So, FF X. It is basically as I remembered it: Favourite battle system of the series, great bosses, well done world building, good characters. There were some surprises - Tidus didn't work for me that well, this time, Yuna worked super good for me, the similarities of these two and Seymour never stuck out to me as much as this time. And, despite me really liking the game, it didn't work for me as well as I would have thought.
But more on this later, let's talk about the characters first.
I like Tidus. Always have. He can be obnoxious - there is the one scene on the ship, where he steals the camera from someone, he gets onto the boxes to tell everyone that his team will win the tournament, stuff like that. But this never seemed that bad to me. This time, it was also clear that someone like him, a person who ignored rules (maybe too much), was essential for Yuna and the world on the whole. He has to be a jerk, because the rules of this world are absurd, and just there to keep it in a forever going circle, all focused on death and stagnation. He has to be hadstrong to go over all this nonsense.
What actually got on my nerve a bit was him basically being a JRPG hero - to my surprise, the whole "we will find a way, let's just force it without a plan" mainly annoyed me. And honestly, it felt a bit lacking, compared to the rest of the character work that has been done in this game. Still, it does feel earnest and real, fitting with his character. I can live with that.
Also, I'm not talking about him and Rikku assuming they will work something out about Yuna dying. There was no way of them stopping Yuna from continuing, and no real information, so that worked fine.
I found his daddy issues pretty interesting and well done. Not much to be said about this, that I didn't say already, though. It does feel a bit, like his story and the story of the others are two distinct ones. Except that the game, quite effectively, tied these two storylines together, by making Tidus' focus being the thing that breaks the cycle.
And yet, I don't find myself drawn that much to Tidus (similar to how I feel about the game as a whole). He wasn't as effective to me as Terra or Cloud, surprisingly even Bartz. And I don't have any explanation for it, aside from the idea that early PS2 graphics simply don't work for me as well as the ones from earlier games. Which might be a shallow reason, but it is the only one I can think of here.
Still, I consider him a fine protagonist, someone I enjoyed spending time with, on the whole.
Having him be the Time Mage of the group feels weirdly appropriate, considering he is a sports guy, and seemingly a fast one, considering is physical build. Strange though, thinking that a Time Mage is a protagonist. But then, the game cheated a bit by making him actually physically useful.
So, Yuna is basically the second protagonist of this game. I still feel that you could actually make her the main character without too much work. Even while keeping Tidus, and explaining stuff to him. But yeah, you would lose a bunch of things. Would need work in the details, but it really feels like her and Tidus are a protagonist-pair, and I wished there were more situations where you played as her. Maybe let us see her before the marriage, exploring Bevelle a bit? Or split the party up a few more times, with switching between her and Tidus as the main character.
Unlike Tidus, Yuna just worked for me. Granted, despite her having a more outgoing personality when you take away all that pressure (as seen in X-2), I think she is, in the end, still soft-spoken and somewhat introverted (dunno, I don't remember X-2 that well in that regard). No wonder, that I emphasize more with her than a loudmouth like Tidus. To be clear, I still like her in X-2.
I enjoyed learning about her being in a mirrored version of the one from Tidus, standing in the shadow of her father, except that she likes him, and wants to be like him. Which gives her a different set of problems, and I enjoyed seeing daddy issues dealt with in different ways in this game. I still feel like they picked up the topic from IX, where it also was relevant, but way less the center of the story.
Having her be a White Mage / Summoner works well enough, though it means that both her abilities aren't really suited for random encounters (healing being better done out of battle). I generally give her black magic, which makes her very powerful, but with the classical sphere grid, it wasn't easy enough to do so, I guess.
The summons are a bit weird. I feel like the way they are done here is the way they kind-of should work, maybe? Like, not just appearing, blasting the enemies, and disapearing, but staying and fighting with the party. Well, I guess that actually would solve the problem, if I kept the party, because fighting with only one character is rather boring. I didn't really know what to do with them, as using them felt a bit like cheating. I only used them in very specific cases, where I needed a meat shield, but even then I feel like I failed the actualy challenge. Which is fine, I just feel like there would be a light challenge run, where you never summon anything.
I remember his arc being done a bit better (I feel like you would need a bit of time in his head, or maybe a calm talk with him, or something?), but I still think he is a pretty well done character. You certainly need someone like him, who really buys into the religious indoctrination. Especially in combination with him being, aside from that, a nice person (his hate of Al-Bheds are counted under religious indoctrination).
Thinking about it, I feel like the way he thinks of Al-Bhed could have used a bit more focus. But then, he is clearly positioned as wrong in so many ways, so it's maybe less "this bad person is actually good", and more "this decent guy has awful parts to him".
It there even a difference? It feels like I defend really awful behaviour, and I generally expect people to think about awful stuff, like hating people, just because they are too lazy to think for themselves. And it feels the game makes it a bit too easy for Wakka. He is nearly never called out on his bullshit, or not enough, the game just makes apologies for it, like it isn't his fault.
What this comes down to is, that I think that he is, while interesting, a very problematic person that the game isn't quite equipped to work with.
I'm not quite sure which role he feels, in battles. I guess a bit Black Mage (or maybe Green Mage, I think in FFTA2, these were the ones with the status magic) plus Archer? I never got his really good overdrives, but he still was a very useful member of the party.
Unfortunately, I don't have too much to say about her. I still enjoyed her, whenever she had something to say. I liked that, depsite her being clearly very smart and not falling into the trap of judging others, just because they are different (that she doesn't like strangers is a different thing). And still feeling subservient to the church, when it really comes to it. She doesn't care about the teachings, for her, Yevon is just the governing body of this world, and she doesn't seem to care too much about the small details (like not using machina).
I wished we got more for her to do, though. Her role is nice and important, but doesn't do her justice. And I know, from looking it up, that we learn a bit more about her if we do a side quest. Which might be fair, I guess. But the game should have really given you a way to explore Bevelle. Partly, because it is clearly a giant city, far bigger than anything else on this world. But partly also because I would have liked a short storyline with her and the summoner she guarded before.
In battle, she simply is the Black Mage. Not much to say, except that she was simply the strongest character in my party, for everything that wasn't just one-shotted by someone. Especially with bosses, she was very useful for most of the time, and got really strong with Ultima and Hades Magic.
My thoughts are similar to the ones I have on Lulu, just more so. Due to his personality, he doesn't even get scenes like Lulu does, where he makes interesting comments on things, or explains something. Even his substory is less interesting than the one from Lulu, even though with more time and work, it might have been more interesting. The way it is, there is just not that much to him.
There is, of course, his close relationship with Yuna. And the game does a good job at showing how much they mean to each other, and how their relationship works. But, aside from learning the basics, we don't get too much of that here (and, granted, this might also be me, because I might overlook stuff that falls outside of typical storytelling). I assume he and Yuna have quite a lot shared memories of them alone, which we simply are not privy to, which hurts at least my ability to get something out of him being there.
I do love his design. No surprise, he is a cat-like character, and blue is a cool color.
In battle, he works as a Blue Mage. We already got into the details of how this works in this game, and how it could have worked better. I still used him, but, in the end, I don't think I would have missed him in battle, had I not had him. Which is fine, but simply sticks out in a game like this, where most characters have a specific niche that lets them kill specific monsters in a single hit.
I feel a bit reminded of Yang, from FF IV. Aurons story is, kind-of, already told. And I don't think he has much of an arc here, aside, maybe, from respecting Tidus a bit more, as time went on. The problem is, that he already knows what we actually have to do (aside from the very details, I mean, but he doesn't learn anything really new from the original journey).
There would have been a space for that. He is very much all-business, and you could have make him lightening up a bit. I don't think the game did that, though, he is mainly used as a guide and wise man. You know, the mentor who teaches you and dies at some point, to motivate the hero. Except that he is already dead. Might have been interesting, to let you lose him, but unlike FF VII, this would really hurt you, due to certain enemies needing his attacks and abilities.
I do remember always finding him really cool, but realized that he is also pretty much a jerk, towards anything that doesn't concern the pilgrimage. As I said, here would have been an opportunity to give him an arc, but there has already not been enough time to really work out the arcs of Lulu and Kimahri. But then, not every character needs an arc. He fills out his role fine.
And it's fitting that, being dead and all, there is no more development. Death and a stop to development is strongly correlated in this game, so this actually works really well. Also, considering that the dead are only alive because they have a specific thing they want to keep achieving, it would probably be silly to have him change. I guess.
I think he is a samurai? Dunno, is there a class that normally ignores defense?
I already talked about her not simply being a copy of Yuffie and Selphie, and pretty much her own character. A quite enjoyable one, too, I think. She is smart and capable, which might not always appear that way, with her being so young and her having a bit of a goofy way. But due to the world being as it is, she isn't nearly as positive as she would be, without the constant worry.
Like, she seems clearly like a technical nerd, who finds it fun to tinker with things. But I would imagine her to be someone who is always cheerful and optimistic, and that isn't a given here, of course. Just talks about how grim this world is.
I do love, that she is that technical...maybe not genius, but that she is really competent with machinery, and how that is put into her being a chemist. Not really the same, but works fine together.
I feel like I should be able to talk about more, and maybe it's just that I have written for some time now, but nothing else comes to mind. I certainly enjoyed her presence, and how she and Tidus felt like they would be best friends, in other circumstances.
Having her being a thief and a chemist works pretty well. In such a situation, if you would need ingredients for your specialty, if makes sense to learn how to steal the things you need. Still, while stealing a lot, I just don't like chemists much. I'm not motivated to experiment with abilities that offer so many combinations. In V, I could just use one hour to try everything out. Here, there seem way more options to exist. Plus, that she can not do that all the time made experimentation even less interesting for me.
Similar to Yuna, I enjoyed him for being a different interpretation of a kid with shitty parents. This time, the worst thing happens, and he becomes a monster.
As mentioned a few times, this guy feels like a new interpretation of Sephiroth. Like, what if Sephiroth tried to be the bad guy, destroy the planet, all that stuff, but failed, because he was actually the less interesting threat. I still think that's the case in VII, and that Shinra is the main villain, so making clear here that it's about Yevon, and how it hurts the people of this world, was a nice move.
As mentioned, I find it interesting that the game pretty much from the start makes clear that there is something wrong with him. With a bit of experience with the genre, I think it's not hard to guess that he will be a major antagonist.
Due to him trying to actually get out of the cycle that Yevon created, you might few him, aside from Tidus and Yuna, as a third protagonist, just one gone wrong. He isn't the stand-in for Yevon, except maybe as the logical endpoint, to finally creating something that will destroy the whole world. That stand-in would be Yu-Yevon, or maybe Yunalesca, which means FF X turns the situation around a bit. Like, in IX, we have Queen Brahne as the antagonist, until Kuja shows up, and takes over. Here, Yevon is the antagonist, Seymour tries to take over, and fails. And honestly, I don't think he would have ever gotten through, defeating Yu Yevon to take over Sin.
Which makes me question how relevant to the game he actually is. Sure, there is the whole subplot of him wanting to marry Yuna. But that one isn't essential, right? The game could have played the pilgrimage straight, just going from summon to summon, until we defeat Yunalesca. So, Seymour is just flavour, I think, just a face to hate, so Yevon isn't just a faceless entity. Even though he is more of a third party.
Still, Seymour could be excised from the game. You could still have Yevon make the situation harder for us through Kinoc (which might give Auron a bit more to do), not as someone to fight against, but as someone who realizes that we are a problem, and tries to use his political and religious power to stop us.
Spira is an excellent world. The world of FF VII was a real character, who participated in the game, and still, this is a stronger world, I feel. You have more races, a unifying, cultural force and I feel like everything is more connected.
The idea of people clinging to life, and in some cases simply staying is really interesting. I kind of wished, that there were an explanation for this, like it had to do with the existence of Zanarkand, maybe? I don't think this is a thing in X-2 anymore, and it does feel like a weird anomaly, so I guess my headcanon is that the Unsent, or sending in general, are somehow connected to Sin. There are no summoners anymore, who can send people, in X-2, right?
I love the idea of having a carrot with Blitzball, giving the people something positive to think about (or rather, making them forget the important problems) and another carrot with the summoners, for the long term. Blitzball especially seems like such a clever idea. Like, they finally found a way to really incorporate the minigame into the story, and it was done in a pretty clever.
I was positively surprised, that Yevon isn't just a powerhungry, horrible body of monsters, like Shinra was. They actually do believe that they are doing something good, even though it is incredibly wrong-headed. I kind-of get it, no one can think of a way to defeat Sin, and the only reason we can do it is because Jecht and Tidus worked, kind-of, together. As believable as monsters like Rufus are, I appreciate the more layered interpretation of an antagonistic ruler.
The world has a nice amount of History, which lends quite some weight to its feeling, and why it is the, I think, best FF world up to now. Mae-Chen is one of my favourite NPCs for a reason.
Considering how long the yearning for infinite life has been a theme of FF, I'm quite surprised that it took so long to explore it in so much detail. And look how a whole world that would never really die look like.
I felt, again and again, reminded of FF III, and how Xande didn't want to die. And how it turned him into a monster.
But here, the game explores up close. The answer is, that infinite live doesn't differ much from being an undead, or at least the artificial creation would turn out that way. The search for something unreachable would make you inhuman. The same happened with Yu Yevon, who would have lived forever, but just as a mindless monster. Seymour, of course, was on the way to get there too, as we experienced.
Aside from that, there is a strong theme of bad parentage, which I talked already a lot during my writeups. Jecht, at least, apologized for what he did. And granted, Yunas father wasn't bad, he just did his job, a horrible one. Yevon is to blame for that. But generally, we look at how parents can burden their children.
Another theme that came back was the use of technology, its abuse and how it would effect the world. No surprise there, the series critizises the overuse of technology often enough. Here, we simply see how the world falls apart. But it's good to see that it is also not just "technology is bad", that it simply is more complicated.
Unfortunately, nothing more interesting than these obvious ones comes to mind. Maybe later, if an idea appears.
Well, I really wanted to try it out, but after the first match took forever, and I didn't really get how it worked, and why I couldn't do the Jecht Shot, my motivation immediately plummeted. I appreciate how they included the minigame here, but I wished they had just included a new card game. But I also can see how it would be hard to, once more, create one with new rules. Also, for the purposes of Yevon, there is clearly something flashy necessary.
So, can't say anything remotely interesting about this game. It's there, I'm glad people have and had fun with it, but it certainly didn't work for me. Honestly, the main problem is the time. One match is just way too long.
So, this was FF X. I enjoyed playing it, but I had a harder time reading it, interpreting it, than some other games. I feel like my readings are all very much surface level, more than usual (it's fine, this isn't fishing for compliments), but partly, I feel like this is due to the game using text instead of subtext for a lot of things.
Which might be another reason, why it didn't work as much for me as I assumed. Still more than VI (still sad that I don't really vibe with that anymore), but it's one I will take more time to revisit. Still, I think it's a great game, and probably a very good one to start with the series, considering how easy the game can be, and how fast you can grind yourself up, if anything is too hard. You have simply a lot of options, if only to load everyone up with overdrives.
Well, that's it for now. I already took quite a break, so I'll probably not take too long to start with FF X-2. Which should be a quite different experience, both playing and writing about it.
As always, thanks for reading and commenting. It's very much appreciated, I'm happy someone reads my thoughts.