Longtime Square Enix fans were stunned when Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was announced on June 13, 2021. Fans saw the move as bold because of its departure from the JRPG epics the series is known for.
Instead, fans saw a Final Fantasy reskin on top of a Nioh-inspired game. Although the trailer featured a list of cringe character moments, it also intrigued viewers with impressive combat features. If its experimentation pans out, this may become the most cult-followed FF to date. If you’re still on the fence about Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, now’s the time to learn the facts!
Stranger of Paradise’s oddball announcement
Many Final Fantasy fans compared Stranger of Paradise to Nioh by Team Ninja following the announcement teaser trailer. The trailer showcased similar combat mechanics to Team Ninja’s past title. But it stood out when mixed with FF DNA.
You could see party members flanked at the sides and helping out with fights. Some of the showcased abilities include side-swinging a powerful sword. In addition, it shows off staple Black Mage spells that freeze enemies in their tracks. Overall, the trailer bleeds Final Fantasy DNA. However, nobody could wrap their heads around the game’s concept.
Back then, people were memeing the main character, Jack Garland. His insatiable desire to kill Chaos drove the trailer forward but made him look one-dimensional. Unfortunately, his lines lacked the execution to make it believable. The whole story also supposedly pre-dates the first Final Fantasy. However, that fact quickly lost relevance from the other jarring character voice performances. Also, the “subpar” visual quality made matters worse.
Although fans were skeptical at first, things changed when the trial version launched on June 24, 2021. That’s because it had great gameplay! Finally, Stranger of Paradise‘s odd place within the Final Fantasy IP wasn’t so out-of-place. When people realized where its value went, its following grew. While fans remain bewildered on the story, they are excited about the fun gameplay.
Stranger of Paradise offers a new take on Final Fantasy
Stranger of Paradise is a dark fantasy interpretation of the original 1987 title that kicked off the series. Players take on the role of Jack Garland – a man obsessed with destroying Chaos. As the story unfolds, players will also run into many groups of people drawn in from another world.
In this action role-playing game, players will explore unique environments and fight monsters iconic to the Final Fantasy series. Combat unfolds in real-time with Jack capable of switching between assigned jobs like Monk or Red Mage to fit the battle situation. Also, depleting an enemy’s break gauge unlocks finishing moves. These moves crystallize enemies and allow Jack to collect them to restore battle resources. While players duke it out on the battlefield, party members will help out in the fight.
On the surface, Stranger of Paradise may seem bare-bones with repetitive combat. However, it opens room for team-based combat similar to Final Fantasy VII Remake. In addition, it cultivates a high skill level akin to the reaction-based fighting in the Nioh series. Furthermore, dealing with mobs of enemies isn’t your usual hack ‘n’ slash affair. Instead, gameplay focuses on strategic encounters where job switching matters in those moment-to-moment battles.
Also, just like Nioh, boss battles are gritty, fast, and uncompromising to anyone who isn’t up to the task. While a far departure from the beautiful and hopeful Final Fantasy mainline games, Stranger of Paradise surprisingly maintains a sliver of the FF series’ ability to bring a fresh perspective to old systems like job-changing.
From concept to reality
Tetsuya Nomura conceptualized Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin‘s original idea. The initial concept originated after production finished on Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy in 2011. At the time, however, it was going to be an action game about conquering territory.
Soon after, he would combine that concept with another idea that followed the original Final Fantasy‘s villain, Garland. He would be an older protagonist different from the young mainline characters. Nomura was under the impression that it would remain an original title, but Daisuke Inoue and Jin Fujiwara from Square Enix pushed for it to be within the Final Fantasy universe.
Soon, it would become a mature Final Fantasy series with a brutalized combat system that departs from mainline games while thinly connecting the dots. With Team Ninja’s staple design to emulate challenging active combat games and their recent history with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, both sides combined forces to develop the game.
Fan acceptance of Stranger of Paradise
The project was interesting enough but could it appeal to the Final Fantasy fandom? The producer on Stranger of Paradise, Jin Fujiwara, was skeptical about the interest the game would pull from fans. The primary concern was that its violent nature contradicts the series and launches amid a pandemic:
“It is quite a challenge, taking this sort of dark tone for the overall story for sure…Though the initial glance definitely emphasizes the violence and the dark tone of the conflict, we do want to make sure that [players know] not all hope is lost.”
The best way to work past its image was to appeal to fans by implementing the job system, locales, and familiar RPG mechanics from different mainline titles. In one instance, Fujiwara stated that, “the dungeons pay homage to some of the mainline Final Fantasy titles,” with “some of them [being] very recognizable” to longtime fans. Despite the inspirations from the numbered FFs, it’s worth noting that Fujiwara says Stranger of Paradise is a separate saga that, “allows for [them] to capture new fans and to expand on the lore.”
Overall, it seems like the team working on the project truly wants people to take a chance on it. While it’s safe to say that there’s no grand storytelling in place, the game offers a developed concept meant to start a line of action-oriented games connected to Final Fantasy. As a long-running series, I’d love to see more experimentation like Stranger of Paradise. As a result, I fully support Square Enix passing the torch to trusted studios to take a crack at it!
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin releases March 18 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC. You can pre-order the game from its official website. Players who pre-order will receive early access, as well as bonus items to use in-game.
Are you excited for Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin? Let us know!