After the COVID outbreak of 2020, Kyle and weren’t able to see one another for several months. In hopes of mitigating the problem, we tried a number of solutions, but my slow internet connection was a constant wrench in the works. I made quite a few fixes on my end (“fixes” that introduced so many problems that tending to my computer’s many flaws took up nearly two weeks, and some of them are still around), and maybe they helped, because when we tried again in late July, we finally got it working! We were able to play Final Fantasy X via Parsec, a screen-sharing program. Unfortunately my slow internet was still a thing, and the quality was less-than-perfect, but still pretty good, considering! Excusing when the game makes sudden movements, which causes distortion, my recording should be clean enough to produce acceptable, down-scaled screenshots!
While we still don’t know how long quarantine will last at the time of writing, Parsec should be able to help us play FFX, Eternal Calm, FFX-2, and FFTA before we run into problems with FFCC, as the HD release purportedly has terrible multiplayer and it might be better for us to wait to play on GameCube in person. Failing that, we’ll continue on early to FFXII. Unfortunately, things get messier from that point on, but we’ll hope for the best!
Because we don’t get to make a huge, overnight deal out of it, our online sessions will probably be shorter than the ones we’ve seen in the past. Session 3 carries on from Mt. Gagazet almost to the start of the final dungeon, though there will still be few short sidequests left to do when we start up Session 4. At the time of posting, we’ve since finished the game and are in the early stages of FFX-2.
Mt. Gagazet is made up of thin cliffsides and preposterous causeways that lead from mountain to mountain. The path is mostly linear, but sure enough we managed to miss one of the few branches and had to backtrack. The enemies here are quite dangerous, excusing a group of machina that was almost laughably underpowered. Smaller enemies like plants could inflict status effects, while larger enemies had skyscraper HP bars, and I’ve already talked about the Grenade. The Bashura enemy was a particular pest, since it could ready itself to use counterattacks. You could ignore this by casting spells, but you can’t Capture them that way!
Thankfully, we unlocked Auron’s physical defence debuff ability during Gagazet, and were well on our way to getting his magic resistance one, too. Wakka was right on his tail after that Friend sphere we had used, and got copies of the same.
By the way, are none of you tropical-themed heroes cold in those outfits?
Part way up the mountain, we discovered another video sphere, but not one of Jecht’s: this was a message from Braska to Yuna. Ironically, he spends the sphere advising her to find her own path, despite the fact that he stashed this stupid ball at the ass-end of the pilgrimage route, where no one but a Summoner or a Ronso would ever find it. “Do what you must do, the way you want to do it. Doors will always open themselves to those who do.” Hahaha, that’s nice, Braska. You’re cute. I’d chalk this up to your character’s own optimism and naivety if it weren’t so closely tied to one of the game’s central, insulting themes.
Further down the road, you run into a man named Wantz (Tom Kenny), who turns out to be O’aka’s brother. O’aka has finally been arrested for his multiple attempts to assist you while you evade legitimate authorities, and out of generosity or because he knows we’re desperate rubes with nowhere else to turn, he’s sent Wantz to continue selling to us. Wantz actually appeared earlier in the game, but the scenes were totally pointless (besides a missable scene at the Farplane, which we missed) and I’m not sure they add literally anything to the game. And so I never mentioned them!
We were actually here for a while because I backtracked to get a chest, but eventually reached the end. It’s a simple dungeon, really, but the boss isn’t. First off, the setup. Tidus and Rikku discuss how they’re running out of time, but Tidus says that they’ll just have to go on to Zanarkand and hope for the best! Remarkably, Rikku responds to this wishy-washy, pie-in-the-sky, lottery ticket plan as Tidus “sound[ing] like a leader.” And of course the writers would frame things in this preposterous way… but there are better places to address that problem. Just keep it in mind. Anyways, Seymour pops out of nowhere.
Seymour has realized that Tidus is Jecht’s son from some of his comments, and Seymour talks about how Tidus should just let him become Sin to free Jecht. When the rest of the party turns back to fight Seymour, he then begins to address Kimahri as “the last Ronso,” and explains that the rest of his people fought to the last to keep Seymour off the mountain. Now, it’s not actually true that Kimahri is “the last Ronso.” Seymour has committed a massacre, but there are quite a few still alive, though I couldn’t say how many. The most obvious exceptions are the members of the Ronso Fangs Blitzball team, but the game tries to hide their continued existence by barring you from Blitzball for quite a while! What’s strange is that, after locking off Blitzball seemingly for this one reason, the devs don’t bother to reveal that the Fangs are still alive before they let you back into Blitz!
After more babble about suffering and death, Seymour engages you in a new form: Seymour Flux. Oh hey, good for you, Final Fantasy X, that’s a real word for once! Seymour begins the fight by demonstrating his special technique: he uses an attack to inflict Zombie, and then his teammate, the Mortiorchis, casts Full-Life (Arise) on that Zombified target to instantly kill them! Resistance to Zombie is helpful here, and Wantz sells several armours that offer it. He also sells the Holy Waters required to cure Zombie, though the Mortiorchis doesn’t usually give you a window to use one! Seymour also uses Reflect to bounce Flare at you. This is all mechanically interesting, but it strains narrative credulity in my mind. Final Fantasy has definitely had complex boss fights in the past, but there’s just something about the “game-ified” stunts Seymour is pulling in the Flux fight that make this feel less like an epic battle between warriors and ideals, and more like the Yu-gi-oh! Regional Finals. And somewhere out there, the ghost of Yami Yugi is chiding me for claiming Yu-gi-oh! isn’t an epic battle between warriors and ideals.
Seymour Flux has a bad reputation as one of the hardest mandatory bosses in the series, so Kyle and I were definitely worried about our sub-par Expert build. Seymour can do group damage, responds to Slow by using Slowga on you, and Mortiorchis will eventually count down to a super-attack called Total Annihilation. Thankfully, you can still Haste yourself, and can Poison Seymour if you know how. Like the previous Seymour fight, his “Morti” ally will drain health from him if it dies, but you can’t rely on Reflect this time, since Mortiorchis doesn’t cast attack spells to begin with, making it useless to you. You certainly don’t want to use Reflect lest it bounce Full-Life back at its caster! The fight is so bad that the FFWiki article on it is full of post-game strategies like damage-cap shattering Mixes, it’s a real mess. Kyle’s winning strategy was to basically head Total Annihilation off by Summoning Overdrive-ready aeons to do their single point of attack, though to his credit, he only needed two!
After the fight, Yuna picks up on some of Seymour’s hints about Jecht being related to Sin, and demands to know what’s going on. Tidus admits the truth to a confused party. They’re almost as confused that he’s so eager to hunt his father down, but that just means they haven’t been paying attention. Proceeding from here, you can get the Crest required for Kimahri’s Ultimate Weapon just down the road, behind a pillar. Just around the corner, we cross the border into the former territory of Zanarkand. The city, mind, is still a short dungeon away.
There’s a surprise waiting for you just around the bend: a massive, decorative wall with multiple bodies embedded in it, each dripping blue magic that coalesces into a waterspout. Yuna recognizes that each of the bodies is a fayth, and that someone is currently Summoning with them, all of them at the same time. Rikku prods Auron for information, but he says they figure out themselves, and so Tidus puts his hand onto the Source Wall here, saying “This is our… this is my story.” Instantly, he finds himself drawn into a vision.
Basically, Tidus finds himself back in Zanarkand, on the way to his house boat, but the city is empty of people. Going inside the boat, he discovers Bahamut’s fayth waiting for him, the first time he’s been seen since Bevelle. As they talk, visions of the party members come in, seemingly trying to shake Tidus awake, and he realizes he’s having a dream. Bahamut replies, “precisely,” but then tells him “It’s not that you’re dreaming. You are a dream.” I want to emphasize the word “are” in that to make the meaning clear: “You are a dream.” But Debi Derryberry doesn’t, so why should I?
Bahamut leads him outside and tells him that long ago, Bevelle and Zanarkand had a war, but their positions were different than you’d expect from the present-day: despite the advanced tech on display in Zanarkand, Bevelle was even more advanced than them, and Zanarkand were the ones with Summoners. Zanarkand lost badly and, afraid they’d be wiped from history, the people made a drastic move: hundreds of people became fayth, and began to summon something. Tidus suspects Sin, which is probably what half the audience is thinking, but Bahamut says no: they’re summoning a vision of Zanarkand. People, animals, buildings, everything, are just a “dream” of the Fayth, and that includes Tidus and Jecht.
While you’re letting that sink in, the game also implies the Summoned city exists somewhere far out in the ocean, where no one can get to it… except Sin. So Sin’s attack at the start of the game really was the real Sin coming to Zanarkand in the present, we were only wrong about what “Zanarkand” really was!
(One detail I’m not clear on is whether Tidus is a dream version of a person who existed in Zanarkand during the war, and has been existing for a thousand years without noticing the passage of time, or if the “Dream Zanarkand” has simulated millennia of new people, generations giving birth and dying? Please don’t answer that if FFX-2 clarifies, and that goes for any other lingering mysteries as we get closer to the end of the game!)
The dream becomes corrupted, and Bahamut talks about how all the fayth are getting tired, and want to finally rest. He then reveals the pun at the heart of the game’s message: “Spira” is the “spiral” of harm reduction keeping things in a state of constant death. Indeed, like the “Heartless” of Kingdom Hearts, Spira is named in English even in the Japanese version to maintain this wordplay.
Tidus finally wakes, but lies to the rest of the party and says nothing remarkable happened, and we return to our journey-in-progress without much time to think over what just happened. The party soon reaches a cave that works as a sort of second dungeon for Gagazet. Most of the monsters are similar, but there are a few new ones that the arena guy marks as coming from a different region, it’s kind of confusing. The monsters in this area were quite dangerous to our faulty Expert builds – I don’t remember the dungeon being nearly as hard on Standard! Speaking of “confusing,” come meet this dungeon, which seems to have been tailor made for our party and literally no one else in the thousands of years of history that this dungeon has existed. You basically have to keep swimming Tidus, Wakka and Rikku off through water-logged areas to reach two key puzzles. The first involves timing a blitzball throw through some obstacles. The next involves swimming into holes perfectly sized for them! Don’t think too hard about it!
At the end of our spelunk, Auron pulled Yuna aside to warn her that a certain “she” will be sending fiends to test them. “She” turns out to be none other than Lady Yunalesca, another Unsent, who has stayed in Zanarkand for millennia to pass on the Final Aeon. Her first direct test involves a boss fight against a fiend called the Sanctuary Keeper, which honestly could have been dubbed Ultima Weapon for all the design choices it was borrowing from the recurring enemy! (Ed. But no, Ultima Weapon in this game is something else.)
Honestly, this fight isn’t very memorable, and that’s not just me being colourful: I actually passed off the controller to Kyle after finishing the Gagazet cave under the impression that there was no boss and I was done! Sanctuary Keeper’s big strengths are inflicting status effects, and casting Reflect on the party to bounce Curaga on itself, because being straightforward is for chumps. So long as you have Esuna and Dispel, this fight is no big deal, doubly so if you have two White Mages like we did!
Rikku wants to stall to keep Yuna from her fate, but not only is Auron not having it, but he has a good point, too: there’s a better rest spot just up ahead. When Tidus also complains, Auron reveals that he too got cold feet after approaching Zanarkand. “Legendary guardian? I was just a boy. I wanted to change the world. But I changed nothing. That is my story.”
Zanarkand is over the next round, and if there was any doubt left in Tidus’ heart that his city was a fake, it’s washed away by the sight of the ruins, just like everyone told him there would be. I have to admit, in the macro, setting up the idea that Tidus was wrong all along was a nice variant on the FFVII twist that FFX and previous games were trying to emulate, but I still feel the need for a big twist about the main character’s identity was unnecessary, as I’ve said in the past.
Rikku makes one last direct appeal to Yuna, but Yuna says she has to go. As she does, she drops a video sphere, and the player can collect it after the fact, revealing it to be a series of messages recorded for the party when Yuna was at Rin’s hostel on the Mi’hen Highroad, very early in the journey. Something like a will. There’s a message for everyone, except of course for Rikku, who hadn’t joined yet, which is a shame (and one they honestly could have worked around!). We hear how Kimahri took Yuna away from Bevelle and to Besaid on Auron’s request, and how he stayed with her when she realized she was losing the only person she still really knew in the whole world. She thanks Auron for this as well. She calls Wakka and Lulu her brother and sister. As for Tidus, who only just became a guardian, it’s clear Yuna is already in love with him, and as she tried to put it into words, Tidus arrived to talk to her in real life.
Finally, the party arrives at the final rest stop outside the city, and we get the game’s opening and demo cutscene, with Tidus going to stand aside from the party, saying this is “his story,” and that they’re out of time. It turns out the entire game we’ve been playing so far is actually him recounting the expedition to the rest of his party members deep into the bloody night, and when he reaches the end and gets desperate to stall for more time, Yuna has to shut him down. The party collect their weapons and begin the final approach.