Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Part 1: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Zanarkand

This is the most depressing camping trip.

(Rikku really wanted to go to Disneyland but Auron forgot to update the Tomtom and now here they are.)

This scene is of course loaded with meaning that doesn’t become clear until we revisit it later in the game but even at the beginning you can intuit a lot from everyone’s mood, expressions, and this little gesture. Everyone is worried about some unknown but oppressive thing in the future, and when Tidus approaches Yuna and briefly, reassuringly lays his hand on her shoulder, we know that either she is the thing everyone is worried about, she is the one with the particular reason to be worried, or both. (Spoiler: it’s both.) No dialogue is needed.

As my college screenwriting professor would say, “That’s film language!”

They’re all together but they’re all sitting apart from each other, pensive and lost in their separate thoughts. For a moment Wakka looks at Lulu like he wants to say something, or expects her to, but doesn’t.

I don’t actually have a lot to say about the beginning because it opens slowly after the first big cutscene. (Not nearly as much as XIII, though.) Of course, it probably just feels that way to Western audiences. I took a course on international film in college and my professor pointed out that slow pacing at the beginning of a film is a common feature of Japanese cinema, so it could just be a stylistic difference. It starts to pick up (for me, anyway) once we get to Besaid. It could just be because all my favorite characters are on Besaid.

There are some stats for everyone's favorite Duggles player with the braids going around on this hologram thing. Not answered: what the heck is a Duggle.

All these kids are dressed not just like Zanarkand Abes players, but like Tidus in particular, in their goofy bezippered overalls. Aww. Also there’s either a set of twins or some lazy character design.  (Actually, probably due to disk space limitations, a lot of people around Spira have character model doppelgangers, which could explain why Yuna is so nonchalant about Shuyin happening to look just like Tidus.)

Our hero. On other playthroughs I have (lovingly) named him Doofus, This Guy, and Bob. My cousin called him KUMQUAT!! (sic) which was way more hilarious than it should have been.

(Between this and admitting to not yet having played FFVII I probably just lost all my FF street cred.)

Clearly not here for the blitzball. Tidus kind of just takes it in stride that a mysterious child only he can see materialized behind him and is talking to him.

Tidus I am going to be so sad if they don’t re-ducky-fy your doofy face in the remake. Blandly Handsome New Tidus is just not as endearing to me.

Chill out, little guy!

If I could have fit this in the name box, I would have.

This will have to do. (Also, one of the few NPCs to address Tidus by name. These kids have a better memory than Yuna, apparently, who ends up vaguely referring to him as “him” forever. Because this was the first FF game with voice acting, it was also the last one with the name-your-character feature, meaning that nobody with a voice could ever address him by name, so it’s unclear if Yuna even ever KNEW his name. But hey, these blitzball fans probably have Waffles memorabilia up in their rooms at home, which Yuna doesn’t. Although she would if she had the chance. At least until Lulu made her take it down.)

Foreshadowing that something bad is about to happen. Wakka expresses a similar complaint later when Sin is near. Proximity to Sin seems to cause general malaise as well as memory problems. Also Tidus you probably shouldn’t stand so close to that guy.

Zanarkand Duggles vs. Zanarkand Abes. If anyone can tell me what either of those mean, I would be very happy. Otherwise I am going to have to assume that this is a grudge match between honest dead Presidents and some kind of burrowing rodents.

I was too slow to screencap the next scene with any efficiency, but you’ve all seen it. Here it is from youtube:

And I have to say this is one of the most exciting opening sequences to any game I’ve ever played. Now, I hate all sports indiscriminately, so I was kind of like “Oh great,” the first time but then it’s like GROWLY METAL! MYSTERIOUS COOL GUY!! GIANT SEA MONSTER WRECKING THE HECK OUT OF EVERYTHING!!!

I think Auron probably has the best introduction in the game. We first see him just hanging out calmly watching the approaching monstrosity as it rises out of the sea. And he raises his jug of nog and toasts it. Clearly he has some kind of connection to it, but we don’t know what it is yet. Friend of his? Did he summon it? Is he in cahoots with it? (Yes/No/Maybe.)

Then he just strolls, purposefully and unhurried, back to the stadium while everyone else is running around rightfully losing their heads. Also I really love the shot of the water floating up out of the puddle as he strides through it. I think the FMV sequences in this game STILL stand up to the cutscenes of most modern games, and surpass some of them.

Being told not to cry by a creepy immaterial ghost child just gives me reason to believe that there really is something worth crying about.

I don’t think we see this little dude again until Bevelle, but it’s kind of interesting that he starts out as Tidus’ spirit guide. He helps lead him to the real world of Spira because he wants him to, ultimately, destroy Yu Yevon and end the dream of the fayth, freeing them but destroying Dream Zanarkand and himself in the process. He later says that he believes Tidus has the power to do this because he (and Jecht) have been touched by Sin and become more than just dreams. But Tidus is, right now, Sin-free and presumably so was Jecht before he went out to sea to train that day and got warped off to Spira.

I think Bahamut’s fayth must have led Jecht to Sin as well, bringing him to Spira, where he led him towards the same goal, but when it failed and Jecht became Sin, he tried again with Jecht’s own son so he could exploit the bond between them. At any rate, there seems to be a lot more to him than is first apparent and I’ve no doubt he has some ulterior motives.

This is an interesting turn of phrase from Auron here. It implies that “Sin” is not its inherent name, but one given to it by the people of Spira, probably originating with the Yevon clergy. In essence, the monster is just a pure destructive force, like a hurricane or a volcano, but the Church of Yevon projects the concept of sin onto it, thereby holding the people responsible for its existence.  Spirans are taught that Sin is the embodiment of punishment for their, well, sins, and that the only way to be rid of it is through atonement and obedience to the teachings. (Which is, we learn later, not true.)

There is a lot of quite sophisticated deconstruction and criticism of organized religion in FFX. The physical/allegorical Sin has shades of Catholicism, but we will see that Yevon has Shinto and Buddhist influences as well.

Look at this winner. Don’t hurt yourself, Waffles.

What a pretty monster! Sinspawn are often really beautiful in a really monstery way. I like the spiral design. (Also fits in with the spiral motif that recurs throughout the game.)

“Are you sure? This is the one you want? It’s not too late to go back and get that one Duggles player or something. She seemed to have it together.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Send him on up.”
“All right, here he comes. Try not to screw this up, Jecht.”

The Zanarkand Abes logo is means to incorporate Jecht and Tidus’ initials, and you can see it here. Who knows what their logo was before those two became star players, though. (Probably an Abe, whatever that is.) We see this stadium inside Sin with the flaming Abes symbol again much, much later.

Next time: Waffles makes a bad impression on everyone he meets at Baaj Temple (including a passing seagull).