Growing up my favourite Final Fantasy game was always Final Fantasy X (FFX). To this day it is the only Final Fantasy game that I have ever managed to truly get into. In my opinion it is not a story about the fight to rid the land of a great monster but the examination of how people react differently to loss.
Tidus and Jecht both accpet the loss of their homes and choose to do what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences to themselves. Seymour, unable to accept the pain brought on by loss instead decides to lash out, in a twisted attempt to end all lost, and Yu Yevon tries to avoid loss all together. It is the third philosophy that the society of Spira is based on (unbeknownst to most of its citizens).
But what does this have to do with my title? It seems strange to declare that there is a problem with a story and then spend two paragraphs praising it. The problem with FFX’s story, in my opinion comes from the society of Spira and how it is presented in FFX. During the course of FFX’s story it becomes apparent the religious structure that governs the country is corrupt and crumbling. Operation Mi’ihen is a sign of this, with methods being used that were in open defiance of religious law. Events that take place later in the game would indicate that this event is symptomatic of a wider discontent among the people but this discontent is never shown. When Yevon (the religion of Spira)is brought up by anyone who isn’t a main character in the game it is to show how devoted the people of Spira are to that religion.
During Yuna’s pilgrimage she comes in to contact with many of the people of Spira, almost all of them express faith in her mission. Anyone who speaks up against Yevon belongs to the Al-Bhed, a group long held as outsiders by the people of Yevon. After operation Mi’ihen Yuna does not come across anyone who questions the tenants of Yevon and those who took part in operation Mi’ihen speak of seeking redemption.
By omitting such people from the story FFX commits the cardinal storytelling of show don’t tell. We are told that the leaders of Spira are desperate to gain favour with the people but we never see any evidence of their control slipping beyond one event, and that event is never built upon. We see the actions of a religious organisation which is desperate to wipe out its enemies but we never see those enemies.
This problem is present when the extent of the corruption within Yevon is revealed. At this point it is close to the end of the story and we do not see the characters interact much with anyone else. We never get to see what the position of Yevon in Spira truly is, either in build up to key revelations or in the fallout of those revelations. Despite this story involving the fate of a whole country and a society that has held place for 1000 years FFX feels far too insular in scope.
Despite all of the things that it does right FFX feels like a story that is missing a few key beats. The scenes in Bevelle should be major story notes but they aren’t given the weight they deserve because they do not have a strong foundation to build on. This is due to the story not connecting with the land that it is trying to depict as well as it could, despite the setting of a pilgrimage being an ideal way to tell such a story. I still think FFX tells a good story, but I also think that it could have been told better.