Monday, 12 December 2011

RPG Outlook - Final Fantasy X

Now Final Fantasy has been a staple series in the RPG genre for a long time, but as with everything good, the bad inevitably follow. Where classic stories have been told, such as the likes of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI, others have not had such storytelling luxury, such as Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X.

The latter is what this first edition of RPG Outlook will focus on, it being the one I can still actively remember from experiences, and the one that I've most recently actually played and completed, just so I could actually write up this very entry.

So let's cast away all sense and dive straight into the heart of Spira and it's never-ending spiral of death!

Making Final Fantasy X Better

The way in which this document details how Final Fantasy X could have been turned into a better game does not make massive re-writes to the plot, though it does detail certain areas where the focus of the game could have been different, and attempts to rectify some of the ridiculous errors that plague the game in its entirety. The primary issues here are almost strictly the protagonist and villains, but are not limited to these two categories. In my limited assessment of the game, a number of related factors also came into play, and while there may be more that could be changed, this is my initial opinion on what could have been changed in Final Fantasy X to make it at least a little better.

I’m by far not saying that these ideas would have made the game brilliant, but it would certainly have assisted in repairing some of the damage that Square themselves caused.

The Protagonist

The protagonist of this game, Tidus, shows the beginning of a time where Square were getting confused by who should be the main character of their games, and this would follow through into Final Fantasy XII with Vaan, who despite his seeking vengeance for his brother, is a completely pointless character, and certainly not the main, in terms of development. Final Fantasy XIII was a little more comfortable with this concept of protagonist, but Snowe could quite easily also fill in the role of protagonist, given his connection with Lightning’s sister, Serah. The problem with Final Fantasy XIII’s protagonist is that it is held of a flimsy premise... but we’ll leave that one for another time.

With Tidus, it seems the story was written, and then additional parts of the story were added to make it so that Tidus could be seen as the main character, if only very loosely. It could be that Square didn’t want to make a female protagonist, which is likely what the game would have had were it developed with competence, and maybe they just feared having a female character as main—despite doing it in Final Fantasy VI in the form of Terra.

In Final Fantasy X, we are given two prime examples of characters who would befit the role of main character; naturally, there is the timid Yuna, who despite objections from her Guardians, Lulu and Wakka, underwent the Summoners’ Training to become a Summoner, earning the right to invoke the spirit of the Besaid Temple. Her journey is one of benevolence; she seeks out peace for the people of Spira, but ultimately she is sacrificing herself for a world that she barely understands, and for people she has never met. Yet she presses onward, knowing full well that she will die when she confronts Sin. Even through getting pretty much cast out by Yevon later on in the game, her determination still holds that she continues her journey, to protect the world that she lives in.

The second example would be Auron, a valiant warrior who became the Guardian of High Summoner Braska when he underwent his pilgrimage to receive the final Aeon and defeat Sin. His tale should have been one of redemption, and in the current story of Final Fantasy X, is downplayed to the tune of Tidus whining constantly about how it’s his story, when all he is there for is to remind us that he knows nothing of Spira, Jecht, his father, has become Sin and as a ‘love interest’ for Yuna. Nothing more. Auron’s tale should have resonated more soundly than it did; a man seeking redemption after being unable to both protect and avenge his fallen comrades, and the only way he can atone is to kill one of those friends he travelled with ten years prior; Jecht. There is solid evidence that would put Yuna and/or Auron as the main characters of the game that just aren’t explored at all, primarily because it just didn’t follow the set pattern that Square set for their franchise with almost all the previous games.

The Beginning of the Game

With a shift in protagonist, a new beginning would need to be worked on, and it would rectify the ridiculousness of a large portion of the game being told in a flashback. While it may only be me who feels this way (though I can recall one other who I know feels the same), I feel that had the correct protagonist been chosen from the beginning of the game, it would have flowed much smoother than it did.

There are two ways that this could be achieved; the primary one would be a short opening sequence where the player briefly gains control of the young Auron as he fights his way to Yunalesca (unknowingly to the player, at this point) through the ruins of Zanarkand, to confront her for what happened to Braska and Jecht, but ultimately, she strikes him down, and leaves him to crawl away, slowly dying. (naturally, Yunalesca would be shrouded in shadows to hide her appearance, and Zanarkand would not be mentioned by the characters in the ensuing dialogue, so as to maintain suspense at to both where they are and who it is that Auron is attempting to reap vengeance upon)

From this, the screen could pull away from a defeated Auron much like it would with a game over in combat and the opening theme could have begun playing as Auron rushes Yunalesca, maybe even adding some slow-down before Yunalesca unleashes a fatal blow to him, uttering “Pitiable fool,” or something, before doing so.

The title would appear on the screen as the camera lifts away from the image of a defeated Auron, and shortly after, begins to fade to black with the title remaining a short while longer. It could then shift focus to Yuna, who has awoken after a long day of training for today’s event; the day she finally becomes a fully-fledged Summoner and follows in her fathers’ footsteps. A few events could transpire where she walks around Besaid, talking to the locals who revere her for what her father, High Summoner Braska, had done for them 10 years previous, as well as a couple events that take place with Lulu and Wakka; both trying one final time to deter Yuna from the path that she has chosen. (though in Wakka’s case, it’s more of a “You know... no one will think less of you if you decide you don’t want to continue, ya?”, to which Yuna would reply that it is something she must do for the people of Spira to know peace, once again—her resolve absolute)

The game will transpire pretty much as it did in the background; Yuna would take on the Cloister of Trails with Lulu and Kimahri being her Guardians for the trial, leaving Wakka to wait for them to return and as time goes on and the light of the next morning shines in through the doorway, train the Besaid Aurochs for the upcoming Blitzball Tournament in Luca. (which would only be seen later, when Tidus comes into the story) In control of Yuna, the player would go through the Trials as they would have done with Tidus, only when they reach the final chamber, Yuna looks in amazement at how grand it looks; this being the first time she had ever been allowed to enter the chamber since it was said that the Cloister of Trails can be too overbearing on one who is inexperienced, and sometimes the events that transpire in the Chamber of the Fayth can lead to death because of how daunting the ordeal is on the spirit of the Summoner.

Yuna then enters the Chamber of the Fayth to invoke the spirit of Valefor, the Aeon that resides on Besaid Island, and after a while of praying, her invoking the spirit succeeds, and as it is her first time, the surge of energy that hits her causes her to pass out, leaving Lulu and Kimahri to only wait for her to return.
The scene could then cut back to Wakka, who is training the Besaid Aurochs on the beach. One of the players kicks the ball out into the ocean by accident and ends up smacking Tidus in the back of the head, leaving him a little dazed. From this point onwards, the story could continue onwards as it normally would, until the events that take place in the temple, where Tidus is strictly repelled from entering the Cloister of Trials. Wakka suggests he wait a while, while he progresses into the Cloister of Trials to see what is happening—reluctantly, considering that Lulu and Kimahri are with Yuna. The scene could then cut back to outside the Chamber of the Fayth, where Wakka walks in and gets a roasting from Lulu for not thinking that her and Kimahri could handle protecting Yuna, when the Chamber opens, revealing a staggering Yuna who almost falls down the stairs. She is caught by Kimahri, and after regaining her bearings, declares that she has finally become a Summoner.

I feel that this would have been a better way to kick off the story, and though the basic structure of the story is no different from its original, the opening scene is what primarily makes the story much more involving; concern for what has happened to Auron begins to swell—especially since the player had been given some time to play with the character before the scenes in Zanarkand took place. (nothing like Reks or Basche in Final Fantasy XII, as they weren’t really all that interesting in the prologue of the game and it wrongly followed Reks with those scenes, when Basche’s character would have been far better off being followed by the player to show off his type of character more (we’ll get to Final Fantasy XII another time, though; I’ve got a few opinions on that, too); the use of Auron in these scenes would likely cement his role as a bad-ass character to the player) It would make the return of Auron come Luca all the more sweeter, making the player think that he had survived the assault that he had taken in the then unnamed location that he had taken on the then unnamed Yunalesca.

This would also extend into following Yuna and the others come when the party begin to leave Luca, with the party talking about Auron and Lulu passively saying that it seemed he did see someone he knew after all, and would make it more obvious that Tidus is ‘obviously’ suffering from Sin’s toxin, with him thinking that he comes from Zanarkand.

Blitzball & the Kidnappings

While Blitzball is kind of stupid in a way, it is kind of ‘needed’. As Wakka and a few other characters indicate, Spira has few things to keep their spirits up, and Blitzball is one of those things that helps people kind of ‘stay strong’ in hard times. If you think about it, if our world was reaped with death at the hands of a nightmare creature that flicks off parts of itself to cause havoc, sports would likely be one of the things to help bring people together in the hard times. Fine, it’s probably a bad example, but I can’t really think of another way to put it.

One thing that can go away and die is the kidnapping of Yuna—especially in respects to how the Al Bhed kidnap her. They kidnap her to make the Aurochs throw the game? Seriously? *** you... yes, we could still have them kidnap Yuna, but take away the crappy Blitzball reasoning. You could easily have the others assume that it’s because the Al Bhed want the Aurochs to throw the game, but they don’t draw attention to it, or know for certain that it was the Al Bhed that kidnapped her. They could play with the hatred of the Al Bhed on Wakka’s part, and the party act upon that, just to see if he’s right. They could non-threateningly approach the dock that the Al Bhed are on, and suddenly get attacked by Machina, because they’re Yuna’s Guardians. After the fight with the Machina, they could see the boat pulling out of the dock, and race to try and get aboard before it leaves.

Then the scene could switch to Yuna for a bit, as she breaks out of her bonds (since she would likely be tied up after getting jumped by the Al Bhed—perhaps Yuna would get distracted by something that she sees in a quiet area of the town and goes to investigate, perhaps thinking that it may have been Auron or something) and re-acquiring her staff, heading over to the door of the ship and opening it. Then she could get attacked by the boss monster thing that the main party got attacked with, and after about 6-10 turns, or when the monster loses so much health, everyone else jumps onto the ship before it pulls out of the dock, and join Yuna in combat.

This would put Yuna into a more active role—make her a stronger female character, who isn’t just a damsel in distress like she was placed as in the original telling of Final Fantasy X—considering how often she gets kidnapped in the game, it would make for a nice change if she actually played a more active role in her escape. When she’s kidnapped by that submarine? Have her cast curative and buffing spells on Wakka and Tidus to give them a bit more of an edge in battle, rather than just having her stand there in combat-ready stance and just do nothing!

The Infamous Laughing Scene

Probably one of the biggest facepalm moments of the game would be the laughing scene just as the party leave Luca. In light of the events that occurred in both Kilika and Luca, Yuna would undoubtedly need a smiling face to help her go on in times of hardship. This is evidenced in the ‘big sister’ attitude that Lulu took on after Yuna had performed the Sending for the people who had fallen in the Kilika disaster. The comment of “I want my journey to be full of laughter,” would still be a valid one, but after the loss of so many people—something that she witnessed with her own eyes, as well as everyone else had, it would be hard to even just crack a smile.

What I would do is axe the laughing part; the smiling part would be enough to give the scene some sense of emotion and how difficult a time it is for everyone—even after the Blitzball Tournament.

The Transparent Villain – Seymour

The primary issue with Seymour is that he shows no remorse in his early character. The incident in Luca was obviously something that he himself had set up to boast his power and ‘try’ to show that he was one of the good guys, but I think that he was far too nonchalant about the whole ordeal.

What I feel would have been better would have been for a scene where Mika orders Seymour to summon Anima to deal with the threat around them, which makes Seymour feel uncomfortable and hesitant, but further insistence forces him to comply. His unwillingness to use such a power, though at that time, not something the player would know, stems from Anima having the Fayth of his mother, who became a Fayth so that she could protect her son.

Though it does bring into question why Seymour set the ploy in the first place; there’s no real reason, other than to cause mass hysteria in Luca. Still, it would be a scene that would help Seymour’s case until the events at Macalania Temple, stapling him as someone who has power, but does not like to use it, unless absolutely necessary. It would be the facade he would hold, until he needed to shed that personality and actively become evil.

The primary issue with Seymour though, is the Mushroom Rock mission—it could be something that Seymour states he is supporting because he wishes to see an end to Sin, and should they be able to defeat Sin here, the needless slaughter would be at an end... despite inwardly, he knows that it would only be needless slaughter in and of itself.

After the mission fails, Seymour could join the party for a short time, until arriving at Djose Temple where he meets with more of his subordinates, apologises for making Yuna witness yet another tragedy so soon after her witnessing the Kilika incident and retreats back to Guadosalam.

The events that transpire in Guadosalam are a bit stupid, though; “The actors must play their parts,”? **** you, Seymour... it would be better for Seymour to show genuine interest in Yuna than just the statement that he’s really only doing it because it would benefit Spira to have a bit of joy; even if short-lived. He could state that her benevolence is what attracted him to her, or something. Anything! Anything that isn’t the reason he actually gave in the game!!!

As for later Seymour antics, his use to the plot is completely non-existent, and he essentially becomes the ‘Team Rocket’ of the game, appearing in Mt. Gagazet for the sake of doing so, and again inside Sin when you’re going to beat the crap out of Yu Yevon and Jecht. These areas could easily be changed to have a different boss appear there, such as some form of frigid flying beast for Mt. Gagazet and a Sin Spawn, stronger than those previously fought and NOT a re-skin of a previous Sin Spawn, which is essentially what the ‘pimple’ was, when the party fought it on Sin’s back.

Seymour’s use to the plot ends essentially in Bevelle, when the party escapes from the Via Purifico. His death there would make much more sense, considering that they could use it as an excuse to hunt Yuna down; Seymour’s death, as well as Maester Kinoc’s death, could easily be pinned on her and her Guardians, and her journey over Mt. Gagazet could be seen as the Ronso protecting her as they climb, which could explain why they attack, rather than Seymour just feeling like it.

Yuna’s resolve to progress on the pilgrimage will need to be addressed, but that will possibly be for a later section.

From Macalania to Bikanel

The jump between Macalania to Bikanel is a little ridiculous—it makes the player ‘believe’ that Sin was the one to sent them to Bikanel Desert, but that is a little stupid, and though it brings forth the point that Sin is Jecht and was there to listen to the Hymn of the Fayth—said to be his favourite song, it has little meaning and if they really wanted to use that scene, they should have had the team appear near the Travel Agency of Macalania. However, before this scene, it would be a better idea to give the party an actual reason for going to Bikanel; while it would be relying heavily on the already overused kidnapping plan of the Al Bhed, the Al Bhed kidnapping Yuna would be the best way to get everyone to go over to where the Al Bhed live, in a much more believable manner. Because Rin mentioned that he occasionally goes back to Bikanel Desert to gather supplies, it would be a reasonable assumption to believe that Rin would have some sort of ship to return to his home, and thus the party could enlist the aid of Rin to get to Bikanel and confront the Al Bhed.

Should the Sin scene occur, where the party are left outside the Travel Agency, Rin could say that he had to quickly put you on his ship, because the Guado were seeking out Lady Yuna and her Guardians for attempting to kill the Maester, to which Rin could not believe and ordered his employees to get the unconscious party on his ship as soon as possible. When the party awakes, Rin explains what happened and where he’s taking them. After all, the whole of Macalania Temple is in a lake—mostly frozen over by ice, yeah, but surely there are some areas for oceanic transportation; especially since Rin ends up back at Bikanel long before your characters do, and they were taken there by Sin, in the original cut. With this, it makes explanations much easier to digest, and far easier to realistically understand.

From Bikanel to Bevelle

Now here’s where things get a little stupid, in terms of time progression; in the space of a single day (maybe even less than that), the player is expected to believe that the party travel to Bikanel Desert, run around in the sand, get to the Al Bhed Home, find the airship and find out where Yuna is. Not only this, but in the same time frame, the Guado and Bevelle find out where Yuna is, instantly appear and kidnap her (again), take her to Bevelle, have her fitted for a dress, have it tailored and prepare the ceremony. I’m sorry, but things don’t happen that fast! I would venture to guess that preparations for the ceremony would take at least 2 days, if you really, REALLY rushed the crap out of it, and tailoring the dress would probably take the same time frame, were all the tailors’ time dedicated to production of the dress.

I would say that the entire scale would need to have at least 9 days dedicated to it; the preparations for the wedding do not require the bride’s presence, whereas the dress does, as she would need to be fitted for it. Locating where Yuna is would probably take a couple days and stirring a campaign to wrestle her from the grasp of the Al Bhed would probably take the same amount of time. So, over the course of the 9 days, and likely before that, considering that Seymour was probably planning for the wedding sooner than we’d expect, the plans for the wedding would go on, with the 3-5 days of having Yuna in their grasps would be dedicated to having her fitted for, and tailoring the dress.

‘Lest Yuna was fitted for the dress in Macalania...? Who knows...

Yuna’s Motivation for Continuing

It is obvious that Yuna’s faith would have taken a blow in the events that lead up to their arrival at the Calm Lands, likely making her question her continuance of her pilgrimage to Zanarkand. But... her loyalty would be to the people of Spira, and I do believe she actually says something similar in the game... or would I be giving Square a little too much credit on that score?

Anyway, it would make sense if Yuna did mention it, should she not have mentioned it in the games already. She’s witnessed the suffering of the people as she travelled the lands and feels that because she can relieve it, even if only for a little while, she should—even if the church of Yevon has technically ex-communicated her as of the events in Bevelle. However... if Yuna has such determination, why the hell are Mika and Seymour causing so much trouble for her, towards the end of her journey?

Tidus’ End

As a way to end Tidus, using the full effect of him being only a ‘dream of the Fayth’, to re-evaluate his denseness throughout the game, the Fayth could place information inside of his mind as the information was required, not making him question stupid things, such as the “Crusaders” by him saying, “Huh? Crews of what?” and the like. He would slowly understand, though it would take a few moments for such things to ‘come back to him’, as the information was being passed to him by the Fayth.

As these events unfold, more new information is passed onto him through his travels, and as this happens, memories of his “own” life; memories the Fayth created, start to disappear. These effects are slow at first, but as the pilgrimage continues, Tidus’ memory starts to more rapidly deteriorate, to the point of the final showdown with Sin. Sequences could be used to indicate that with each fatal blow that Tidus deals, he deals a blow to his own mind, causing excruciating pain. (something that could be done in-game is that with each blow that Tidus deals himself to Jecht reduces his own max HP by a very small amount. It would be a definite indication to the player that as this battle draws on, something bad was going to happen to Tidus, and they could do nothing about it)

At the end of the battle, Jecht would try to talk to his son before his ‘passing’, but Tidus would have lost all memories by this point of his father, and his mental condition would continuously begin to regress to the point that he begins to lose himself, maintaining only those that drive on his dedication for assisting Yuna by this point so that he can demand that she continue to Send the spirits of the Fayth to the Farplane, and end the destructive cycle of Sin, casting all care for his own well-being to the wind so that the one he loves can live a life of peace.

Naturally, by this point, Yuna would have figured out well in advance that Tidus would end up disappearing; if not, the pain that he would be in at this point would definitely show her what would happen should she continue. She would be torn between living the destructive cycle with the one she loved, or lose the one she loves and bring an eternal Calm to Spira, certifying that lives would not be lost to Sin ever again. A decision that would undoubtedly break her to the point of tears, knowing that she is bringing pain to people, no matter which option she chose; would it be the path of selfishness or benevolence that she would choose? All the while, hearing both the pained cries of Tidus and the strength in his determination to have her go on, until her final Sending had met its end.

Upon completion of her final Sending; all the while, Yuna unable to keep the tears back, would drop her staff to the ground and rush to Tidus’ side, crying for him to speak to her while he lay in a state of obliviousness. Yuna’s tears would drop across his mentally deteriorated form, as he manages to focus for one last time, only to say the three words that would ultimately devastate Yuna emotionally; “Who are you?” before Tidus’ body slips through her arms and vanishes in a flurry of Pyreflies, leaving a distraught Yuna to be consoled by her remaining Guardians.

It’s a very dark concept, I’ll admit that, and I’ve no doubt that Square would probably have never gone through with such a thing, but frankly, I feel that this kind of ending is the only real way the story could have been taken seriously, in the design that it has. If they cleaned up Tidus, made him a more likeable character and shifted focus of protagonist to (in this scenario) Yuna, this kind of turn on the story would have brilliantly concluded Final Fantasy X, in my opinion. It would have made redundant the sequel, but frankly, the sequel had shaky to non-existent grounds to begin with. One thing I will admit, from a story point-of-view is that it was ‘nice’ to see where the world went after their heavily coveted religion was found to be nothing more than a grand lie, and everything they believed in was the cause of their suffering, essentially.

If they desperately wanted the sequel, they could have used a small portion of the scene that they used to fuel Yuna’s adventures as a Sphere Hunter, rather than tease a scene where Tidus comes back, as seen at the end of the credits of Final Fantasy X. But the plot of Final Fantasy X-2 would need a HELL of a lot of reconstruction—I think the return of Tidus would only really hurt the premise of the world—though as a bad ending, it would be brilliant. After all, Tidus is no more, and all the Fayth are essentially doing to Yuna at the end of Final Fantasy X-2 is creating an illusion that she can touch, and something that they can’t promise will be around forever. They’re actively harming her by stopping her from moving on from Tidus and living life as she should, rather than getting strung up on him.

In Closing

In the end, it is clear to see that Final Fantasy X was completely rushed off of the cutting room floor. There is a LOT to the game that could have done with a LOT more work being done to it. Perhaps, had the writing team given more time to the story, maybe all of these changes would have been implemented into the game—though the focus on who is the actual protagonist and the kidnapping issues are really the biggest ones that need focus on, in my opinion.

But anyway, welcome to what I like to call Square’s very own “Spiral of Death”.

No comments:

Post a Comment