Here begins an ongoing, personal exercise in cataloguing the worst in video game cutscenes, a study of scripted moments that defy logic or common sense to a laughable degree. Some of them I will have played myself, others I will not have… after all, the whole point of most of these moments will be that, even if you’ve played the game, they will make no god damn sense.
…I have played this one, though. And we are beginning with a doozy.
Game: Final Fantasy X (2001)
Context: A tender moment where the summoner Yuna attempts to cheer up her new traveling companion, Tidus.
This is the only video anyone needs to see to fully understand what has happened to Final Fantasy since its evolution from simple sprites to full, 3D models.
It is also a perfect summation, a thesis statement, towards Square(Enix)’s inability to write emotional dialogue that feels realistic rather than boring or laughable. Dressing your characters in wildly impossible outfits and then having them discuss the nature of emotion and the weight of responsibility ad nauseum is a pretty easy way to sabotage your own delicate narrative. As a result, each successive iteration in the series feels less like Final Fantasy and more like Phantom Menace.
Or, to put it a different way, it’s like their strategy is to take the fight scenes from Dragon Ball Z and retain the long, awkward, silent staring, but replace the punches, kicks, and energy blasts with crying, sadness, and ridiculous bangs.
If you saw this scene play out before you in real life, exactly the way that it was written and performed, there is no way you wouldn’t gawk and text your friends while wondering exactly how many kinds of retarded disabled these two were. (Again, the hysterical outfits don’t help their case.) In fact, that explanation would probably make this scene way more emotional and far less embarrassing. The brave struggle of the mentally handicapped has proven successful Oscar gold more than once. AND it would further justify the glassy, frozen stares of the other characters who are just watching things unfold with a sort of detached, paralyzed disbelief, as if they can’t bring themselves to interrupt out of fear that they might catch a retard-strength punch to the jaw.
Tidus is voiced here by James Arnold Taylor, a seasoned actor who has, in the years following FFX, loaned his pipes to such famous characters as Ratchet (Ratchet & Clank), and Leonardo (TMNT). He’s also the same guy who voices the titular character in Johnny Test, and there isn’t a single line of his (or anyone’s) in the entirety of that loud fart of a show that trumps this attempt at an emotional moment from an established and prestigious RPG series in terms of sheer embarrassment.
If you think this scene is ridiculous simply because the english voice actors are not capturing any potential “magic” that existed in the game’s native language, take a gander at the original Japanese version for comparison:
…Yeah, that was a LOT better. Thanks, Japan.
Somewhere within the basement of Square-Enix’s Japanese HQ there is probably a man who remembers what it was like to tell a really solid story with charming character moments using nothing but a small handful of pixels. He remembers what it was like to write out dialogue and rely on the conversation itself to carry the emotions rather than the detailed models and forced, sterile voice acting. That man has assumedly been mummified in belts and zippers by Tetsuya Nomura and locked away in a storeroom behind the crates of plush cactuars and hair gel.
And he is sorely missed.
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