Editorials

Final Fantasy is a treasure trove of pop culture

The Final Fantasy series has always been both self-referential and filled to the gills with pop culture references. As I played my copies of Final Fantasy X and X-2 Remastered on my Nintendo Switch, I got to re-experience them. For those who might have missed them, here’s a few I found particularly fun or interesting, though it is by no means exhaustive

  • The biggest, but likely least obvious reference in Final Fantasy X-2 is a direct tie to a book called The Three Faces of Eve. This psychology book released in 1957 was quickly turned into a movie, referring to the heavily-debunked theory that women go through three stages in their life — that of a child, maiden, and mother. This has been reflected in classic literature prior, such as ancient mythological creatures like Fate, who are often shown in three aspects – young, middle age, and old. In Final Fantasy X-2 we have three playable characters — Yuna, Rikku, and Paine. Even the cover art for the game resembles the poster for the movie Three Faces of Eve.

    Final Fantasy X-2 even parallels the post art for The Three Faces movie.

  • If you are a long-time fan of Final Fantasy, you might have noticed that the Mascot Dressphere in X-2 lets Yuna, Rikku, and Paine dress up in cosplay from previous entries in the series. Specifically, Rikku dons a Cait Sith costume from Final Fantasy VII, Yuna can jump into a Moogle costume from…well, every Final Fantasy, and Paine brings the pain courtesy of a Cactaur costume. If these particular costumes seem familiar, it’s because they all hang off of Lulu’s belt-tastic costume from Final Fantasy X as dolls.

    There are a lot of dresspheres, but these three are great callbacks.

  • When you eventually unlock the airship in Final Fantasy X-2, you’ll likely notice a dorky science joke emerge. In Final Fantasy X, the airship’s name is Fahrenheit — a reference to the standard temperature scale used in the United States. Conversely, the airship in Final Fantasy X-2 is named Celsius, the temperature scale used essentially everywhere else.
  • Yuna’s first summon, Valefor, shares an in-game reference, as well as one in the real world. Valefor is a callback to an enemy in Final Fantasy III’s Cave of Shadows. Also known as Balfrey in Japan, this foe is capable of delivering a whole lot of pain on the player. In the real world, Valefor is a goth/industrial metal band from Spring, Texas. Wait…no, they probably have nothing to do with one another.

    Valefor is a summon. Maybe she listens to heavy metal? Who knows….

  • In Final Fantasy X-2, the three Magus sisters are able to unleash an attack called “Delta Attack”. This attack unleashed a trio of powerful elemental crystals against the enemy. These crystals reach all the way back to Final Fantasy IV (that’s Final Fantasy II here in the US), but have also been featured in Final Fantasy V through XI, and even in the online MMO, Final Fantasy XIV.
  • There’s no doubt that Final Fantasy X’s focus on Sin, and Yuna’s self-sacrifice is evocative of a blend of Christianity, Hinduism, and Japanese Shinto religion. This is reflected throughout the game with, as example, summons like Nemesis, Ultima, and Omega showing the Hindu namaste finger position before they unleash their power, or Yuna’s ritual dance which is very close to a traditional Japanese kagura dance meant to honor the Shinto gods. Yuna, confirming her status as savior of Spira, walks on water during the Sending ritual, not unlike Jesus Christ in Christianity.

    Yuna literally walks on water.

  • It’s not all religion and seriousness in the series. Tidus of Final Fantasy X fame is notorious for his love of music pop culture, making reference to a Bobby McFerrin song lyric (“Don’t worry, be happy”), and a mispronunciation of Macalania Temple as “Macarena” — a reference to the Los del Rio song by the same name.
  • Blitzball is straight up soccer performed in a giant zero-gravity water ball suspended in a stadium. If you doubt it, simply watch Wakka perform a bicycle kick (Blitz Ace) or a volley (Jecht Shot) like you’d see on any real-world soccer pitch.

    Wakka is a gem.

  • Yuna gives a quick shout out to the classic Xenomorph movie Aliens when she utters “Game over, man! Game over!” (RIP Bill Paxton) after taking down her enemies.
  • You’d have to be blind to not recognize some of the early trio pose-downs in Final Fantasy X-2 as direct callbacks to the 70’s show Charlie’s Angels — a powerful female-led group devoted to taking down shady bad guys while dressing fabulously.
  • Speaking of dressing up, the whole Dressphere concept came from the Harajuku movement that was huge in Japan during the original game release in 2003. Harajuku refers to a specific style originating in Shibuya, Japan’s Harajuku district where girls would mix flashy colors, super-cute, and punk fashions into bizarre and fun counterculture.

    Harajuku fashion looks like you need to carry a LOT of stuff. Credit to TokyoFashion.com

  • Star Wars fans recognize long-time Final Fantasy staples Biggs and Wedge. These two were Luke Skywalker’s wingmen in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and have appeared many times in that movie series. The Final Fantasy characters have similarly made appearances in Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X, among others.
  • Rikku makes a very obvious callback to Konami’s Metal Gear games when facing a particular foe by screaming “Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAAKE!”

    Looks like Konami likes the three panel jam too.

There’s no doubt that there are plenty more references in the Final Fantasy series, and I’ve only touched on a handful that I remembered while enjoying Final Fantasy X and X-2 over again. What’d I miss? Jump into the comments below and join the conversation.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).

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