Big brand names always drive excitement and anticipation, so you can imagine the furore that arose when it was revealed back at E3 2021 that Square Enix and Koei Tecmo/Team Ninja were working on a Final Fantasy project together. However, when Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin appeared with a much darker tone and focused on more action in its combat, the reception was mixed, especially after the demo.
However, diving in revealed a tough but fair combat system, combining well with the job system that made the first Final Fantasy such a joy to play. It made sense, considering that Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin uses the first game as a motif, and the connections run more profound than that. Following our interview with director Daisuke Inoue and producer Jin Fujiwara from Square Enix and Koei Tecmo’s Fumihiko Yasuda, this collaboration is about to make invested fans happy.
Let’s get the big bombshell out of the way; Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will see players take control of Jack, or more importantly, Jack Garland. The villain from the first game in the series has never really had his backstory fleshed out, and this represents an excellent chance for fans to understand his journey to becoming Chaos itself.
“We never really got to see how Garland, who was a good knight, went down that path of evil. So, with that, the team took their interpretations of what might have happened. We are trying to dive into that element and through the game in terms of why he decided to go in pursuit of Chaos and into the human aspect of Garland,” Fujiwara explained.
“We were definitely inspired by playing as Garland. That was the foundation of the world lore, so that naturally led to the darker tone, the character action as well. It’s something more aggressive and exhilarating and something we haven’t seen in the previous Warriors of Light.”Jin Fujiwara , Producer, Square Enix
Together with Ash and Jed, and the newly introduced Neon, the group of four are the supposed Warriors of Light that will rid the world of Chaos. Yet, they each harbour doubts about their place in the prophecy, and if you have played the first game, they do not exactly fit those titles either.
Therein lies the appeal of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, offering a semblance of closure for those seeking the truth of Garland, Chaos, and his companions from Final Fantasy.
With the focus primarily on Jack, that is not to say the rest of the party are there just to make up numbers. The AI will provide helpful aid depending on the kind of jobs you have assigned them, allowing for a strategic element to be infused into the action-heavy combat, just do not be expecting customisation on the level of Final Fantasy XII as an example.
“If you choose the Knight for one of your party members, they will be able to attract the surrounding enemies,” Inoue shared. “You will definitely see these different kinds of actions or movements that are aligned with the job characteristics, and other NPCs will be able to do what Jack does as he progresses.”
The team also confirmed that multiplayer would be part of the experience, so you can rely more on human intellect rather than just AI. This will make for an interesting experience for a Final Fantasy game, considering the more challenging enemies lying in wait.
“With Final Fantasy being an RPG series, we understand that some fans may be playing action games for the first time,” Yasuda stated. “We made sure to create something that will still be enjoyable for these players, with the Story and Safety modes to cater to these audiences.”
“The multiplayer mode will also present a very different type of gameplay for the players, and a way to have people take on some of the monsters that they wouldn’t be able to take on alone. So we do hope that that kind of opens up the door to more newcomers.”
It is clear that the job system is as crucial in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin as it was in its inspiration, and some of the jobs will be no surprise. The likes of the Knight, Swordsman, Monk, Lancer, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage, and more will grant different abilities for use. Proper usage and switching between the roles will highlight the depth of the combat and increase the fun.
“With this being an action game, we incorporated a system where players would be able to swap between different jobs. So even if they were not skilled at a certain job, they’d be able to get by, and we also make adjustments to the enemy movements as well to make sure that everything was well balanced within this action game.”Fumihiko Yasuda, Team Ninja
And for those unsure about the look of Jack and his party, there is a good reason for that. Inoue emphasised that “in the original game, the main protagonists, they were treated as strangers, voyagers who came from someplace unknown.”
As such, the team maintained “that concept with Jack and his companions as well. So they are treated as strangers that are not of the world that they are,” which is “reflected into their attire as well” with the modern designs. By switching jobs, their appearances will change as well. In fact, the jobs and the general looks themselves seem to be more important than the characters’ actual features, a concept that Tetsuya Nomura wanted to retain.
Needless to say, there is much more to Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin than what fans saw with the less-than-impressive debut trailer. By connecting the dots with Jack and the role his party has to play before the events of Final Fantasy, this new project by Square Enix and Team Ninja just became more significant for the canon. Here’s hoping its 2022 release will be sooner, rather than later.