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.
The origins of the Al Bhed are revealed in the sequel novel to Final Fantasy X-2. There was once a mechanic called Alb who created a race called Bedohls, humans who could not use magic but excelled at wielding machina, and used them to combat a Zanarkandian mage. Their weapons were so powerful they were kept under surveillance at all times. It's speculated that their power might have been the catalyst for the Machina War. After the Yevon religion was established, the Bedohls were blamed for the emergence of Sin and executed in numbers, thereby casting them out of society. The surviving Bedohls were later renamed the Al Bhed, a corrupted mesh of their original name and their creator's name.
Around 1000 years ago, the Al Bhed society lived on Bikanel Island, whose most explored region is known as the Sanubia Desert. 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.
In the hopes of furthering relations with the Al Bhed, Braska often traveled to Home. During one such visit, he met and fell in love with Cid's sister and they eventually married. Due to choosing a 'heathen' Al Bhed for a wife, Braska was cast out of the Yevon clergy while Cid disowned his sister for marrying a Yevonite, though the tension on both sides lessened after Yuna was born. When Yuna was four, her mother boarded a ship for Bikanel to repair her relationship with Cid but she died when Sin attacked her ship, starting Braska down the path of becoming a summoner.
Tidus arrives in Spira from Dream Zanarkand and camps out in the abandoned Baaj Temple. He is attacked by a fiend but saved by an Al Bhed salvage group led by Rikku, startling him as he has never encountered an Al Bhed before. Only Rikku speaks the main Spiran language and acts as a translator. Tidus is allowed to come on board the Al Bhed's Salvage Ship, but in exchange for their hospitality, he must assist the group in their salvage operation. Afterward, the ship is attacked by Sin and Tidus washes overboard and wakes 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 will die if they perform the Final Summoning. When Yuna and her guardians set out to complete her pilgrimage, the Al Bhed use machina in their three attempts to abduct her—the Oblitzerator in Luca, the Extractor on the Moonflow, and the Crawler on Lake Macalania—but fail each time. After failing to kidnap Yuna with the Extractor, Yuna's cousin Rikku ends up joining her pilgrimage as her final guardian.
When Yuna is lost in the Bikanel Desert, the Al Bhed find her and take her to Home. Under Maester Seymour's orders, the Guado attack Home, take Yuna away to Bevelle, and heavily damage the city. Amid the chaos, many Al Bhed flee onboard the airship that was discovered during the salvage operation Tidus participated in when he first arrived in Spira, and use its missiles to blow up Home. As they watch Home be destroyed by the missiles, the Al Bhed join to sing the "Hymn of the Fayth" in mourning.
Rikku is overjoyed when Yuna rejects the Final Summoning, and they find another way to defeat Sin: attacking it head-on with the Al Bhed's airship, the Fahrenheit.
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.
Per their continuing desire to discover machina and expand their knowledge, the Al Bhed formed the Machine Faction, based in the abandoned Djose Temple, 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 Bikanel, enabling members and volunteers to excavate the desert.
An Al Bhed sphere hunting group, the Gullwings, is led by the pilot of their airship, Brother, Rikku's brother and Yuna's cousin, 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, with the 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 named Benzo is the only one who understands their language and works as an interpreter for the Gullwings to help the cacti.
Three months later, the Machine Faction would discover Iutycyr Tower.
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. The Al Bhed take an interest in Spira's technological past, organizing salvage operations and excavations for ancient technology.
The Al Bhed are the only Spiran race to openly reject the teachings of Yevon especially regarding 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. 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, with the Al Bhed being represented in the league by the Al Bhed Psyches.
The Al Bhed are forbidden to enter the temples of Yevon. At Macalania Temple, Rikku is refused entry until Auron informs the guard she is Yuna's guardian, and as such duty-bound to enter the temple with her.
Al Bhed children wear full bodysuits, and many Al Bhed wear glasses or goggles to hide their eyes.
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). They are adept at swimming and holding their breath underwater, which serves them well during underwater excavations.
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 written dialogue, spoken Al Bhed is styled in purple, with characters translated from Al Bhed in pink.
In the Japanese version, it follows much the same pattern except using the Japanese kana syllabaries to speak and translate the language. The replaced kana always uses the same vowel sound, except for P-consonant kana which are all interchanged with each other. Written Al Bhed text does not use kanji, and is presented in katakana (giving it a distinct foreign look), while the translated text is presented in hiragana. Distinct words are often separated with spacing for clarity. Words that are said the same in Japanese/Spiran and Al Bhed are always written in pink katakana.
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.
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 (or multiple in Japanese). 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 non-player 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.
The name Al Bhed might originate from the word "alphabet." Their creator's name "Alb" could be a play on "Alba", which means "dawn" in association with him creating the Al Bhed race.
- 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 society appears to be influenced by the Middle East. Besides the desert environment, "Al" is the definite article in the Arabic language.
- Ships, hovers, cranes, lifts, machina, and the walls and floors of Home and the Fahrenheit are emblazoned with a bilingual crest whose lettering says "Salvage Dream" in Al Bhed script and "Cid" in regular Spiran script.
- ↑ "Beyond Final Fantasy" bonus DVD included in the International and PAL versions of Final Fantasy X.
- This online translator allows users to convert between English and Al Bhed and toggle the Al Bhed font.