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"Tales of Symphonia" vs "Final Fantasy X"

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Lee has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and the lore.

Poster imagery of both games.

Poster imagery of both games.

Tales of Symphonia and Final Fantasy X are two games that have been compared among gamers for almost two decades now. Both games have the same basic story and follow the same basic tropes: boy wants to protect girl, girl must be sacrificed to save the world.

Arguments about which game is better have been raging on for years, and with the recent reboot of both games a few years ago (coincidence? I think not!), the arguments have only resurfaced on the web.

After recently playing Tales of Symphonia again for the first time in eight years, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I'm going to decide for myself once and for all which game is better by breaking the game down piece by piece and examining it.

Let's get started.

Lloyd Irving vs Tidus

Lloyd Irving and Tidus.

Lloyd Irving and Tidus.

Lloyd Irving and Tidus both serve as self-inserts for the young, male teenagers the developers anticipated in the audience. They are sensitive, a bit naive, and are both in love with a girl who is determined to sacrifice herself and needs their help on the dangerous journey to do so.

I think for anyone who's played these games extensively, this one is a given: Lloyd is pretty cool compared to Tidus.

Lloyd Irving was dumb, but he was brave, strong, and had a heart of gold.

Also, his voice actor was Scott Menville.

Tidus, meanwhile, was pretty much a precursor to even more useless FF protagonists, such as Vaan from Final Fantasy XII. He was blonde, pretty, and looked like he'd lost half his outfit in a fight with a lawnmower. He was also annoying and got on everyone's nerves except Yuna.

All that I could forgive if not for the fact that Tidus was also insufferably whiny. If he wasn't bitching about his father, he was bitching about his mother. If he wasn't bitching about his mother, he was bitching about Yuna. Whenever his dad called him out as a crybaby, I nodded in silent agreement.

Look. I've got nothing against men or teenage boys crying. I mean, it's normal and emotionally healthy, and the phrase "man tears" actually gets on my nerves —they're just f****** tears!

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But Tidus was so over-the-top hammy, it was nauseating. I haven't played this game in years, but I still remember the part where Tidus realizes Yuna is going to die. He has a complete breakdown and slams his fists on the floor. I felt like I was stuck watching bad dinner theater.

Lloyd was emotional without forcing me to roll my eyeballs out of my head. On top of that, he was just friggin' cool.

Tales of Symphonia wins this round.


Tidus as he appears in Final Fantasy.

Tidus as he appears in Final Fantasy.

So ... I wanted to add something more to this about Tidus and his character arc.

Allow me to reiterate that I haven't played Final Fantasy X in God . . . thirteen f*cking years? While I replayed Tales of Symphonia only a couple years ago when the remaster came out.

"Tales" is easily a game I remember best because I played it more. As I mention further on, I was going through a breakup at the time that I was playing Final Fantasy X so I didn't play it as much. This was a game that made me cry, so — ironically —I wound up not remembering the ending or Tidus' character growth and hating Tidus for being a crybaby.

Today, for some strange reason, I remembered the ending of this game and Tidus' character arc. He was written to be an obnoxious spoiled rich teenager (so people are surprised that he was disliked?) who had to cope with the tremendous burden of losing everything he ever cared about and sacrificing himself in the end.

Tidus had a great character arc, actually much better than Lloyd's. Now that I remember the game better, I can make a better comparison, and Lloyd is practically a two-dimensional character by comparison (no offense, Lloyd fans).

Roxas from Kingdom Hearts II

Roxas from Kingdom Hearts II

It's almost like Roxas in Kingdom Hearts II realizing he isn't real and having an emotional breakdown but bravely deciding to allow Sora to continue on so that he can save the world from darkness.

The reality is, the sad unlikable young dude from a troubled past who grows into a likable guy is . . . very common in fiction. At least modern fiction.

There's Alistair and Cullen from Dragon Age (both famously hated as "whiny" by fans), and obviously Lloyd from "Tales" who did have some teen rage.

Video games used to feature broody, dark, hate-the-world male protagonists but slowly started to feature more soft, sensitive ones as the Backstreet Boy Age dominated American society (I say that lightheartedly but watch someone get offended).

This was also reflected in teen targeted shows like Roswell or Buffy, Angel ( yeah, Angel was broody but he was also sensitive and soft. He liked Barry Manilow for f*ck's sake), Smallville . . . It was the time period.

Looking back now that I remember more of the game, I don't feel Tidus was a bad character but more just a product of his time. Also, I sometimes conflated him with Vaan, who wasn't a "crybaby" but was so boring and useless to me, as he seemed to have no place in the story.

Vaan from Final Fantasy XII

Vaan from Final Fantasy XII

Vaan wound up being a useless character because he wasn't even supposed to be the main character. The original main character was Basch, but the developers realized (after their success with Tidus, I guess) that they didn't want to keep having the standard mopey broody protagonist.

So they created Vaan. And instead of having him be upbeat and emotional, they tried to make him a bit different from Tidus in that he practically showed no emotion at all. Which to me made him really boring (and useless to the story).

But again, I haven't played these games in years and am largely writing articles out of nostalgia. I think the last time I played Final Fantasy XII was in 2013.


So I basically added this update to say that Tidus and Final Fantasy X win this round.

Ding ding.

Colette Brunel vs Yuna

Yuna and Colette Brunel.

Yuna and Colette Brunel.

Colette Brunel and Yuna both serve as secondary protagonists. They are both the chosen. Both girls are on a mission to save their dying worlds by giving their lives in sacrifice. Yuna summons badass monsters to fight for her, while Colette . . . fights with frisbees.

Like most people who played "Symphonia," Colette Brunel . . . got on my nerves. The player is actually given the choice not to romance Colette, but because she is the default romance, she is always in your face. It makes her annoying after a while. Especially if the player wants Lloyd's soulmate to be a character who joins the party late in the game.

There's also the fact that Colette's personality just sucks. Lloyd was stupid, but at least he still thought for himself. Colette was a sheep who never stood up for herself and did whatever everyone else did.

Though it's a bit unfair to her as a character, I also just couldn't stand her cheerful, chipper voice. And on top of being pretty much a doormat, she was always in need of saving from something. She never had the power to help herself and relied on everyone around her all the time.

When the story begins, it seems as if things are going to revolve around Colette as a character. By the end of the story, however, Colette is little more than a plot device, a goal or an object in Lloyd's story.

So not only is she annoying, but she's also just a weak character. Princess Peach levels of weak. She doesn't become remotely self-sufficient until her exosphere turns her into a robot zombie or something (I can't remember the specifics. Been a while), and even then, she has to be babysat by the other characters.

If you haven't guessed yet, I find Yuna completely superior. Yes, she needed saving from her wedding, but she also wasn't constantly depicted as being helpless and incompetent.

Yuna was kind, brave, selfless, and at least stood up for herself when the need arouse. She didn't take crap from anyone, and the story never regulated her to a plot device or a thing for Tidus to protect/save/coddle.

Yuna was always depicted as a person. (That I recall. Again, been a while since I played these games.)

Yuna does the Sending dance in Final Fantasy x.

Yuna does the Sending dance in Final Fantasy x.

Also, Yuna's powerful and yet beautiful Sending dance is one of the most iconic scenes in the Final Fantasy franchise. Just thinking of it now makes me want to play the game again.

Final Fantasy X wins this round.

Secondary Characters

Imagery of the casts from both games.

Imagery of the casts from both games.

The number one reason people fall in love with any story is the characters. Characters and their choices are what shape the story itself, so a story is basically only as a good as its characters.

Both of these games had pretty great characters, though a lot of them mirrored each other in a blatant copycat way.

  • There was Kratos and Auron, both badass older male warriors who were grim, cold, and weary of the young male protagonist.
  • Then there was Raine and Lulu, both older witches who have a creepy MILF relationship with the young male protagonist.
  • Then there's Wakka and Genis, both positioned as the protagonist's young male friend.
  • Kimahri and Regal are both blue-haired, quiet, thoughtful, mysterious, and feel indebted to a young girl (Yuna/Presea).
  • And finally, there's Rikku and Sheena, both serving as the cute girl determined to stop the chosen from her mission. At first they seem like the enemy, then it's revealed that they have some hidden noble goal.

Out of all the characters I just listed, Final Fantasy has the better ones. Lulu was more likable than Raine, Wakka was more likable than Genis, etc.

I almost want to say the games are tied for character quality, but the truth is . . . they aren't. Final Fantasy X has the better characters. The ones in Tales of Symphonia feel shallow by comparison.

Ding ding. Final Fantasy X wins.

The Story

Imagery of the lead couples from both games.

Imagery of the lead couples from both games.

I'll just come out and say it: Final Fantasy X had the better story.

I recently tried playing Tales of Symphonia again for the first time in years, and the dialogue —let alone the story —was so annoying to my now-adult brain that I didn't make it past the first six hours. And most of those hours were spent playing around with the combat because —honestly — that's the only good part of the game.

Tales of Symphonia has cheesy dialogue and a story so ridiculously convoluted, you'll look back and shake your head in sympathy on those old internet forums where you used to watch teenage boys go on and on about how "deep" and "involved" the plot was.

Nothing is deep about "Symphonia" whatsoever, lads. It's a bunch of ridiculous busywork with very little story. Go here and get a unicorn horn. Chase a bird of light. Hunt the world for ore. Why? Because reasons. It's busywork.

The plot is an endless mishmash of ever unraveling menial tasks, and because all of it is made up, the writers seemed to think that it didn't have to make sense. People who are into Kingdom Hearts would totally love this game. I was into Kingdom Hearts, so I guess that says something about me.

Final Fantasy X, meanwhile, had a very touching story about young love and the selflessness of sacrifice. Unlike "Symphonia," it actually made me cry. And not that ugly-cry tantrum crap Tidus does. I just . . . sat there and shed a few tears.

I was going through a breakup at the time, so the story still touched me in ways most video games just can't and don't. For this reason, I will always remember Final Fantasy X fondly, while I'll always remember Tales of Symphonia (which I played around the same time) as a bunch of checklists and scavenger quests for exosphere super curry pepper inhibitor ore.

Final Fantasy X wins this round.

The Sequels

Poster imagery of each sequel.

Poster imagery of each sequel.

I'll just be blunt again: Final Fantasy X had the better sequel.

It initially annoyed me that Yuna needed to be sexed up in booty shorts. Why couldn't she just wear normal friggin' shorts? Oh, yeah. Teenage boys needed their porno.

But I was also psyched that three women got to lead a Final Fantasy story, so I ignored the fact that Yuna was now suddenly half-naked and enjoyed the game for what it was.

I remember really liking the story. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Yuna wasn't lying around weeping because Tidus was gone. Instead, she was enjoying life, having fun, and making friends. It was actually pretty great that she should be written that way, instead of her world revolving around Tidus.

In fact, this story is so very much about Yuna that her joining up with Tidus again is completely optional.

"Do I pass?"

"Do I pass?"

Of course, the romantic in me chose to have Yuna whistle for Tidus, and in the end, she was able to see him again — and hopefully step away from the (ugh) cousin who was crushing on her.

Cutest thing ever.

No, sir, you can't.

No, sir, you can't.

Aside from the massage mingame that fetished and dehumanized lesbians (by presenting lesbian intimacy as free porno for teenage boys) as well as its myriad of other unfortunate problems, I loved the story of X-2. The love between Lenne and Shuyin was so tragic and was meant to mirror the love between Yuna and Tidus. It's always been my belief that Tidus was the Fayth dreaming of Shuyin, while Yuna was a reincarnation of Lenne.

The game also gave us a new character in Paine, who served as the lethargic counterpart to Rikku's hyper energy.

The combat itself was also pretty great. I was never much for turn-based combat, so I never really got into the Final Fantasy series until ten was released. Final Fantasy X made me embrace turn-based combat, while Final Fantasy X-2 made me love it. This is mostly because it combined turn-based with real-time, and since I prefer real-time, it made the combat more fun to my particular tastes.

Final Fantasy X-2 was a pretty awesome sequel for a woman gamer. Hell, even the villain was a woman! While I'm not pretending like Square was progressive and actually had noble intentions (they didn't, as the objectifying camera angles and skimpy costumes in the game would attest), it still made me so happy to be able to play a game where women were featured prominently in important roles, got to go on adventures, and got to do cool shit without some hand-wringing misogynist screaming "Unrealistic!!! Women are weak!!!" while male characters literally fly and shoot lasers from their eyes.

Bad as she wanna be.

Bad as she wanna be.

Even the otherwise on-point "Disasterrific!" article on giantbomb has a male gamer scratching his head about Yuna being able to use guns. As a woman veteran with training in weaponry, I'll never understand why it's so baffling that a woman can use a gun without training.

Actually, I do understand: it's sexism. Women are seen as helpless, inferior, and stupid. Too stupid, apparently, to figure out how to load a gun, aim it, and squeeze the trigger.

A handgun is actually so easy to use, they wouldn't even train us with them in the service. Literal children are in the news all the time after finding Daddy's gun in the closet and shooting him down. I'd like to think grown-ass women are more competent than children.

I kind of feel X-2 was a test to see if male gamers would accept a female protagonist further along. We can see how that turned out with Lightning and all the irrational hatred she faced (and faces). I didn't even play Final Fantasy XIII (XII killed my interest in Final Fantasy), but I heard the scream around the world when Square released the game.

And of course, after all the foot stamping and tantrum throwing, Square made a game with an all-male cast. Anything to protect their coins.

Another half-naked boy who looks like Vaan. Naked shoulders??? Why???

Another half-naked boy who looks like Vaan. Naked shoulders??? Why???

I could spend days trashing Dawn of a New World for the Pokemon ripoff it was. Even cameos from older, better characters couldn't save this game. Suffice it to say the two main characters were so insufferable, I didn't make it past the first couple hours.

Clearly, Final Fantasy X has the better sequel.

Final Fantasy X poster imagery.

Final Fantasy X poster imagery.

Final Fantasy X wins hands down.

It had the better story, better characters, better world building . . . better everything. Ironically, I sold it and kept Tales of Symphonia.

With the remasters out, maybe it's time to rectify that.

© 2018 Lee

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