The Al Bhed are a tribe of technologists in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. Making up ten percent of the Spiran population, they have a unique language and unlike the other races in Spira use machina, a technology prohibited by the dominant religion, Yevon.
Around 1000 years ago the Al Bhed society lived in the Bikanel Desert, also known as the Sanubia Sands. Their city was destroyed by Sin, and the citizens scattered around Spira, often being detested by the other races of the world. A millennium later, under Cid's leadership, the Al Bhed regrouped on Bikanel Island and built a new city called Home.
Tidus arrives to Spira from Dream Zanarkand and camps out in the Baaj Temple. He is attacked by a fiend but saved by an Al Bhed salvage group, startling him as he has never encountered an Al Bhed before. Only Rikku of the group speaks the main Spiran language and acts as a translator. Tidus is allowed to come onboard the Al Bheds' Salvage Ship but in exchange for their help he must assist the group in their salvage operation. Afterward the ship is attacked by Sin and Tidus washes overboard and ends up in Besaid where he joins summoner Yuna's pilgrimage.
The Al Bhed kidnap summoners to protect them by preventing them from completing their pilgrimage as summoners die if they perform the Final Summoning. When Yuna and her guardians set out to complete her pilgrimage, the Al Bhed use three machina to abduct her -- the Oblitzerator, the Extractor, and the Crawler -- but fail each time. Rikku, Yuna's cousin, ends up joining her pilgrimage.
When Yuna is lost in the Bikanel Desert, the Al Bhed take her to Home. Under Maester Seymour's orders, the Guado attack Home and kidnap Yuna away to Bevelle, and destroy the city. Amidst the chaos a number of Al Bhed flee onboard the airship that was discovered during a salvage operation Tidus participated in when he first arrived in Spira.
Rikku is overjoyed when Yuna rejects the Final Summoning, and they find another way to defeat Sin.
After the onset of the Eternal Calm the Al Bhed expand their exploration of Bikanel Island. With the collapse of the teachings of Yevon and the wider acceptance of machina, prejudice against the Al Bhed has eased although not completely ended. The Al Bhed exercise their freedom by expanding upon the knowledge of machina and improving upon existing discoveries, for the sake of innovating rather than to continue the practice of salvaging.
In accordance with their continuing desire to discover machine and expand their knowledge, the Al Bhed formed the Machine Faction, based in the abandoned Djose Temple, and led by Gippal. The group seeks to spread to use of machina throughout Spira, and remove any past discontent from them by renaming "machina" as "machines". It is connected to the Al Bhed in the Bikanel Desert, enabling members and volunteers to excavate the desert.
An Al Bhed sphere hunting group, Gullwings, is led by the pilot of their airship, Brother, assisted by his navigator Buddy and the child prodigy Shinra, who develops the technology the Gullwings use. The field operatives Yuna, Rikku and Paine do most of the sphere hunting, however. During their quest to uncover ancient spheres the group becomes entangled in a plot by Shuyin and caught between the crossfire of the faction conflicts, although the Al Bhed do their best to stay neutral in the world events, with Machine Faction providing the other two factions -- Youth League and New Yevon -- with machina. When Gippal goes missing the Machine Faction falls into disarray, and when he returns he disbands the faction.
During their active phase the Al Bhed excavate the Bikanel Desert for machina parts and try to build the ultimate machina robot in Djose, known as the Experiment. The excavation process is being hindered by the ancient fiend Angra Mainyu. The cacti of the Cactuar Nation are active and an Al Bhed kid Benzo is the only one who understands their language and works as an interpreter for the Gullwings to help the cacti.
Out of all the humanoid races in Spira, the Al Bhed are the most expressive in their emotions and body language; many of their more notable members also exhibit personalities that may classify as eccentric or juvenile. Al Bhed take an interest in Spira's technological past, organizing salvage operations and excavations of and for ancient technology.
The Al Bhed are the only Spiran race to openly reject the teachings of Yevon especially in regard to the ban on machina. They are often ostracized by the rest of the population, labeled as heathens, and have been the victims of attacks by Yevonites in the past, although some Al Bhed have still found global acceptance, most notably Rin, who operates a chain of travel agencies throughout Spira, and some are allowed to participate in the Yevon-sponsored blitzball tournaments. The Al Bhed are represented in the blitzball league by the Al Bhed Psyches.
The Al Bhed are forbidden to enter the temples of Yevon; at Macalania Temple, Rikku was refused entry until Auron informed the guard Rikku was Yuna's guardian, and as such duty-bound to enter the temple with her.
Al Bhed possess certain distinctive biological traits. Al Bhed have green eyes and their pupils are spiral-shaped. Al Bhed have a wide array of skin tones, but regardless of skin color, all Al Bhed have blond hair (assuming they have hair). As child of an interracial couple, Yuna has inherited only some of the Al Bhed traits. She has round pupils, and only one distinctively Al Bhed green eye. Her hair is brown.
The Al Bhed language is spoken by the Al Bhed people. Working like a substitution cipher (a language system replacing certain letters with others), it shares the same syntax and grammar of English in the English versions of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. In the Japanese version, it follows much the same pattern except in using the Japanese kana alphabet to speak and translate the language. All Al Bhed text in the Japanese game is written in katakana, giving it a distinct foreign look, and aiding in the use of the cipher, which would be practically impossible in kanji.
Converting Al Bhed to English/Japanese is simple once a person knows which letter/sound stands for what, but in the world of Spira people require entire books to translate one letter, implying the language may be more complicated than how it is depicted in the games.
(*note there are an additional 33 characters in the Japanese syllabary)
|Japanese||ア A||イ I||ウ U||エ E||オ O||カ Ka||キ Ki||ク Ku||ケ Ke||コ Ko||サ Sa||シ Shi||ス Su||セ Se||ソ So||タ Ta||チ Chi||ツ Tsu||テ Te||ト To||ナ Na||ニ|
|ヌ Nu||ネ Ne||ノ No|
|Al Bhed||ワ Wa||ミ Mi||フ Fu||ネ Ne||ト To||ア A||チ Chi||ル Ru||テ Te||ヨ Yo||ラ Ra||キ Ki||ヌ Nu||ヘ He||ホ Ho||サ Sa||ヒ Hi||ユ Yu||セ Se||ソ So||ハ Ha||シ Shi||ス Su||メ Me||オ O|
|Japanese||ハ Ha||ヒ Hi||フ Fu||ヘ He||ホ Ho||マ Ma||ミ Mi||ム Mu||メ Me||モ Mo||ヤ Ya||ユ Yu||ヨ Yo||ラ Ra||リ Ri||ル Ru||レ Re||ロ Ro||ワ Wa||ヲ Wo||ン N||ッ (tsu)|
|Al Bhed||マ Ma||リ Ri||ク Ku||ケ Ke||ロ Ro||ヤ Ya||イ|
|ツ Tsu||レ Re||コ Ko||タ Ta||ヲ Wo||モ Mo||ナ Na||ニ Ni||ウ U||エ E||ノ No||カ Ka||ム Mu||ン N||ッ (tsu)|
While Al Bhed speak their own language by majority, some words have been adopted from the main Spiran language: words like fiend, magic, aeon and airship, as well as Sin, are used by the Al Bhed but originate from other cultures. The name of the people and their language is Al Bhed, even when speaking said language.
In the games, Al Bhed words are differentiated from the common language of Spira by being printed in blue text (for non-translated letters or words) or pink text (for translated words or letters). The player can learn the Al Bhed language by picking up Al Bhed Primers. Each Primer translates a single letter of the alphabet. When the player picks up a Primer, the next time someone speaks Al Bhed with that letter it will be translated automatically.
In Final Fantasy X, Primers are either given by characters, or can be found in the field. The player can also use an Al Bhed Compilation Sphere to load Primers from another saved game. In Final Fantasy X-2, Primers are obtained either by listening to the Al Bhed language or by digging in the Bikanel Desert. Primers are carried over if the player uses the New Game Plus feature.
Fumi Nakashima, the sub-character designer for Final Fantasy X, has stated the aspect she concentrated on the most during the design phase was giving the characters from different cultures distinctive styles of clothing. Because the Al Bhed are a people who function in a machine-oriented society, she wanted to make them stand out from the other Spirans by wearing goggles and masks to make them look more eccentric and mysterious.
- Yuna is half-human and half-Al Bhed. Her mixed-ethnicity can be seen through her heterochromia as she has one blue eye and one green, albeit without the signature spiral.
- There are several Al Bhed to English translators available on the web; including this one.
- Al Bhed children wear full body suits.
- While on the airship, after Cid says Yuna is his niece, Wakka asks Tidus if Yuna is 'human', implying that the Al Bhed are either not human, or considered subhuman by some.
- ↑ "Beyond Final Fantasy" bonus DVD included in the International and PAL versions of Final Fantasy X.