STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN – the Famitsu interview
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN made quite a splash when it was revealed during the SQUARE ENIX PRESENTS Summer Showcase. The new game is unlike any in the series before it - dark, brutal and challenging, it presents a bold new vision for FINAL FANTASY.
The Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu recently conducted a very interesting interview with the game’s Creative Producer Tetsuya Nomura, Producer Jin Fujiwara, and Director Daisuke Inoue about the new title, and the many exciting questions it’s raised for fans.
A translated version is below - we hope you enjoy it!
Jack and his allies are the absolute opposite of the “Warriors of Light”!? The secrets behind the designs and names of the characters.
Interviewer: Firstly, let me start by asking about the title of the game, STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN. What kind of meaning is there behind the title? The incongruity between the dark world and the title of “Paradise” creates a very strong impression.
Nomura: The game uses FINAL FANTASY I as a motif, so the setting is also based on FINAL FANTASY I.
In FINAL FANTASY I, at the end of the game you find out who the Warriors of Light, the protagonists, really are and where they came from. Jack and his allies are also “strangers”. Who are Jack and his allies? Are they the Warriors of Light? These questions lie at the heart of the story, and this idea of “strangers” is central to the plot.
One meaning of Paradise is “the land of the saved”. The title represents the strangers – Jack and his allies – gathering in this land of Paradise.
Inoue: Strangers of Paradise means exactly what it says that these strangers are in the land of Paradise. At the same time, it could mean “people who shouldn’t be in Paradise” - I think it is a title that represents the story of the game perfectly.
Interviewer: Strangers…people who shouldn’t be in…you must be talking about the protagonist, Jack, and his allies? I suppose they do feel like they’re somewhat out of place in that dark fantasy world. To start from a more basic question, we hear the words Chaos, the Chaos Shrine and the Warriors of Light cropping up in the trailer, so am I right that there’s obviously some connection to the world of the original FINAL FANTASY I?
Nomura: That’s right. It’s a new story that uses FINAL FANTASY I as a motif, rather than being directly connected or an equivalent. The trial version covers the Chaos Shrine, which you’ll visit towards the beginning of the game – which is similar to the progression in FINAL FANTASY I as well.
**Interviewer: Speaking of FINAL FANTASY I, the premise was that Garland - defeated by the Warriors of Light - uses the Chaos Shrine as a base to travel back in time over and over, giving rise to conflict again and again. Is this connected to the fact that Jack and his allies have such a modern look about them? **
Nomura: Yes, people probably imagine characters that look like the emblematic Warrior of Light when they think of FINAL FANTASY I, but as you say, if you’re familiar with the premise of FINAL FANTASY I, you might be able to pick up some clues from the designs of Jack and the others.
The initial outfits for Jack and his allies are nothing more than a hint to show that they’re not of that world. They don’t represent anything about their character. Like other games where you can change your equipment, this is simply their plain state. Perhaps.
Interviewer: I see - since this game has elements of the hack-n-slash genre (games where you defeat monsters in dungeons, gain exp and find equipment to strengthen your character), and you’ll be able to change outfit, it’s nothing more than the starting equipment.
Nomura: Additionally, one of our concepts was to create something that looked completely different to what people might picture when they think of the Warriors of Light fighting Garland in FINAL FANTASY I. Jack and his allies have the mission to defeat Chaos, but we needed them to be characters that people would think of as totally separate to the Warriors of Light.
Interviewer: In other words, you didn’t want to make them look like heroes?
Nomura: That’s right. The reasoning behind Jack’s appearance is purely related to the story. Likewise, there’s meaning behind all of their names. But that would be a spoiler, so I’ll save that for another time.
Interviewer: Their names too!? I thought they seemed rather too conventional for a FINAL FANTASY game with you working on it, Mr. Nomura (laugh).
Nomura: Jack, Ash and Jed have the same meaning hidden in their names.
Additional allies to Jed and Ash
Interviewer: The sharper among us may have realized, but there were four Warriors of Light. Which means, as well as Jed and Ash…
Nomura: There will be more.
Inoue: However, during combat, you’ll fight with a party of three members, so you’ll be swapping people around for battle.
Interviewer: The key art showing Jack is a bloody image, and it’s a dark style that we haven’t seen in previous FINAL FANTASY games.
Nomura: It’s the initial teaser, so we really wanted to make an impact.
Unlike other games in the FINAL FANTASY series, it has quite a high rating (17+ in Japan), so it’s a rather severe kind of atmosphere. We used the representative color of FINAL FANTASY, white, as a base. On top of that, we worked in the red coloring that stands out in the game itself, from red crystals and spraying blood.
The game is the story of an angry man, so we’ve represented those dark, blackened emotions as well.
Interviewer: On the throne (?) of the Chaos Shrine, there’s someone who says he will “become Chaos” but…he’s not Garland!?
Nomura: That would be a spoiler, so you’ll have to play the full game when it comes out and find out for yourself.
The key to making a challenging action game with the soul of FINAL FANTASY - without making it overly punishing
Interviewer: Next, I’d like to ask a little more about the combat. The challenging action battles feel like they fit the dark world, but which do you start with when creating a new FINAL FANTASY game – the story or the gameplay?
Fujiwara: A while ago, Mr. Nomura had given me the concept of a game where you fight your way through different areas, and that came together with this gritty story of an angry man that he’d been working on.
Inoue: Another consideration was that we wanted to undertake a new challenge together with Team NINJA from KOEI TECMO GAMES, who we’d worked together with on the arcade version of Dissidia FINAL FANTASY. Team NINJA specialize in action games, so we decided to make use of their expertise, which led to us settle on the genre of action RPG.
Nomura: Personally, what I was envisioning was a FINAL FANTASY game that wouldn’t specifically use the FINAL FANTASY name, under a completely new title, “Stranger of Paradise”, that would feature action gameplay focused on fighting your way through dungeons. The current game is a result of Mr. Fujiwara and Mr. Inoue refining it further, but I’m glad that traces of that original concept still remain.
Interviewer: In other words, it’s a game that places a lot of emphasis on beating dungeons? With Team NINJA working on it, I imagine you’ll have both the best parts from Nioh and the unique character of FINAL FANTASY. What parts of FINAL FANTASY were you certain that you had to include?
Inoue: Although we’ve included some surprising developments in the story, we really wanted to ensure the pacing of the game was appropriate for an action game as well as having a solid story befitting an RPG. That balance is something we feel very strongly about.
Interviewer: A lot of challenging action games can be relatively lacking in storytelling, but the main scenario is written by Kazushige Nojima, so will we be seeing the kind of depth we’d expect from a RPG, and from a FINAL FANTASY game?
Inoue: Absolutely, I think the story has plenty of depth.
Interviewer: The FINAL FANTASY series mostly consists of RPGs, and so I imagine some fans of the series might struggle with action games. What kind of difficulty level are you aiming for with this game?
Inoue: If we made it an especially punishing game, then only the players who actively seek out that kind of game would play it.
One of our aims in combining FINAL FANTASY with this kind of challenging action genre was to make these kinds of games more accessible. We want to make it a game where players can get a taste of how rewarding challenging action games can be, so our ultimate aim is to develop it as “challenging” rather than “punishing”.
Of course, we’re also hoping it will be a good opportunity for fans of action games to experience FINAL FANTASY as well.
Interviewer: Could you give some specific examples of what you’re keeping in mind to make it challenging but not punishing?
Inoue: The penalty for dying (the penalty when the player can no longer fight) is quite lenient, and, with a lot of experimentation from the development team at Team NINJA, we’ve balanced the actions like evasion, guarding and the soul shield to be relatively easy to perform successfully.
In terms of difficulty settings, we’ve implemented a CASUAL mode as part of EASY mode. For people who aren’t familiar with action games, I would recommend playing with these settings initially, and trying to increase the difficulty as you become more familiar with the game. We’ll continue to adjust the difficulty settings using the feedback from the trial version, so I’d really love to hear everyone’s opinions.
Interviewer: When I played the trial version, I struggled in the last battle against the one who is “to become Chaos,” but when I realized how to defeat him and managed to put that into practice, I really felt a sense of satisfaction and exhilaration.
Fujiwara: That’s one of the best parts of the game, and where Team NINJA’s experience with action games really shines through.
Interviewer: It’s not too easy and can seem difficult at first, but I feel like it’ll become even more enjoyable as you understand how to defeat the enemies and can reliably put it into practice. It’s incredibly well balanced in that regard. I really appreciated how I could take advantage of openings my allies created for me with their attacks as well.
Inoue: Actually, some people in the development team were of the opinion that it would be better to have Jack fighting by himself, but we decided that since it’s a FINAL FANTASY game, having a party would be best. That’s how it ended up with the current style of going on these adventures with your allies.
Interviewer: Will you be able to give commands to your allies, or customize their growth?
Inoue: I think that’s something we’ll investigate on the basis of the feedback we get from the trial version. At the very least, the plan is to be able to customize their growth and equipment.
Each of your allies will have certain jobs that they excel at – if you imagine that Jed might be suited to being a thief, while Ash might be suited to being a monk. We’re envisaging different kind of playstyle, for example, where you could get your teammates to act as a target while you attack with magic.
Interviewer: In the trial version, Jack can equip a great sword, mace, and spear, which each have an associated job. How many other types of weapon will appear in the game?
Inoue: There will be eight weapon types in total. The weapon types that don’t appear in the trial version are the one-handed sword, axe, knuckles, daggers, and katana.
Interviewer: Is the mace the only weapon that can use magic?
Inoue: Not at all, other weapons like the one-handed sword can use magic as well. If you picture the knight and red mage jobs, that might give you an idea.
Interviewer: The ability to switch between two battle sets (a combination of job and equipment) seems like an important characteristic of the game. How did you come up with this system?
Inoue: Part of the fun in hack-n-slash games is getting to frequently upgrade your equipment, so we added the system of switching between battle sets to correspond to this. I hope people can experiment with this new kind of FINAL FANTASY action through their strategies and experiences – for example, surveying the enemy formation and surroundings, considering your own position, and then deciding how to best use the abilities of the two different jobs
Interviewer: How many types of equipment are there in the game?
Inoue: I thought you might ask that so I counted them, but…let’s just say there are a lot (laughs).
Nomura: That’s your answer, even after you counted them? (laughs) The outfit designs come to me to be checked, and there are quite a lot.
Interviewer: Can you change your allies’ equipment?
Inoue: You can - there’s some strong equipment that Jack can’t use, which I think you’ll want to give to your allies. Each character has certain restrictions on what they can equip.
Nomura: In the trial version, you can only change Jack’s equipment. The teaser trailer and the trial version cover the same scope, so in the cutscenes, only Jack is in his default initial costume. Which means that you’ll be able to share equipment with your allies in the full game.
Interviewer: It’s nice to be able to see the characters wearing a piece of equipment that you worked hard to get. Can Jack equip every weapon type?
Inoue: That’s right, Jack can use all the jobs and equipment.
Interviewer: The powerful music in the trial version really creates an impression. Who is in charge of the music?
Fujiwara: The main composer is Naoshi Mizuta, who composed for FINAL FANTASY XI and FINAL FANTASY XIII-2. Hidenori Iwasaki (FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES, among others) and Ryo Yamazaki (WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY, among others) are contributing to the soundtrack as well.
Interviewer: What kind of instructions did you give for the music?
Nomura: For the song in the trailer, I asked them to challenge themselves to create something unlike anything they’d done before. I asked them to create something with a tempo that shifts between intense and poignant.
Inoue: The background music for the game as a whole was created with input from myself on the overall feel.
Interviewer: During the boss fight in the trial version, the refrain from the battle music of FINAL FANTASY I really stood out to me.
Inoue: I asked the team to not just use the refrain, but to adjust the melody to suit the game.
Interviewer: Mr. Fujiwara and Mr. Inoue, you work as Producer and Director on the mobile game, DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY OPERA OMNIA as well. I imagine that you must be considering having Jack and the others make an appearance?
Fujiwara: Mr. Inoue and I are still heavily involved with the operations of OPERA OMNIA, so I hope that one day we’ll be able to have Jack make an appearance.
Nomura: How strange to make a FINAL FANTASY game yourself, and then have that character make an appearance (laughs).
Interviewer: (laughs) Release is planned for 2022, but do you have a message for the fans?
Inoue: It’s a game trying something a little bit different, so I fully expect to receive a wide range of feedback. I’m sure that everyone’s thoughts on the trial version will help us to dramatically improve the quality of the final game, so please do give us your feedback. I’ll do my best all the way through to release!
Fujiwara: We ran into an unexpected issue on the first day that the trial version was released, and I’m really sorry for making you all wait. The story is only touched on very briefly in the trial version, but once it unfolds, it’s a very impactful story that will really hit you emotionally. Please look forward to the game and keep an eye out for further news.
Nomura: For now, we’re only revealing information from the trial version, but the trial version only covers the very beginning of the game. In the full game, there will be even more characters, the game will be a lot broader, and I think the story is quite compelling. It might be a bit confusing to see these characters come out of nowhere, completely unlike anything you were expecting, but I hope you’ll keep an eye on upcoming information.
Speaking of the trial version, since there was a period of time where it was unplayable due to issues on the day it was released, we’ve extended the period that it will be available by another two days. It will now be available until 14:59 (UTC), June 26, 2021. If you have the setup to play it, we would really appreciate it if you could give it a go and let us know any feedback that you might have. All the staff are working our hardest - so we hope you’ll continue to look out for the game.
Interview by Weekly Famitsu.
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is under development and equipment, job roles and functions referenced in this interview may be subject to change.
The STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN Trial is available to download and play now on PS5 (trial period ends June 26, 2021, 7:59 pm PDT / 3:59 pm BST)!
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