Welcome to the second in a three-part series looking at Christian imagery and lessons in the Final Fantasy franchise.
Final Fantasy is my favorite video game franchise, and it is one of the most well-known RPG franchises. Each entry presents unique characters, a wonderful soundtrack, and complex stories. Very few of these games have a religion or religions in-game, but they all take advantage of names, places, and concepts from Earth’s religions and mythologies. Over this series, I’ll walk you through the general arcs of the series and focus on several games that give specific attention to Christianity or Christian lessons.
The Playstation Era, Part I
Beginning with Final Fantasy VI, the series focuses more attention to anthropomorphic gods like the Warring Triad. The religious themes and systems are still vague and incomplete, but between the Lifestream in Final Fantasy VII and the Cycle of Souls in Final Fantasy IX, the series remains committed to the same questions as religion.
But Final Fantasy X puts religion in the forefront in a new way. The religion of that world, Yevonism, is central to the plot, and players get to witness a wedding, funerals, prayers–oh, and a giant monster called Sin. Yevonism is a mash-up of Earth’s religions, but that central position of Sin as the enemy of the game is hard to miss.
And here begin major FFX spoilers.
Unfortunately, while Sin is a very real problem in Spira, Yevonism has its own problems. The leaders are corrupt and–worst of all–the entire religion was built upon a lie. Sin isn’t the problem per se; Yu Yevon’s soul possesses aeons in order to maintain the dream of Zanarkand. He isn’t a god, but a summoner, and Sin isn’t a punishment that can simply be repented.
Due to the complex plot, players can read it as anti-religious, but I don’t think it’s all negative. Yes, Yevonism is a false religion abusing the world. However, there are warning signs for people that this is the case. We can learn from those warning signs.
Lessons in Final Fantasy X
- Faith and Reason need to work together.
- The characters of Wakka and Rikku provide two sides of the believer spectrum. Rikku is the staunch atheist pointing out all the flaws of the religion–even when some of her points are themselves illogical. Wakka, on the other hand, is the blind believer who refuses to even let a question cross his mind. Neither is a great example. Thankfully, we have Lulu. Lulu is a devoted Yevonite, but she also is able to pose questions and think widely. Some today argue that religion is something for the uneducated, but that is not the case. Religion is for everyone, no matter the intelligence level. And, as Catholics have demonstrated for millennia, there is no conflict between science and religion. One major problem with Yevonism is that the believers are taught they need to repent to defeat Sin, but nobody is able to explain the actions that need to change (other than not using most machina). If there are no answers in a religion, there is a problem.
- Doubting is not a sin.
- As implied in the first point, doubting is a natural human reaction. It is a sin to disobey and reject teachings, but questions about why can help humans to learn the importance of the teachings. Again, Lulu is our excellent model–maybe I’m biased, but she is objectively one of the best characters in the game ;). She is smart, she is sassy, and she is devout. There is no conflict between those traits.
- Sin is real.
- If Sin were a giant monster on Earth, it would be a lot harder to ignore it. Thankfully, Sin is not a Godzilla-monster, but sadly, humanity can forget about it. Spira also tries to forget about Sin during the Calms. They rebuild, they live their lives, and they try to move on. But in Spira, Sin can only be defeated by doing something new and getting to the root of the problem. On Earth, sin can only be defeated by doing something new: following Christ in his cultural revolution away from how life had been. We each, individually, need to reject the paths of worldly good to truly defeat sin.
- Nobody is perfect.
- Two of the maesters of Yevon are the stuff of nightmares, but the other two, Maester Kelk Ronso and Maester Kinoc, are more sympathetic. The former is one who walks away from the insanity of his colleagues, and the other has a sort of defeated acceptance. On the other hand, the protagonists have their own faults: Auron is using Tidus and the rest without ever telling them the truth, Wakka is extremely prejudiced, and Rikku is complicit in several kidnappings. Not only is nobody perfect–few seem to even be good! But that can be a good reminder in games when sometimes the good is clearly good and bad is clearly bad. People do both good and bad for all sorts of reasons. People can also improve and learn to be better. It is nice to see personal growth present in Final Fantasy X.
Some people want to make this an anti-religious game, but it is too complex to have one specific agenda–aside from the normal ‘friendship, good, and sacrifice will win the day’. Unfortunately, FFX-2 and other sequels have made the story less coherent. Despite that big criticism from me and despite this game’s introduction to the “Kill the Gods” trend in Final Fantasy, a witnessing of religious struggles can produce good lessons.
-Ann Moser, on twitter @interceptorismy. Sometimes I stream FFX.