So just to be clear, I want to say that I have yet to play a Final Fantasy game that I don’t like, which may seem surprising, considering that I do nothing but complain all the time. Oftentimes, Final Fantasy X goes from something I genuinely think is good to a guilty pleasure, but other times, it’s completely infuriating. I’ve mentioned before when talking about XIII that I prefer games that start off weak and end strong, compared to games that start off strong and end poorly. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy X falls into the latter category. The first part of this game is pretty okay. We’ve got a great setup with some unique characters, we can see what’s at stake, and on top of the entire apocalyptic catastrophe that’s going on we’ve got religious oppression.
There’s a lot happening in this game. Also, much like IX, it tackles some pretty deep subjects, like death and sacrifice. On top of the aforementioned religious oppression. Unfortunately, X just couldn’t keep up its momentum.
In most Final Fantasy games, the characters for one reason or another become excommunicated or scapegoated as criminals for a powerful organization. In X, once this happens to our characters, the game just goes to hell. It’s a shame, really, because this honestly could have been one of the better Final Fantasy games. If I were to describe this game in three parts, it would be this: the game setting up the plot and characters at the beginning, the game taking a hiatus from itself, and the game doing everything in its power to destroy continuity and create plot holes.
And FFX gives me a lot to talk about: religion, sexism, and even the end of an era in how Final Fantasy games are done. But first, we’re going to talk about the plot. There be spoilers ahead.
Long story short, our titular main character Tidus—have fun pronouncing that, because it’s actually been a subject of controversy in the geek world—gets sucked into a wormhole thing in the sky after his home city, Zanarkand, is attacked by an epic monster. He ends up one thousand years in the future, and, not knowing the state of things, everyone just assumes that’s he’s insane. People live in constant terror, surviving in small huts, being more or less technologically stunted than the people of the past, and also being very religiously superstitious. The monster that destroyed Tidus’s home is still around terrorizing and murdering people. The people believe that the creature is their punishment for the bad things their ancestors did in the past, and thus the monster is actually called Sin.
The only way for Sin to be stopped is if someone called a summoner learns the Final Aeon. An aeon is a powerful creature that summoners can summon at will and control. And it’s imperative that summoners receive the Final Aeon, so they can stop Sin from doing this:
Tidus and his new companions vow to stop Sin for good, and accompany a young summoner named Yuna on her pilgrimage to the ruins of Zanarkand, so she can gain the Final Aeon. There is also a slowly building romance between Tidus and Yuna, but it’s doomed to end in tragedy. All summoners who defeat Sin die in the undertaking, and Tidus doesn’t learn this until relatively late in the game’s plot, right about where it loses its sense of continuity.
So Final Fantasy X follows the basic structure most games in this franchise have. The game establishes the main characters, it sets up the plot, the epic journey to save the world begins, the characters become excommunicated or scapegoated by/for the leading political power at some point along the way, and the characters save the world and are exonerated. The excommunication is sometimes the most interesting part of the story. In VII the characters are wanted for arrest and execution by the company Shinra, in VIII they’re to be killed for trying to assassinate a sorceress, in IX they’re on the run for kidnapping a princess, in XII they’re rebels fighting against an invading army, and in XIII the characters’ very existence is seen as a dangerous abomination that should be annihilated. And all of these setups are putting our main characters against other people who they’re trying to protect by saving the world. The organizations are normally not whatever is bringing about the impending apocalypse. They are either superstitious, corrupt, or being manipulated by the big bad—sometimes a combination of all three.
However, in X, the excommunication is nothing more than obligatory. I said earlier that the game takes an hiatus from itself. This is it. The excommunication. And it amounts to nothing. There are so many other parts of this game that I could talk about, but this takes up a good third of the story, so I’m addressing it now to get it out of the way.
Essentially, we have a religious leader called Seymour who is corrupt and wants to use Yuna to defeat Sin and be reborn as a new Sin in its place. His logic is that there cannot be suffering if no one exists to suffer. So he basically wants to be Sin in order to kill people. Seymour murdered his own father in order to inherit the role as one of four maesters of the religion Yevon, and he is now one of the most powerful men in the entire world. I suppose I could explain Seymour’s backstory, but it doesn’t do a really good job of setting up how insane, if you will, he becomes as an adult. But here it is really quick. He’s half Guado and half human, so his father banished him and his human mother to live in exile because he’s apparently the only half-breed to ever exist. I also guess that when his Guado dad and human mom hooked up they didn’t think a mixed-race child might just result. Basically, the Guado didn’t like Seymour, until he murdered his father and became both a maester and the leader of the Guado, so now they love him. In fact, when Seymour dies, they can no longer function without him. And no, they don’t care that he murdered his father.
For Seymour being such a prominent antagonist, I would argue that his backstory would be just a little important, but the game doesn’t seem to think so. His backstory is hinted at, but you won’t learn it unless you complete a side quest.
During the events of the game, Tidus, Yuna, and all the other characters discover that Seymour murdered his father. And instead of telling anyone about it, they confront him on their own. At the confrontation, our characters kill Seymour. But death doesn’t seem to be a problem in the Final Fantasy X-verse, so he just comes back as a ghost, forces Yuna to marry him, and then gets all the characters sentenced to death. Naturally, they escape, or we wouldn’t have our story.
It’s sometime after their escape when Yuna has resumed her pilgrimage that the characters learn that there are orders to kill her and her companions on sight.
All of this takes up one third of the game. And here’s why it doesn’t matter to the plot.
If you removed Seymour from the game, nothing would change. This excommunication has absolutely no consequences for our characters. It’s just an excuse to angst.
Seymour is corrupt. He does not, however, have any existing connections to Sin. Sin is not controlling him, nor is it manipulating him. Sin just does what Sin does and kills things. Seymour’s only connection to Sin is that he wants to be Sin. Sin couldn’t care less about him. In all actuality, Sin wants Yuna to succeed in her pilgrimage, because Sin wants to be stopped. Seymour is not a puppet to the grand scheme of things. He’s trying to be a puppeteer and failing at it. So because he has no connection to the overall plot, he has less of a purpose. He’s just there.
Now, the act of getting our characters excommunicated and putting a warrant out for their death could present an interesting challenge. But after this happens, our characters don’t run into anymore towns or congregations of people where something like this might arise. It’s nothing but fields and plains to the ruins of Zanarkand at this point. They do pass by the Ronso tribe, but the Ronso don’t really care. They have a conversation and the Ronso maester pretty much says, “Well, you do want to kill Sin, and we want that too, so I’m not going to stop you.”
This is the entire middle part of the game, one great big filler subplot that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual plot. It certainly doesn’t add to it or help justify it. It’s just there, because Final Fantasy apparently has an obligation to get the largest political power out to kill the main characters.
And this is what most of the game is: a bunch of Final Fantasy elements that don’t belong together shoved into one Final Fantasy game. And what’s sad is that Seymour is the least of this game’s problems.
So because the FFX-verse is just so dense and convoluted, I’m going to break it here. Next time I’m going to talk about the religion of FFX.