Death is one of the great motivators in this grand existence we have. Some of the greatest stories of all time involve death or dealing with it in some way. Whether it’s plotting someone’s demise or avenging someone’s murder, the loss of life has the capacity to transform anyone. Most of us accept it as inevitable, but no amount of preparation can truly prepare someone whenever it happens in any sense of the word.
Still, when it comes to death, we throw it around in games like it’s another item on the checklist. Final Fantasy is a series that has always taken death very seriously, but Final Fantasy X takes it a step further. Before we examine it in depth, we need to address the big question: How is death even an issue in a world with Phoenix Downs and magic? What you need to do is have your neurons take that question to the darkest parts of your brain and hit it with a hammer.
Spoiler Warning: This piece contains spoilers for Final Fantasy X.
Death Rules in Final Fantasy
Even though it’s one of the most prolific series in gaming, Final Fantasy changes from game to game. In fact, Final Fantasy X is one of the few installments to actually have an official sequel in Final Fantasy X-2. This was met with a wavering response, which led them to try again with sequels to Final Fantasy XIII. Even so, while each game is different, death is a consistent driving force in the series. Every major villain is either attempting to kill everyone or kill enough people so that people stop fighting back. Major characters die frequently which affects the plot and character development, and it usually addresses the spiritual aspect of the world. Despite how many lives end, the rules can fluctuate between titles.
Even though each Final Fantasy world has magic and supernatural elements, death is still limiting. Sometimes there are ghosts and spirits, other times there aren’t. There are even encounters with the undead and otherworldly creatures, but those remain separate from death and the afterlife. It tends to remain as simple as someone dies (in a cutscene, of course) and then doesn’t come back. However, Finally Fantasy X makes it a bit more complex.
Dying in Final Fantasy X
Considering how much new stuff and ideas it throws at you, Final Fantasy X could have been written by J. R. R. Tolkien. Spira is an expansive world that joins the rich environments of the other fantasy worlds, but actually has a tangible afterlife spot. The Farplane allows for Spira’s inhabitants to visit visions of their dear departed, assuming they’ve been “sent.” The visions likely take the form of how the person looked when they died. They don’t react to their visitors in any apparent way, but their presence seems to bring a lot of comfort.
Either way, the souls of the recently deceased take the form of wispy glowing balls. When a summoner does a special dance in their presence, they get sent to the Farplane which is the most peaceful outcome. Alternatively, if the deceased possess enough awareness to accept their death, they pass on themselves. Otherwise, the result can be much darker…
We’re all familiar with the concept of ghosts having unfinished business, and so is Final Fantasy X. When someone dies in Spira, it’s not as simple as their life force leaving their body. If their staying power outperforms the powers that be, they just… stay. Nothing happens to their body or spirit, they sort of just get back up or choose to pass on themselves.
When Tidus and friends first kill Seymour, he slumps over dead and is carried off before Summoner Yuna can bust a move. He becomes the recurring bad guy, always appearing in perfect health before turning into some sort of anime monster. It seems as long as your will is strong enough, death is something you can brush off like some overly lethal dandruff. The same can be said for Auron, who kept on living after death to avenge his comrades. Strangely enough, after achieving vengeance, he decides to stick around to the end of the journey.
This implies that someone can simply choose not to pass on, having a complex relationship with death similar to that of the Dragon Ball series.
The other major endgame of the newly dead is turning into monsters. To put it simply, the dead envy the living. If someone has overwhelming negative emotions such as hate or anger, then they’ll transform into something monstrous. The most significant example is the summoner Omega (yep, that’s their name), who became the Omega Weapon following his execution.
It seems that a lot of the monsters you fight are actually former people. It puts a new spin on the idea of the dead rising from the grave. Whenever you slaughter enemies, the same wispy ghost balls rise from their bodies and disappear into the ether. It appears that no amount of dancing can bring these monstrous beings unless you were to dance on their heads.
The Reaper is undiscerning, and we don’t know when it will come for us. In the world of Final Fantasy, they seem to have their own revolving door. Though, Final Fantasy X seems to be a vacation spot where they just leave the dead to their own devices. Folks can pass, keep going, or turn into monsters which may sounds like it devalues the whole concept. However, anyone who has played the game knows that this isn't case. Countless lives are lost and those who don't leave peacefully endure a sad existence driven by pain. In this sense, Final Fantasy X gives death a whole new weight and meaning all of its own.