[Trigger warning: emotional abuse, grief, and racial discrimination.]
Tidus from Final Fantasy X is a man we don’t often get to see in video games. While the stoic Cloud, brooding Solid Snake, and snarky Drake are familiar staples of mainstream video game land, Tidus eschewed this common hard-jawed machoism in favor of sensitivity and humor. What many games would even hold back on in favor of a sad reveal, you witness in the first few hours of Final Fantasy X—from Tidus sharing his hurt at the hands of his father to the loss of his mother to, yes, even being told he’s known to cry often—and that’s before this sports all-star gets teleported from his home in Zanarkand into the unknown world of Spira by a mysterious monster called Sin! When he encounters a group of people willing to help him find his way home (while trying to defeat Sin along the way), he opens up to them early on and proceeds to lay waste to many damaging hypermasculine tropes.
Tidus connects to fellow protagonist Yuna not through passive-aggressive quips, but comraderie and laughter (and, for the record, I include that scene). The emotional constipation normally reserved for protagonists who are men is tossed out the window and replaced with an overarching spoken narrative by Tidus, revealing his innermost feelings at key intervals—a touch that I still appreciate to this day. His outfit embodies the very best and the very worst of Tetsuya Nomura’s character design work (water soccer gauntlet???). Yes, Tidus really is something special. Thankfully, this hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The reaction to him over the years has been generally positive. Some love his youthful enthusiasm, citing him as a refreshing and funny break from the cold Cloud and aloof Squall from Final Fantasy VII and VIII, respectively. Others fell head over heels in love with his tender relationship with Yuna and consider it one of the best Final Fantasy romances in the series (and I won’t pretend like I haven’t gotten incredibly mushy over it myself). Yet more found the proceeding plot twists later in the game both in turns fascinating and tragic—all of this and more cementing Tidus as one of the Final Fantasy protagonist greats for years to come.