“The people and the friends that we’ve lost, the dreams that have faded……never forget them.”
Loss. Struggle. These are things we all go through in life. We all dream. We all love. And as much as it sucks, we all experience loss. These truths are not exempt in the virtual worlds we come to know and even for a moment feel are our own. All too often, the starring women in these games do not show us a woman that can be admired through-and-through. No doubt we see a woman who has certain qualities that we look for in ourselves and others, but sometimes, those qualities are overshadowed by damsel-in-distress syndrome. When I think about the person I want to be, the woman I would want to emulate fully, only one character comes to mind: Yuna Braska. The heroine of Final Fantasy X exudes strength, bravery, loyalty, and above all else, selflessness.
The young girl begins her journey knowing the consequence that will conclude her story. Yuna’s pilgrimage to vanquish Sin and save Spira, even if only for a little while, will end in her death. This fact alone would stop most people from continuing, or even beginning such a journey. Yuna’s greatest desire is to see others around her happy; this gives her the willingness to sacrifice everything she has ever had or will have to achieve this. She carries the burden of those around her, never complaining. She is compassionate. She is faithful. She is polite. The summoner spent her life firmly and fully believing in the teachings of Yevon, and that sacrifice trumps all else. It would be false to say that Yuna never felt things like fear and sadness; she is human, after all. She buries those feelings while encouraging those around her to express those feelings. She is very naive, but all of these things are what crafts Yuna into such a strong character that is so easy to relate to.
Then, she meets Tidus.
The strange boy, who claims to be from the long-ruined city of Zanarkand, comes crashing into her life like a tidal wave. He sees Yuna’s pilgrimage as an opportunity to find his way back home and joins her and the rest of her guardians. Over the course of their journey, Yuna finds herself opening up to Tidus more and more, revealing to him secrets she has kept from everyone else, like the way she fakes cheeriness to hide her sadness, and even helps him to do the same. Feelings are beginning to develop, but as with other things in her life, Yuna pushes them behind the obligations she has chosen to take on. She goes so far as to agree to marry Maester Seymour Guado in an attempt to provide a beacon of hope and joy to the citizens of Spira. Circumstances soon after show that Seymour is not the kind of person he initially claimed to be, and when a life-or-death situation arises, Yuna threatens to sacrifice her life to save her guardians.
The ordeal shakes her to the point where she begins to lose faith in the teachings of Yevon. A tender moment with Tidus is shared, and though Yuna is finally starting to face her feelings, to admit that the faith she had once so wholeheartedly and truly believed in may not be the absolute truth, she still chooses to continue her pilgrimage. Yuna and her party are accused of being traitors to the sacred religion. She is ostracized by the world she so longs to save, and rather than becoming bitter and giving up, Yuna continues. She has fallen in love with Tidus at this point, and it is such a strong message to show what she is willing to sacrifice for the good of her people. No matter the circumstance, Yuna is so very selfless.
By the end of her journey, Yuna completely abandons the teachings of Yevon, viewing them as false and keeping the vicious circle of Sin and death in Spria spinning. By doing this, Yuna is finally able to absolve Spira of Sin for good, but in doing so, the dreams of the Fayth are absolved as well – her aeons, and above all else, her beloved Tidus. High Summoner Yuna continues to search for Tidus, whistling their whistle at water’s edge, hoping to hear the sweet sounds of a whistle back. She refuses to believe that Tidus is truly gone. The love she feels for him refuses to die. Through the pain she feels, she addresses the citizens of Spira, urging them not to forget their loved ones, to embrace and cherish their memories.
The character of Yuna exemplifies a true heroine. In an industry where female characters are so often over-sexualized, portrayed as distressed damsels, or really don’t have an important place within the story, Yuna shines. While she isn’t the only strong female in gaming, for me, she is the light in the dark, a pillar of strength, of wisdom, of generosity that I admire so deeply. Though she is a fictional character, Yuna’s story is one so many women and men alike could take a page from. A spirit of strength that can give hope to the hopeless and show that no matter the pain we feel, the struggles we go through, that we can move on, we can prevail.