Tidus: The Most Human, and Best Developed Final Fantasy Leading Man

tidus laughing ffx meme
The man needs to practice his laugh.

Final Fantasy X‘s protagonist, Tidus, is one of the greatest leading men in the history of SquareEnix’s long running Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) series. He is certainly better than Final Fantasy VIII’s Squall. The previous sentence shouldn’t cause much controversy, as Squall’s bland, lone wolf personally was absolutely mystifying, and at times frustrating.

If it wasn’t for Cloud’s convoluted past (a mix of his own and Zack Fair’s memories, coupled with a little Jenova mischief), I would vouch for Tidus being better than Final Fantasy VII’s legendary blonde haired hero too.

In other words, I really liked Tidus.

Why Some Gamers Hated Tidus Part 1: Voice Casting and Writing

Where can I start? Perhaps, it was the voice. His voice actor, James Arnold Taylor, did not do him any favors. Tidus sounded like a whiny, annoying brat (and then there was that embarrassing laughing scene).

This man was responsible for Tidus’ annoying, and whiny voice. But don’t blame the actor, blame the casting director. Taylor is actually one of the most renowned voice actors out there.

It is strange to blame Taylor, as the man is a legendary voice actor. His long, and proven voice acting resume leads me to believe that he was miscasted as Tidus, and that he did the best that he could under the circumstances.

These circumstances included a weird –  and infamous – ‘Laughing scene’.  I can see how people can hate on Tidus’ forced laugh, but not on the meaning behind it. Or why the character itself did it.

Yoshinori Kitase had an explanation for scene in 2019:

Even in the real world, actions taken by two people in a budding romance are generally embarrassing memories when you look back on them. I believe that this scene depicts that mental state very well. This scene of course is still made fun of by fans, but I imagine that it is because it greatly touched “something” in everyone’s heart for it to be such a memorable scene even after 18 years.

To be fair, Kitase has a strong point here. Tidus and Yuna, for all intents and purposes, are still teenage kids during FFX’s run time. Teenage kids in love can do some silly things. Heck, adults in love tend to do a lot of silly things. But in retrospective, the laughing scene isn’t really that silly. In fact, the very opposite is true, it is quite sad.

Tidus, at that point in the game did not know the full implications of Yuna’s summoner quest, but had instead, found out that his father (a man he loves, but also resents) was Sin (the big monster villain in FFX). Depression hit Tidus like a slap in the face, and Yuna, who had taken a liking to our Blonde haired hero, wanted to cheer him – and herself – up.

Thus, she forced Tidus to go along with the ‘forced laughter’ exercise. The entire scene is also sheds light on Yuna’s own difficulties in coming to grips with her own grim fate.  Tidus, and Yuna are smiling, and laughing, instead of crying, which is probably what both wanted to do.

The scene ends with both of our protagonists bursting into a real laughter, and Yuna puntualizing the moment by stating, “I want my journey to be full of laughter.”

There is also a tragic message hidden in the scene that only those of us who finished the game will understand. Yuna tells Tidus that if he whistles she will come running to him if they were ever separated (returning Tidus’ own promise to her). Little did gamers know then, how heartbreaking it would be to watch her whistling in futility during the game’s ending scenes.

Tidus, the character itself, didn’t have the right actor. However, the laughing felt forced in the way that the Japanese writers scripted it. While I can see how the actor (Taylor) could – and perhaps should – get some criticism for his handling of the scene. Sometimes, as an artist, you are directed to perform something in a certain way even if it is the wrong way.

That said, Tidus should come out completely unscathed as a character out of this situation. If anything, it only makes his character a deeper one.

Why Some Gamers Hated Tidus Part 2: His Look

Unlike most previous FF leads, Tidus was realistically proportioned. He looked like a real person.

A second point of contention for some fans might have been Tidus’ look. It was hard for the JRPG ‘teenage’ gaming masses to look at a pretty boy star athlete in the same light that they did a “Bad Ass Hero”. Though, ironically, Squall, Cloud, and Zidane were all designed to be “Pretty Boys”.

A key difference as to why Tidus was the more offensive ‘pretty boy’ of the series ( let us ignore Vaan’s meaningless existence for a moment here) might have been that Cloud didn’t look very real (especially the 1997 version of his character) and Squall while more realistically proportioned, still looked like a CGI creation. On the other hand, Tidus, during  FFX’s many cutscenes was one of the more realistic looking characters that gamers had ever seen up to that point.

Another issue was probably Tidus’ colorful clothing. Cloud and Squall dressed in dark colors, carried iconic swords, and didn’t exactly dressed like a J-Pop teen icon. Tidus was their antithesis. Tidus, for all intents and purposes, dressed up like a boy band member from the 90’s J-Pop scene.

ffx tidus vs meg ryan
Comparisons to Meg Ryan have been made on many a message board.

The other differentiating factor is that many teenagers are full of angst and rebellion. It is easier to relate to the emo, and darker leads, even if their behaviors are actually less logical than Tidus’. Yes, Tidus talks, and socializes with other characters in a more realistic way than any other FF protagonist before him.

Tidus has deep issues himself. He is trying to live up to his dad’s athletic memory as a Blitzball star, which is an impossible act to follow in Zanarkand. He also has to contend with the memories of his father’s scoldings, and the feeling of just not being good enough in his eyes.

But Tidus, unlike Cloud, and Squall, doesn’t drag anyone else into his misery. He is able to compartmentalize his issues, and keep them on the proverbial ‘low’ for the betterment of his friend’s life.

Squall was a selfish character for most of his run time, a true introvert. Squall had a rough childhood, but apart from Seifer who was a jerk himself, the same can be said for all of the SeeD cadets. Perhaps, I am a bit rough on his character, but his love story with Rinoa never really convinced me.  It just didn’t feel natural, especially in the way that he approached her character.

And Cloud – who  quite possibly is the series’ most famous protagonist – while much more human than Squall in his approach to others, also had a bit of an “I don’t care” attitude. However,  I can give Cloud a pass. Witnessing his mother’s (and almost everyone he knew during his childhood) murder by the hand of his Hero, had to be a traumatizing experience. Falling into a comma of sorts and being experimented on, also created a lot of psychological trauma for our spikey haired protagonist.

Tidus doesn’t have that type tragic baggage. Until he is dragged by Sin into the future, he leads a pretty successful life as a sports star.  All that said, Tidus is not a braggart, he is just as brave as Cloud, and Squall when the need arises, and he seems to be much more mature than the other two when interacting with his peers.

Why Some Gamers Hate Tidus Part 3: Whiny Crybaby

Tidus wasn’t the stereotypical JRPG lone wolf hero.

Finally, Tidus has earned a big, and perhaps infamous reputation as a “Whiner” and a “Cry Baby”. Both of these claims against his character are, for the most part, false. Yes, Tidus cries a lot, and throws tantrums, but mostly as a child while being humiliated by his own father, Jecht.

Children tend to whine, and cry, especially when they are being mocked by an adult – in this case Tidus’ father – on a constant basis.  To be fair, Tidus handled himself extremely well as a rich, 17-year old Sports star who suddenly found himself trapped in different world after being attacked by a nightmarish monster.

Apart from the flashbacks, his attitude towards his father (which is totally justified) and yeah, some of his complaints to Auron (about why he ended up in that particular Spira), Tidus is not whiner, or a cry baby.

Even when Auron (who is universally recognized as a ‘bad ass’), makes a cry baby reference you can tell that he is just poking fun at Tidus, utilizing information from some of the stories that Jecht had probably shared with him during their travels with Lord Braska.

I heard you were quite the crybaby. – Auron
Yeah, maybe when I was a kid. Maybe a little now. Just a little.- Tidus 

When placed on Tidus’ shoes, what realistically written 17 year old character wouldn’t have a little cry baby in them?

Why Tidus is a Great Hero

Tidus as a character is emphatic, sociable, and a good natured person.

Because he is – from the get go – a hero. Even when he finds out some harsh (and life altering) truths, he chooses to remain the up beat, positive leader that is he is. At the end, he knows that his fate is to disappear by taking down Sin (Yu Yevon), but he never tells Yuna, because he made it his life goal to save her, and that’s (his death) what it would take.

JRPG gamers accustomed to ’17 year old heroics’ will miss on why Tidus’ deeds are more admirable than that of other FF leads (pre-FFX). Cloud, and Squall (I have used these two characters the most, as I feel Zidane was also (like Tidus)an unbeat character) didn’t have much to lose prior to embarking on their own quests.

Cloud was a mercenary, and had joined the military is search of recognition, so it is clear that he was unhappy with his situation in Nibelheim. Cloud, at his core during his teenage years was an attention seeker.  Squall was just an angry orphan with shady memories (thanks to the equipping of Guardian Forces), and was also trained in a military facility.

Both Cloud, and Squall had expectations of eventually entering into a life and death combat situation, and perhaps meeting a tragic ending.

In a stark contrast, Tidus, was a beloved Blitzball super star, one that could never hope to live to his legendary father’s reputation, sure, but one that was immensely rich, and famous in his own right. He was ripped apart from his world, and into a ruined future (or so we are led to believe). He lost everything in the blink of an eye.

No one would have blamed the poor kid if he had spiraled down into a Squall like state of emotional numbness, and perhaps even drug abuse or some other means of self-destruction in the depths of his depression.

Tidus lost a lot, and had a lot to lose by following Yuna’s quest to its conclusion, and he chose to do what was right anyways. Selflessly, I might add.

Final Fantasy X Developed Tidus Perfectly as a Character

Final Fantasy X does a better job in developing its male lead than any other entry in the series. Tidus is not only the main character, but from time to time we get little snippets from him analyzing the events that took place during the game.

These snippets where Tidus takes the role of a narrator, are a doorway into his mind and his thought process. It reveals a Tidus who is both mature, emphatic, and a very good critical thinker.

Tidus is thrown into a world filled with religious fanatics, Wakka being one of them. Tidus questions the devotion to Yevon from the outset, and lets us know as much during one of his reflections:

From the first time I laid eyes on him, I never did like Seymour… But you know, some of the things he said that day… They made a lot of sense to me. – Tidus

Seymour was a dislikable character from the start, as he was designed as a villain by Nomura and team. Yet, he does make a good point about the use of Machina (which is forbidden by Yevon’s teachings) during one particular scene.

In this scene, the Al-Bhed and the Crusaders were coordinating an operation with the ultimate goal of defeating Sin.  They were using Al-Bhed’s Machina in order to improve their chances. Their goals and intentions were noble and pure, Seymour alluded to this when questioned by Wakka about the religious implications of utilizing Machina, and how High Maestre Seymour should have stopped them from committing the transgression against Yevon.

Tidus agreed with Seymour here, as did most of the gamers witnessing the exchange. Still, this shows that Tidus is inherently good, and a thoughtful young man. His judgement wasn’t clouded by the fact that Wakka was his friend, and Seymour was not.

In contrast to Wakka, who the game in some ways presents as a ‘Big Brother’ figure, Tidus is much more intelligent and measured in his responses. Wakka’s religious fanaticism almost makes him root against the Al-Bhed and the Crusaders (because of the sacrilegious use of Machina) , even though Yuna’s life really depended on their success.

Lulu does hint at the fact that perhaps Wakka blames his younger brother Chapu’s death on the use of Machines, and the Al-Bhed. Still, he lacks some sensibilities that Tidus possess in spades.

One of the beautiful things about Tidus the character, is his genuine affection towards Yuna, which makes his obliviousness to Yuna’s final fate during much of the game’s run time, much more heartbreaking than it already is. He keeps the fact that Sin is Jecht  a secret from Yuna in order to protect her, but Yuna keeps her goal which is to sacrifice her life in order to defeat Sin a secret from him as well.

The reasoning behind keeping Yuna’s fate a secret from Tidus is in great part a result of the fact that the party (mostly composed of young people that are attached to Yuna) does not want to bring the issue up, as Yuna and everyone already know how it will end. Tidus, however, never quite shed the sting of being ‘indifferent’ to Yuna’s plight even if it wasn’t his fault.

I hadn’t really laughed like that in a long time. It was only later that I realized… The only one really laughing then…was me. Laughing must have been the only thing keeping them going.- Tidus narrated in one of his reflections on how life had been before he learned the truth about Yuna’s dark destiny.

Tidus, unlike other FF protagonists, is always trying to rationalize the situation. Even the hatred for his father (which borders in a very thin line with Love), he himself  analysed and came to grips with it by mid game. A lot of his resentment towards his father had a root in his mother’s own love for Jecht, and well, Jecht wasn’t really the ideal father figure either, as he was immature, had problems with alcohol, and generally mistreated young Tidus as a result of some of these issues.

Having a direct line as gamers into Tidus’ thought process greatly aided in his character development, and in making him a more realistic human than Cloud, and Squall could ever hope to be. Personally, Cloud is a favorite of mine, but his development never matched that of Tidus’.

Technology, as well as Square’s writers just getting better at writing had something to do with it. Tidus being a good human being, and an emphatic figure to others’ feelings make him an invaluable character to the franchise.

A key moment for his character arc was finding out the truth about the Summoners – in this case Yuna’s – fate when defeating Sin, and summoning the Final Aeon. Yuna would die, this was clear from the start of the adventure to everyone in the party but Tidus. Tidus reaction to his friends’ omission of that important detail, left him angry, and in despair.

And I’ve been telling Yuna… Let’s go to Zanarkand together! Let’s beat Sin! I told her all the things we could…we could… And all along, the whole time, I didn’t know anything! But Yuna, she’d…just smile.- Tidus

Yes, Tidus reacted like a man who had been – unknowingly – an accomplice to the love of his life’s eventual death. Considering the nature of the revelation, Tidus took the news as well as anyone could have hoped under those stressing circumstances. The fact that Yuna was in need of rescue at that point in the game (meaning that Tidus was unable to tell and express to her how sorry he was) didn’t help him in his predicament. Still, there was no crying, or baby whining. How Tidus got his online reputation of being a “cry baby” remains a mystery to me.

tidus and yuna share a moment in ffx
Perhaps, the most romantic moment in the series. Tidus and Yuna are definitely FInal Fantasy’s greatest love story,

That particular scene served as pivotal point in Tidus’ story, as he had made up his mind that Yuna wouldn’t die, and that he would at all costs save her. He had swore an oath to protect Yuna when he became her guardian, but after knowing the full implications of defeating Sin, his new resolve probably took into account the fact that Auron seemed driven to lead Yuna to her ultimate fate. So yes, at this point Tidus was willing to take up arms against anyone who would encourage her to continue the seemly ill fated quest.

The change wasn’t sudden either, Tidus always hinted at how deeply he loved Yuna, it was one of those rare cases where the writing in a JRPG revealed the emotions of a character without explicitly telling you.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

The most heartbreaking moment in FF history?

It becomes even easier to admire Tidus once he learns the truth that he is a dream of the Fayth, and that defeating Sin means that the Fayth will stop dreaming, effectively ending his own life.

Let us go deeper into this. Tidus, a 17 year old  rich superstart with seemly a full life ahead of him coming to grips with the fact that he has to die. He is no longer a rich super star in his current Spira, but he is in love.  Tidus, for all intents and purposes, could reveal everything to Yuna. In their love, perhaps, she would choose to abandon the quest and leave Sin as he was, but the one thing that we have learned about Tidus is that he isn’t selfish, he is a leader, and he always does the right thing.

Defeating Sin, releasing his Father from Yu Yevon’s grip, and leaving a peaceful world for Yuna, and his friends was the right thing to do. Thus, Tidus, who deep inside was a scared 17 year old boy, decided to keep the secret to himself, and to go through with the “right thing to do”. Admirable.

Tidus was not only superbly mature as a character in terms of his mindset, but spiritually he had reached a state of peace. He even thanked the Fayth upon learning that he was just their dream, as in “It has to end, but thank you for letting me exist.” For a character that is not very religious, his attitude and demeanor towards his ultimate fate is one that all of us can learn a thing or two from.

Tidus eventually apologizes to Yuna, and friends, claiming to be selfish (by hiding his secret and sacrificing his own life), but he is in fact quite the opposite. He gifted them a new world through his sacrifice, and did keep his promise of not letting Yuna die. He was a selfless hero indeed.

By defeating Yu Yevon, Tidus entered the realm of the immortal heroes that we adore in fictional works. It also concluded one of the more heartbreaking love stories to have ever graced a video game. The fact that I got teary eyed (a few times), as I wrote this article, is testament enough to how powerful both Tidus and Yuna were as characters.

Tidus is, perhaps, the greatest Final Fantasy lead character ever, and if he is not that, he was certainly the most human.

Yuna, I have to go. I’m sorry I couldn’t show you Zanarkand. Goodbye! -Tidus’ final words as he disappears into un-existence ( a stud until the very end!).

What about FFX-2?

My feelings on FFX-2 are not necessarily positive. A good game? Yes. But the game’s “best ending” resurrects Tidus, thus, somehow clouding his epic sacrifice. I am of the opinion that Final Fantasy X should have stayed as it was. FFX’s ending remains the most emotional moment in the entire series, only matched by Aeris’ own sacrifice in FFVII.

Enjoy Final Fantasy’s most heartbreaking finale (Try not to cry):

Also, check out where we ranked FFX in our Top Ten Greatest Final Fantasy Games of All-Time.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.