“Please forgive us for killing the cactuar!” - FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN interviewThe creators of STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN tell us about their vision for the game, why the hero is the villain, and murdering a beloved FINAL FANTASY icon.
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is not a game that’s afraid to take risks.
If you tried the second trial version (which ended earlier this week), you already know this - its intensely brutal combat and beautifully hostile world make it quite unlike any FINAL FANTASY game before.
We recently had an extended chat with three of the key creators behind the game about the exciting new action RPG: Jin Fujiwara (Producer), Daisuke Inoue (Director) and TEAM NINJA’s Fumihiko Yasuda (Producer).
Our conversation touched on many topics: the multiplayer, the challenges of balancing the game, the mystique of Garland, brutal cactuar murder and more.
But it started, appropriately, at the very beginning:
Hello everyone - many thanks for speaking to us today. So how did this project get started?
Fujiwara-san: The original idea came from Tetsuya Nomura.
Actually, it was two ideas. The first was that he wanted to create an action game that was all about taking on different locations - working and fighting your way through different dungeons.
The second thing he was thinking about was creating a story focusing on Garland, who was quite an unexplored character in FINAL FANTASY I.
These two ideas were combined to create a single game - and the concept for STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN.
So why Garland? What made him such a compelling figure to focus on?
Fujiwara-san: Well, I can’t speak for Nomura-san, but from my perspective, I think it’s the fact that Garland is the last boss of FINAL FANTASY I, yet there isn’t a lot of information about him in that game. We know he was once a good knight, and that he somehow becomes evil, but not much else.
As a result, it becomes interesting to look at him and his motives - and find out what turned him the villain we all know.
How did TEAM NINJA get involved in the project?
Fujiwara-san: Around that time we came up with the concept for STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN, we were working on DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY NT with Team Ninja.
We thought that if we’re looking to create an authentic, high-quality action game, who better to ask than them?
Let’s talk about the Trial that just ended. The new Refrin Wetlands area seems to have more than a passing resemblance to Sunleth Waterscape from FINAL FANTASY XIII…
Inoue-san: Right. When we were thinking about different areas for the game, we looked at the entire FINAL FANTASY series for inspiration. There are a lot of locations across the games, so there were a lot of places for us to look at.
Of course, we can’t lift any area from another title and just drop it into FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN. For each one, we had to think about whether the designs and motifs were suitable for the world we were building, and then how to translate it for the new game.
So we can expect to visit areas inspired by other FINAL FANTASY games?
Inoue-san: …all I’ll say is it’s unlikely that we’re only taking our motifs from FINAL FANTASY XIII (laughs).
Well, the Chaos Shrine area is from the original FINAL FANTASY, of course. How do you convert an area previous represented with pixel art into modern 3D graphics?
Inoue-san: I have experience working on the DISSIDA series - and that’s another example of when we take something that was previously only portrayed in pixel art and convert it into modern visuals.
That could mean adding some things or thinking about how a character would move realistically… there’s a lot to consider.
So I had that past experience that I could bring with me onto the FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN project, which did help when reinterpreting the Chaos Shrine.
It’s difficult to explain exactly ‘how’ we did it - there’s no simple method, or a formula for translating these 2D environments. A lot of it comes down to instinct.
One thing that’s clear from the Trials is that STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN feels like an authentic FINAL FANTASY game, despite having a very different style and tone. How did you achieve that?
Inoue-san: Firstly, we get that FINAL FANTASY atmosphere across in the game’s world and lore. Also the vocabulary itself - there are words that crop up in FINAL FANTASY again and again that help make everything feel connected.
Then there are the representative systems too - FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN includes the job system, which hearkens back to the older FINAL FANTASY games. The various jobs you can take on, as well as the actions and abilities associated with them, are quite emblematic of the series.
But perhaps the biggest reason it fits in is that it’s doing something different.
The question of ‘what makes a FINAL FANTASY’ has been discussed many, many times over the years. Whenever anyone makes a new game, they must consider: “how can we make this feel like part of the series?’
One thing that characterizes a FINAL FANTASY is that it always takes on new ideas. That’s what some of the legendary developers who have worked on the series have said to me - doing new things is what really makes something a FINAL FANTASY.
That advice has really helped me take on the challenge of this game.
Speaking of challenges, what are the biggest you’ve faced working on the game?
Inoue-san: For me, it comes back to Garland. Having the protagonist be a villain is quite a big challenge in terms of a FINAL FANTASY game.
We had to really think about his different characteristics and the emotions would really encapsulate that character. We went through a lot of trial and error in trying to pin that down.
Fujiwara-san: For me, it would be the fact that FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN uses the world of the original FINAL FANTASY as a motif - that game being the starting point for a series with a 35 year history!
There are a lot of people who’ve worked on the FINAL FANTASY series, and many people who have left their influence on it. There’s a lot of pressure to be involved with something connected to the FINAL FANTASY that started it all - it’s much more challenging than creating a new IP!
One particularly cool feature of the game - and people can experience this in the new Trial - is that you can play 3-player online co-op. Why was multiplayer so important for the game?
Inoue-san: When you think about the FINAL FANTASY series, many of the games are pure RPGs. As a result, there may be fans who aren’t particularly used to action games as a genre.
When we considered that fact, we decided it would be good to implement co-op multiplayer. That way, that people who aren’t familiar or comfortable with this type of game can play it together with friends or get support from other players.
Is that also why you added the STORY difficult level?
Inoue-san: Yes - our priority is that we want a lot of different players to be able to play and enjoy the game.
That’s why we added lots of different difficulty levels - to suit different types of games and let them play the game the way they want to.
Outside of the STORY difficulty, STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is designed to be challenging. How do you find the right balance, where the game will push back without being frustrating?
Yasuda-san: Balancing an action game, and considering all the different difficulties, is pretty challenging, as you can imagine!
It’s particularly tricky with a game like this, because there are a lot of different aspects like the multiplayer mode, or the RPG elements - all of which can have an impact on the difficulty too.
At TEAM NINJA, what we always consider most important is that it doesn’t feel unfair. If the gameplay feels unreasonable or illogical, people just won’t want to play it again, right?
We spend a lot of time testing levels and making adjustments to try to find the perfect balance. But to be honest, from our perspective as developers, we get used to it, so we get numb to the difficulty to a certain extent.
That’s why the TRIAL versions are so important - we're look forward to reading everyone’s feedback on whether it’s too hard, or too easy. We'll use that to make even more adjustments and further improvements to the game.
Are there times you’ve thought: ‘oh, maybe this is too hard, or too easy?’
Yasuda-san: Oh yes - the boss of the Chaos Shrine is a perfect example.
Right up until just before we released the Trial, Chaos was really powerful - like, ridiculously strong. We thought: if we leave it like this, nobody is going to complete the Trial at all!
As a result, we made that fight slightly easier. But what we found was that when we released the trial version, even more people completed it than we expected! It reminded me yet again that the power of players to go through trial and error and to learn is impressive (laughs).
Finally, we have to ask this… in the new trailer we see Jack violently killing a cactuar. HOW COULD YOU DO SOMETHING TO MEAN TO THAT ADORABLE CACTUAR?
Inoue-san: (Laughs) The original plan was for it to meet a much worse end! We’ve actually made it a lot kinder!
But please forgive us for killing the cactuar (laughs).
You know what? We’re not sure the apology there was genuine.
Even so, many thanks to Fujiwara-san, Inoue-san and Yasuda-san for taking the time to speak to the Square Enix Blog.
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN will launch for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and Epic Games Store on March 18, 2022.
The game’s available to preorder now. Anyone who orders the Digital Standard and Digital Deluxe Editions of STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN will receive 72-hour early access to the full game (24-hour early access for PC version), as well as the Braveheart weapon and Lustrous Shield, and early-purchase bonus: the Rebellion weapon!
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