Ace plays Final Fantasy X: The Characterization

Final_Fantasy_X_Edited_by_kaztelliWell, now that we’re nearing the end of this miniseries, there aren’t too many things left to cover. I just spent the past five posts analyzing the plot, Yuna as Jesus, the religion of Yevon as a whole, how the game deals with death, and how the summons work. This leads me into the characters as a whole.

Final Fantasy X was a significant development for the franchise, and it has gone down for many as the “last good Final Fantasy game.” Even if you haven’t read my earlier posts or my reviews for some of the other Final Fantasy games, you can probably guess that I don’t agree with that. But I can most assuredly see why people feel the way they do about this installment in the franchise. I may have my issues with it, but this game offered a lot at the time it came out. The graphics are beautiful, and when it was released, they shocked people because of how realistic they looked compared to the other games. Visually, Final Fantasy X is stunning, and even nowadays, the graphics aren’t bad. On top of that, musically, it’s pretty amazing as well. And the visuals and the audios do a decent job of complementing each other.

Just from something like that, this game is very appealing. And it’s very easy to tell that a lot of effort went into its production. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Final Fantasy game, and this one delivers all that and more. In fact, Square Enix has plans to remaster it for a PS3 release, in order to redeliver the experience of playing such a high quality game. I may have just spent the past five posts more or less bitching and nitpicking everything, and I do have more complaints about how this story is told, but Final Fantasy X has a lot of redeeming qualities to it. And most, if not all, of the bad qualities concerning its gameplay and production will more than likely be fixed if it actually does get remastered.

So let’s talk about the characters.

First of all, the characterization is fairly decent. I could go on about Wakka’s annoying, gravity-defying hairstyle, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with most of the characters. For the moment, I’m going to forego talking about the female characters and touch on them next post, and we’re going to look at only the men right now.

Let me start off by saying that I am not Kimahri’s biggest fan. He’s useful in battle, certainly, but other than that, he doesn’t do much but stand around and have rivals. I suppose he could have been an interesting character had more been done with him to make me care about his being rivals with two other people from his tribe, but for a character so physically strong, he’s pretty passive. While all the other characters talk about a day without Sin, Kimahri has little to add on the matter. He follows Yuna around and protects her, but other than his devotion to Yuna, he doesn’t seem to have any motivation. He’s not a character who’s been victimized by Sin like all the others, and so he adds very little, story-wise. Furthermore, while I could say that being bullied by Yenke and Biron about losing his horn would give him conflict, Kimahri doesn’t seem to care too much about that either.

It’s not as though the game had to fail with his character. Other than being dead, Auron’s a well-written character who broods a lot and has a bit of a mysterious past. But Kimahri’s not mysterious. His history doesn’t have a big twist to it, and other than losing his horn, it’s not particularity painful. But this distinction is never really addressed. This sets him apart from the others, and I daresay that his character felt more awkward than Tidus’s character. And Tidus was designed to not fit in with everyone else.

I feel as though Kimarhi should have been cut from the game so more could be done with Auron or Wakka, or even with Lulu. Either that, or Kimahri needs more space to grow.

Wakka’s a pretty fun character. He’s overly superstitious, and because of this, the game can use him to address some of the issues that arise between Yevonites and the Al Bhed, especially after Rikku joins the party. Wakka doesn’t know she’s an Al Bhed at first, and the two get along great. Once he discovers she’s an Al Bhed, he hates her. But his reason for hating her is unfounded, because at that point, we know that the two of them are capable of getting along. In some ways, through Wakka and Rikku’s interactions, the game can talk about religious persecution, and as the game progresses, he does get over his prejudice. When Rikku’s home his destroyed, he tries to comfort her—although he says the worst thing possible—and if I remember correctly, there is a scene in which she turns to him and he more or less gives her a protective, brother-like hug.

Furthermore, Wakka’s relationship with Lulu and Tidus is also very well done. Tidus reminds Wakka of his late brother Chappu, and Wakka kind of encourages the similarities. He gives Tidus Chappu’s sword and develops a big-brother relationship with him. At the same time, Lulu used to love Chappu, and she doesn’t like the fact that anyone could replace him, especially when you take into account that she’s slowly falling in love with Wakka.

I’ve already talked about Auron previously, and that just leaves Tidus. Tidus is, for lack of a better term, a whiny, spoiled brat. As such, he can be very annoying. But I don’t think he’s all that bad honestly. I think being a little whiny and spoiled fits in with what his character should be. And the game knows he’s whiny and spoiled. The other characters comment on it, so it’s not as though this was a mistake on the writers’ part. It’s intentional. What I’m pretty sure is not intentional is how over the top Tidus’s actions—and the actions of the other characters—can become.

Final Fantasy X is further unique in that it is the first Final Fantasy game to use voice actors, and this is the main reason why I find that Tidus can be insufferable. People complain a lot that the voice acting is bad, which it is, but I feel as though it’s because the studio didn’t know exactly how to use voice actors.

Up until this point, all the Final Fantasy games used dialogue boxes. And from what I’ve noticed, there’s a big difference in how characters with voices express themselves and how characters with dialogue boxes express themselves. Voiceless characters need to be more expressive in their movements and actions to get across whatever they’re feeling to the audience, because they lack things like tone and fluctuation. When they’re shocked they jump up into the air, when they shrug they used their whole upper torso and arms, and when they’re angry their entire body shakes with rage.

Not only does X use voice actors, it’s also more detailed and realistic than the other games. We know when Yuna’s angry because she can glare and ball her hands into fists. Tidus is capable of gasping when he’s shocked. Auron can scoff when he doesn’t care about something stupid. So on and so forth. And while video game character reactions will always have to be more expressive than usual to portray emotions, in X’s case, I feel as though it ended up being too expressive, as if the studio didn’t know how to make the jump from silent games to talking games.

Though most things concerning X start of well and end poorly, like the plot, the exact opposite can be said for this issue. This is the one aspect in which the game improves upon as it continues. Sure, the voice acting is still really bad, but at the beginning of the game? Oh, God in Heaven, it’s painful.

This scene is so terrible that I actually have to leave the room whenever it comes on. I cannot stand it. It is, thankfully, the very worst scene in terms of voice acting in the game. There is no moment that is lower than it.

And this is my biggest issue with Tidus’s character. He could have been a good character. I don’t care what anyone says. Whiny, spoiled brats can make great characters if done well, and Tidus honestly wouldn’t have seemed so whiny had there been no voice acting. There are so many instances in which it feels as if the game went overboard. Like, we have voice actors now! We should use them at every opportunity! Every grunt! Every shocked “huh?”! Every shrug! We cannot have a single silent emotion! Voice acting, damn it!

There are scenes in which the game very obviously went out of its way to make the characters produce random sounds.

So yes, Final Fantasy X was certainly a stunning innovative experience when it first came out. It was the first game in the series to use voice actors, the last one to have random battles—not counting its sequel—had a very unique battle and leveling system, so on and so forth. And though I’m bad at talking about good qualities, they are there. And despite all its failings, I would recommend this game based on the fact that it certainly acted as a stepping stone to other games. In a lot of ways, its failings with the voice acting and other aspects feel as though they were an experiment to see what would and would not work. Maybe the voice acting is the reason why Tidus just comes across as too much, but this is certainly something that was improved upon in other games. XII and XIII had pretty decent voice acting jobs. Whenever a character is annoying in those games, it’s because that character is actually annoying, and not because of a poor acting job made all the poorer by a bad script. It’s because of this that I don’t really feel as though I can judge Tidus as a character, as opposed to judging how he was written. So I can’t hate Tidus, and at the very least, he’s not Vaan.

I haven’t talked about Yuna, Rikku, and Lulu yet, but the voice acting is the same with them. It goes hand in hand with all the characters here, and if that were improved upon, the game would be so much better, and many of its other flaws would be forgivable. So until later this week, when I wrap up this series by talking about whether or not the game is sexist.

Until then, here’s a fan trailer for the remastered version.