I originally posted this on Tumblr, but it’s so hard to find old posts there that I’m archiving it here. Even though I won’t reach these two games in my playthrough for a year. Have a does of Meta!
組, kumi, “group, party, pair, band, class” ~ Wikipedia
I like both Final Fantasy X and XIII, although the pacing, plotting and worldbuilding of XIII show the duct tape and staples of development hell. Yet the characters in both games are passionate, complex individuals with hidden motivations and a great deal of personality, despite their tendency to slot into archetypes at first glance. The messy dynamics between the party members in XIII, I think, are the game’s greatest strength.
It fascinates me that the two games’ kumis start out almost as inverses of one another.
In X, every party member cares tremendously for some of the other party members. The four from Besaid grew up together and are all deeply devoted to Yuna and to one another, united by bonds of trust and understanding and old friendship (and occasional squabbles). Tidus falls for Yuna and likes Rikku and looks up to Auron when he’s not bawling at him. Rikku cares enough for her cousin to pledge herself as a guardian, despite her upbringing. Auron is more aloof, but betrays occasional gruff fondness that goes above and beyond that of duty to dead friends’ children. They’re a kumi from the start, quickly adjusting to adopt new members into the kumi.
In FFXIII, every party member cares tremendously for someone outside the group. At first, none of them care for one another except Fang and Vanille (who are separated). Lightning is dedicated to her sister and takes out every frustration on Snow. Snow is dedicated to Lightning’s sister and barely paying attention to those dragged under in his wake. Fang will “tear down the sky” for her missing girlfriend, and will certainly tear apart a few strangers on Vanille’s behalf. Vanille’s in cloud cuckoo land to avoid inner turmoil, but she’s hunting desperately for her girlfriend. Hope’s missing his mom and doesn’t want to be with any of these crazy people, although he soon latches onto Lightning as a surrogate. The sane guy, Sazh, is in it only for his son.
So the dynamics are inverted: in FFX, the group starts out interconnected by a network of loyalties and shared pasts, whereas in FFXIII, they begin with nothing in common and with disparate loyalties pulling them outward. The first half of FFXIII, up through chapter 7, is simply the process of forging connections between members of the group so that they can become a group, a kumi.
Both arcs work for me because I like characters motivated by fierce love for and loyalty to other characters. It means I tend to fall for the tired old romance tropes, but I don’t necessarily fix on the romantic storyline, so much as the ones of friendship, devotion and trust.
Luckily most of the FFs play with those tropes, too. But FFXIII, more than most, is about the spectrum between rejection, trust and blind obedience.