A friend of mine is playing FFX for the first time, and he wrote to me to say that he doesn’t understand all the Tidus hate he’s encountered. These are his exact words:
The reason Tidus acts the weird, silly, monkey-like happy-go-lucky way he does is because the alternative – the realistic option – is someone curled into a fetal position and staying that way for the whole game.
I think the main reason people get annoyed with Tidus is because he’s childish and passive. Instead of taking control of his situation, he waits for someone else to save him. Aside from being a doofus and completely shutting down, he’s actually got a third realistic option, which would be for him to pull himself together and stand on his own two feet.
Sure, he’s seventeen, but so was Ashe (from Final Fantasy XII) when she had to pretend to commit suicide in order to become the head of an underground political resistance movement. Garnet (from Final Fantasy IX) was sixteen when she orchestrated her own kidnapping in order to find a means of overthrowing her corrupt mother. Celes (from Final Fantasy VI) was eighteen when she betrayed the Empire. And Yuna? She’s seventeen, and she’s already made the decision to sacrifice her life for the possibility of a peace that she knows won’t last.
On a more personal level, I was seventeen in the winter when FFX was released in the US, and I was going through an extremely tough period. Sure, there wasn’t a giant magic whale destroying my city and sending me a thousand years into the future, but my world had been painfully shattered, and I was more or less on my own. Instead of waiting for someone to come in and fix my life, I got my shit together and did what needed to be done.
The point is not that I’m a special snowflake (although I am a very special snowflake), but rather that I know from personal experience that it’s entirely possible for teenagers to deal with all sorts of terrible circumstances with dignity. Anger and poor decisions are to be expected, but the level of petulance that Tidus demonstrates is unnecessary.
The exact moment at which it became painful to watch him was Yuna’s sending after Sin destroys the village on Kilika Island. Many people lost their lives, and everyone else lost their homes and livelihood. And yet everyone else stood back up and brushed themselves off. Yuna continued on to the temple, and the blitzball team still intended to play in the tournament. Meanwhile, Tidus postures and pouts. Even if the tragedy didn’t strike some sense into Tidus’s head, being surrounded by models of appropriate behavior should have.
I think it hurts the game for the point-of-view character to be so self-centered. There’s a lot of interesting geopolitical stuff going on in the background that eventually gets shifted into the immediate foreground, and the suspense and buildup would be much more effective if Tidus weren’t so focused on himself.
I also think a more comprehensive perspective on the broader picture wouldn’t have detracted from the teenage love story but rather would have served to make it more poignant, as it would have encouraged the player to be more aware of just how brightly the bond between Yuna and Tidus shines against a backdrop of chaotic darkness.
Sin is scary, but other human beings are much, much scarier, which is one of the major themes of this game and its sequel. The best moments in the game are when Tidus removes his head from his ass and pays attention to what’s going on around him, and I wish there had been more of those moments, preferably in the interest of developing the game’s amazing cast of supporting characters.
( Header image by Nick Wanserski’s illustrated essay on the A.V. Club )