Final Fantasy X Part 20: Finale Fantasy

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 3, 2016

Filed under: Retrospectives 160 comments

In the belly of Sin, Tidus at last comes face-to-face with his father. This is… strange. Jecht became Sin, but then we find Jecht is also inside of Sin? That’s like Optimus Prime transforming into a truck, but then you look in the driver’s seat and Optimus Prime is behind the wheel. That’s confusing.

It’s an awkward conversation when Tidus confronts his father. The last time they saw each other, Tidus was a different person. They both were. They didn’t understand each other before and nothing in the last ten years has corrected that.

I Hate You

I can see where Tidus gets his fashion sense. This is not a compliment.
I can see where Tidus gets his fashion sense. This is not a compliment.

Eventually Jecht urges them to get on with it. He’s about to lose himself again and become the rampaging beast again. Which means he’s about to turn into a boss monster. So six-foot Jecht turns into a fifty-foot aeon which is inside of stadium-sized Sin, and all three are supposedly Jecht. That’s even more confusing.

After the fight, Tidus runs to his father’s side and they talk a bit more. Tidus ends the conversation by saying, “I hate you.”

I don’t think this is a very satisfying way to end his arc. Sure, it ties back into earlier parts of the story. In one flashback young Tidus was saying he was glad his father was gone, and Mom said, “If you never see him again, you’ll never be able to tell him how much you hate him!” And there was a dream back on Besaid Island where he tried to tell dad how much he hated him, and his dad taunted him to “Say it louder!”

So this is, I suppose, thematically complete. But it still doesn’t make for a great story. “Oh by the way, I jumped into Satan’s asshole and climbed through this madhouse just so I could say I still hate you.” That’s not an interesting or satisfying arc, and it makes it feel like Tidus hasn’t learned anything.

If you’ve collected Jecht’s memory spheres along the way (and you should, they’re not hard to get and they’re pretty good) then Tidus has watched recordings of his father’s adventures. He’s seen his father swear off drinking. He’s seen his father become a loyal guardian. And regardless of finding those spheres, he’s seen the moment of truth when Jecht chose to give his life for the people of Spira. He saw that his father’s last thoughts were for his son. He’s sensed his father’s anger and frustration at being trapped inside Sin, and how much the guy continues to suffer for doing what he thought was the right thing. And now, inside Sin, Tidus has met the man again in light of all of these revelations.

I hate you too, Meg Ryan.
I hate you too, Meg Ryan.

“I hate you!” is a lame way to close this character arc. It makes Tidus seem small and petty. The stakes have gone up so far. Why hasn’t his perspective changed?

A much better conclusion would be if he could stand here in the heart of evil and look at what a horrible monster his father had become, and still be able to say the words, “I love you.” Maybe I’m just projecting as a father, but I think that would have carried more emotional punch than his tearful goodbye with Yuna.

Not only does it seem like Tidus shouldn’t say it, afterwards it feels like he didn’t. In the after-credits scene, Tidus goes to the afterlife. As he arrives, he’s welcomed by a high-five from dad. He doesn’t refuse the high-five, or scowl, or pout. Both of them appear happy. They did it, together. They saved the world.

But maybe I’m interpreting this wrong. Sure, Tidus says, “I hate you!” But he said it through tears, while cradling his father in his arms. Maybe there’s some nuance being lost in translation? Maybe he felt obligated to say it because they just had a fight to the death? Maybe now that he finally gets the chance to say it, he realizes he doesn’t mean it? I don’t know.

Final Boss

For the final boss fight, Jecht takes the form of a heavy metal album cover.
For the final boss fight, Jecht takes the form of a heavy metal album cover.

Jecht is the last “real” boss of the game. It’s the last time you’ll be seriously challenged by the mechanics. (Unless you’ve been side-questing, in which case the only place you can find a challenge is the monster arena.)

Afterward you fight Yu Yevon – who for some reason looks like a hovering tick – and that fight is almost impossible to lose. Your characters all have auto-life, meaning they’re instantly revived if they get knocked out. You just have to destroy each of Yuna’s Aeons so that there is nowhere else for Yu Yevon to go.

The game forces you to call each Aeon. Then Yu takes control of it and you fight it. Did you go to a bunch of extra trouble to unlock the bonus Aeons in hopes they would make you stronger? Did you spend time boosting their stats? Oops!

Defeating your own aeons seems to destroy the Aeon forever. This raises all sorts of questions about how fayth, summoning, and aeons work in relation to Yu Yevon, but the story isn’t really interested in explaining or exploring it.

THIS is Yu Yevon? Really? That doesn't really work for me.
THIS is Yu Yevon? Really? That doesn't really work for me.

Once Yu is out of Aeons, he’s a pushover. The camera cuts away so the storyteller doesn’t have to explain how they get from the belly of Sin to the deck of the airship. With Yu Dead, the summoning ends. The Fayth end their dreaming and become lifeless statues. The aeons vanish for good. Dream Zanarkand fades away. The world changes forever as a millennia-long stalemate is finally broken.

Tidus, being a part of Dream Zanarkand, vanishes too. But he does so slowly, so we can get a few minutes of tear-jerky sadness as Yuna watches her man dissolve and everyone says their goodbyes.

It’s a sad ending. A tragic ending. The story created a romance between these two characters, which makes his loss even more powerful. Even if you disliked Tidus, you probably liked Yuna and wanted her to enjoy a happy ending for her struggle. But I’m glad the writer was willing to commit to this. I think it would have felt too indulgent if these teenagers had solved this problem and it hadn’t cost them anything.

What About Final Fantasy X-2?

So Yuna defeated Sin, and then she decided to dress and behave like a completely different person? If we're going to revisit the same old characters, then they really ought to be the same characters.
So Yuna defeated Sin, and then she decided to dress and behave like a completely different person? If we're going to revisit the same old characters, then they really ought to be the same characters.

I suppose before I wrap this series up I should say a few words about the sequel. The story of this world was supposedly continued in Final Fantasy X-2. I tried it. I didn’t like it. It answered a question I didn’t care to ask, which was “How did the world change after Sin was defeated?” I felt like the first game created a clear, solid, thematically complete arc, and I was content to leave the rest to the imagination. Worse, none of the characters felt like the characters I knew. Everyone was slightly off. I gave Mass Effect 2 a hard time for re-writing Liara’s personality between games, but here it felt like everyone got a re-write. I found it incredibly off-putting just how out-of-character everyone was behaving.

For example: I really disliked the Wakka wound up with Lulu, since I never once got the impression she had the slightest interest in him. If I had to sum up her attitude towards him in a single word, it would be “contempt”. They barely interacted on Yuna’s pilgrimage. She also didn’t strike me as being in a big hurry for motherhood. It’s not that this outcome was impossible or anything – I mean, there are only like two dozen people living on Besaid Island anyway – but it didn’t click into place for me. It felt like fanservice, if not fan fiction. It’s the most banal and obvious match, and yet the one most poorly supported by the previous game.

From a storytelling perspective, Wakka and Rikku make a much more interesting pairingYou might object to it because their age difference seems a little scandalous to western sensibilities, but Wakka is supposedly 23 and Rikku is in her mid-teens. Historically, that’s not even a big deal, and once you move the timeline forward a few years it’s a perfectly normal couple even by modern standards., as it flows naturally from their shared arc as enemies becoming friends. It also works as a payoff for the end of the last game and helps show how the world has healed. Without the teachings of Yevon, the Al Bhed can be welcomed into normal society, and former “Al Bhed hater” Wakka is the first to take an Al Bhed spouseNot actually the first. I mean, Braska did it a couple of decades ago..

Also, I really disliked that Yuna was looking for Tidus. (Or whoever. I don’t care that it was some other spirit or whatever.) Everyone had settled into their post-story happy endings, and I didn’t want to see them leave that behind so they could undo parts of the ending of the previous game. That’s like making a sequel to Lord of the Rings where Sam leaves Rosy and his gardening so he can bring Frodo back from the Grey Havens. I know that it was sad to see Frodo leave, but bringing him back would retroactively undercut the huge emotional impact at the end of Return of the King.

I only made it a few hours into the game, and all of it felt slightly off. Too indulgent, too implausibleWhich is really saying something for this series., too jarring, or too dumb. It was the worst of both worlds. I didn’t get the wonder and excitement of discovering a new world, but I also didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing old familiar characters. I get that the dress spheres were a big hit with fans, but I’d much rather have experienced that gameplay while exploring a fresh new world with a new slate of characters.

Wrapping Up

There aren't any group shots at the end, because Auron gets sent to the afterlife. So here's a shot from the middle of the game. Man, I love these idiots.
There aren't any group shots at the end, because Auron gets sent to the afterlife. So here's a shot from the middle of the game. Man, I love these idiots.

Final Fantasy X was an odd transitional game. Its graphics make it more similar to the games of today than to the Final Fantasy games that came out just two years earlier. (This is true of a lot of games in that time period. 2000-2004 was a watershed era in gaming.) But stylistically, I think it’s closer to those old games than it is to anything that’s followed.

Is it a perfect game? Not by a long shot. The “Al Bhed as oppressed minority” doesn’t really gel, the big Blitzball game is a disaster, some of the sidequests are poorly paced, the rare difficulty spikes seem to always follow massive unskippable cutscenes, there are a few scenes that don’t work as well as they should, and a couple of contrivances skate by without being properly addressed. But it’s got charm, vibrant environments, a stellar soundtrack, and a couple of characters I really love. I enjoyed the turn-based gameplay. I like my action games (Batman) to be fluid and fast-paced. I like my strategy games to allow me to linger over complex decisions, looking for optimal choices. So I’ve always found the turn-based-with-a-timer idea of the early games to be a really unsatisfying compromise.

I played through FFX again while writing this series, and I was glad to see the game still held up after all these years. This wasn’t like the time when I returned to Leisure Suit Larry and discovered that the magic was long gone. This is still a genuinely fun game. Yes, the world of Spira is bonkers, but it’s the good kind of bonkers. It’s the vibrant, crazy, surprising kind of bonkers. Maybe it doesn’t always make sense, but it manages to hit the right emotional notes. And that’s exactly what I want from Final Fantasy.

Thanks for reading.



[1] You might object to it because their age difference seems a little scandalous to western sensibilities, but Wakka is supposedly 23 and Rikku is in her mid-teens. Historically, that’s not even a big deal, and once you move the timeline forward a few years it’s a perfectly normal couple even by modern standards.

[2] Not actually the first. I mean, Braska did it a couple of decades ago.

[3] Which is really saying something for this series.

From The Archives:

160 thoughts on “Final Fantasy X Part 20: Finale Fantasy

  1. stomponator says:

    That's like Optimus Prime transforming into a truck, but then you look in the driver's seat and Optimus Prime is behind the wheel. That's confusing.

    Somehow, this part caused me to spout coffee all over my screen. I would very much like to see this in a Transformers movie. Camera zooms in on Optimus Prime sitting in his own cockpit, giving thumbs up.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      And then zooms in on that Optimus… This could make for a very satisfying .gif!

      1. Primogenitor says:

        Then that Optimus turns into a truck, and it zooms in on the cab to show…

        1. Guildenstern says:


    2. Alex says:

      Something like that actually existed – the Headmasters. Including one (Fortress Maximus) whose head transformed into a robot, whose head also transformed into a robot.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    Love the title! :D

    PS Traditional forgetting of break for main page.

  3. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    For the “I hate you” thing, yes, you’re missing something. It’s something that happens an awful lot in anime and Japanese games (maybe in real life, too, I dunno) where the characters aren’t being honest with themselves (because it’s too embarrassing, and they have an image to protect or something), and actually mean the opposite of what they say. That’s called a “Tsundere”. So when he says it at the end, he really means “I love you”, which is why he’s not angry at seeing Dad again later.

    As for X-2’s story, that’s how almost everyone feels. The gameplay is pretty good (OK, the combat is good, those many mini-games can go to hell), but the story isn’t. Worse, they (and by that I mean Square Enix) wanted to bring back Sin somehow afterwards. It’s in one of the bonuses for the HD remaster, or so I’m told.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Isn’t “Tsundere” more specific? “Hard/cold on the outside, warm/soft on the inside?”

      1. Yurika Grant says:

        Yep. Tidus is in no way a tsundere character. None of them are really, amazingly enough. It’s such a common trope in Japan it’s damn near impossible to find normal characters with actual personalities.

        1. Rosseloh says:

          Don’t quote me on this, but this game was in development, what, around the turn of the century? And I don’t think Tsundere as a concrete concept really existed until 2004 or thereabouts (if whatever site I saw the theorycrafting on, maybe TVTropes, is right).

          Not to say that the archetype didn’t exist, but I don’t know that they would have been writing any of them specifically to be that way. I dunno. I’m not a writer, nor really any more knowledgeable about the subject than a “regular” Japanese media fan.

          1. Yurika Grant says:

            Pretty much. As a term, it came about mostly as a result of eroge/galge and others of their ilk. Popularised even further with the advent of moe anime.

    2. Henson says:

      I think Titus means a lot of things with his final ‘I hate you’, and I actually think the voice actor portrayed that pretty well with his performance, too. I got the sense that Titus still hates what his father did and what he was, but also realizes how much he wants a father figure, and knows how much Jecht has done and changed in Spira. If I were to sum up his feelings, I’d probably say something like “You are important to me”.

      1. Deadpool says:

        There’s also a little bit of… He has to kill him. It’s easier to tell the man you have to kill that you hate him than it is to admit all these confusing feelings he has at the moment…

        Btw, last post we talked about how meaningful water is. I wonder what the meaning of Jecht’s final form being all fire is…

        1. Kylroy says:

          Just to spike the cheese factor through the roof, I offer that he could say “I understand. And I hope (/think/pray) you do too.”

        2. Thomas Lines says:

          I got a strong ‘I hate you dying when I’ve finally come to understand you’ vibe amongst it all. Its said in grief, not literally

      2. tmtvl says:

        I guess it’s your spellchecker messing up, but seeing Titus reminds me that there was a Roman general named Titus Tatius.

        1. Henson says:

          Nah, I just didn’t see it. Maybe my mind was back performing in Andronicus or something.

      3. krellen says:

        Tidus promised he would say “I hate you” to his father if he saw him again – so he does.

        But yes, I remember the performance being very well done, because he says “I hate you”, but he means something else. I think there’s room for interpretation, but I kind of got a “I understand/forgive you” vibe.

        1. krellen says:

          Having just rewatched the scene – Tidus is saying “I hate you dad” in response to Jecht’s admonishing “You’re gonna cry, aren’t you? You always cry. See? You’re crying.” In that context, it makes even more sense. It’s just more of Jecht’s “need to toughen up my weak-ass son” routine, and Tidus’s “I hate you” is the step of resolution that shows he has toughened up. (Jecht’s response is basically “atta boy, now we gotta finish saving the world, right?”)

    3. Grudgeal says:

      Er, I’m fairly certain this is not a “tsundere” thing. “Tsundere” is more of a comedy trope used to express how ‘adorable’ it is that someone can’t spit it out about romantic love: I don’t think it’s very commonly used for filial love like here.

      I think this is more of a case of Tidus being able to air his grievances, and his conflict. Like, Jecht is always presented, outside the memory sphere sidequest, as an antagonistic figure to Tidus. He even eggs Tidus on in the flashbacks by telling him to “man up” and “say it like he means it”. So that’s what Tidus does now that he’s achieved partial closure by beating his dad up and freeing him from a lifetime of torment; he airs them. I don’t think “I hate you” is supposed to be taken as literal or 100% heartfelt. It’s more of the final movement to a symphony of miscommunication: A dysfunctional father and son who have never managed to be honest with each other and only manage to find some degree of honesty and reconciliation in a fight to the death. Tidus can’t manage to sum up his conflicted relationship with his father any better than this — he may not hate him, at least not completely, but he certainly doesn’t love him either — but I think both of them get the point across with deeds if not words.

      That said, I know there’s like a ton of cultural differences between ‘European’ values and Japanese ones here. Tvtropes has a giant analysis on the Values Dissonance between how Americans/Europeans and Japanese see Jecht and Tidus’ relationship. Personally it reminds me a fair bit about the relationship between the protagonist and his father in a Japanese cartoon called Neon Genesis Evangelion, in which a huge part of main character Shinji’s character arc is his extremely dysfunctional relationship with his own father and the two being almost pathologically incapable of opening up to each other. (For those of you who haven’t seen the show, they make Jecht and Tidus look positively idyllic together by comparison).

      1. ChrisANG says:

        Jecht: “Hey son! I know I was only ever a jerk to you, and your mom loved me more than she loved you, and then I left you both and your mom died of a broken heart, but you grew up into a star Blitzball player, which is what I wanted you to do so good job! I’m proud of you! And while you were doing that, I was off having a deeply meaningful adventure where I really grew as a person! Too bad you only found out about that like 3 days ago! Oh, by the way. That adventure I was telling you about? Turns out it ended with me turning into a world-killing monster. Oops! But don’t worry! I blew up our home city in order to kidnap you so that you could fall in love with my best friend’s daughter, so that you could stop her from killing herself and so you’ll be motivated to commit suicide by beating me to death with your sword! Hugs and kisses; Jecht!”

        Tidus: “…. I hate you.”

        By which I mean, yeah. Even though by the end of the game Tidus knows that Jecht is a pretty ok guy, Jecht has still only ever been a source of pain for Tidus personally. He was lousy to Tidus when he was growing up, and Tidus only found out about his redeeming qualities long after the fact, and even then the end result of those redeeming qualities is that both of them are going to have to die saving the world. It seems reasonable for Tidus to still hate him as a father, even if he comes to understand and even respect Jecht as a person.

    4. Jakale says:

      I didn’t get a tsundere vibe from that. Tsundere from what I’ve seen tends to be someone pretending to be disgusted to mask their real affection in order to avoid the consequences of open affection.
      Tidus, however, felt like someone who probably had genuinely complicated emotions at this point. He’s got nearly his entire lifetime of resentment aimed at his dad for all sorts of things (cause Jecht was still not the best parent ever), but he’s now also got an understanding of why Jecht disappeared, why he didn’t come back, how he changed in Spira, and even some alternate perspective context for some things back when he was a kid.

      Plus, for all that JRPGs like to treat their teenage protags as such, Tidus is clearly not a fully matured adult. He’s come a long way since we first met him, but this is a lot of baggage for anyone to deal with in only the couple minutes you have before you have to kill your dad because he’s fueling an endlessly destructive monster. So what do you do when you have all these feelings and things to say, but only seconds to say them?

      1. potatoejenkins says:

        Plus, for all that JRPGs like to treat their teenage protags as such, Tidus is clearly not a fully matured adult.

        Until this very moment where he finally “mans up” like his father always wanted and says what he always wanted to say.

        This is no “I hate you, die!”, this is “I hate you, you were a terrible father!”. Tidus loves him, like any child would love their parent. But like any child, Tidus didn’t fight back whenever his father treated him like garbage.

        I can not remember a scene in which Jecht was shown as a good parent. He was horrible and abusive. Whenever it was time and up to Tidus to say “Stop!”, Tidus didn’t. Tidus started crying, because he was a child. But in this moment he shows that he is not a child anymore, has grown during the pilgrimage like the others and is now able to “man up” – like his father wanted.

        I can not remember the reasoning behind Jecht being such a horrible father (did Tidus’ mother die giving birth to him or something like that?), but I also always got the feeling that he loved his son. And the only way he could show it was to dare Tidus to stand up for himself by being … horrible to him, teasing him and demanding resistance.

        Tidus yelling “I hate you!” shows his character developement and brings closure to the relationship between him and his father. “I hate you!” translates to “I’ve grown up, you can go now.” and he cries because he loves his father and it simply pains him to let him go.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          Reading between the lines I’d hazard a combination of being a Blitzball star, being an alcoholic and possibly being too young to be a father. Judging by Jecht’s appearance I’d hazard he was probably in his twenties at best when Tidus came along. Possibly not the best time for family planning if you’re focused on a jetset career and having drinking problems.

        2. Genericide says:

          I can not remember the reasoning behind Jecht being such a horrible father (did Tidus' mother die giving birth to him or something like that?)

          Actually, it’s kind of the opposite and much worse for Tidus. In the scene where he sees his mother in the farplane, it’s all but explicitly stated that she died because she didn’t want to go on living after Jecht left.

    5. Joe Informatico says:

      You might be thinking of the difference between honne (one’s true feelings) and tatemae(the facade you’re expected to present publicly). I’m no expert on Japanese culture or sociology, but I got the sense that being escapist fiction, anime/manga/JRPG characters are extremely and visibly emotional in a way Japanese adolescents couldn’t really be in real life. But maybe there’s still a honne/tatemae subtext or something else that eludes me as a Westerner.

    6. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Having never gotten this far in the game, I had to watch the scene on YouTube -but I took it this way as well -though it isn’t an exclusively Japanese concept. In English lit this would be a straight case of tragic and verbal irony.

  4. kunedog says:

    Entire post is on the front page.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Meta – this has happened with almost every recent post that’s needed to have a break.

      I’m sure I could write it off to Ol’ Man Shamus being forgetful, but it’s been consistent enough (after almost never happening for a long time) that I wonder if something’s broke?

      1. MichaelGC says:

        It happens with the posts which are part of long series (cf. almost every Mass Effect entry), as these are written in one tranche and then turned into separate webpages later. Long one-off posts are written as webpages to begin with, so he always tends to remember to insert the break as he goes along.

  5. Henson says:

    There is one bit of foreshadowing for a Lulu-Wakka coupling, which is during the Luca blitzball tournament. Wakka has just endured a tiring game against the Al Bhed team while Yuna was kidnapped, holding out while the others went to save her and still managing to pull out a win, and now, exhausted, he collapses into Lulu’s arms. She says, with a smile “You…really gave it your all, didn’t you?” It’s a nice little moment of affection, showing how Lulu can put up a tough front, but still has her soft side. (And I don’t mean her chest.)

    I remember this because it’s part of the unskippable cutscene before the tournament game against the Luca Goers. I really wanted to win that game.

    1. Retsam says:

      I was a bit surprised that Shamus found the Wakka-Lulu pairing hard to believe; I think I always sort of took it as a given that they end up together, despite the fact that I never played X-2.

      I think the scene in Luca that you mention is a part of that, but more so, I think it’s when you eavesdrop on their conversation on the boat to Luca. (Admittedly, you don’t have to even see this scene, and even if you see the first part, you might not realize that you can continue to eavesdrop) We see both a closer relationship between the two than the player might have guessed to that, and particularly we see a different side of Lulu than the one she shows to Tidus up to that point.

      They’ve got an existing relationship even before the game starts, and while it’s ambiguous to whether it’s more of a brother-sister relationship or something more; but I find it more natural to think that existing relationship between Wakka and Lulu grows into something more, than to think that a romance develops ex nihilo between Wakka and Rikku, largely off-screen.

      Plus, the personalities of Wakka and Lulu just complement each other really well, (in the same way that Tidus and Yuna’s personalities complement each other) which always made me think the game was pairing them. Wakka’s loud optimism is balanced by Lulu’s quiet realism, Wakka is easy-going but pretty dense, while Lulu is a bit more temperamental but very perceptive. They legitimately make a really good couple together, because their individual flaws balance each others out.

      Wakka and Rikku, while a romance between them would make a nice (if a bit on-the-nose) coda to the Yevon/Al Bhed conflict and Wakka’s character growth, really don’t complement each other that way: they’re both friendly, optimistic, outgoing and excitable. And, whether or not “opposites attract” is true in real life, it’s a staple of storytelling.

      Sidenote: the main four of Wakka, Lulu, Tidus, and Yuna fit the classical “four temperaments” personalities model really well: with Wakka being Sanguine (Extraverted/Emotionally Stable), Tidus being Choleric (Extraverted/Emotionally Unstable), Lulu being Melancholic (Introverted/Emotionally Unstable), and Yuna being Phlegmatic (Introverted/Emotionally Stable). Have a look at this chart and see how well the description in each quadrant matches them.

      1. Syal says:

        I think it’s awkward because a lot of Wakka and Lulu’s personalities are defined by being unwilling to let go of Chappu; them getting together feels like Wakka’s cheating on his brother. They’re close, but Lulu waves off the idea of a relationship with Wakka in a minor conversation, presumably because of that.

        Also a general weirdness to marrying a brother’s widow, but that might be a cultural thing.

        1. Thomas Lines says:

          I too assumed Wakka and Lulu were together, to the extent that I didn’t realise that was a relevation in X-2. I thought the reveal was the pregnancy.

          I’ve always assumed that Wakka Lulu and Chappu were in a really messy love triangle. As I said way back when, this was why I thought Lulu was especially cruel to Wakka which Shamus didn’t seem to fully click with. Wakka is a constant reminder of her guilt and unwillingness to deal with her feelings for him.

        2. krellen says:

          Marrying your brother’s widow actually used to be pretty common.

          1. Syal says:

            Used to be, yes.

  6. Joshua says:

    I thought the ATB system was all right in IV and VI, with the exception of how it interacted with Cyan. Talk about not playtesting….

    They fixed that in all of the remakes of that game.

    1. Hal says:

      They changed how Cyan’s sword tech works in the remasters? How so?

      1. MilesDryden says:

        In some remakes, you now select “SwdTech” and then select which number (1-8) of charges to use. Then Cyan waits the appropriate amount of time and then uses the ability. Functionally it’s the same thing but the interface now allows you to select commands for other characters while Cyan is charging up.

        1. Joshua says:

          So, the question is whether it’s worth the wait for him to do a SwdTech as opposed to having someone else who could do an action immediately, but it no longer constricts the rest of your party.

  7. Zekiel says:

    Thanks for a great series Shamus! I feel extremely lucky that you happened to pick the only Playstation game I’ve ever played to do a longwinded series on!

    I loved FFX because it was my first (and so far only) JRPG, so all the traditional Final Fantasy weirdness (that might be done better in other FF games) was new and original to me. I *loved* the worldbuilding – in spite of all its flaws, it feels far more original and unusual than all the standard pseudo-medieval western RPG fare. And I enjoyed the characters (even Tidus) and the plot twists, and found it very interesting tha the protagonist of the story changes throughout.

  8. Dini says:

    Thank you so much for going through this game. It’s always been one of my childhood favorites, but because of that, I’ve always wondered whether it actually held up, or if I was viewing the whole thing through rose-tinted glasses. I’m really glad the game does hold up, even if some things are absolute bonkers.

  9. Joshua says:

    As far as sequels are concerned, I also started playing IV The After Years, and didn’t get into it very much. I’ve heard a lot of people weren’t that thrilled with it. Am I wrong?

    My favorite was VI, and I would have liked to spend more time with the characters, but I guess these stories are best told once, and not revisited without just reversing the impact of the first game.

    1. Syal says:

      I read an LP for After Years. Apparently it reuses nearly every boss from 4, and if they couldn’t work them into the story they just threw them into the final dungeon. Also I always had the impression the point of becoming a Paladin was you became enlightened and couldn’t get brainwashed by evil forces. Not impressed with AY.

  10. Deadpool says:

    This was one of my favorite series of posts. Even if Inslacked off on the last few.

    And yeah, Tidus SAID “I hate you” like he always promised he would, but he sure as hell didn’t mean it. He just didn’t know how else to express himself at that time and he’d already promised to say that so…

    I like that scene quite a bit…

  11. Misamoto says:

    Feels really strange that you didn’t get the “I hate you” scene. The way I always read it is: “I hate that I can’t hang out with you now that I finally understand you”. Nothing’s really lost in the translation, it’s Tidus expressing his current (understandable) emotions with words that are a callback to their previous relationship

  12. Grudgeal says:

    Now, anyone up for gifting Shamus a copy of Tales of Symphonia so he can spent 20 posts complaining about what a shameless rip-off of FFX it is and despising the cliches and silly gameplay? No?

    Yeah, me neither. I enjoyed this denouement, looking forward to any further ones you eventually (hopefully) write.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      If I were to gift Shamus any JRPG at this point it would be Xenoblade Chronicles. He has a Wii last I checked, his past game experience would let him get a handle on the combat system fairly quickly despite its eccentricities, the story is absolutely glorious, and the sheer scale and variety of the areas is a marvel.

      1. Deadpool says:

        I feel like Xenogears would spawn a considerably longer, more hate filled blog than anything… The Redrum bit alone is probably worth two posts of “how wrong is this scene?!?”

        And hey, the last one was super positive so we need the balance!

        1. Rosseloh says:



          I would totally read a Shamus Plays Xenogears.

          (And I’ve never even played the game…my only exposure is TheDarkId’s excellent LP from a few years ago. But I’ve read that….more times than I’d like to admit.)

          1. Deadpool says:

            Unfortunately it is a tough game to gift… It’s on the PSN but is it playable on the PS4 or just 3 and Vita?

        2. galacticplumber says:

          But… But… It’s nice to see retrospectives actually generally positive, and besides I want to see his reaction to a massively singleplayer offline game with huge focus on story and worldbuilding…

    2. tmtvl says:

      Nonono, Rogue Galaxy. AKA Star Wars: The jRPG.

      1. Guile says:

        Ahh, Rogue Galaxy.

        I remember really thinking that game had a kind of superball-bouncing pizzazz you don’t see almost anywhere else. I liked it a bunch. Until the main character did the thing. You know the one.

    3. Kamfrenchie says:

      How is Tales of Symphonia a rip-off of FFX though ? there are similarities in theme and story but also significant differences.

      there is no Sin-like being unless i forget something, the main antagonist interacts with you unlike yu yevon, there are 2 worlds, etc.

      Sure, there are cycles, and a fake religion, but that’s hardly something unusual in video games

  13. Shen says:

    Well it came up several updates back but I figured I’d wait until the series finished before actually trying to pitch it to ya: go play Tales of the Abyss. Aside from being a fun action JRPG with excellent mechanics, it’s got an incredibly rich and detailed world, characters and plot that every now and then is slightly more ambitious than it can handle – which I’m sure we’re all not strangers to. So here’s a few brief notes (read, insufferable wall of text) to see if it might interest you:

    The Protagonist

    Main character is Luke fon Fabre, spoiled rich kid who is, in all honesty, a complete prat. He’s whiny, arrogant and completely ignorant of the world outside his family’s walls – mostly because as far as he can remember he’s never left them. He was kidnapped and experimented on 7 years prior and lost all his memories so now people make excuses for his terrible behaviour and keep him inside the lap of luxury. Needless to say, things conspire that has him and his fencing instructor’s would-be assassin transported to the other side of the world and deep into enemy territory and they have to find their way back. They don’t drag it out, thankfully, and instead by the time he gets back, he’s become too politically useful to keep locked up. Oh, and every now and then he gets headaches where he hears a voice but that’s probably not important. The story is tied to his character development as he reacts to the responsibilities handed to him and to the responsibilities of his actions on both a personal and public level. Suffice to say, he ends up a very different person by the end of the story.

    The World

    Okay, here’s the good stuff. First things first: sound particles. The world is based on things called “fonons” which are apparently particles of sound that make up everything and fill the gap between science and magic, i.e. it’s studied as a science, being basically the same thing as atoms, but it functions like magic (yes, I know sound particles are an actual concept, which if anything that makes it more absurd). Fonons come in 7 flavours: 6 are the classical elements plus light and shadow, but the seventh is “sound” (meaning that they’re sound particles that have the power of sound. Yes, really) and has only recently – relative to the others – been discovered and studied. It’s all pretty much akin to the mass effect in Mass Effect, wherein the proper application explains pretty much everything cool the writer wants. On top of that, it gives the world a very unique flavour as things are parsed through the language of music.
    Second thing: the Score. Some lady called Yulia read the prophecy of the world and wrote it down on giant rocks called Fon stones. Said Fon stones are actually in orbit around the planet and occasionally fall down to be read by the masses – or rather, told to the masses by a church state, who are the only ones who can read it. The Score is incredibly comprehensive and can even be consulted to find out what one must eat for dinner on a particular night. It technically allows free will as the Score only pertains to a world that ends in prosperity but naturally nobody really wants to diverge from it. Of course, bad things have to happen along the way and so what is and isn’t told is oft controlled by the church. This drives the main conflict of the story: an upcoming war being put into place by the church because it was written in the Score to lead to the best possible world. Surprisingly enough however, the story doesn’t devolve into a typical “religon r bad” plot and remains incredibly nuanced on the matter. The two main antagonist parties in fact are the ones who represent the two extremes of the matter, complete zealotry vs total freedom, and both are portrayed as equally sympathetic and problematic.

    Why You Might Like It

    It is very much a details first world, despite being driven by emotional conflicts. While wondering around outside of battle, you can activate “skits,” which are just little conversations between party members with a massive number of topics. Imagine if the codex from Mass Effect was told to you through your party members and you’ll get an idea of how it works. Each telling can function as small character moments as well as exposition. As an example, one of your earliest party members is a high-ranking enemy soldier, Jade Curtiss who joins at endgame level and completely thrashes everything he fights. However, the villains hit him with a “fon slot seal” which de-levels him to the same as your party members. The story goes on, but in a skit, the reasonable question of “why don’t they do that to everyone” comes up and Jade explains that creating a seal takes up 10% of a country’s entire budget, before expressing both bemusement and a hint of pride that people consider him that much of a threat.
    Beyond that, there’s even a functioning economy that gets completely thrashed by war. You can absolutely buy low, sell high if you care to and you’ll often hear merchants talk about how expensive the imported food can get.
    Also worth mentioning is that people are very sensible in their ridiculous sound particle-based world and great attention is paid to the tensions and politics of a given situation. At least once, as I recall, you can even hang around and chat to the main villain in his office as both of you agree that fighting at that time will end badly for everyone. The only non-sensible person tends to be the main protagonist as he voices the “why don’t we just do this” option the players are thinking and have it explained why that wouldn’t work.

    Tales of the Abyss is pretty much a hard-ish sci-fi story told through a fantasy aesthetic and absolutely rocks it. I’d recommend looking up a chronological sidequest guide if you do go through it though, because as a game it can be a royal pain in the arse. Certainly not looking for a long form series like this one (as this comes from the heart and, incidentally, was a joy to read, so thanks!), but I and others would be really keen to hear your thoughts on it as it seems right up your alley.
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a paycheck to collect from Namco.

    1. Yurika Grant says:

      100% seconded, it’s one of the best games ever conceived if you view it from the lens of a writer creating an absolutely rock solid world. Great charaters, Luke’s developmental arc over the first quarter (into the next big arc) is FANTASTIC, the world is unbelievably well put together, and the twists (especially the big one that gives you context for the game’s title) are fabulous.

      Sad that so many people write it off because of Luke’s behaviour over the opening arc when his behaviour is both a) well-explained and logical, and b) leads to his development into a wholly different person, a more nuanced and interesting character who grows as a result of his sheltered nature.

      Now… if you’ll excuse me, I need to replay Abyss. Thanks for reminding me :D

      1. guy says:

        Personally, I got really angry at everyone who wasn’t Luke when a major disaster resulted from their refusal to answer his questions on critically important topics and they completely failed to acknowledge that they should maybe have been more forthcoming.

        1. Yurika Grant says:

          Your name just reminded me that I need to say ‘poor Guy’. Poor Guy. Worst problem in the world, lol.

    2. Retsam says:

      Huh, I got like 20-25% into that game and it just sputtered out. Maybe I’ll have to give it another look.

      But, I rather imagine that whatever Shamus does next is going to largely be dependent on what Shamus has already played and already has strong feelings on. I wouldn’t be opposed to Shamus doing an extended “hot take” on a game that he hasn’t played before, but I’m not sure how well it would work with the existing format.

      1. Yurika Grant says:

        Yeah, and with a long game like an RPG, especially one with such an initially unlikeable character such as Luke, I wouldn’t want Shamus getting or giving the wrong impression of the game’s overall quality just because he dislikes Luke (which a lot of people do get from the game, alas).

    3. Christopher says:

      But it’s still only on American/Japanese PS2s and then 3DS, right? I always wanted to play it, but it never came out in the EU until the 3DS port.

  14. Hal says:

    I’m a bit disappointed the Omega Ruins didn’t get more than passing references. It’s not relevant to the main story, but it’s interesting from a mechanical point of view.

    Besides the super boss at the end of the dungeon, the Omega Ruins also had some super treasure in it. However, you weren’t guaranteed to get it. The first time you entered the dungeon, the game used an RNG to determine how many of the treasure chests you could actually collect; always at least one, with “all” being very rare.

    This was a bizarre departure from the genre at the time, which is why it took people ages to realize that it was an RNG at all. People speculated about numerous conditions you had to fulfill, timing to music, order of opening chests, number of steps, and so forth.

    That RNG element remains BS, too. It’s not like Skyrim, where the dungeon will reset and you can eventually get something really good; once you enter the dungeon, the die is cast and the treasure you can’t collect disappears from the game forever. Nothing like that had ever been done in a Final Fantasy game before, and I can’t imagine they ever repeated it.

    1. MilesDryden says:

      Let me tell you the story of FF12 and the Zodiac Spear…

      On second thought, no, I can’t relive that nightmare again or I might endanger my blood pressure. Just trust me, it’s FAR worse than the Omega Ruins treasure.

      1. Hal says:

        Well, now I HAVE to know.

        1. Solracziad says:

          Not MilesDryden, but I’ll try and cover it as best I can. In Final Fantasy 12 the best weapon in the game is called the Zodiac Spear. Unfortunately, in order to obtain this +1 Spear of Ultimate Destiny there are four specific chests from the beginning of the game that you Cannot Open. Open any of these before you hit a certain portion of the game and you can kiss your chance at getting it good bye (Oh and one of those chest and right near a bunch you canloot).

          The game never tells you this. It’s not hinted at all. Not in a tutorial, or referenced by a NPC or character in the game. Nothing.

          So, I’m gonna admit that I lied and there is another way to obtain the Zodiac Spear. Wanna hear how? Course you do!

          The Zodiac Spear can appear in a chest at Henne Mines. Here’s the catch though, the chest loot is randomized like the chests in the Omega Ruins. The chest has a 10 percent chance to even appear, then a 10 percent chance to contain an item and 10 percent chance to contain the Zodiac Spear. So theoretically, you’re facing a 1/1000 chance of getting the Zodiac Spear from the chest. So, as you may imagine. It’s a lot of re-loading. A metric ass-ton of re-loading. Enough re-loading to drive a sane man mad and to render a person into a shrieking shell of his former self.

          1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Fun note. Pretty sure getting one doesn’t change the random chance of getting one. Meaning… you can get one for every character! If you reload even more!

            I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think so.

            1. It’s one of those weapons that’s entirely too much of a pain in the ass to get when the Infinity -1 Swords of the game are much easier to obtain in larger quantities.

              “Easier to obtain” mostly meaning grinding a bunch of endgame enemies to get rare loot to sell to vendors in order to be able to get them in the Bazaar, anyway.

          2. ThricebornPhoenix says:

            It has the highest attack stat, but it’s not in the top three weapons, maybe not even top five. Spears have really low evade and (more importantly) combo stats. It doesn’t have an element or status effect. It’s only really good if you get it as early as possible.

            1. Yurika Grant says:

              You should also bear in mind it depends who you equip it to. Each weapon type is better or worse depending on the character (like the highly amusing situation where Balthier actually sucks with his signature weapon, guns).

          3. GloatingSwine says:

            1 in 1000 is pretty easy times though.

            The saga of the Pink Tail is quite different.

            The Pink Tail is an item in Final Fantasy 4 which can be traded for the game’s best armour.

            Now, in that game the general drop rate for items is 1 in 8, and then the chance for the item to be the monster’s rarest (of four) drops if it does drop anything is 1 in 64. So there’s a 1 in 512 chance that the monster that drops the Pink Tail will drop it.

            The monster itself is only encountered (as a group of five) at a rate of 1 in 64 battles. And only spawns in one room that you don’t even have to ever go in. On the moon.

            So, a 5 in 32768 chance, or roughly one in six and a half thousand.

  15. shpelley says:

    As others have said, the “I hate you” scene is absolutely filled to the brim with subtext.

    – Even as he has grown and came to understand him better (and see that he became a better person) he was an awful father and not the best husband to his mother. Jecht grew as a person, but it was never directly with Tidus. All those memories of the bad times as still there.

    – They are competitive/rivals. Tidus lived in his father’s shadow, played the same sport and basically was *always* competing with him. Even if they were friends, a common trope is that the rivals never acknowledge that they care about the other. Doubly so for anime.

    – The whole “you’ll never be able to tell him you hate him” thing.

    Regardless of the above, he HAS seen the changes in his father (through the main plot and the optional spheres). He still has all these feelings of resentment, but (unlike at the beginning of the game) reconciliation would have been possible…but it will never come now. He had to kill the man he hated (and still does, in many ways) but he doesn’t want him to go.

    Tidus tells Jecht the truth, crying…he hates him, but he doesn’t want to hate him any more and Jecht knows it too. He accepts how Tidus feels, to finally ease that burden on his son. It’s actually a really powerful ending.

  16. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Jecht and Tidus have the same relationship as the protagonist of Hot Rod has with his Step Father. Confused masculinity and poor communication has led to an antagonistic relationship being the way that they attempt to share their feelings. So in Hot Rod, Rod works his tail off to pay for a surgery to save his Step Dad’s life… in order to kick his ass in a fair fight… to prove that he’s a Real Man (TM) and therefore worthy of a Dad’s love. In FFX, Tidus proves that he’s manned up by killing his Dad monster… which proves that he loved him enough to stop his suffering and that’s why there’s no resentment once they’re both “dead” (or whatever passes for dead in X).

    Saying “I love you” would have earned Tidus a “Stop being a pussy!” crack from Jecht, that’s just the kind of relationship they had, Jecht understood the meaning behind “I hate you.”

    I don’t even think this is a translation thing. Look at the end of “When Harry Met Sally”. The most romantic moment in the movie ends with Sally saying “You make it so hard to hate you Harry! And I really HATE you Harry. I really do.” (cue the kissing)

  17. The Rocketeer says:

    So there it all is. A great game, and one I’ve had a lot of fun commenting on, working out some of my lingering issues with the game, in the same way that a man with a pinky ring works out lingering issues about the vig with a man tied to a chair. But it’s all over now, and, conveniently, just at the point I’d run out of things to say.


    Except you knew that was a lie when you saw how many paragraphs were left in this comment. Fittingly, the game ends very well on the whole, I think. Like the rest of the game, it’s a totally appropriate, very well-handled piece of drama. It slam-dunks the melancholy tone of the game while following through with that little bit of hope so hard-earned by the cast. I admit, I’ve got a real weak spot for this kind of thing. I’m a real sucker for a game that doesn’t pull its punches in establishing a bleak, even a horrifying world or premise, but plants that tiny, resilient seed of hope deep in the ground where it can eventually sprout against all odds.

    But you can’t cheat. You cheat, and you spoil the whole thing. Final Fantasy X, true to its own nature and unfortunately in the mould of its predecessor, spends its finale cheating, trying to add a fifth ace to its hand and ruining its standing.

    See here, above, where Shamus cottons onto the good part:

    It's a sad ending. A tragic ending. The story created a romance between these two characters, which makes his loss even more powerful. Even if you disliked Tidus, you probably liked Yuna and wanted her to enjoy a happy ending for her struggle. But I'm glad the writer was willing to commit to this. I think it would have felt too indulgent if these teenagers had solved this problem and it hadn't cost them anything.

    Yes, it’s all the stuff that appeals to the tragedian in me. And it brings a lot of things full circle, thematically. Tidus is drawn out from a static dream world, grows, changes, becomes a great and critical part of momentous events, and fades from the world once more. The cast, so torn by the inevitability of sacrificing someone close to them, reject and move past that sacrifice, and succeed only through that rejection, only to sacrifice the one person even more critical to their growth. Tidus and Yuna, worlds apart, drawn together by love: Yuna is saved from her sacrifice, from her despair, by her emotional connection with Tidus and his fierce refusal to let his beloved be sacrificed; yet, in the end, Tidus discovers that their love is doomed, and that in delivering his beloved from her own willing sacrifice, his own life is the price of the world’s salvation, willing or not. After raging against the sickening injustice and inhumanity of a false, ancient tradition of sacrifice to an impotent gesture, the world’s true salvation is bought at the expense of the man who fought to deliver them from their cruel fate. Tidus goes to his own death willingly, if not gladly, knowing truly, as his predecessors, the summoners of old, falsely believed, that his departure would mean delivering those he loved to a life of peace.

    It’s a beautiful ending. Sure, it’s sad. But it’s the sort of sadness that’s worthy of respect, the kind that demonstrates a mastery of storytelling. It’s laudable in its bittersweetness, so fitting the tale it ends. But they were too stupid to let something this perfect stand. And because he doesn’t mention it at all, I’m honestly curious if Shamus actually stuck around long enough to see it or not.

    After the credits, there’s a short scene: from blackness, Tidus seems to coalesce from pyreflies, and appears in a body of water, presumably just off the coast of Spira. He stretches as if waking from sleep, and swims upward; the scene cuts to black just before he breaks the surface, and seagulls can be heard.

    It’s sadistically frugal: it’s the cheapest, shortest possible means of undercutting the story they were telling and letting all the air out of the tone they had built, and the emotions they’d earned from the audience, after the story has already fully closed.

    I can’t overstate how gutless it is. Though, if I had to specify, I’d say it’s doubly gutless.

    First, it demonstrates a total lack of backbone. It’s arguable that it proves they never understood the story they were telling in the first place, but I think the quality of it’s construction for the first 99.9999% of the game controverts that. But this meager addition ruins everything written above about the ending’s tragic nature, about its beautiful bittersweetness. Afraid of the bitterness”” or, infinitely more likely, kowtowing to their worst presumption of the audience, whom they fear”” they try to have it both ways. They cash in on the audience’s intermixed feelings of accomplishment and loss, and then they intervene after the proper ending of the story to pay back the debt that made the story meaningful. “Oh, you didn’t like the part where every single thing didn’t turn out objectively for the best? We were kidding! Here it is!” It panders to the audience’s most childish impulses at the expense of undoing what little maturity the story of this game had put so much care into earning.

    And you can’t have both. You cannot, at the last moment, try to tell a different story, with a different tone and different stakes. You can’t give one kind of story the ending to a different kind of story and, in the process, transform it into that second kind of story. And you sure as hell can’t do both at the same time. The writers have hit two different buttons on the soda machine, and instead of getting two cans, the machine has jammed, satisfying no one.

    Secondly, it’s cowardly: the scene is so overt in establishing that Tidus has spontaneously returned to life and will return to Spira and, more importantly, to Yuna, that absolutely not a single person seeing it could mistake its intent. Yet, it’s just barely ambiguous enough to evade liability for making that fundamental change to the ending. Is Tidus really alive? Where is he? What’s going to happen next? It squirms its way out of taking meaningful responsibility for any of these answers. It’s like Shepard taking a single sharp breath after the close of Mass Effect 3.

    And you know what that says to me? It says they knew what they were doing was wrong. They knew bringing Tidus back to life unhinges the pathos of the ending, that it removes the cost of every angle of sacrifice involved in the end of the game, and, in doing so, undoes the meaning of those sacrifices and the stories that led up to them, which now have no meaningful payoff. But they couldn’t resist doing it anyway, because someone might have shed a tear. Someone’s fanfiction might not have had sufficient narrative plausibility. Some soft-skulled heavy-breathing nose-picker might have wondered aloud, “Don’t stories end with ‘happily ever after? Why didn’t they write the story the right way?”

    And don’t anyone dare even start with, “But FFX-2.” I have a vocab word for you: EXEGESIS. It means all that shit that isn’t part of the story doesn’t matter to the story. Final Fantasy X is a self-contained story, and its events and the interpretation of those events aren’t contingent on anything outside of that story. It sure as fuck isn’t contingent on something that hadn’t even been written, nor likely even conceived of, much less meaningfully planned as a continuation of or complement to, the story at hand. All that shit you read in the Ultimania Guide? Meaningless. It’s just the writers’ crumpled-up scratch paper! It might as well be the event designer’s wank rag. The only thing that matters to the interpretation of the story, is the story, and the story ends with Tidus being brought back to life for absolutely no narrative reason and in direct opposition to the thematic and tonal artifices of the entire game that led up to it.

    And I’m not just cross about this because of some lack of narrative justification. Final Fantasy X has been so damn hazy about how anything works that they could just pop anything into existence at any time and the audience just sort of goes with it. And it’s not just some very specific aversion to bringing a character back to life for the finale, like the end of a Disney movie. That can work fine. In fact, it’s worked fine in this series.

    Contrast this with the end of Final Fantasy VI. At the end of that game, magic is being erased from the world. As a half-magical, half-human being, Terra’s own life is in jeopardy; the cast doesn’t know whether she’ll survive the transition to the new world. But throughout the game, Terra’s arc has been rooted in confronting her own nature as a child of two worlds, and a child of neither; as a resident among humans, and yet not truly human. But over the course of the game, she makes emotional connections with the people around her and establishes meaning and purpose for her existence in the human world. At the end of the game, it briefly appears as though Terra has truly died with the death of magic, but then appears alive, hearty and hale, and the cast (and the player) exults.

    Metaphysically speaking, there’s not really any reason the death of magic didn’t kill Terra, nor any reason why it should have. We don’t have a firm enough grasp of how magic works or how that should interface with Terra’s existence to really apprehend this threat logically. But the player understands, intuitively, that the question of whether Terra lives or dies isn’t really a question of how magic works or how fucked up Terra’s DNA must be. It’s a proxy for the question of whether Terra wants to survive, whether she’s found meaning in existence and coexistence in the human world, whether there really is a place for her in a world in which her previous significance is abnegated. It isn’t just some cheap handout to the frail souls in the audience who need everything to turn out okay lest they rage about it on their message board (OW! What’s this beam doing in my eye?!). It sure as hell didn’t fly in the face of established narrative or thematic concepts as a last-minute concession to conflicted storytelling priorities. It was the natural and meaningful conclusion of the thematic arc of the character and of the world she inhabited. That’s how you bring a character back to life during the credits and actually earn the goodwill of doing so.

    Gawd, do you know how hard it is for me to praise Final Fantasy VI? It’s nauseating!

    Some might argue that I haven’t been very kind to this game, that I have a chip on my shoulder about it. But I’ve always stuck very close to a fundamental assumption: whatever nitpicks I’ve had with this game’s worldbuilding, its more obscure thematic precepts, and its legacy, haven’t really mattered, because those things aren’t the game’s priority, and they probably aren’t the audience’s priority, either. Even if they were the audience’s priority, the game is very shrewd about concealing the hollows in its construction until well after they matter. The game is redoubtable in its dedication to telling a bittersweet, emotional tale about star-crossed lovers trying to salvage some small kernel of hope from a doomed world. And I’ve always come back to this point: whatever I have to say about the game, I still respect it, because it delivers unfailingly and singularly on its core competency.

    Until now. The very last thirty seconds of the game constitute the one time I cast off the speculator’s mantle and chide this game in earnest: here, they fail on their core conceit, and they fail hard, and they fail needlessly. They pointlessly, cravenly turn their hand on the good work they’ve done and deface it. It isn’t tragic that the one earnest criticism I have of Final Fantasy X, by it’s nature, undoes so much of my goodwill for the rest; it’s just sad.

    And it’s unfortunate that I’m ending my commentary on this game, which has otherwise been lighthearted, or at least compromised by my otherwise respectful appraisal of the game, with a truly, undilutedly sour recrimination. But that’s the hand the game deals.

    I have very much enjoyed this series. Of course, having played the game rather extensively, I’m not sure I learned very much from the series itself, though it’s very fun to read someone experiencing and analyzing something you know well, and it’s always fun reading the contributions of the uninitiated and veterans alike to a game that, like the rest of its series, rarely fails to draw some strong reaction. You can always count on Final Fantasy to start a conversation, for better or for worse. And it’s interesting to see a series by Shamus on a game very different from his usual fare, and likewise analyzed in a very different way from his usual style to suit it.

    As for the game itself, it’s a title that I will likely never enjoy again, but I’ll always respect it. I admire its unique place in the series, and”” though likely invisible to most”” how it demonstrated Yoshinori Kitase’s range as a director and scenario writer, despite reactions to his other work. And I admire the great number of fans the game drew into the series, and the honor that it brought to the series’ name. In all these ways, despite my differences, I feel no reservation in calling it a great game. Not merely a good game, nor even a very good game, but a work truly endowed with its own spirit, its own identity that will endure the ages in a way that mere technical accomplishment, or attractive scenery, or a handful of personalities can’t earn.

    Reading and writing about this series has been a ton of fun, and if Shamus ever writes about another one of these games (or if I do), it will be too soon.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      It has indeed been a ton of fun, and your comments have been a big part of that.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Still hoping Shamus gives Rocketeer a chance to write a post to sum up his points about FF:X.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Why, you can find that right here.

    2. Genericide says:

      I never had quite as visceral a response to this games flaws as you. I’m well aware of them, but likely due to nostalgia I’ve been able to compartmentalize the good parts away and ignore the rest without too much trouble. I haven’t agreed 100% with everything you’ve said either.

      In this last case though, I did get a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing you tear apart that end stinger. It didn’t ruin things for me as much, but I sure as hell didn’t like it. And the less I have to say about X-2 the better.

      If nothing else, you’ve had some interesting reads. Cheers.

    3. Darren says:

      Well, I am going to say “But Final Fantasy X-2,” because FFX-2 doesn’t cave the way you suggest it does. Tidus’ resurrection is not inevitable, whatever X’s stinger says. It’s fairly easy to miss out on simply by virtue of X-2’s insistence on optional content and indifference to drawing players’ attention to things, but it’s also an explicit choice even if you’ve fulfilled the unlock requirements. I’m almost certain X-2 wasn’t written by the same person/people as X, because not only do they give the player a lot of choice, they seem to have looked at the story they told and realized that Tidus doesn’t matter that much. “Yuna’s grown, had adventures, saved the world a second time. Why does she need Tidus again? Why can’t she move past him? You know what, let the player decide.” Rejecting Tidus–the choice is literally “It’s better this way”–removes a couple of scenes, but you still get the base, happy ending. (If the suggested X-3 from the HD collection comes to pass, I’ll judge it on its own merits, but that may fall outside even Ultimania territory as far as current canon goes).

      I think you’re right about the stinger, but pointing to X-2 isn’t necessarily a defense of it.

    4. Grudgeal says:

      What’s so bad about Final Fantasy VI?

    5. Retsam says:

      Exegesis really is a good word. And the opposite, “Eisegesis”, is a good vocabulary word too, being the term for when people try to force a story to fit a particular mold based on their own pre-existing ideological baggage. It’s a real pet peeve of mine.

      As others have said, Rocketeer, your commentary has been a consistent highlight of this series, so thanks for sharing it with us.

    6. MelTorefas says:

      I really enjoyed your posts on this, Rocketeer, almost as much as Shamus’. I think I agreed with almost everything you wrote up until this one. Personally I am not a huge fan of tragedy in storytelling, and more often than not I find it contrived and kind of boring. Maybe because I feel like it is massively overused.

      At any rate, the best tragic stories for me are the ones where the characters cheat and turn tragedy into a happy ending. Tidus reappearing at the end of FFX just cemented what for me was already the tone the ending had taken on: screw the tragic, we won, and now we get to happy. I like to imagine that Tidus forcibly clawed his way back from wherever he ended up when the summoning ended, because no way was he gonna stay ‘dead’.

      Anyways, just my brief thoughts on it. Thanks for sharing all of yours over the course of this series!

    7. Syal says:

      …huh, every Final Fantasy from 6 to 10 had the hero “die” at the end, didn’t they. And I didn’t even notice.

      Can’t argue with the double endings badly undercutting each other, but I think the main ending with Tidus dying is the one that breaks the tone. The whole game is about ending the culture of sacrifice and finding a new and better way to deal with it, but… then that new and better way demands a sacrifice. And only one sacrifice; it’s not like ending Sin forever requires everyone to die, it requires exactly the same number of deaths as every other time someone’s killed Sin.

      I would have preferred a last-minute asspull like Yuna absorbing Yu Yevon’s summon powers and resummoning Tidus. Or Jecht does it as the last Fayth, even though that would make very little sense.

      Fingers crossed for a full FF8 analysis.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Cloud doesn’t “die” at the end of VII though. A different side character does, earlier in the game.

        1. Syal says:

          Not Cloud specifically, but all of humanity “dies” at the end of 7; Red XIII is the only one who assuredly survives.

          1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            No this is incorrect. They’ve made two canon sequels and have maintained that that theory was NEVER a correct reading.

            1. Syal says:

              With regard to canon, this is from the Final Fantasy 7 wikipedia page:

              Nojima has stated that Shinra and his proposal are a deliberate nod to the Shinra Company, and that he envisioned the events of Final Fantasy X-2 as a prequel to those in Final Fantasy VII.

              So, Square’s completely lost their minds and anything they’ve said after X is purest madness.

          2. GloatingSwine says:

            I think that final scene was supposed to imply that humanity has abandoned Midgar and the abuse of the Lifestream that Mako energy represented, rather than that everyone but Red XIII is suddenly dead. (I mean they’d all be dead 500 years later anyway, but not straight away).

            1. Syal says:

              They could have had kids crest the hill if they wanted that. I think they were trying to leave it up to the audience.

  18. Incunabulum says:

    Mom said, “If you never see him again, you'll never be able to tell him how much you hate him!”

    Sure, Tidus says, “I hate you!” But he said it through tears, while cradling his father in his arms. Maybe there's some nuance being lost in translation?

    I think this is supposed to be an oblique way of saying ‘you don’t really mean that’ to the ‘I hate you’ stuff that kids sometimes throw around as a way to hurt those they believe have hurt them.

    Tidus hates his father because his father’s absence hurt him and hurt him even worse because he was too young to understand why.

    I think this is the mother saying that deep down you don’t really hate your father, want him back, even though your first instinct might be to lash out at him for hurting you by leaving.

    The ‘I hate you’ comment at the end is Tidus finally realizing the above. Its closure for *him*. The father understands – and this is why its all passed over at the end, its just a last childish act that the father let’s pass over him.

  19. Genericide says:

    This is one of my favorite games and it’s been fun to see it discussed critically and get some different perspectives on it. I don’t have much to add at this point, just want to say it’s been a pleasure reading!

  20. Darren says:

    Ugh, I hate to be That Guy, but as a fan of Final Fantasy X-2 (I actually like it more than X), I have to pipe up.

    Yuna is indeed looking for Tidus, but besides being a bit of a secret ending (the game is intended to be played again and again via NG+) the player can explicitly reject it. I don’t think the characters are terribly different. Lulu was only bitter and angry because of Chappu, and her contempt for Wakka stemmed almost entirely from that (remember, Tidus can actually engage in a bit of romance with Lulu). I’ll agree there’s not really any foundation in X to support them getting married later, but I don’t view it as being a rewrite of the characters.

    Similarly, you are ignoring some of the actual development the game brings to the table. Wakka struggles to live up to his ideals of fatherhood, having lost his whole family years before and never quite believing that he’d ever actually be a father. Yuna struggles to escape from the crushing weight of being Spira’s savior and, now that she no longer faces inevitable martyrdom, has to work to discover exactly what she wants out of life at all (and the player’s choice regarding Tidus is a part of that). Pretty much everyone in Spira is trying to understand themselves now that the cycle of Sin has been broken, and there’s an enormous amount of introspection and reflection for a game that’s often painted as light-hearted fluff; the international/HD version even has a monster-hunting element that lets you learn more about those who have died and become fiends.

    In fact, making Yuna the center of the game is rather ambitious. The hero of the previous game is dead, his resurrection is a largely unimportant footnote narrative and more of a reward for the protagonist (the rare case of a woman earning a man for her heroics rather than vice versa), and the game is all about a young woman consciously recrafting her life and self-understanding while bonding with friends and having adventures. It’s almost breathtakingly feminist and far outside the norms of video games.

    Throw in the fun battle system and the fact that probably 70%+ of the game is optional sidequest with lots of room for player choice and differing outcomes, and I think that you’ve got a real gem of a game. Even if you, for whatever reason, aren’t interested in exploring a post-save-the-world JRPG that really does try to engage with the idea, there’s so much on offer here.

    I’d strongly encourage you to at least read the excellent Let’s Play for the game from the Let’s Play Archives, as it does a great job of breaking down the game’s strengths and weaknesses (and is also generally the kind of writing you do yourself and seem interested in).

    1. Merlin says:

      Yeah, that’s one of the LPs I’d most recommend on the archive, in part because X-2 is such an unusual, overlooked game. (And also because some of the completion % mechanics sound absolutely godawful to actually play.) FFX is fundamentally rooted in a heroic “break the cycle!” narrative, but I can’t think of a game other than X-2 that really explores the awkward transitional phase that follows as society tries to establish a new status quo. Usually you just get “The bad guy was vanquished and everyone lived happily ever after!”

      It was absolutely excoriated on release for any number of reasons – a strong focus on even more ridiculous outfits, the J-pop idol industry as a central narrative fixture, the franchise’s first true sequel (and coming shortly after another quasi-shark-jump, when the franchise tried to board the MMO gravy train). The story, though, ends up coming out looking like one of the stronger entries in the series.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        FFXI didn’t “try to board the MMO gravy train”. It completely succeeded at that goal and the income from that protected Square from a lot of its costly flops later on.

        1. Merlin says:

          Oh wow, I just looked at the Wikipedia page, and yeah, dead wrong. I always had the impression that it flamed out relatively quickly, which is very clearly not the case. Thanks for the correction!

          The only salvaging remark I’ll make on the topic though, is that I do think FF11 hurt the franchise’s value even as it buoyed Square’s finances. Using the 100% authoritative analysis technique known as “personal online & meatspace anecodotes”, I think that abandoning the series’s niche of lavishly produced, story-focused, single-player RPGs in favor of the reliable grind of MMOs alienated a significant chunk of the fanbase. (And even the people I know who did play FF11 seemed to regard it with the same detached ennui that you see with a lot of Destiny players these days. That sort of “It’s not very good but it’s okay enough to put its hooks in me,” rather than the traditional “This is the greatest story in gaming!” hyperbole.)

          The series has always been good about complete rip-and-replace jobs on the actual game systems, but FF11 represented a huge sea change for its identity. That’s already one chance for players to decide “maybe this isn’t for me anymore”, and then comes X-2 breaking the no-sequels taboo and sporting some decidedly unusual creative decisions in the process. It’s a rough starting point.

          1. Yurika Grant says:

            Are you thinking of 14 by any chance? That’s the one that flopped hard, forcing Square to completely rethink it and re-release after much fixing (entirely rebuilt from ground up, really) as A Realm Reborn.

            1. Merlin says:

              Nah, cause I remember being astonished that they were trying another MMO after the first one was (I incorrectly thought) a bomb. Thanks for trying to give me a chance to be less totally wrong though. :P

              1. Yurika Grant says:

                “Thanks for trying to give me a chance to be less totally wrong though. :P”

                Any time :)

          2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            I think people who liked MMOs really liked FF XI. It filled a niche that Everquest and WoW (of the time) did not. I don’t think many fans of Final Fantasy were really fond of it though. Meanwhile, EVERYONE hated FF XIV. The relaunched FFXIV A Realm Reborn is apparently the most fanservicey game ever, which means many FF fans are embracing that like they never embraced XI.

            1. Yurika Grant says:

              Most of my friends at the time (those with PS2 AND the required ethernet adapter… which was maybe 2 people, lol) loved both FF and FFXI, didn’t really see any hate for it. But then I wasn’t all that interested on a personal level either, given I didn’t have a PS2 (I went Gamecube at the time).

    2. Ramsus says:

      Well, I for one am glad you decided to be “that guy”. X-2 is probably one of my favorite games… yeah, just games in general ever really.

      The complaint that Yuna is a different person…. Well yeah of course she is. Her entire identity was rooted in a system she herself destroyed. Her somberness and restrained nature were based on knowing she had chosen to sacrifice her life for the greater good and a religious system that she revealed as a fraud. She’s a teenager who just saved the world and for once in world saving stories everyone acknowledges how great that savior is and treats them well instead of finding some way of saying “that’s nice, but what have you done for me lately?” It makes perfect sense that while she’s rediscovering herself she’s more happy and energetic and free spirited. The core of who she is as a person is still there, she’s still a good person willing to do the hard things and save lives and bring joy to their lives in whatever way she can.

      Riku, the other returning main character, is… pretty much the same as she was in X. So the only characters that are “completely different” are… Wakka who has matured slightly and Lulu who has time and the ability to deal with her grief and is an expecting mother in a world that she helped make a decidedly better place to raise a child. She has a lot less to be gumpy about. I’m sure Kimari shows up at some point, but I really don’t remember and I doubt much is super different there.

      1. Syal says:

        I’ve only got halfway through Act 2 so far, but:

        Isaaru is completely different from the first game; Cid is pretty different; Dona and Bartello are different. Brother is totally different and quite creepy.

        1. Darren says:

          Brother and Cid were barely in the first game, so I’m not sure what you’re using as the comparison point (although Brother relentlessly horndogging after his cousin is indeed really gross and creepy). Isaaru is not nearly as different as he might initially seem; he’s not adapting all that well to the post-Sin society, and his arc is kind of sad, but you need to see the whole thing (including his brother’s take on things) to see it. Dona and Bartello seem exactly the same to me.

          1. Syal says:

            The comparison point is just “do I think Cid would do this?” As far as I can tell, the game is telling me the leader of the Al Bhed teamed up with a former summoner, who once tried to kill his niece, in order to open a tourist shop. Maybe there’s more to it but the game hasn’t mentioned it yet and there’s no great reason to think Cid would lie to his family.

            Dona and Bartello take opposing political sides, which isn’t directly conflicting with the previous game but carries that annoying “look, the arrogant lovers don’t know each other as well as they thought” thing.

            1. Darren says:

              Isaaru tried to kill his niece because of the whole “religious conspiracy” element of the first game, and Cid’s involvement in the first game was strictly related to combating said conspiracy mostly because of his family’s connection to it. It’s fair to assume that he’d forgive all the summoners for being manipulated, and X never establishes what he’s doing when he’s not trying to undermine Yevon to save his niece (and I think it’s safe to assume that his niece was his only motivation, given that the whole kidnapping thing didn’t seem to be Al Bhed SOP).

              I suppose I understand finding Dona and Bartello’s conflict a bit cliche, but I think much of the point was that Spira, as a society, didn’t have much experience with differing political philosophy–what with Yevon controlling everything and the Al Bhed being second-class citizens as a result–and that the sudden lurch forward created a lot of tension.

    3. Syal says:

      I think the game would have been stronger with Rikku or Payne as the protagonist; I find it a lot more believable that Rikku would become a happy-go-lucky pirate leader than Yuna suddenly turning her back on the chance to shape the world’s future, in favor of having treasure hunt races with a woman who doesn’t understand shirts. Replace Yuna with Shelinda and the whole setting gets stronger.

      and the fact that probably 70%+ of the game is optional sidequest

      This is the weirdest part to me; X’s sidequests are easily the worst thing about it, I don’t understand why they would base the sequel around them. Especially when the redesigned combat is fun and offers good variety.

      1. Darren says:

        Because most of the sidequests this time around aren’t just grindy minigames but actual sidequests, with narrative and combat and bosses and what-have-you, and the ones that are minigames are almost infinitely better than X’s.

        1. GloatingSwine says:

          Except calibrating those stupid lightning towers.

          They can fuck off to the far side of fuck, and then fuck off some more.

  21. Retsam says:

    Thanks for doing this series, Shamus! It’s been a really pleasant surprise to read your commentary on one of my favorite games (as well as all of the fascinating discussion in the comments); it’s really rare to have extended discussion on something that’s 15 months old in the games world, much less something that’s 15 years old.

  22. stondmaskin says:

    Regarding X-2, it deserves some credit for being what I think is one of the more solid Final Fantasy titles gameplay-wise, but I agree with most everything that you say about the story and characters. It is not a particularly interesting story, nor one that even needed to be told, so describing it as fan-fiction seems like a pretty good fit.

    I bought the HD-collection so I replayed them both back to back very recently and that only makes the shift in tone between the games even more jarring.

  23. Ninety-Three says:

    It’s interesting to see just how different everyone’s reactions to “I hate you” are. Just in this comments section we have “I hate you means I love you”, “He hates and loves him” and “He hates him but wishes he loved him”. And of course everyone is presenting their interpretation as fact.

    This variety is ultimately the most damning indictment of the scene: if four different people can come away with four contradictory interpretations, each person certain in their own view, then the scene did a terrible job of communicating information to the audience.

    1. Merlin says:

      On the other hand, all of those explanations recognize that his feelings for Jecht are complex, conflicted, and generally more mature than his child-like hatred at the start of the story. I think that’s a good sign that the scene does mostly work; even if the reads aren’t identical, they’re largely compatible.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      And of course everyone is presenting their interpretation as fact.

      Including, apparently, you.

    3. Retsam says:

      > This variety is ultimately the most damning indictment of the scene: if four different people can come away with four contradictory interpretations, each person certain in their own view, then the scene did a terrible job of communicating information to the audience.

      People having multiple interpretations of a given aspect of a particular piece of fiction is… well that’s basically just how storytelling works. Literally any piece of classic literature is classic in large part because people have been debating it’s meaning for hundreds of years.

      In my view it’s a credit to the complexity of the relationship between Jecht and Tidus (or, perhaps, to the lack of one) that multiple perspectives on it are possible. Real relationships are complex, and strained relationships with close family are some of the most complex, as it mixes love and hate and a whole mix of other emotions in complicated ways.

      If their relationship was so simple that it could be concisely and unambiguously communicated in a single line of dialogue or a single scene, it wouldn’t feel real.

      I don’t think the primary job of a story is to “communicate information”; a story should make the audience think or feel not make them unambiguously informed. I think you might be confusing a story with a powerpoint presentation.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        If a story doesn’t communicate information then there is no story. Communication isn’t the goal of every story, but it is the foundation of them. This is the relationship between the main character and main villain, and it’s not to the game’s credit that a majority of people can’t figure out what that relationship is. The writer presumably had something in mind for what their relationship actually was, but because it’s not clear, everyone essentially answers the question in their own mind. Often they come up with unsatisfying answers like Shamus’s, or my conclusion that spending his last moments with his father saying “I hate you” is an embodiment of what a petty little brat Tidus is and how he’s failed to mature or learn anything.

        1. Syal says:

          I think the scene communicates the broad picture that Tidus has made a major decision about his father. The details of that decision are secondary, and the variety of interpretations is about the details.

          I’m wondering how much of that variety is based in surprise; the scene very obviously sets up “I love you”, or “I forgive you”, or anything positive at all. Does the left field “I hate you” undercut the expectation of the scene and leave people to re-evaluate it on the fly, and is that why the result is so spread out?

          I like it.

    4. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      What? Different interpretations of literature is literally the reason to study literature. A scene being ambiguous or complex doesn’t make it a failure. And people can feel different or contradictory emotions at the same time. Tidus can hate AND love his father at the same time. He can move on from his shadow while also forgiving him while also giving himself permission to say “yeah… he was a real shit head to me, I was objectively correct to have those feelings about him, that wasn’t my problem,” all at once.

    5. Thomas says:

      It would be a poor world if people reacting differently to what a character meant was a censure of that scene. Multilayered storytelling should provoke different interpretations

    6. shpelley says:

      “This variety is ultimately the most damning indictment of the scene”

      I posit that it is exactly the opposite of this. This greatly enhances the scene in my mind. I have my interpretation (I believe I am “He hates him on some level but wants to love him”) but the other interpretations seem just as likely…it just depends on how you view Tidus and how you view his relationship with his father and what conclusions you come to.

      Tidus, the protagonist, acts as a lens for the player in this world, it makes sense that our interpretations are coloured by our own biases and points of view. The sign of a complex character and complex relationship are how cut-and-dry they are. Simple characters with simple relationships (A loves B, hates C and is rivals with D with no mixed feelings whatsoever) can only ever be interpreted one way, whereas complex characters can have more nuanced, and often conflicting feelings about a person.

      NOTE: All of this is my opinion, of course. Also, it CAN be easy to go *too* open to interpretation but that usually involves not providing enough information for readers/viewers to come to their own conclusion.

  24. Christopher says:

    Thanks for doing FFX! Comments haven’t been as crazy as during Mass Effect, but that was a recent trilogy of games with a continuing story that probably holds more appeal to the crowd that comments on this blog than FF. Or at least, the crowd had more grievances to add. There’s probably no company that makes games easier to bitch about than Bioware.

    I didn’t have much to add on account of not having played it, but I enjoyed reading it, and I will definitely be picking up the HD remaster on PS4 whenever the price is right.

  25. Martin Ender says:

    Just for the record Sam does join Frodo in the Grey Havens some 60 years later after Rosie’s death.

    Anyway, thanks for doing this series and letting me relive a game I spent countless hours on so many years ago.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      To Shamus’ point, Sam doesn’t abandon his life to do this. He lives his full life, then retires to where all Ring Bearers apparently go at the end.

      1. Retsam says:

        As a counterpoint: I think the better analogy for Yuna might be Frodo, not Sam. And, a big point of how the story ends for Frodo is that you don’t always get to go off and save the world, then come home and settle into a “happy ending”, at least not unscarred.

        I haven’t actually attempted to play X-2, so insert a massive grain of salt here, but the idea that Yuna would be able to settle into a “happy ending” – after spending her entire life, up to that point, with the idea that she was going to sacrifice herself to buy the world a decade of peace – doesn’t sound right to me. Personally, I don’t really need justification for the idea that Yuna decides to run off on another adventure in X-2: to the contrary, I’d more feel the need for justification if you told me that she didn’t.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Yuna is like an Amish kid who, on that weekend where you get to live the non-Amish life, decided, “Uh yeah… this is WAY better. I don’t want to live the life of an 18th century farmer!” So X-2 is her excitedly bouncing around a “normal” life that she never had the chance to lead before.

          1. Sougo says:

            My problem with Yuna’s transformation in X-2 is that the ‘Enternal Calm’ short story shows how she spend 1.5 years of the 2 years gap being the same old FFX Yuna – prioritizing others’ need above herself. She show no sign of wanting to move on with her life until Rikku show up with the Tidus (?) Sphere.

            This shows that she have no agency in her life at all without someone pushing her into it. If Rikku haven’t found that sphere, I wouldn’t be surprise if Yuna decided to spend all her life in that temple.

            1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

              I think that’s a well worn path in fiction, the reserved character who is pushed into something outside of their comfort zone and ultimately reveals themself to be a rather impressive badass. Think “Adventures in Babysitting” or “Collateral.” I don’t think less of Yuna for not having the idea to become an adventurer on her own and being encouraged by a friend to try it instead.

              1. Sougo says:

                It is a common trope in friction but in Yuna’s case I found this to be disappointing since I thought that X-2 is what Yuna always wanted to be if she wasn’t saddled the pilgrimage and everyone grooming her to be their next martyr. It retroactively make me respect Yuna more in X since she’s someone with actual hope and dream but decided to give them up for other people. Now, I feel that she’s more of a doormat with a martyr complex and zero self-worth.

                Even when she ditches other people for her own adventure, she’s not doing it for herself but Tidus.

  26. Joey245 says:

    Thanks for this series, Shamus! I tried playing this game alongside this series so I could experience it again, but that sorta fell by the wayside when I started getting distracted by other games. It was a great read, and a great reason to revisit the world of Spira.

    I’ve never actually played FFX-2, but even after hearing all the bad stuff about it, I still kinda want to. Again, thanks for all the cool stuff, and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    “I don't think this is a very satisfying way to end his arc. ”

    YOU don’t think this is a satisfying way to end the arc? Ahaha, evidently your hatred for this moment is not nearly as intense as mine!

    To be fair to the creators of the game, it’s possible that the phrase just doesn’t translate well. I’ve learned a bunch more about Japanese since I played X (not enough to be fluent, just enough to thrash the average American at Trivial-Pursuit-level questions about Japanese), so maaaybe the implications of Tidus saying this phrase are different for Americans than Japanese.

    As you have pointed out: maybe Tidus doesn’t really hate Jecht at this point, but that Tidus can’t bring himself to fight his father if they reconcile. Which Jecht knows, which is why he’s such a jerk to Tidus. The Japanese language leaves a lot to context (e.g. “weirdo” and “pervert” are the same word, all of the honorifics are relative to the speaker, and so on), and it’s possible that this is exactly how we’re supposed to understand the scene.

    So maybe I shouldn’t hate Tidus so much. Maybe.

  28. Baron Tanks says:

    Thanks for the write-up Shamus, it was a joy to read. I have little interest in Final Fantasy (only ever really played XIII because that was my entry point into consoles, I liked it mechanically but if I played it today I would have not been able to grind through the first ten hours of hallways, played some handheld entries but never got far in those, I hate random encounters). It’s a testament to your writing that I enjoyed this whole series while not caring for the game. I also loved your personal story with the game, it’s not one I imagine you enjoying and it was cool to get the details why this one is the exception in the genre to you.


  29. Cedric says:

    End of X: The world and people have changed forever, what a good story.

    Beginning of X-2: Oh no, the world and people were changed forever, this is awful!

  30. Phantos says:

    A much better conclusion would be if he could stand here in the heart of evil and look at what a horrible monster his father had become, and still be able to say the words, “I love you.” Maybe I'm just projecting as a father, but I think that would have carried more emotional punch than his tearful goodbye with Yuna.

    I could not disagree more.

    There is so much pent-up frustration with his dad the whole journey through. Saying “I Love You” after all that makes no sense for this character or his arc. Seeing some sympathetic video logs doesn’t take that unfinished business away or make him suddenly like or love the guy.

    The scenario you described is so baffling and so out-of-character, it’s like if Commander Shepard joined Cerberus at the start of Mass Effect 2.


  31. Taellosse says:

    Thanks for writing this series, Shamus. It’s been enjoyable to revisit this game in my memory (though it is one of the FF games I played to near-completion and never actually finished. The last couple posts have covered material I’d never directly experienced).

    I’m curious to see what sort of series you’ll be posting next.

  32. ChrisANG says:

    It never really occurred to me before how sub-optimal the party’s solution to the whole Yu Yevon situation is. The examples of Tidus, Jecht, and Tidus’s mom show that the inhabitants of Dream Zanarkand are alive in every way that counts, and Dream Zanarkand looks like a really big city, probably the largest city on Spira. Depending on how it stacks up to Bevelle and Luca (and the smaller villages), the party killed upwards of 1/3rd of the total population of Spira when they destroyed Yu Yevon.

    They couldn’t have trapped Yu Yevon in one of the weaker Aeons, maybe worked out a system for replacing fayth? I wonder to what extent the writers were aware of the holocaust their were implying and decided to play it down, vs just not thinking about it.

    1. Sougo says:

      The fayth said that they were tired of dreaming and Dream Zanarkand don’t really count for the population of Spira since they are stuck in the perpetual state of simply existing with no advancement in technology, culture etc… They’re people who should have died 1000 years ago but were kept alive by one man’s desperate plan.

      1. Syal says:

        As a tangent, I think it would have been a nice narrative turn if all the unsent in Spira were also Yu Yevon summons, like Yu Yevon just couldn’t let anything go.

      2. ChrisANG says:

        Is that stated in-game anywhere? If it is, what the game actually shows us seems to contradict it. It seems the inhabitants of Dream Zanarkand are born, live their lives, and die at the same rate as normal Spirans, and that for the purposes of the Farplane they count as alive and dead the same as everyone else. It seems they can even leave Dream Zanarkand without suffering ill-effects.

        [It seems Tidus had a normal childhood, and grew into a young adult at the same rate Yuna did in the real world. Jecht’s dialog while volunteering to become the Final Aeon strongly suggests that death from old age is possible for Dream Zanarkandians, as well. The Farplane is able to produce an image of Tidus’s dead mother, and unable to produce an image of Jecht, who apparently counts as being alive. Jecht also counts as human enough to become a fayth. Jecht seems to have left Dream Zanarkand entirely by accident, though maybe the fayth did something as part of a plan to end the Dream? At any rate, neither Jecht nor Tidus seem to experience ill-effects from being out of the Dream. Heh, and as far as their culture not advancing, it seems that Jecht invented the Jecht shot, so some things are changing ;).]

        I think Dream Zanarkand is a sort of simulation of what Zanarkand might have been like, were it not destroyed. But whatever it is, the game treats Jecht and Tidus as regular humans, so I think the rest of the population of Dream Zanarkand has to count as human, too.

        1. Sougo says:

          The simulation angle is what I was going for. If I remember correctly, the game spend very little time fleshing out Dream Zanarkand but make it very clear that their existence is unnatural and imply that they live within their own bubble. For 1000 years, Tidus and the populace seem to have no idea about the outside world even though they have advance enough technology for a Blitzball Stadium and city wide broadcast. I was always under the impression that Dream Zanarkand was like some sort of purgatory/heaven for the people in Dream Zanarkand since their pastime seem to be ‘BLITZBALL PARTEY!!’ 24/7 with no other concerns. Furthermore, in X-2, we found out the the ‘real’ Tidus died during the Bevelle/Zanarkand war and yet our dream Tidus is still here 1000 years later so it shows that the fayths have at least recycle their ideas without the Dream Zanarkand populace noticing anything.

          Now we could make the argument whether these simulations are sentient enough to have their own right at life but since their battery power, the fayth, disagree – there isn’t really anything that the party could do unless you want to force them to dream for a couple more years to figure out something which is akin to torturing them at this point.

          1. ChrisANG says:

            I must admit to being really unclear on what FFX2 was trying to communicate with the Tidus/Yuna lookalikes. I mean, maybe that was the original Tidus, but Yuna is not a dream of the fayth, so what was up with her duplicate? I chalked it up to some sort of vague reincarnation or maybe just kindred spirits or something. I was also under the impression that they counted as separate people as far as the Farplane is concerned.

            At any rate, the simulations being sentient is indeed what I’m driving at. The story clearly expects us to treat Tidus and Jecht as living people, and they also seem to count as living by the metaphysics of the setting (mostly how the Farplane reacts to them). And if Tidus and Jecht (and Tidus’s mom) are alive then the rest of the Dream Zanarkandians probably are too.

            The fayth not wanting to dream anymore is part of what makes the party’s solution sub-optimal. Sin was (probably?) a world-ending threat, and the fayth would really like to stop dreaming now. But neither of those problems seem SO pressing that the party should immediately jump at a solution to them without also trying to find a way to preserve Dream Zanarkand.

            (Side note: Tidus is not an unsent; he’s able to enter and leave the Farplane portal, is not affected by sendings, and is not affected by Jyscal emerging from the Farplane. So it seems that he’s alive in a way that Auron et al. are not. If he’s some type of lingering spirit from the Bevelle/Zanarkand war, then he’s a different TYPE of lingering spirit than your typical, run-of-the-mill lingering spirits. …Yeah that doesn’t prove anything does it?)

            (Another side note: Dream Zanarkand is definitely isolated; but again, Jecht was able to leave it, apparently by accident? They never did explain what was up with that)

            (And another: I got the impression that the city was shut down at the beginning for a festival/Blitzball Superbowl, not that BLITZBALL PARTEY was Dream Zanarkand’s default state)

            1. GloatingSwine says:

              The Fayth were functionally enslaved to Yu Yevon’s will in creating the first Sin, destroying the original Zanarkand and replacing it with the summoned version.

              The dream Zanarkand is based on the memories of the fayth used to summon it, although people there appear to be born, age, and die they’re actually all just recycled eternally out of those memories, and nothing genuinely “new” can be created there, only variations on what was there a thousand years ago. (Hence Tidus follows a pattern based on ancient memories of Shuyin but isn’t quite the same because he’s not the actual person, just a collective memory of some aspects of him)

              Lenne is not actually much of a duplicate of Yuna. They look quite different.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      They’re aware – the other part is the people powering Dream Zanarkand don’t want to be keep dreaming to pull their upkeep for Dream Zanarkand.

  33. Ramsus says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve read an article of yours where my initial response was bafflement.

    I always took the “I hate you” as an intentional on Tidus’ part callback to his childhood where he’d tell his father that he loved (because it’s his father) that he hated him when he did things Tidus wasn’t happy with (for good reason given Jecht). I got the impression that as a parent Jecht understood what Tidus meant back then. So when Tidus says “I hate you” at the end, he’s referring to all those past events and being more personal, as this is a thing “unique” to their relationship, than simply saying “I love you/I am sad about this event/argh this sucks”. In my mind, I took the situation at the end as Tidus knowing that Jecht would understand his meaning and that this way a more deep way of expressing his feelings than other things he could have said would be.

    It is interesting to see how many different views there were on the subject. I don’t really agree it has a whole lot to do with japenese culture being different than western culture in this case though. Not expressing what you feel on surface levels or having an understanding of what people are really saying when they say something based on past shared experiences isn’t something I think is unique to any particular culture.

  34. King Marth says:

    While I didn’t go far down the extra bosses, I did get the impression that the final fight would be unwinnable without a damage-cap-breaker, from Yu Yevon repeatedly healing himself for 9999 after every hit he took. Doom or zombie on him would address that, I remember him being explicitly weak to doom. Not a concern when everyone but Tidus and Wakka had awakened celestial weapons, but I’m glad that this didn’t come up as another blindsided difficulty spike.

    As I’m not sure it came up in the series, for posterity: The maximum damage any character can deal with a single attack or spell is 9999, unless you get a specific weapon upgrade (which is very expensive, but comes for free on certain special weapons) which raises the cap to 99999. Optional aeons have the cap broken, and the special quest weapons also unlock the caps on your other aeons. When dealing with optional bosses this is necessary, and this is why Wakka is considered the strongest attacker, as one of his overdrives allows him to make multiple regular attacks which can each be boosted to 99999 with enough sphere levels and patience.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m pretty sure you can just cast Reflect on him to stop the healing. Poison might also work.

      But I’ve also never actually fought Sin fairly; it’s always with the Terrible Chocobo Sword and Blitz Ball. “3-Tap Jecht”, they call him.

      1. Sleepyfoo says:

        Magic Break also works. I know this because I am very lazy about how I play RPGs like this, and never really use or think about utility or status effect spells. Heal tanking and just beating the boss down works in nearly every situation.

        Unfortunately, the first time I fought Yu Yevon, I hadn’t done any celestial weapon quests, weapon customization, and had generally ignored status inflicting powers. I also only leveled a small subset of characters. Fortunately for me, I sent Tidus down Aurons path, and gave him his attack skills because they were there.

        So, Magic Break to reduce his healing from 9999 to 6k somthing, and my main hitters did 9999 per attack allowed me to very slowly overcome his hp. I was very grateful for the perpetual autolife that time.

        I admit some of this lazy playstyle comes from older games where bosses were immune to every useful status effect, and even if they weren’t using them didn’t speed up the battle by much. That combined with the not 100% inflict chance in the first place and they were useless for bosses imo.

        Peace : )

  35. Phantos says:

    I am glad I’m not the only one who thinks an un-loseable fight against a tick is bizarre and unsatisfying. Even the final battle itself takes place on just an upscaled version of Jecht’s sword, a recycled art-asset. It really enforces the idea that they ran out of time/money.

    It’s one thing for Skyrim or some other open-world game to peter out at the end. It’s kind of a bummer in a game that takes its’ main plot so seriously, and devotes so much to it, and expects you to see the end as well.

    (I was also hoping/expecting that Yu would look like the symbol of Yevon. Like if it turned out that was just a really crude drawing of the guy. I dunno. Anything besides a bedbug.)

  36. Steve C says:

    That's like making a sequel to Lord of the Rings where Sam leaves Rosy and his gardening so he can go look for Frodo in the Grey Havens.

    Umm, I’m not sure if you are aware and just poking fun, or you don’t know. But that’s basically what did happen in the sequel to Lord of the Rings.

    After Rosy died, Sam went to the Grey Havens and was reunited with Frodo. Sam was given passage to the Undying Lands because Sam was also a Ringbearer. That was part of JRR Tolkien’s “Unfinished Tales

    1. Shamus says:

      Rephrased for clarity.

  37. Rayen020 says:

    So what’s next? Is there another long form analysis waiting in the wings? Mass effect and FFX is there another coming anytime soon because i actually kinda love these. My only complaint is i’d rather you do a game you really detest the story of. I recently went back and read the Fable 2 write-up and was in tears (of laughter) a couple of times.

    1. Shamus says:

      I’ve been writing about Fallout 4, but it’s too soon after the Spoiler Warning season to post that. I’m worried people are sick of FO4. And to be honest, I’m kinda sick of FO4 and would like a break from it. We’re going to have a moth of some non-game analysis, and then something else, and then (hopefully) Fallout 4.

      1. Yurika Grant says:

        After losing another 1.5 hours of progress last night because the game froze while playing survival and not being able to find a single goddamn bed… yeah, I’m sick of it as well. If they’d thought this stuff through FIRST, they could’ve arranged difficult dungeons in such a way that they played to the strengths of a hardcore mode like this. But nope, just tack it on afterward and don’t bother with any concessions in the game world to support it properly, because Bethesda.

  38. Syal says:

    So… since Jecht and Tidus are both a part of the Zanarkand dream, I think I can accurately say the final boss of FFX is a god, who is also your father, who is also you.

    This is not the only Square game where this happens. It’s really strange to think about that.

    Anyway, this fun, nostalgic, enlightening series is at an end. Now we shall inevitably move forward…

    …to Contra.

  39. Richard says:


    I’ve been following your blog since around part-way through the Mass Effect stuff, and have been a dedicated follower since. Your site is one of a handful that I check regularly, and helps keep me sane as I try to help the DOE in Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia) turn itself around. I’ve been here for 4.5 years and don’t see myself leaving any time soon, so thank you for the consistent entertainment.

    The comments about Jecht, I find, are particularly poignant. Perhaps because my own dad passed away about a month and a half ago, it’s especially tedious that Tidus’ arc feels so…I want to even say inappropriate. In Pohnpeian, I’d say it’s kasaliel–to “make frustration”. I never actually played Final Fantasy 10, so I’ve been following your dissection and analysis with attention.

    I wonder if all Final Fantasy games have this level of emotional immaturity to them. It’s deeply unsatisfying that the main character, presumably the one closest to us as the player, would not be able to see that his father wasn’t a monolith in a world of black and white but, rather, someone who sacrificed again and again. Whereas you come at it from the perspective of a father yourself, I come at it from the perspective of a son who is still emotionally upset at his own loss. It’s not so much that my dad was perfect–though he may have been, we had a great relationship–but I can’t imagine an adult human being who is layered and flawed couldn’t see that their own parents may also have layers and flaws, in addition to positive qualities.

    Perhaps I’m being too word-salad about this, but in short: Tidus, beforehand, was merely an uninteresting character (to me). His abject rejection of his dad, I feel at present, not only demonstrates an unsatisfying conclusion to his character arc but also, I would suggest, a rejection to that arc. He’s chosen not to grow, and for a game about journeys that’s especially infuriating.

    Thanks again for all that you do. I look forward to more articles.

    Ni wahu,

    -An internet dude

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I highly recommend reading through the comments here as there are a lot of different ways to read that scene. I think Shamus’ was a bit surface level, which might not be fitting in this case.

  40. Natureguy85 says:

    So Yuna defeated Sin, and then she decided to dress and behave like a completely different person? If we're going to revisit the same old characters, then they really ought to be the same characters.

    But boobs, Shamus, boobs!!

    I only played FF 3 (6) and FF 7, but didn’t finish either for different reasons. Not on purpose but things came up and I never went back to them. Well, FF3 was after getting team wiped and not wanting to replay ground I’d just lost, but it wasn’t meant to be permanent. This was a fun read, and as usual, I like the way you look at things. Thanks.

  41. Paul Spooner says:

    Still no “read more” tag, so the article is all sprawled on the main page.

  42. The Other Matt K says:

    It’s interesting – FFX was the first Final Fantasy that I didn’t truly like while playing through, and I’ve always viewed it as the turning point for the series shifting away from the more thoughtful (and more charming) early titles to the newer, flashier, more shallow contributions. With FFX, I didn’t really care for the protagonist, found the plot needlessly convoluted, and didn’t find any of the cutscenes particularly memorable. Indeed, I actually liked FFX2, probably in large part due to all the differences between it and FFX.

    These posts have certainly given me a bit of a new appreciation for the game, and do help fit the pieces together so that the themes of the game, and the innovations of the setting, stand out much more. I’m still not entirely sold on Tidus as a character, but do now see what they were going for with him. I really appreciate that these long-form game reviews are great even if I don’t share all the same opinions as Shamus – seeing a series in a new light can be just as interesting, if not more so, than just seeing confirmation of the same views I already had.

  43. tremor3258 says:

    This has been a very enjoyable read throughout, and it’s held up well under the analysis (poor Mass Effect sequels)

    I get why a lot of people are acting differently in Spira post-Sin, but Yuna isn’t one of the ones I understand.

  44. tengokujin says:

    There is one point in the ending where I feel the English translation was done incorrectly.

    Before they “hug”, Yuna says, “I love you” to Tidus.

    In the Japanese script, she says, “Thank you”.

    I always felt that the “I love you” was a weird cop-out. A tearful “Thank you” seemed more like Yuna, reserved to the last, even as the love of her life was dissolving away in front of her eyes.

    But in English, we get a tearful final declaration, as if she’s ready to accept fate and move on… which we know isn’t true.

    … Yeah, I might have watched the ending in Japanese before I quite finished the game. Heck, sometimes I just find it and loop the farewell scene on youtube, so that I have something to tear up about.

  45. Rena says:

    I actually liked X-2 as it was much shorter and a clearer story.

    It took so long to get to the calm lands (three separate occasions) that young me never remembered what the beginning was like. The second (third?) time i reached the top of the mount and didn’t know what dream boy was talking about; i had forgotten everything that made that exposition relevant. I just wanted to stop Sin.

    Had a similar problem with Mass Effect but that was brought by apathy. I didn’t care about what Star Child was blathering about; once i figured out which ending would kill the reapers and went and ended it. FFX was just too long and i had to binge it. Blitzball was something i wanted no part of due to a bad first impression and a second attempt confirmed that me and those losers had no business being in the ring. By the time of the Calm Lands, by the time i was allowed to relax, i was already in the mindset of “LETS JUST GET THIS DAMN THING DONE”! At that point no side quest will cut it; i want the game to end.

    The first time i remember quitting because the mountain was harder than i wanted it to be (sunken cost fallacy doesn’t work when the boat is 7/8 sunk). The second time was after dream boy and i quit to start over just to learn the context of what i learned. The third time in my 20s i stopped at the beach just before Zanarken. I knew that the game wasn’t going to end inside and it simply wasn’t worth the time.

    FF-2 however? I could remember the main story from start to finish; i was allowed to rest and reflect at my pace. It had fair minigames that i enjoyed at my pace. I could go anywhere. I liked new Yuna (Rikku was kinda the same if older) and most of the characters were not grating to deal with. No sphere grid (sorta; it moved). FFX-2 was better in almost every way except for a few cringe moments.

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