It’s been 35 years since we last saw the original Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which brought the tale of the various Warriors of Light going up against Chaos to life. In the present day, that tale is getting even more fleshed out thanks to Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, and the challenge for the developers remain the same.
Working together with Square Enix and Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja has its work cut out for it. To talk more about the upcoming launch and their efforts behind the scenes, we were joined by Game Director Daisuke Inoue and Producer Jin Fujiwara from Square Enix and Koei Tecmo’s Fumihiko Yasuda once more.
Obviously, paying homage to the beginnings of a masterful role-playing franchise is a tall order, and the developers had to make choices on what to keep and omit. We already know that Chaos remains, as do the crystals, but there will also be some familiar enemies that will stand in the way of Jack and the gang.
Of course, with the job system being a big part of the game, the developers also looked at Final Fantast IV for inspiration. With “Final Fantasy IV being the quintessential job system being implemented in the series,” it gave them a great vision to work towards. Another notable mention was the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series, which makes the picture that is Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin much clearer.
The biggest change is the increased focus on action, which is a stark departure from the roots of the base product. And for the team, that meant being more creative in how they work ideas into the Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
“We worked on adding elements from the Final Fantasy world and series in general, different design elements, locations and landmarks, the different style that you see in other games.
Looking back, the first game had elements of the real world and wasn’t, we believe, fully fantasy in that regard,” Inoue explained.
“So this game also has those different elements included in it as well. So that’s very, very reflective of the base work. You can see this in the game design and the enemy design, both realistic and fantasy elements are coming into play there. So it was the team was really working on getting a nice balance between both of those, as opposed to going fully mature and realistic.”
This change in style was not exactly universally welcomed by the fan base of the series, with the switch to a more challenging game like the Souls series risking the alienation of its diehard audience. However, with the ongoing stress tests and latest demo, it is clear that the team has thought about inclusivity even while going in a different direction.
In regards to the more involved and complex combat system, the trio noted that “a lot of Final Fantasy fans are not going to be as used to action or this kind of speedy combat,” and changes have been made to ensure they have the best fighting chance.
Three difficulty levels will cater to players of different skill level, and aside from the AI companions that players can count on, the multiplayer mode will allow other human players to lend a hand and lessen the challenge.
If you choose a lower difficulty setting, as Fujiwara shared, “there will be attack and defensive adjustments to make the game relatively easier and letting the player enjoy the story more easily.”
“In regards to dying, when you die, you could lose magic points, this will be made a little bit less severe. There’ll be less of a penalty specifically for dying, while there isn’t really a change in the kind of action and features that players will be able to experience.”
Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was designed to keep players occupied for a while, and aside from the challenge, the overall gameplay systems also work towards pushing players to progress at their own pace with rewards to soften the supposed tediousness of the grind.
“You will be able to progress to new areas, of course, and progressively find better and better gear, so you don’t necessarily you don’t need to stay in one area. You can also try a higher difficulty level if you so choose to be able to try to get better items that way as well,” Inoue elaborated.
Side missions and quests can help in this aspect, as will the blacksmith and enhancement system to keep players’ gear competitive against the increasing challenge of the game. Rather than a grind-fest, it is all about giving players “a lot more freedom as opposed to continuously grinding to get new and better things.”
When Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin gets into the hands of players on 15 March, there will likely be a furore over how this is a pale imitation of the legendary franchise. However, look deeper, and you will discover a game that is made by masters of their craft, a spinoff that looks to flesh out the story of a beloved title, and made for all skill levels and interests.
With a demo out that can allow players to get a taste of what is on offer, this game should not be judged on face value alone. Maybe once you have tried it, you can make a better-informed decision on a new perspective of the Final Fantasy series.