|Match Date||Tuesday, August 10th, 2004|
|Tidus - 50.44%|
48 for - 29 against
|Tidus - 70.06%|
After nine of the most boring, predictable matches we had ever seen, we finally had something to get worked up about. In fact, the first nine matches were so bad that Tidus/Shadow wound up getting far more attention than it would have gotten under normal circumstances. Simply put, the board was desperate for something, anything, to get excited about in this contest.
Unfortunately, while Tidus/Shadow looks close when looking at the final score, the match was over after the first thirty seconds. Still, the buildup was fun. When looking at the bracket as a whole, there were very few matches that were hard to call from the start, and most of those matches were in the first and second rounds. With the notable exception of Link vs Cloud, and to a lesser extent Mario vs Crono, all of the excitement in this contest came from the tough matches within the first two rounds. And as boring as most of this contest was, we still had our fair share of decent matches.
Coming into the contest, the first match that struck everyone as being hard to call was Tidus/Shadow. They were dead even in the 2003 Extrapolated Standings, and given the track record of both characters, convincing arguments could be made on both sides. On Tidus's side, the argument was simple. Tidus is a Square character representing the defining Final Fantasy title for the Playstation 2. Regardless of whether or not he is liked by Square fans, the fact of the matter is that most Final Fantasy characters get their fair share of support. In close matches on this site, Squaresoft has gotten more and more difficult to defeated. This gave Tidus an innate advantage right from the start simply because of his company alliance, and when you factor in that 2003 Tidus would be expected to get 49% against 2003 Sonic -- an improvement of over 7% from the Tidus/Sonic match in 2002 -- the decision was easier to make for many of the people who were having trouble choosing between them.
On Shadow's side of things, the typical argument was something along the lines of OMFG TIDUS IS TEH WHINY NOOBUKLAR GNBOOBIE FROM TEH FINL FANTAYZZY ECKS DEE'D TWO'D ADN SHADOW IS TEH BADAZZD CHARACTER FROM TEH SONIUC GAMEZ SHADWO IS SOOO CUL TIDUS IS TEH SUXXOR SHADWO WILL WEEN TEH MATCH LOLOLOLZROX!1!!++@2@!#!!!11!1SHIFTONE!11!11
Amidst all of the Tidus bashing that went on in the days leading up to (and following) the match, intelligent arguments were posed in Shadow's favor. For one, Tidus only managed around 41% on Sonic in 2002. For Tidus to beat Shadow, he would have to rely on Sonic taking a drop in 2003 on top of Shadow being no where near as strong as Sonic in 2004. That's quite the stretch. Secondly, Tidus was a 5 seed in 2003, and may very well have overperformed in his match against Ganondorf due to bracket voting and the "Anyone but Tidus" votes that plague him in every match.
The problem with this match is that despite all of the hype it was getting, it wound up not living up to it. Sure the match was decently close when you look at the final score, but everyone who was here during the match knows that the final score is not indicative of how well Tidus truly did during the match.
When the poll began, Tidus not only took the early lead, but he owned it. He did so well in the opening sections of the voting block that one could argue that the match was over after the first few minutes. The truly surprising thing about this poll was that Tidus managed to challenge not only Shadow, but the voting demographic. Sega is the undisputed king of the morning vote, yet when the morning vote came around, it failed to save Shadow the Hedgehog from Tidus's onslaught. Tidus not only withstood the day vote, but he didn't miss a beat en route to building a 1700 vote lead 10 hours into the poll. It wasn't until then that Shadow began fighting back, but by this time, the Sega morning vote that traditionally allows Sega characters to pull out close matches was already gone. Shadow began chipping away at Tidus's lead, but he was doing do during a time period in which other companies dominate the demographic.
Shadow was doing a decent job of holding his own after falling behind by so much, but he was relying on the late afternoon and evening votes to help him out. These crowds usually favor Nintendo and Squaresoft respectively, and though Shadow managed to stay 50-50 with Tidus from the time Tidus went up by 1700 all the way until the end of the poll, Shadow did not have nearly enough of his own demographic assisting him in order to make any serious run at winning the match. Tidus taking a 1700 vote lead with the aid of the day vote that was supposed to go to Shadow decided the match right then and there, but that didn't stop the constant stream of OMFG SHADOW IS COMING BACK topics every time he took three votes off of the lead. Despite Shadow's best efforts to make some noise in the poll, all he managed to do was take 14 hours to cut all of 150 votes off of Tidus's lead of 1700. This was somewhat decent for board drama, but it meant nothing to Tidus. He had the match won after 10 hours when he took Shadow's day vote away from him.
In the fallout from all of this, I do have a lot of respect for Shadow's strength after seeing what he managed to do in this poll. He may have lost the day vote, and because of this the match itself, but Shadow's ability to hold his own with Tidus for the final 14 hours of the poll was interesting. During a time period where Square usually dominates, Shadow the Hedgehog managed to take Tidus's evening and night vote away from him. Tidus could have very easily gone on to win this match by over 4000 votes, but Shadow held his own and went down fighting. It's hard to say anything bad about a character who takes his opponent's strength from him, and for Shadow, that meant holding his own during the evening vote. Not bad at all. But on the other side of this, this also means that Tidus deserves some respect for taking Shadow's day vote from him. Tidus failing to do well during his own voting block surely meant a collapse in the next round, but at least Tidus managed a victory in a close match this year unlike his near-miss against Ganondorf last year. To this day, I am convinced that Tidus would get the respect he deserves if he managed to take down Ganondorf and/or Shadow last year.
After all of that, even though Mega Man was bound to kill the winner anyway, we finally had a match that gave us some excitement. It wasn't much, but at least we had a reason to refresh the poll every 2 seconds for a time.
The characters themselves may have failed to have the match we were hoping for, but as characters, it is a true shame that they have such ****y voice actors. Tidus, despite popular belief, is not a bad character. He is the first Final Fantasy lead since Terra (and to a lesser extent, Zidane) to have emotions that we as players can actually relate to. It's nice to see Cloud and Squall rip everything to shreds whenever they see fit, but we can't do that in real life. I like how we get to see Tidus mature from an immature little kid to a man right in front of our eyes throughout the game. Part of the reason why I think people dislike Tidus so much is because a lot of people act the same way he does. They can't handle some of the bad things that happen to them, and instead of being a man about it, they whine for help until someone offers to hold their hand and guide them. Hating Tidus is more a reverse catharsis than it is Tidus not being a good character. And while the laughing/lake scenes were atrocious, there are quite a number of interaction scenes between the leads of Final Fantasy 7/8/9 and the secondary female characters that are equally painful to watch, yet you don't hear a lot of complaining about them. Odd coincidence. Tidus isn't a bad character; people are simply very close-minded.
Shadow's case is far easier to analyze. For all intents and purposes, Shadow has been in all of two games: Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Heroes. For the sake of argument, let's pretend that Sonic Heroes doesn't exist. Shadow appears in one good game, and despite having a horrible voice actor in the one decent game he appears in, Shadow still finds a way to be as strong as he in these contests. Even more impressive is the fact that Shadow is constantly working against the brackets to do what he does. Despite being bashed by even some of the most loyal Sonic fans out there, only appearing in one good game, and suffering from a case of the Gordon Freeman Herpes, Shadow still manages to pump out solid numbers every year. He was the underdog against Wario, SA2:B didn't even make the Spring Contest, and he was the overwhelming underdog against Tidus. And he still manages to do well.
Conclusion: Rape, muder, pillage, lie, cheat, steal, harass, annoy, bribe..... whatever, just do whatever it takes to convince Cam Clarke to do the voice acting for Shadow the Hedgehog. With a proper voice actor and some more exposure, Shadow could do some serious damage in this contest. The fact that he continues to perform despite no one knowing who he is means that we have some serious potential here. If Sega plays their cards right (an oxymoron, I know), then Shadow could not only be a force in the contest, but he may also help the Sonic franchise to become mainstream again. It's clear that Sonic's glory days were in the 2D era, but with proper marketing and a few legendary games, that could all change. The fact that more people thought Alucard and Pac Man had a chance at upsetting Ganondorf and Luigi respectively needs to change.
Of all the new characters created in this era, only Auron, Tidus, and Shadow come off to me as having any real chance at causing damage in this contest in five years, with Shadow having the brightest future of the three. Hopefully, Sega does not waste this.