What Final Fantasy X could have been – tattoo systems, links to FF VIII, and terrifying hippos

Final Fantasy X released way back in 2001 (Holy shit has it really been that long) but has seen pretty consistent attention from Square Enix over the years with sequels, ports, remasters, accompaniment material, and most recently a version of the game’s Ultimania book translated for Western audiences. I’ve been looking through this book and collected some of the most interesting pieces of trivia and developmental information together in this post to imagine what could have been.

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This early concept art shows us a villain who is giving me some serious FF II Emperor vibes

There’s concept art in the Ultimania that depicts ‘17 SEVEN TEEN’, a temporary title used very early in FFX’s production. The story setting was pretty different to the final game – the protagonist in this title would have travelled the world seeking a cure for an epidemic that killed people as soon as they reached the age of seventeen. Although this is clearly very different to the story we ultimately got, this idea of inevitable death was adapted into what became Yuna’s pilgrimage.

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The above concept pieces both see our Tidus-looking character alongside two different sets of younger characters. The top image in particular, featuring cherub-like angels and some stormtrooper-looking dudes in the background paints a very different image to the Final Fantasy we ultimately got – and don’t get me started on what on earth that sand-seal is doing behind ‘Tidus’. The lower piece is starting to get closer to FF X with the ocean/beachside town motif.

Below, we have two more pieces of concept art you can click on to see in full detail. The lefthand side sees the Tidus character really starting to get closer to the final design we are familiar with, and it seems like he is an outsider compared to the other two characters, again much closer to the storyline we ultimately got with FF X. The image on the right depicts depicts our ‘Tidus’ in front of what seems to me to be a woman and her aeon. This is obviously still very early on in development, but I like to think the fact he is placed in front of the summoner is showing some of the early signs of a summoner and her guardian. As for the aeon itself – how fantastic does it look?! While this artwork is clearly very different to the direction FF X ended up going in, it’s not leaps and bounds away and you can see the core concepts taking shape.

There’s also come really great information in the Ultimania about the original concept for FFX’s growth system. Before we got the absolutely fantastic sphere grid concept, a tattoo system was heavily considered which would see characters unlock two squares of a grid every time they levelled up. You could then affix tattoos on this grid to raise AP and learn new abilities.

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The Ultimania mentions that Seymour’s visible ink on his chest are remnants of this tattoo system concept that filtered through to the final game, and now all I can picture is an optional superboss that is just some dude covered head to toe in awful tats.

And speaking of the growth system, there’s also some screenshots of early designs for the menu. Alongside a strategy tab to heavily promote an online guide (ugh), there’s an ambiguous ‘Road’ tab which I’m guessing is just a different way of displaying a map, but it’s an odd choice of words. This design of the menu also shows the characters with regular levels in place of sphere levels – meaning this menu was probably designed when the tattoo system was still being considered.

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Early screenshots of blitzball also feature the characters using weapons in matches too, making blitzball a considerably more violent game than underwater dodgeball. One concept considered involved players pressing the right buttons with the right timing to use powerful, flashy-looking shots.

Now, this next piece of trivia is possibly my favourite purely because of the connection to Final Fantasy VIII, one of my favourite entries in the series. Remember the monster Demonolith that you could encounter inside Sin and the Omega Ruins? Concept artwork here shows the FFVIII boss Elvoret is fossilized inside the stone, too.

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There’s also a lot of stuff out there charting Yuna’s development. The below artwork shows Yuna performing the sending in a different outfit than the one featured in the final game, and the original concept artwork for the logo featuring an abstract depiction of Yuna summoning Valefor.

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There’s other little tidbits of information scattered throughout the Ultimania that give glimpses into development – like the fact that the game’s first city, Zanarkand, was originally going to be called Registan back when the ’17 SEVEN TEEN’ concept was still being considered. And then we have this artwork of an unused ‘Spiran Hippo’ which is downright terrifying and looks like a sack of potatoes with legs.

Spiran Hippo

What we ended up getting with Final Fantasy X was, without doubt, one of the most iconic JRPG’s of the early 2000s. It’s pretty fascinating to look back at some of this concept art and wonder what could have been, however. I’ll leave you with the below artwork featuring some early Yevon priests and a fantastically stereotypical black mage character who almost looks like a Black Waltz from FF IX. How we got from that design to Lulu is… A good question, and one who’s answer involves many, many belts.

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