My Mom Plays Final Fantasy X

by Katrel
Features, Games and Gaming

This is part 2 in an ongoing series about my 53-year-old mother’s attempts to play video games. Part 1 can be found here.

After Portal, I decided to have my mom play Final Fantasy X. I chose this particular Final Fantasy game because it is entirely turn-based. Unlike many other games in the series, almost nothing in the game requires a fast reaction time — you have as long as you want to make menu selections. I figured that this would be make the game easier for her to pick up.  Mom was excited about this, because she knew how much I liked the series.  “I’ve never played Final Fantasy! Can you just start in the middle at 10?”

Tidus, in his asymmetrical pants

"He needs to find a tailor."

I loaded the game up and she watched the opening cutscene. And then she watched herself standing there for a minute, before she realized that the cutscene had ended, and that she could control her character. I gave her some basic instructions about how to move around and talk with everyone, so she started doing that. While running around, she saw a close-up of Tidus’s asymmetrical outfit and said, “He needs to find a tailor. His hem’s out of his pants.”

She continued navigating him around, talking with the various NPCs, but her shaky hands made it difficult to move Tidus in a straight line. “He’s going to have to stop drinking if he’s going to play this game.”

After another couple of cutscenes, the combat tutorials started. I explained to her how combat works, and she got the hang of the basics. She learned how to select Attack, and how to use Potions when her hit points got low. She was a bit worried at first that she’d only have 9 potions for the whole game, but I explained to her that she could obtain more later. The Overdrive attacks gave her a bit of trouble, because they do require fast reactions, but the rest of combat came pretty easily to her. During one of these training battles, she asked, “This is an RPG, right? This is the first one of those that I’ve ever played.”

She made it through the combat tutorial section, and after a few more cutscenes was taken to the next area. She started exploring and was impressed by her surroundings, but stops to ask me one thing. “Now… I need to ask this very important question. Where in the hell does he carry that sword? It’s as tall as he is. Where does it come from?”

After another battle, my mom decides, “Maybe it’s a switch-sword. Maybe it locks as he pulls it out of his pocket and it’s hinged.”

After another couple of battles and cutscenes, she made it to the tutorial on FFX’s leveling system: the sphere grid. She was a bit confused at first, but she did seem to pick up the basics okay. After the tutorial, she proceeded with the story, and went to the next dungeon.

A few steps in, she hit her first random battle, and was confused at first. I explained that it was a random battle that she had to fight, and she easily beat the monsters. “Well, that was a waste of time.” After a few more random battles, always against the same enemies, my mom asked “How many times am I going to have to kill these fish?”

[pullquote]Look how straight he walked! He just got up from his nap, so he hasn’t had time to drink anything.[/pullquote]

After another boss battle and a few more cutscenes, she made it to the first town. She wandered around and talked with all of the NPCs, and found an item store, where she decided to buy some potions to replace the ones that she had used. She found a bed and took a nap, and when she woke up, the nearby NPCs directed her to the temple. She ran to the temple, and actually managed to move Tidus in a straight line. “Look how straight he walked! He just got up from his nap, so he hasn’t had time to drink anything.”

After Tidus ran into the temple, the screen faded to black and Tidus’s narration said “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” My mom, apparently channeling the cast of Mystery Science Theater, chimed in with, “Yeah, it’s dark in there!”

She explored the temple, which was a puzzle dungeon with no monsters. It took her a while to solve some of the puzzles, but it was a fairly straightforward process, and she eventually made it through the temple, and met up with the other party members. After a few more cutscenes, she left town with her party, to head for a boat. In the first few random encounters, the game started teaching her about elemental weaknesses and using spells. She picked this up pretty quickly, and learned that she should use Wakka on birds and Lulu on elemental monsters. While Lulu was casting a spell, my mom observed, “You know, if she were to raise her hands, Lulu would come out of her dress.”

Eventually, she made it to the boat, where she saw Khimari, whom she recognized from earlier in the game. “Oh, hey, it’s this guy!”

“You should talk with him.”

“I’m trying. He’s not very easy to talk to.”

“You have to face him to talk to him.”

“I know. That’s why he’s not very easy to talk to.” She laughed and we finally figured out that it wasn’t possible to talk with him at that point. She continued exploring the boat, and found a chocobo, whose theme song she recognized from when I played Final Fantasy games as a kid. Eventually, the ship was attacked by Sin, the villain of the game, and mom found herself in a boss fight.

Mom, playing PS2She had a bit of trouble in this fight, because she didn’t realize that she had to target the main part of Sin, and not the smaller enemies up front. This fight was also the first time that she ever tried using curative magic. Her first reaction to reading the description of the Cure spell was, “Well, I don’t want to cure or help the boss in any way.”  I pointed out that the spell was meant to be cast on her own party, like potions. After a long and difficult fight, she won, and we decided that she was at a good stopping point.

Several days later, after I’d had her play several other games, I asked her if there were any that she had already played that she wanted to play more of. She said that she wanted to play some more Final Fantasy X, so I loaded it back up for her.

She got back into the swing of things pretty quickly, but was still annoyed that she had to use her left thumb on the analog stick. “I wish there was some way to control their movement with your right thumb. After wandering around town a little bit, she made it to the cutscene where Yuna performs the Sending. “This is beautiful. This is a beautiful game.”

She left town and started heading through the jungle towards the next temple, and encountered a few random battles. I noticed that she had a lot of sphere levels saved up, and suggested that she go to the sphere grid to get stronger. She didn’t exactly remember all the details of the sphere grid, so I helped her level up Tidus, but she remembered quickly and leveled up the other characters with no help from me. “This is the weirdest way to get your improved strength. That’s what this is, isn’t it? It’s strength, agility, the ability to do different spells — that sort of thing. It isn’t anything to do with weapons or buying weapons or anything like that.”

[pullquote]”In a way, it’s relaxing, because I’m completely immersed in it. I don’t think about anything else.  It’s like reading a story with beautiful illustrations.[/pullquote]

In her next random battle, she noticed that she had learned the new ability “Flee” from the sphere grid. “Flee! I think that’s what I need to do!” She laughed and finished the battle normally. As she fought her way through the jungle, she did a good job of checking the Scan information for each enemy, and using the abilities that they were weak to.

Eventually she made it to the boss. She looked at the scan information for the boss and decided to use Yuna’s summon to take out the boss’s tentacles, and then used Lulu’s fire spell to take out the main part of the boss. She managed to take it down with very little difficulty, and we decide that this is a good place to stop.

I asked her what she thought of the game, and she said that she liked the storyline. “In a way, it’s relaxing, because I’m completely immersed in it. I don’t think about anything else.  It’s like reading a story with beautiful illustrations.”

“Even the fight scenes are not stressful. There’s a lot to remember. I need a cheat sheet to remember what everything does, and all the little ins and outs. I need to remember what’s on my menus, and I need to learn how to use that more effectively.” Overall, she really liked the game, and it was one of the games that she borrowed from me when her trip was over and she went home.

Part 3 in this series can be found here.


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One thought on “My Mom Plays Final Fantasy X

  1. Zastrick says:

    Nice job Katrel, I’m really enjoying this series.

    I personally find it really interesting seeing how nongamers experience games. There are a lot of things seasoned players take for granted from years of conditioning that we automatically know to see things how the designer intended or to approach obstacles in a certain way. It’s fascinating to see where a clean slate has to learn how the game works where it would be second nature for someone with preexisting knowledge from other games.

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