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An examination of Final Fantasy X's ending: Would sacrifice have made the experience more poignant?


So I recently finished Final Fantasy X. As the first Final Fantasy game I�ve played in several years it left me feeling impressed, overall. While FFX made use of far more cutscenes than previous entries in the franchise they never became tedious � unlike in other games that have tried the same tactic, such as Xenosaga � and really helped the characters and story to grow on me. Shortly after �The End� had graced my TV, however, a nagging feeling started to develop. Something about the ending just didn�t sit quite right, although at first I wasn�t sure what felt off.

Shrugging my shoulders I decided to start on the next game in my queue, Lost Odyssey, since no answers to my vexation seemed immediately forthcoming. After getting about eight hours into the game realization finally struck: Final Fantasy X�s ending bothered me because it was too happy. That�s right, for the first time ever after finishing an RPG I was bothered that the characters I�d been aiding over the past forty hours had been successful in their world-saving quest.

Let me try to explain what I mean by that.

During the course of Final Fantasy X, when I first learned that summoning the final aeon would actually result in Yuna�s death, I was met with a moment of indecision. This quest I was trying so hard to finish would end with Yuna dying along with Sin, with the kicker being that Sin might just come back ten or so years down the line. This hesitation lasted only a moment, though. �There�s no way that Square would let a character sacrifice them self for such a hollow victory,� I immediately realized. Sure, main and supporting characters had died in past Final Fantasy games, but they either came back to life or died in the assistance of an absolute victory. And Final Fantasy X�s �victory� would be anything but absolute if the scenario were to play out this way.

Sure enough, Tidus quickly bolstered my suspicions by declaring that somehow, he�d find another way to defeat Sin even though no other options were readily available � and of course I believed him. He is the main character after all, and if anyone can make good on a promise to change a 1000 year-long cycle of death surely that would be the person to do it. But what if he hadn�t? What if, in the end, there was no alternative presented, thereby forcing a very surprised player to press the X button and resign two characters � Yuna and whomever would become the final aeon � to death? It would have floored me. Having such long running expectations shattered at the last moment would have made for an incredibly potent moment. The fact that Final Fantasy X establishes these expectations in the player so early on, and establishes the theme of sacrifice as such an important part of the narrative, is what makes this game so perfectly suited to having them used in the creation of a truly impactful ending. Of course the game�s scenario would need to have been altered for this sort of ending to be set up correctly.

The simplest ways to change it would probably be the following: Yunalesca would instead say that there was a very small chance for Sin to be permanently destroyed by the final aeon, rather than none whatsoever. This would mean Yuna would go ahead and acquire the final aeon since there was some hope of it working, while Tidus would probably volunteer to become it since he (and the player) would still be sure that some alternative could be found. Seymor would just stay dead after the third time he was killed and the idea of Yu Yevon being behind everything could just be nixed altogether -- keeping some of the mystery around Sin�s origin intact and maintaining that there is a small chance for success. The assault on Sin could then proceed as normal; hitting the weak points on the sides and top of his body, but after he becomes Overdrive Sin things would go a bit differently.

The battle would begin as normal, with the party trying to defeat him as he approaches and begins charging up his overdrive bar. In this version, however, no matter how much damage is dealt Sin can�t be stopped from delivering his overdrive and knocking everyone to within an inch of death. It wouldn�t be game over, though, as the battle would start up again with Tidus and Yuna each at 1 hp and only having one option open to them: Either they use the final aeon or Sin finishes everyone off on the next turn. By being presented in this fashion the player, still reeling from their first defeat, suddenly realizes that there is no other option, and that they�ll need to initiate the finishing blow on their own � thereby making this twist all the more engaging than if only a cutscene were used.

As if being forced to sacrifice the two main characters to defeat Sin wasn�t enough, the player would then be shocked once they realized that their victory might not even be very long-lasting. While there is a small chance that Sin could be gone forever there is also a much greater chance that Tidus and Yuna had given their lives only so that Tidus could become the next Sin after a short period of Calm. Along with trepidation another important (and very underutilized) emotion would be instilled into the player: doubt. This doubt wouldn�t only serve to make the ending more memorable due to the uncertainty over how things in Spira will ultimately turn out, but also during the play of future games. This worry that maybe not every fantasy world can be saved � regardless of the player-lead characters giving their best effort � would serve to make future games all the more suspenseful, or at the very least, keep players from taking all their other epic victories for granted.

This story direction probably wasn�t even considered by Square, however, since it would mean they couldn�t cash in on Final Fantasy X-2 (which negates what sacrifice FFX had in the first place), which is a shame, because it would have resulted in an even more surprising, emotional and memorable ending. I do enjoy the happy endings that games tend to contain, but they would mean so much more if every now and then, there was an ending that wasn�t so happy.
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About Justin Villasenorone of us since 10:40 PM on 01.17.2007

Hey all, I've been hanging around Destructoid since late 2006. I joined the staff in 2007 as a News Contributor after flooding the tip line on a daily basis, and then I got to write stuff on the front page. Now I mostly just bum around while doing grad school stuff.

That hip, guitar-playing bear is from Kokoro Scan.
Xbox LIVE:Th3Gold3nDonut
PSN ID:TheGoldenDonut
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