed the the bodies of the unsent were fiends, even if they looked like the original body the wearer had in life, but I’m not sure it was spelled out.

        1. Darren says:

          It’s clearer in the sequel, where strong concentrations of pyreflies create more powerful monsters.

        2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          It’s not explained as such, but look at the sendings: they send pyreflies. Fiends release pyreflies when they ‘die’. Unsent release pyreflies when they disappear.

          1. Felblood says:

            That isn’t what I meant.

            In fact, I’m sure that at one point it’s explained that leveling spheres are actually the tainted and crystallized pyreflies harvested from slain fiends. So those guys are definitely full of unsent pyreflies, even if they aren’t physically composed of them.

            I was trying to ask if the game ever outright states: Are unsent people, like other fiends, using physical bodies created for them by their pyreflies?

            Seymour, at least, is strongly implied to have replaced part, if not all of his body with Aeon matter, as he obtains increasingly doofy-looking One-Winged Angel forms. Further, the way that Auron and the zombie soldiers are treated seems to imply that their original bodies are gone and their current forms are just fiend bodies, that dissipate if they are killed or sent.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        So when you destroy sin,does that create a grave of pyreflies?

        1. Duneyrr says:

          Great. Now I’m sad :(

      3. Philadelphus says:

        It’s pyreflies all the way down!

  4. Jan says:

    Regarding the build of the Kilika village: it is not too unusual. I’ve seen this type of waterway village (albeit a bit higher above the water usually) before. A quick search shows that humans have been doing this for a long time.

    I’d guess it only makes sense on a lakeshore though, as seas tend to be too rough for this (never mind the tides), I don’t know whether this is the case here. Also, when there are humonguous underwater monsters around, it might not be such a good idea after all (as demonstrated by the events in the game).

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Those humans that did that,did they do it in places where the water is calm,or in places where there are quite regular hurricanes and tidal waves?

      1. Munkki says:

        I think there are villages like this in the Pacific, so – the latter, surprisingly enough.

        Pretty sure people who live there know to get to high ground inland if the water starts acting up or the sky gets mucky.

        1. Merlin says:

          Yep! The world of Spira was specifically designed to mimic southeast asian architecture & culture rather than falling back on familiar western tropes. You see a few designs similar to Kilika even just googling for “philippines village.” It’s pretty true to life. Get thee to a museum, Shamus.

          Edit: Or just to Wikipedia, I guess. From their Stilt House page:

          According to archeological evidence, stilt-house settlements were an architectural norm in the Caroline Islands and Micronesia, and these are still present in Oceania today. Today, stilt houses are also still common in parts of the Mosquito Coast in northeastern Nicaragua, northern Brazil, South East Asia, Papua New Guinea, and West Africa.

          Many are over land, but plenty are over the sea as well.

          1. RJT says:

            There are also stilt houses in coastal Louisiana. They are an architectural reaction to the high water table and to hurricanes. Pyramidal columns are built so that their bases touch deep underground. Alternatively, straight columns are built on bedrock. A cheap house can be rebuilt on the foundation after the old house blows away. The houses are typically named, and if they have been rebuilt, they sometimes get a roman numeral attached to their names (House the Second, etc).

          2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

            Yes but does any of this explain Seymour’s hair?

            1. Guile says:

              Are you kidding? Seymour’s hair is extremely stable, structurally speaking. Note the pyramid design:
              https://i.ytimg.com/vi/x_JThI-jPOo/maxresdefault.jpg

              Nothing wrong with that hair.

    2. Guile says:

      It does make you wonder why the villagers didn’t move inland a year ago, though. The Calms always last ten years or thereabouts, they had to know Sin was reforming.

      No matter how stable the stilt house design is for normal living, it’s not going to stand up to something that’s part hurricane and part Godzilla.

      1. Corsair says:

        Actually, Braska’s Calm only lasted a few months. As for why they didn’t move further inland, Kilika is tiny, most of the island is covered with monster filled jungle and a temple. Plus Sin can fly just fine.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          It’s not just Braska’s, every Calm only lasts a few months before Sin officially appears again.

          But yeah, fiends are everywhere, and not everyone is a guardian. I mean, look at the crusaders in the Kilika forest, couldn’t handle the Occhu there.

          1. Which sort of makes sense, since I’d call that one of the first Wake-Up Call Bosses if you’re new to the game.

            Granted, my current (emulated, since no money for remaster) playthrough has been incredibly easy so far, with even Sinspawn Gui basically being a “hey, something that’ll actually live a couple of turns.”

            I was mostly screwing around with the bonus summoner fights on the way through the game even, and that’s with barely using summons at all.

  5. Dusk says:

    Loving this series so far! – I recently attempted another playthrough of FF X myself, though I just dug out my old PS2 copy instead of shelling-out for the shiny new version.

    A couple of points from above:

    “What to they EAT?”
    On Besaid Island I’m pretty sure there is some evidence of food – there is a conversation with Wakka about eating, though admittedly it’s a fade-to-black, not a cutscene of an actual meal. I’m also pretty sure there are fishing nets or similar amongst some boats on the beach, and the environment of Besaid is incredibly lush so there is bound to be fruit-bearing plants in there!

    I’m aware you’re not making a big deal of this, and maybe the things I’ve mentioned are pretty thin (also based on memory rather than verifying them – why have rational certainty slowing things down?).

    Besaid – Kilika Ferry
    Surprised you skipped this entirely, as there’s a fight with Sin (or at least his fin), and the party nearly sink the SS Liki (pun on “Leaky”?) trying to harpoon him, but I think it’s a nice lead-in to the cutscene of Sin’s destruction of Kilika rather than coming out of nowhere, plus it gives the heroes a chance to be a little heroic and try to distract Sin from its objective. Some NPCs even put themselves in harm’s way here, so it seems like they care about the world too.

    Death Makes No Sense
    Can’t remember enough to refute any of these points for sure, and as it’s an FF game we’ll never have coherent answers anway – like many lore-issues in JRPGs, the assessment of “makes no sense” is broadly accurate.

    The one thing here is that I’m fairly sure an “Unsent” with a body (like Auron) is essentially identical to a Fiend (made of pyreflies), but having “unfinished business” or some sort of focus allows them to retain their mind and/or memories. This distinction isn’t really explained at all, but is at least consistent with lots of other common themes of ghosts/spirits in general folklore remaining in the world to do “that thing” (typically vengeance). Why are some like this and not others? No idea.

    Aside – there are other Unsent kicking around. The Summoner you meet along your pilgrimage and get to duel Aeons with also appears alive, but is really an Unsent (her sidequest eventually tells you this).

    Kilika Temple
    Could not agree more on the temple interface. What a nightmare! I do have some nostalgia for the atmosphere of the environments despite this – I really like the various temple aesthetics and musical scores.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      To be fair, I always thought the interface in the trials was like that to teach you some patience, and boy, will you need patience throughout the game (well, for everything apart from the main story, really).

      1. galacticplumber says:

        I wouldn’t say so for fiend capturing at least. By the time you can really get into it you have access to the airship and the first reward you’re likely to get gives you enough items to craft death attacks onto a capture weapon to laugh at most of the game. Go with rikku so we can also get free items with mug at the same time.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          The patience needed for capturing comes from trying to find 10 of the rarest monsters. That can really tax you.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            I wouldn’t say that. I found and caught the requirements to unlock all the arena fights and rewards over two days. Stuff goes fast when you have instant kills that hilariously few non-bosses are immune to, an airship, and knowledge of exactly how location within an area can effect spawn formations and monster types. Now I’ll grant that’s a good chunk more work than many sidequests. Thing is though you’re also getting more rewards more regularly than most sidequests. Hell some of it is directly valuable and doable before you even get to the airship. Instant capturing all over Mt. Gagazet while laughing all the way to the bank was HILARIOUS for example.

    2. silver Harloe says:

      I thought the interface was like that because the dev team wasn’t talking to the art team. The devs just delivered a world interface with limited options, and so the artists could only make non-combat effects in the world via a menu.

  6. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

    First paragraph under “Death makes no sense” Last sentence.

    The cycle of death is is big part of this story, both mechanically and thematically.

  7. BeCeejed says:

    The way I’ve always interpreted it is that Unsent are basically fiends. And, in fact, fiends are basically like the Fayth. Also, and here’s a kicker, Aeons are basically also Fiends. Its super confusing to start, true, but it starts to make sense when you learn about the nature of the Fayth later on.

    Basically, in Spira, the dead have great power. Magic and such that they can apparently access in life becomes able to manifest physically after death. The Fayth are the dead, bound to a certain purpose by a Summoner (Originally Yu Yevon creating both original Sin and the majority of the Zanarkand Fayth, but also every Final Summon since original Sin bound by their respective Summoner is technically a Fayth). Bound by the summoner, the Fayth are basically ‘asleep’ and can be used to power magic, like Summoning Aeons or like the Dream Zanarkand which is a Summoning of Yu Yevon in and of itself.

    If you die, and are not bound as a Fayth, and don’t have peace in your death, you become either a Fiend or an Unsent. Fiends lose all recollection of their humanity, and are generally driven by their original incarnation’s more powerful emotions – and since you’re dead, its usually anger or desire for the living or something like that. Many Aeons also seem to embody particular emotions (What’s that one in the coffin and chains that’s basically pain/despair?) so basically Aeons are the representation of the emotions of the Fayth – essentially, Fiends.

    Unsent, however, usually have a purpose or desire strong enough to keep them from turning outright into Fiends. They are able to remember who they are and relatively pass for human. They may reanimate their body, or like Fiends (or Seymour) manifest a new one. They can be Sent, but since the Farplane is an actual physical place underneath all of Spira they can come back. (Seymour!!! *Shakes Fist*) Unsent are basically Fayth, only instead of being bound into a statue and to a purpose by a Summoner, they’re purpose is self-provided.

    I think the rare case is Auron, who is kinda A-OK with being dead, but Yuna’s dad and Jecht wanted him to stick around so he did. He’s not technically bound like the Fayth, he’s Unsent because a summoner and his Fayth decided not to let him go. Auron’s a weird case and even he doesn’t exactly know how it all works all the time.

    Essentially, in Spira human souls have a lot of power and magic and when they die they can just sort of explode on everything and ruin stuff by becoming manifestations of aggressive emotions like Fiends or by being Unsent, which basically is dangerous because they can just become a very high Int stat Fiend over time (Seymour!!! *Shakes fist*)

    I don’t remember the instances where whole bodies and armor disappear? So I don’t have an explanation for that, sorry. But otherwise I think some of the confusion over death in Spira is kinda cool because you later find out that basically Summoners are all Necromancers, manipulating the souls of the dead to do their bidding, dispelling or controlling spirits, basically Death Clerics. That’s why Seymour (*shakes fist*) is so particularly dangerous, cause he learned how to do all this spirit magic stuff but instead of accepting his death like all good summoners should (and are explicitly trained and prepared to do in order to summon the final Aeon and bring the Calm) and going to the Farplane without trouble he’s like “Noooooo. No I’m GOING to stick around.” and basically is a ghost with crazy necromancer powers.

    Side note, Summoners do dances to do basically all their stuff. Or at least Yuna does. They dance to summon Aeons, They dance to Send spirits to the Farplane.

    Summoners (or at least Yuna) are Necrodancers.

    1. Darren says:

      I never really thought about the Summoners as Necromancers, but you make a strong case. I guess that would make Seymour a Lich?

      1. BeCeejed says:

        Basically! The horror and somewhat revulsion we are supposed to experience with Lichs, their top tier abberational state, is certainly implied to be the kind of thing the PCs feel about Seymour. I’m not sure he pulls it off though, what with his constant attempts a pretty-boy-ness. But I’m not sure what else one can expect from Square Enix.

        He’s like a Lich that knows really powerful Glamour spells and is really obsessed with his image and if his conjured hair looks just right.

    2. John says:

      “Reanimate!”

      But do these NecroDancers have their own Golden Lutes?

    3. SKD says:

      The chained coffin Aeon is actually Seymour’s mother as his Final Summon. IIRC it is also one of the optional ones that you have to actively search for.

      1. Decius says:

        Of the ones you have to look for, it’s in the middle. Harder than Yojimbo to find but easier than the Magus Sisters.

    4. You’re thinking of Anima, or as I like to call it, “Ultima Weapon OHKO.”

  8. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    The problem is, the basic peasant has no idea how death and unsent really works beyond what Lulu says during the Kilika sending (they’re deliberately being kept in the dark about the whole process), so we do get a better look at the big picture than them, it just takes a bit of observation and thinking.

    1. ? says:

      Look at any “fails compilation” on youtube to see how average person understands physics that govern every interaction in their lives. It’s almost as if smart people dedicate years to learn how world works and some still fall into the clutches of superstition and misinformation. What doesn’t make sense in many works of fiction is abridging all the information about magic into handful of sentences and people giving accurate exposition every time.

  9. John the Savage says:

    Just want to say, I love that you’re writing this series, especially since it’s not an obvious choice for your particular brand of analysis. This game has a special place in my heart; it’s rough around the edges, but it’s got a lot of heart and feels very genuine. I’ve played through the game several times, watched two full LP’s of the game, and still routinely play much of the music on piano (whenever I have to play at a concert, I always warm up on the FFX Ending Theme), so I’m delighted to see it get the Shamus Young treatment and see it from a new perspective.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So if that ritual sends all the unsent into the afterlife,does that mean that therell be a bunch of fights against unsent where you will have no option to even ask about yuna doing that dance?

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The dance isn’t a replacement for combat. Unsent who aren’t willing to go won’t just be zapped to the Farplane because you dance at them. You need to destroy their physical form holding all the pyreflies in place and THEN you can dance them out. Unsent willing to be sent just allow this to happen instead of fighting to hold their form together.

      (Note: Dancing as a combat class IS a thing in FFX-2, but not in X really.)

      1. galacticplumber says:

        Actually as demonstrated in a side area after the calm lands it’s not so much fighting to maintain so much as literally attacking the summoner if they start to dance. This is why you need to subdue manually.

        1. Syal says:

          Auron holds himself together through various Sendings. You do need to break them down if they don’t want to go.

          1. From his expressions during them, though, it requires a strong exercise of will to hold together anyway.

            Thankfully, he’s characterized as having that will, so it doesn’t seem entirely out-of-place.

  11. Retsam says:

    The trials interface could use some streamlining, but I thought the puzzles were well-done. The main puzzle is always simple enough that most players won’t have too much trouble; but there’s always a bonus puzzle which is significantly harder to solve that will give a somewhat-rare item when solved.

    It’s not “The Witness” or “Antichamber”, but as a RPG minigame I thought it worked pretty well.

    1. Mintskittle says:

      If you plan on getting all the Aeons, it’s very important to solve the secondary puzzles and get those items, and the Bevelle Temple needs to be completed when you get there because you won’t be able to come back later. Solving the puzzles opens up the Sunken Temple, where Tidus first landed in Spira, and allows you to get Anima, the Aeon Seymour used to clear out Luca’s stadium.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I was going to correct you, and say that’s not the sunken temple, but it’s more a redundancy on the game’s part.

        The game never calls Baaj Temple the “sunken temple,” but it does have the Sunken Cave, which is its shorthand for the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth, which has a different optional aeon, but isn’t a temple.

        1. Mintskittle says:

          Baaj Temple, yes, that’s the one I meant. Not the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth.

      2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        At the same time, you cannot miss the destruction sphere item from Bevel. The game forces you to pick it up when you get to it, si there’s no need to come back anyway.

    2. Hal says:

      “but there's always a bonus puzzle which is significantly harder to solve that will give a somewhat-rare item when solved.”

      I wish they’d done this for the Omega Ruins, but no. They used random seeding, which is utter BS in a game like this.

  12. Mintskittle says:

    In add another wrinkle to this, Jyscal Guado was sent, and yet manifests again just outside the Farplane to give Yuna a message, and she has to send him a second time. Auron theorizes, and Jyscal’s message confirms, that he was murdered. So if you end up dying, yet believe really really hard that you need to stick around, you can overcome even a sending.

    Also, Auron, as an unsent, has a bad reaction just outside the Farplane. When you arrive, he says that he doesn’t belong there, and he sounds exhausted, as if just being close to it is draining him. Maybe the pyreflies are naturally drawn in when they close? And when Yuna sends Jyscal, Auron has to struggle just to maintain form and nearly collapses from the effort.

  13. Hal says:

    Death Makes No Sense

    This is one of the problems with Final Fantasy lore for all of the games, either in terms of cosmology or just the structure of the world. Almost everything is presented in terms of “rule of cool,” drama-first presentation. Pulling at the threads even a little can just unravel the game world.

  14. So Abnaxis says:

    As I was thinking about it more and more, I think your complaint about death making no sense is actually a large, large part of the reason why I liked FFX so much.

    As I was saying in my post earlier, pyreflies”“the little energy motes that get “sent” when the summoners do the Sending”“are the Applied Phlebotenum of the FFX universe. They are the things that explain how summoners bring forth avatars and death and destruction from the Aether. They're the reason why fiends outnumber any other creature in the wild. They're the reason Sin didn't starve to death a millennia ago.

    And not only do the pyreflies explain away some of the crazy aspects of Spira, but they also don't exist in a vacuum. The Sending is one example”“it's Spira's (perhaps futile) solution to pyreflies transforming into malevolent fiends. There are sites where pyreflies are abundant which are revered as holy sites. Heck, Yevon itself is basically an entire religion centered around the Soul”“which is what they assume pyreflies are.

    And best of all, nobody in Spira can actually prove that what they believe about the pyreflies is true. Nobody sat down and scientifically proved that summoners performing the sending actually prevents fiends from forming. Whether or not the people pilgrims see in the Farplane are the actual deceased is disputed by Al Bhed doctrine. People believe what their faith tells them about the pyreflies, and I felt like the game did a decent job of presenting those beliefs not as undisputed fact, but as a matter of faith.

    Pyreflies detailed enough to play a pivotal role in worldbuilding for Spira, but they are still vague enough to allow for mystique and magic. Basically, pyreflies are what midichlorians should have been. Given that, I’m cool with death making no sense sometimes…

    EDIT:I posted as “So Abnaxis” somehow…?

    1. krellen says:

      That’s so Abnaxis.

      (I’ve noticed lately that the cursor is defaulting to the name field, not the comment field, so you probably typed a “So” before you noticed you weren’t typing a comment, and forgot to delete it.)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yeah,Shamoose said that wordpress decided to “improve” their scripts recently.

  15. Sunshine says:

    It’s good that you found another game to chew on at length after finishing with Mass Effect, and haven’t been reduced to sucking on MS: Andromeda rumours for sustenance.

  16. Syal says:

    I got the impression that the souls of the dead hang around the bodies until they’re strong enough to reform on their own. Auron and Seymour aren’t in their bodies, they’re in a form created by their will (probably how they see themselves). You blast Seymour into pieces, but unless you send his soul he’ll reform himself over time.

    I think Seymour mentions somewhere that the dead don’t feel pain. I extrapolated that to mean the dead can’t feel pleasure either, and that’s why most of them become violent and turn into fiends. That’s what ‘envying the living’ is about. The ones that don’t are the ones who hold on to an ideal that doesn’t require them to be happy.

    A few people have said the unsent are basically fiends. I thought it was the other way around; fiends are late-stage unsent who have given up on their old life and become purely animal.

    Don’t remember how much of that is actually in the game. Probably not much, Final Fantasy is not big on detail.

    (…Zombie status is pushing out a person’s soul and animating their body with evil powers. Phoenix and Life reattach the soul to the body and heal the worst of the injuries. But to reattach the soul you have to push the Zombie out first and if you don’t do it correctly you’ll end up with no Zombie power and no soul, which is just a dead body. Totally rational!)

    1. The point about Seymour is somewhat lampshaded, since Yuna is about to send him when the butler-type person interrupts her and prevents it from happening.

  17. PhoenixUltima says:

    dialog also seems to suggest that leaving someone unsent might eventually turn them into a straight-up monster. Maybe this means the ghost enemy type? Or maybe that's yet another kind of undead?

    It actually means all of the random monsters in the game (except for robots, obviously). You ever notice that pyreflies come out of them when you kill them? Yep, all the killer bees, giant armor dudes, and living jello blobs are all dead people.

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    Am I the only one in the world who loved the puzzle temples? Am I the only one in the world who wants a spin-off game with just a whole bunch of new puzzle temples?

    Yes, they weren’t great as-is, kind of the equivalent of the training puzzles in Portal with no “escape” half, not even a pat on the back for getting through all of them. I think the mechanics of the puzzle temples could make for the basis of a good game once expanded, maybe borrowing from The Talos Principle instead of Portal.

    Triple Triad got it’s own game. Why not the puzzle temples?

    Oh well. I at least I do have Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut, Glitchspace, Antichamber, Twin Sector, INFRA, Talos Principle, and a ton of mods for Portal and Portal 2, and even some puzzle-y HL2 mods.

  19. Excalipoor says:

    I’m okay with the hanging questions left by pyrefly and fiend ‘biology’, but only because the explanation for fiends satisfies one of my personal pet peeve RPG questions of ‘Are we murderers every time we go grinding?’ There’s no worrying about making Goblin orphans and widows on Spira; you’re doing everyone a favor by getting rid of the fiends, including the fiends themselves.

    In fact, when you DO fight a non-fiend enemy, the characters in the game treat it like a pretty big deal!

    …The first time, at least. Oh well, baby steps.

  20. Volatar says:

    One thing that may help explain some of the death issue, particularly the “if they are KO’ed why do we use ___ on them?”, is to remember that this game was originally written in Japanese. Translation is an imperfect art on the best of days.

    1. Syal says:

      I still love the Final Fantasy 4 translation that used ‘Swoon’ for the death status.

  21. Steve C says:

    Oh I get what summoners are doing…
    https://youtu.be/Jdf5EXo6I68?t=55s

  22. Locke says:

    I’m not the first person to point out that fiends are all monsters in the game, not just a certain undead subset of them, but I do want to be a bit more rigorous about it. Probably because I have spent way too much time writing this kind of thing lately.

    In the black magic tutorial, Lulu states “[l]ightning and water are opposed, just like fire and ice. This one here is a water fiend, which means…” The enemy she is referring to is a water flan. This clearly establishes the fiends as monsters in general.

    Gatta, the younger crusader, earlier says “[b]e on guard. There're fiends on the road today!” None of the monsters encountered on the road (in fairness, these encounters happen the next day) are at all undead. According to the wiki article it’s just the condor, dingo, and garuda, a bird, dog, and giant wyvern respectively.

    When any of these monsters are killed, they dissolve and release pyreflies. Although it’s not explicitly stated, I think it’s fairly clear that this is just the limited early-PS2 graphics way of communicating that the body is made of pyreflies, and that when the pyreflies break apart and float away, there’s nothing left.

    It’s never explicitly stated so far as I can tell that every fiend is the unquiet spirit of an unsent, but non-fiend opponents, like the Guado or the Yevonite guards at Seymour’s wedding, do not release pyreflies when slain. This certainly suggests that the fiends are all made of pyreflies, and that these pyreflies are the angry spirits Lulu referred to in the subtitles of the screenshot above.

    It’s fairly safe to assume from all this that an unsent soldier whose equipment disappears when sent to the Farplane is probably not possessing his original body at all. He’s a fiend, and both he and his stuff are made out of pyreflies.

    What about Auron (and all the other unsent who keep walking and talking like regular dudes)? What’s so special about him? How come he gets to assume a form that’s identical to his living body instead of turning into an elementally attuned glob of snot? This is less clear to me. Answers posed in other comments suggest that it’s because Auron et al are badass enough to retain a human form instead of going berserk with supernatural hatred for the living. This certainly fits well with the eastern mythological concept that some people get to come back from the dead because they’re more badass than the gatekeepers of the afterlife, but I don’t know of any support for that theory in the actual setting of Spira, just in the culture that produced it. Most of the unsent maesters never demonstrate any badassery. That said, we can say for a fact that age doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it. Auron is unsent for ten years, Yunalesca is unsent for a thousand-odd, and the vast majority of fiends encountered will fall in between those two. Clearly human form unsent are not a result of fiends who stick around long enough to reclaim their past selves, nor are they a prelude to degeneration into fiend forms. Or at the very least, they aren’t always a prelude to degeneration into fiend forms. Maybe Yunalesca is special somehow? If so, it’s not made clear how. And her true form is pretty monstrous (see also: Seymour).

  23. Fists says:

    To be fair, Lulu is eyeballing Tidus’ chest at least as blatantly as he is her’s. Maybe it’s a just a culture thing in Spira?

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