Final Fantasy X’s 20th anniversary is this week, and while it’s not my favorite Final Fantasy, it is one I come back to whenever I think about sex. No, not in the way you’re probably thinking (although Kimahri Ronso, if he wanted, could get it). But Final Fantasy X represents one of those foundational adolescent moments for me in which sex transitioned from something I knew about and was aware of into something I desired.
Final Fantasy X was released 20 years ago when I was 14 years old. It was the first Final Fantasy game on the PlayStation 2, and by that point, I had become an avid Final Fantasy fan so, naturally, I added this newest entry to my collection. It was also the first Final Fantasy with voice acting, and I will never forget hearing Tidus talking about his story as the iconic piano notes of Nobuo Uematsu’s “To Zanarkand” played in the background.
I distinctly remember enjoying Final Fantasy X much more than FFIX. I was introduced to the series through the futuristic aesthetics of FFVII and FFVIII. So to my inexperienced eyes, FFX was a return to what I was more familiar with than the high-fantasy of FFIX—which was itself a return to the high-fantasy form of the first six games. I loved the combat and how it allowed me to make use of my entire party at any time. Its story was interesting, and I connected with its motley crew of characters far better than the ensembles of FFIX, who I thought were all childish, and FFVII who were, to a man, completely unrelatable.
I think my connection to FFX’s characters was why that moment in the Macalania Forest resonated so deeply with me. Tidus was warm and funny, unlike Squall or Cloud, and Yuna was a princess-type character who relied on people to protect her but had her own strength that prevented her from being a damsel in distress. I shipped them immediately.
At 14, I was still two years away from when I would start my sexual awakening in earnest through Yu Yu Hakusho slash fic. I knew what sex was and, by that time, was well within puberty’s grasp. It wasn’t like I was ignorant to the concept of desire. It was more like, desire never affected me. I had crushes on fictional boys (shout out to Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, the OG) but my thoughts of them were confined to chaste fantasies of marriage and children.
But watching Tidus and Yuna in that forest was when I realized, “Oh, now that’s what I want.”
The scene in the Macalania Forest is utterly beautiful. Tidus, after realizing Yuna’s fate, meets her in a beautiful lake in the middle of a literally glittering forest. As he draws her in to comfort her, he tells that he’ll be by her side as she faces the trials that bring her ever closer to death. The two then kiss and fall into an underwater embrace. It is probably the most romantic moment in a Final Fantasy game ever, and it is definitely the sexiest. Even I, at my naive age, understood their two bodies swirling around each other, fully clothed, but tenderly touching fingertips was a metaphor for sex. (And let’s not pretend the soft, tender sounds of “Suteki Da Ne” doesn’t heighten the sexual energy of the moment.)
Until that point, I understood sex as something people did when they were attracted to each other the same way people ate when they were hungry. It was the satisfaction of a physical, not emotional, need. But Final Fantasy finally linked sex to an emotion I could understand—love. I saw those two attractive people and saw the tenderness, affection, and love they had for each other manifest as a physical act. And, ho boy, my attention starved, 14-year-old Black ass going to a predominantly white school would have killed Sin several times over for some tenderness, affection, and love.
I still own my original copy of FFX as well as several others, including the PS4 version of the game that was released in 2015. Like that old copy, the “kiss” between Tidus and Yuna has stayed with me ever since. In my memories, I can recall tender moments between Rinoa and Squall and Garnet and Zidane but very little kissing. And no couple in Final Fantasy history ever had a kiss so lovingly rendered with the stunning processing power of the PS2. It still holds up.