by Bob Reinhard
When it comes to scenes in video games that people love to make fun of, very few have reached the level of this scene from Final Fantasy X. But while the voice acting may be mediocre, this scene carries much more weight than you’d expect. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most impactful, well-written character pieces in the franchise, if not in gaming as a whole.
Setting aside your feelings on the voice acting and the characters in general, let’s look at WHY this is actually a remarkably well done scene.
First, we need to look at the nuances this shows in the characters of Yuna and Tidus.
Yuna is a character that seems to divide the Final Fantasy fanbase. Some hate how passive and weak she seems, while others see her as a complicated character who holds within her a strange kind of power that many “tough” female protagonists lack. Yuna is, at the core, the key to everything in FFX. And because of this, one sentence she says in this laughing scene really paints a picture of who Yuna really is, and how strong she really is.
“But summoners and their guardians are kind of like Spira’s ray of light. A lot of people in Spira depend on us. I learned to practice smiling when I’m feeling sad, you know?”
This paints the picture of someone who is conscious to the insanely heavy role they’ve been given. Knowing the entire world depends on her to succeed puts an immense amount of pressure on Yuna, and it clearly takes its toll on her. This statement seems to imply that deep down, Yuna’s warm, positive nature is more of a front that hides a depressed, hopeless heart. Someone who is so afraid and insecure about failing such a weighty task, that she has to find a way to fake being happy to get by.
It’s very easy to write off Tidus as an unlikable tool, and for a long time I felt the same way. But deep down, Tidus is actually a well-crafted lead. He’s thrust into this world, into this crisis against his will. All he knows has been torn from him, and he’s now forced to find some way to belong in a world that is strange and unfamiliar to him.
And where does he find purpose, find hope? In Yuna and the struggle he has seen her battle with from the second he met her. So, he embraces the silly nature of Yuna’s fake smile/laugh concept, and makes a complete fool of himself.
The awkwardness of Tidus’ attempts at smiling are clearly deliberate, and it’s mainly just to give Yuna a reason to laugh.
This scene acts as a transition for Tidus’ character. A moment where he finally steps up and moves past the way he used to be. At the beginning of the game, Tidus is very much a cocky punk kid. His showboating to pretty girls during Blitzball and his “but why!?” attitude to everything is abandoned as he stops taking himself too seriously, and abandons his somewhat selfish, thoughtless ways. He accepts the role of fool for a time because he knows it’s more necessary than him appearing to be tough and cool.
Once he begins his fake laugh, Yuna notices the blank stares of her friends and guardians, and immediately stays.
“You probably shouldn’t laugh anymore.”
Throughout the game, Lulu and Wakka have put a ton of pressure on Yuna, and have not allowed her to relax during her quest. They’ve disapproved of Tidus’ laid-back reactions and childish antics. They take the role as guardian seriously, but what they fail to do is notice the struggle that Yuna faces internally. Tidus knows deep down that Yuna needs some of that weight lifted off her shoulders, and his idiotic behavior is a means to lighten the mood and give Yuna something to release the pain she holds inside.
So, what does Tidus do? He keeps laughing. He doesn’t care if everyone is looking at him as a fool. He knows, somewhere inside him, that he has to act like a dork and embarrass himself to help Yuna past this situation. He abandons his own sadness, gives the group more reason to think he’s a child, just to make Yuna cheer up. Yuna realizes that she is allowed to let go, and joins in on the ridiculous laughing.
Now, people often say that the laughing is static and bad. But that too is entirely on purpose. This scene is meant to be really awkward for the two of them, it’s meant to look foolish. It’s meant to be terrible acting. Because that’s exactly what the characters themselves are doing: forced, awkward acting.
Yuna and Tidus are both defined by this very scene. It’s at this moment that we see exactly how important these unlikely heroes are to each other. Without Yuna, Tidus would very well have lost the ability to push on in this alien world. And without Tidus, Yuna would find herself overcome by grief and internal struggle. The two of them give each other a reason to continue, and help lighten the heavy loads that both characters carry.
It’s because of these things that this scene is a spectacularly well written character piece, and an important scene to show. It’s the moment the relationship between characters shifts and the personal connections of these characters begin to play an important role in the adventure itself. The relationships of these characters are necessary in order for them to tackle the near-hopeless situation they find themselves in every waking moment.
So, while some may dismiss this is a ridiculously dumb scene with bad acting, what it really ends up being is one of the best and most important story pieces in the entire game. If only Tidus and Yuna had better voice acting…