By Crys Sherman
Warning: Major spoilers ahead! If you have not played Final Fantasy X, you may not want to read any of this article until you do.
It is 2002. I am eight years old. I have just torn apart the wrapping on my Christmas presents, searching for what I now hold in my small hands. Final Fantasy X for the Playstation 2. I rush upstairs, pop it into my console, and slam myself down in front of it, controller in hand. I am about to have the best week of my young life bingeing this game.
That time solidified Final Fantasy X as my all-time favorite game across all consoles. I have never had a video game impact me and my emotions in the way that X did, and I doubt I will in this way again.
The story of Tidus, Yuna, and their friends has stuck with me for many years. The moment the theme song “Zanarkand” started in my ears upon the game turning on, I was hooked into a roleplaying world of fantastical story writing, beautifully orchestrated music, and an amazing cast of characters who all had their depth and emotion linked to them.
For a long time, though, I have been combative when talking about X with people. It is seen as a “childish” and “boring” story to some people I have spoken with. While understanding that nothing is for everyone and sometimes you don’t like the things others do or vice versa, I realized something about a lot of those I spoke with: they hated Tidus. Well, it was less than they hated him, in my opinion, and more so that some people just misunderstood him.
Some folks have decided that Tidus is a whiny, clingy, childish fool who knows no better. I’m here to try and convince you otherwise.
Now, starting with the beginning of the game:
Tidus (pronounced like Tee-Diss) (I know, fellow fans, I call him “Tie-Diss” too) is from Zanarkand, a buzzing and gigantic city filled with tons of Machina, or Machines, that lies in the world of Spira. He is the star player of the Zanarkand Abes – a Blitzball team that dominates the league. For those that don’t know, Blitzball is a game within Final Fantasy X played in a giant sphere of water and is similar to Football or Soccer with the main purpose of swimming around and scoring goals with a Blitzball ball.
We open, after a beautiful scene overlooking Zanarkand, to Tidus meeting with his adoring fans. He is hyping up for a big game that is about to start, and they’re cheering him on. Then he heads off to the game, and things get moving along for the player. This Blitzball game is where everything kicks off, starting with the beautifully haunting scene of Zanarkand being attacked by Sin – a humongous and terrifying creature that you learn more about later in the game, and something I’ll explore in a few moments.
Tidus runs from the Blitzball stadium to find Auron, a man who watched over Tidus as a child, standing there. Auron leads Tidus away, and the first battles of the game ensue, where Tidus is given the sword his father owned.
After these initial tutorial battles, we get another scene with stunning visuals, where Auron and Tidus are sucked into a part of the monstrous Sin, with Auron giving the cryptic message, “This is your story. It all begins here.” to Tidus.
A lot happens after this. It’s hard to sit down and write out every little thing that happens to Tidus and explain, piece by piece, exactly my thoughts on him. I tried for hours to even think of where to start, and I’m still not sure how exactly to explain everything. But I’m going to try.
Through the course of the game, we learn a LOT about Tidus and his father. There is the explanation of how his father Jecht vanished one day and never returned and how that sent Tidus’ mother into complete and utter depressed turmoil – eventually leading to her dying of heartache. We learn that Tidus resents his father for this and seeks to show him off at Blitzball, as Jecht would repeatedly tease (to the point it was almost emotionally abusing) Tidus as a child about never being good enough and how much of a “crybaby” he was. We don’t learn much else about his mother, other than her being reduced to nothing when Jecht disappeared. Unfortunately, I would have liked to know more about her, though she was not as important as Jecht was to the main story plot.
We also learn somewhere around the midpoint that Jecht is Sin. Sin is the monster I mentioned earlier, a gigantic whale-like beast that terrorizes Spira and destroys all in its path. The people of Spira believe that Sin is their punishment for using Machina – machines – throughout their lives and in their large cities that used to exist. Oh, and one of those large cities was Zanarkand. Which was attacked and destroyed by Sin one thousand years ago.
You read that correctly. Sin destroyed Zanarkand 1000 years in the past, according to everyone Tidus speaks to. He has been transported to the future, and his home is gone. Everyone he knew was gone, and there was no way for him to get home. He learns this near the beginning of the game, but it never sinks in until about the middle of the storyline, which of course, is reasonable, seeing that he’s a 17-year-old kid finding out he was transported to 1000 years in the future.
The main journey in the story of Final Fantasy X is the focus on defeating Sin and starting what is called the Calm – a time of peace before Sin reappears two years later. To defeat Sin, a summoner (This is where Yuna is important) must call the Final Aeon (a summoned being) and use it to fight Sin. So the entire party is on this long journey across Spira, gathering Aeons and making their way to the now destroyed Zanarkand to get the Final Aeon so that they might destroy Sin and create peace once more for a short time.
During this long rollercoaster ride of a journey, the party goes through various turmoil together, long battles, religious trauma, and more. Along the way, Tidus and Yuna fall in love. The scene between them in Macalania forest is one of the most beautiful and emotional scenes I have seen in a video game for a long time. It has stuck with me for years. The romances in Final Fantasy games are always well-written and emotionally pulling for the player, but I find this to be one of the best in the series.
Close to the beginning of the end of the story, Tidus learns that Yuna will die if she summons the Final Aeon. The Final Aeon uses the life force of the summoner who summons it to defeat Sin for them. Devastated, Tidus and their fellow party member/friend Rikku decide to come up with another way to stop Sin – which is as hard as it sounds.
We learn that Tidus is a dream of the Fayth. The Fayth are spiritual beings that give the power of the Aeons to summoners. They are usually long-dead people that have given their lives to be Fayth, placed in statues in temples throughout Spira, and aided the summoners. After falling unconscious, Tidus speaks to one of the Fayth, who explains that there are thousands of Fayth keeping the Dream of Zanarkand alive – which includes Tidus himself. This shock hits Tidus hard, but he keeps it to himself, and the journey continues.
We then finally come upon the ruins of Zanarkand. Tidus’ home.
The destroyed and fallen city is lit by pyreflies (think fireflies but Final Fantasy) and has the hauntingly serene sound of “To Zanarkand” playing in the background even through the random encounters. Adding to this emotion, both Tidus and Rikku are still struggling to find a way to stop Yuna from dying – and feel as though their time is running out – as she goes to get the Final Aeon from the Fayth within Zanarkand.
The party – after some revelations about the Fayth and learning the Final Aeon also demands the sacrifice of one of Yuna’s guardians (which she of course refuses at all) – fight against the path carved out for them and reject using the Final Aeon to defeat Sin, deciding they can definitely find another way.
In the end, they do find a way to stop Sin, for good this time! But it comes at a cost. Tidus ends up having to go, leaping into Sin as it is defeated and vanishing right in front of Yuna’s eyes. A tearful, emotional, and heart-wrenching scene to end the game on.
Everything that he goes through at such a young age is why Tidus will always be my favorite protagonist in the Final Fantasy series and in almost any role-playing game I have ever played.
To really think about it all, imagine this:
You wake up one day and realize your father has disappeared, and you hear your mother sobbing in the next room. No one has seen or heard from him in days, weeks, maybe even months. He was only going to train; he should have been back by now. Days pass and your mother breaks down emotionally and physically. She refuses to do anything but search for your father. She can’t even look you in the eye until one day you tell her you hate your dad. He was emotionally abusive and narcissistic, after all. Even then, she simply asks why you won’t wait for him to return to tell him that because she has false hope. A lie in her mind that says he will return to her miraculously. Months pass, and she passes with the time. You end up alone, with no family, only a guardian who suddenly appears to take care of you. You don’t know this man, but he quickly becomes your friend. You grow into a strong young person, and your guardian vanished a while back. You are truly alone, with only your father’s shadow to live with. Everyone compares you to him – telling you you’re just like him or that you’ll never be like him. Both statements anger you. You train hard to become better than him, better than his memory, better than you could ever be if you didn’t have the motivation of hating someone who was never there for you.
Your guardian returns one day when an attack launches on your home, and after a strange turn of events, you wake up in an unknown land with people who say your home was destroyed one thousand years ago.
Now, despite all of these events, you decide to keep going with your life. You decide to protect a person who you have only just met because they are one of your only companions in this place. Your group of friends travels all over as you continuously search for a way to return home, wherever/whenever that may be now. The monster that destroyed your home city is revealed to be the one person you have hated your entire life: your father. He is also the only way you can return home. Despite this and many other unsettling facts, you decide to help your group of friends destroy that monster, which could leave you trapped here in the future with no family and many questions left unanswered.
Then, even though you have all of these troubles and complications, you happen to fall in love with the person you have been guarding. It almost feels like you can finally find happiness in this world.
Then halfway through your journey, you discover that by defeating the monster, your newfound love will die. You will lose yet another person in your life. But you stay strong for them. You fight on to make them happy. You make promises of finding another way, a way for them to live. And you do find one, but you realize you may disappear in the process of saving her, a very real sacrifice to make in order to save the one you love and care for.
Imagine all of this, then throw in the fact that when you finally see your homeland again, it is in this new time and place. It is devastated and destroyed, just as everyone told you it would be. You can never return home again. You can only hope to save your loved one and keep your friends safe.
All of these things happen to Tidus.
He missed his home, just like you would. He missed his mother, who died, just like anyone would in the same situation. He fell in love and then found out that that love would be taken from him in an instant if he couldn’t find a way to save her in the end. He wasn’t stupid; he was weary. He wasn’t childish; he was scared. He was confused and homesick and worried.
But he still picked up his weapon and fought for a cause and fought for love. That is why Tidus is more than some “whiny, childish” character to me. That is why Tidus is my favorite character in a single video game. Ever.