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This contains several major story spoilers... I wouldn't recommend reading if you are ever going to go through Final Fantasy X for the story.

Love between people destined to die, father-child relationships, free will versus fate, sacrifice, and existentialism are several themes the Playstation 2 video game Final Fantasy X examines through the narrator and main character, Tidus.

A brief description of Tidus is necessary. His outfit has many intricate details worth noting: the white lining to his black, blue, and yellow vest, the baggy, patchy pants with one leg permanently rolled up, and the matching "Y" shaped earring and chain necklace that is apparently his family's crest. His weapon of choice is a sword, but a lighter and smaller type than his mentor, Auron's. Following the long tradition of video game magic, his sword is always in his hand when he needs it, but never when he doesn't. He must keep it in his pants or something. Despite his naivety, immaturity, and flashy arrogance, he is well liked by others because of his cheerful, outgoing, and good hearted demeanor. In short, he's like a spoiled punk rock star stuffed into the body of an ill dressed, volley ball playing beach bum. His voice actors were Seiichi Morita in Japanese and James Arnold Taylor in English.

Before the actual game content, Tidus spent his days in the futuristic city of Zanarkand being famous and liking it. As a star of a bizarre fictional underwater soccer/basketball fusion sport, he generally felt content with the exception of the deep hatred for his missing father, Jecht. The story begins with an attack on the city by a mysterious creature named Sin and his friend Auron dragging him into the world of Spira to defeat it. Throughout his travels of the unfamiliar world, he narrates the adventures. At first, he believes that finding the elusive and destructive Sin would lead him back home to his jaded, comfortable life. However, like most good dynamic heroes, he changes as do his priorities. One of these changes is how he views his father.

Jecht's character is first revealed in tainted dream sequences and flashbacks that Tidus has. The only qualities Tidus recalls are Jecht's arrogance and flashiness; ironically these are characteristics Tidus himself displays, albeit to a lesser extent. Tidus remembers Jecht a patronizing to fault and constantly critical- more of a bully than a father. In reality, Jecht loved his son and only wished to push him to become talented and famous. Throughout the story, Tidus finds spheres, much akin to R2-D2 holograms, that show how his father got trapped in Spira and how much he missed his son. Auron also speaks of how while traveling with Jecht ten years earlier, Tidus was the only thing Jecht cared about. Slowly, as he discovers this, Tidus' hate begins to fade and be replaced with understanding and eventually, he realizes he had loved his father all along. The other major character that affects Tidus is the heroine and his romantic interest, Yuna.

It's interesting to note that while the narration and point of view come from the hero, Tidus, it could be argued that Yuna is the main character. Much of the journey reflects her character and how she changes as opposed to Tidus. Their relationship and fulfillment of their respective destinies run parallel in many ways. Thus, to discuss Tidus, it is logical to discuss how Yuna relates to him as well. Although very separate and distinct, when combined, they become something special. It would take quite a thick skull not to see their relationship forming before they even meet. Although this phenomena isn't exclusive to the Final Fantasy series, the pairing up of the hero and heroine has become an infamous reoccurrence. From their first flirtatious meeting by the fireside to their embarrassing-to-watch laugh out loud scene, it's obvious they were meant for each other. However, the love story wouldn't be interesting without a problem for the couple to face. In this case, one of them is obligated to die. Yuna forcefully feels it is her duty to save the world from Sin by summoning a terrible power called the Final Aeon. It is the only known way to destroy Sin, but with a few drastic costs: Sin will be reborn in ten years and the summoner will die after releasing it. Yuna knows this and is willing to sacrifice her life for a temporary peace in Spira. Tidus is kept in the dark of Yuna's fate most of the story, unaware of her doomed destiny should she succeed.

In one of the most bizarre and least understood twists in a modern video game, Tidus discovers he doesn't really exist near the end of the story. His body, memories, and feelings are all just dreams of spirits that lived in a magical civilization destroyed by Sin 1,000 years earlier. Zanarkand, his home, was really just the setting for their dream. His presence in Spira, or the real world, is required by necessity. Embodying the hopes of these lost souls, he is their second attempt to address the death Sin caused them. Jecht was the first, failed attempt. Why did the writers decide to include this far reaching, almost ridiculous twist? Some have suggested the writers were trying to make unexpected turns just for the sake of having unexpected turns. While that is a possibility, I believe Tidus' non-existence has well thought out implications. One main theme in the story is free will versus fate. Yuna is fated to die by destroying Sin, yet Tidus doesn't allow her to sacrifice herself. Instead, he consciously makes a decision to reverse their roles. Instead of allowing her to cast the Final Aeon, he and the other heroes discover a way to destroy the cause that recreates Sin. Unfortunately, the cost is Tidus' existence in Spira. Instead of following the prescribed destiny of a higher order, Tidus took matters into his own hands, a staple of existential philosophy.

Taking matters into his hands leads to a confrontation with his missing father. He finds Jecht controlling Sin, but not by his own will. It's like a good hearted processor being screwed into a powerful computer motherboard, condemned to do its evil bidding. Despite the fact Tidus has come to terms and understands his father, he sadly chokes out, "I hate you." With all the mental anguish over the years he had accumulated towards his father, he could not bring himself to say, "I love you", which exactly what he wanted to say. Thus, the final battle insues. After defeating Sin and assuring it will not be reborn, Tidus does indeed cease to exist since his role is complete. He slowly turns transparent in front of Yuna, and the rest of his adventuring friends. However, he deliberately made the decision to take weight of responsibility, to make the ultimate sacrifice, for his love for Yuna and to redeem himself for the hatred he felt towards his father. In what I feel is the most dramatic scene in any video game or cinema for that matter, his ghostly presence tries to hug Yuna. Even as he fades into non-existence, the power of love is still present. To symbolize his conscious decision to sacrifice himself, his fading spirit jumps off the edge of the airship. Jecht is waiting for him in the clouds as he floats down. They reach out, and in a moment of perfection, they slap each other's hands in a high five. Tidus finally resolves his inner conflict and becomes a true hero.

There is one final scene after the credits that can be seen figuratively or realistically. Mythologically speaking, heroes are often reborn in a figurative sense. After conquering the obstacles and trials, the hero is reborn as someone better than before. The scene is Tidus floating in a fetal position, possibly indicating his rebirth. Figuratively, he left his childish and self-absorbed persona behind and was reborn into a compassionate and understanding young man. It is also possible that as a reward for his selfless action, he is literally reborn into Spira. No one knows for sure, but we're probably going to find out soon.

Though Tidus is the narrator of the game, the standin for the player, and the only character you actually get to name (his name is never spoken in the voice-acted dialogue), Tidus can be mighty hard to sympathize with. Why?

I think it's because while Final Fantasy X's writers told a great story on a grand scale, they really blew the fine details. And while translator A. O. Smith did a beautiful job in Final Fantasy XII, his work is less polished here. In the beginning of the game, Tidus is perpetually whining, and James Arnold Taylor goes ahead and makes it as annoying as he can. Remember when he wakes up in the cave and says "I need food!" like it's some great revelation? This is supposed to set him up for some character development that unfortunately never really happens. He's supposed to mature and take charge, but it's only through the prompting of Rikku ("Just now, you sounded like a leader!") that we're told that this is supposedly what happened. In truth he spends 90% of the game as either a whiner or just some sort of adolescent jerk.

The other major thing distracting from our sympathy for Tidus is the pacing of the game. Instead of speeding up at the most critical moments, the game bogs down in cinematics or else takes a break to let you go on some side-quests for a while. This is bad enough in itself, but the effect it has on Tidus is to make him appear a little bit slow. You see, the game has a big secret. Or at least it thinks it does. All the other characters know it, and we know it too, ages before Tidus does. When he finds out, breaks down, and can't choose between a temper tantrum and getting all weepy, we don't want to share his grief, we want to say "hey jackass, where have you been?".

So what's my point? I suppose it's that despite all of its flaws, I stand behind my assertion that on that really big, majestic scale, the game does a pretty good job. In fact, it's probably full of wonderful things you never noticed before. So here's my suggestion.

If you haven't played the game, play it once, as a game, to beat it. Get it out of your system.

Then play it again, and try to notice everything. Interrelations between the characters. Hints in the dialogue that the translators thought would bring you deeper into the story, but missed the first time. Patterns of power in the world. Even the art.

Then play it a third time, to really appreciate the thing. Look beyond the imperfections, beneath the surface, and straight into the creators' minds. Imagine it as it would have been without the awkward moments and language barriers. Say "wow".

Honestly I think this applies to any good game, movie, or book. Worth doing is worth doing right, and to me that includes enjoying art. But I think Final Fantasy X is especially deserving.

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