Over the years, the Final Fantasy saga has explored not only new worlds but also new types of games. This time it was decided to rely on Tecmo Koei’s Team Ninja for this interesting Action experiment that explores the story of the very first chapter of the saga.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (ストレンジャー オブ パラダイス ファイナルファンタジー オリジン Sutorenjā Obu Paradaisu: Fainaru Fantajī Orijin) is a long-awaited action RPG developed by Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja and published by Square Enix to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the series. As an alternate take on the universe from Square Enix’s first Final Fantasy for the NES, the storyline follows a series of characters taken to a fantasy world to face the malevolent Chaos.
The game was released on March 18, 2022, for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X / S.
Stranger of Paradise is a dark fantasy interpretation of the original Final Fantasy game. Players explore environments and fight monsters typical of the Final Fantasy series by taking on the role of Jack Garland, a man consumed by the need to destroy Chaos. Jack is accompanied by other companions including Ash and Jed. During the journey, they face a knight who has assumed the role of Chaos but each of them has doubts about their role as “warriors of light”.
Combat takes place in real-time, with Jack being able to switch between various classes to use physical and magical attacks. When an enemy’s “break gauge” is depleted, Jack can make a finishing move that crystallizes the enemy, allowing Jack to collect the crystals and restore a portion of his magic meter.
The fights, as obvious to think, are the fulcrum of the game and will make the happiness of lovers of action games, but could leave a bad taste in the mouth of those who expect a narrative rhythm typical of Final Fantasy, with dialogues not quite up to par of its fame. However, the combat system is fun and satisfying allowing you to choose between a total of 30 classes including 2 at the same time, giving you a wide choice of ways to take down opponents. The possibility of having a hybrid party between human and system-managed players, up to a total of four, enriches the multiplayer combat experience even more. The harmony between players of different classes often gives emotions that we would not have expected from this type of game.
The only negative note is the graphics that unfortunately belong to the previous generation. The choice of having to run the title on all available platforms forces restrictions in technical terms: obviously on PS5 thanks to the available power the title runs much better than its counterpart of the previous generation, avoiding annoying slowdowns, but there remains the feeling of not playing something “next-gen”. This is a pity because the game and combat mechanics are absolutely fun and the title deserves to be played by anyone who loves action games.
Stranger of Paradise was co-developed by franchise creator Square Enix and Koei Tecmo’s division Team Ninja. It is co-directed by Square Enix’s Daisuke Inoue and Team Ninja’s Hiroya Usuda and Nobumichi Kumabe. It is co-produced by Jin Fujiwara of Square Enix and Fumihiko Yasuda of Team Ninja.
The story and scenario were written by Stellavista Ltd. freelance screenwriter Kazushige Nojima. Longtime Square Enix employee Tetsuya Nomura created the original concept and serves as the character designer and creative producer in the game.
The character of Princess Sara was designed by Roberto Ferrari, who emulated the original design for her. The main artwork was created by Square Enix’s Image Studio CGI division under the supervision of Nomura.
The music was composed by Naoshi Mizuta, with additional contributions by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki.
Nomura created the initial idea for Origin at the end of the production of Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, envisioning an action game focused on conquering zones. When he later approached a new Final Fantasy concept, he combined this initial concept with Final Fantasy villain Garland, like an angry old protagonist, thus creating the final concept. Due to the change in tone, Nomura initially thought it would be better to release it as a title in its own right, but Inoue and Fujiwara pushed for its inclusion in the franchise.
The goal behind the title was a more mature and “brutal” version of the classic series, which would separate it from the rest of the franchise while maintaining various references. The title has also a double meaning: the group is literally foreign to the world of the game and not welcome in the “paradise” of the game.
The gameplay is designed to emulate Team Ninja’s well-known action fighting style, which had previously worked with Square Enix on Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. The class system, a recurring feature of Final Fantasy, was inspired by the one of Final Fantasy V. The level designs are deliberately inspired by other chapters in the franchise, such as a wet wooded area inspired by Final Fantasy XIII.
Rather than a remake of the first Final Fantasy, Stranger of Paradise creates a new storyline and uses the original as inspiration, focusing on the themes of examining the role of the protagonists and the objectives of the Warriors of Light. In contrast to the clear crystals used in most of the series, the red crystals and blood-colored elements of the artwork emphasized the darker tone. Commenting on the scenario, Nojima highlighted a point: “it is not a hope or a dream. It is like a hunger, a thirst”, like the spring of the story.