Sunken Shrines, Caverns of Earth and… Frank Sinatra? A chat with the creators of FINAL FANTASY ORIGINWe chat with the Director of the new action RPG about newly revealed locations, crafting systems and more!
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is more than a bold new take on FINAL FANTASY - it’s also a loving tribute to the series.
That’s apparent in its connections to the original FINAL FANTASY and its world of Cornelia, but also in how it features ideas and motifs from other games in the series. For example, we recently unveiled two new locations from the game - the Sunken Shrine and the Cavern of Earth. Both may look a little familiar to long-term fans of the series.
We recently say down with Director Daisuke Inoue and Producers Jin Fujiwara and Fumihiko Yasuda (Team Ninja) to discuss this element of the game, the collaboration with Team Ninja and some of the other new reveals.
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is a collaboration with Team Ninja - what made them the right choice to develop the game?
Inoue-san: When we decided STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN was going to be an action game, it seemed like the logical choice to get in touch with Team Ninja.
The team there has a lot of experience with action, and makes such reliably high quality games, that it felt like a perfect fit.
Let’s talk about the new locations you’ve recently shown. What was appealing about putting the Sunken Shrine to the game?
Inoue-san: In FINAL FANTASY I, the Sunken Shrine was the dungeon where you came face to face with Kraken, the Fiend of Water.
Since Kraken also appears in STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN, we thought that the Sunken Shrine would be one of the places that Jack and his allies absolutely had to visit on their quest to complete Chaos.
It seems like you’ve taken inspiration from… certain other parts of the FINAL FANTASY series. How did you decide which environments to use as motifs?
Inoue-san: You’re right that there are some dungeons from other games in the FINAL FANTASY series that have been used as motifs. We paid a lot of attention to many different aspects when we incorporated them into the game.
For example, would we be able to fit them into the world of STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN? Would the content be similar to other dungeons? Would all of the dungeons have a similar design? Which dungeons would fans of the original games recognise if they were included?
Take the Sunken Shrine, for example. This location is underwater, and the motif used was a dungeon from the original FINAL FANTASY VII that’s in the sea.
When we were looking at all the elements we needed to design it, we thought about turning to document from back in the day, or even looking at how FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE had interpreted the original game in its level design.
However, given that FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is a dedicated remake, as opposed to one environment, it’s only natural that it’s been made with an incredible amount of detail. The dev team apologised and said that it wouldn’t be possible to make it in the same style (laughs).
So how did you approach the challenge?
Inoue-san: Instead of focusing on depicting areas with the same degree of faithfulness that FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE did, we decided to make sure that the level design in STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN was fun in its own right and created our own interpretation of the dungeon as best we could.
I believe we’ve made an interesting dungeon, with lots of differences in height, and where the level design makes you think: “…is this that place?”
What was the inspiration behind including the Cavern of Earth in the game?
Inoue-san: In the original FINAL FANTASY, the Fiend of Earth lies in wait in the very depths of the Cavern of Earth. To match that feeling in our game, I thought that the dungeon should use a motif that featured the undead and have an atmosphere that feels really “earthy”.
This idea of a location crawling with the undead led to the concept of it being a place where the dead sleep, so we decided to take inspiration from tomb area in FINAL FANTASY XII.
What elements did you take from it?
Inoue-san: The original area in FINAL FANTASY XII features quite an impressive boss - even by the FINAL FANTASY standards! - who stands in the way of the player, and we wanted to channel this concept into our dungeon. However, it would incur a lot in the way of costs if we were to make it a boss, so we ended up implementing the idea into the dungeon as a mechanic.
In general, what are you looking for when creating a dungeon for STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN?
Inoue-san: Firstly, we spread out the world map from FINAL FANTASY I and thought about things like: “This forest is close to where elves live, so it should probably have a magical atmosphere to it.”
Or, when we looked at the Floating Fortress from the original game, we imagined that it probably wouldn’t be able to fly so high in the sky with your run-of-the-mill science and technology.
In this way, we thoroughly explored the atmosphere and lore of the dungeons in the original games.
Let’s talk about the crafting system next. Why is this in the game?
Inoue-san: One major factor was that there are limits to what you can achieve when the gameplay relies purely on finding loot.
If you collect a large amount of equipment, it’s inevitable that some of it will end up not being used. When thinking of a secondary purpose for that unused equipment, we thought it’d be good to a have a mechanic that lets you use them as materials.
Also, even if you look for good equipment by gathering loot that drops, you won’t always find a piece that has the effect you were looking for. By using the crafting system, the player will be able to control the effects of their equipment to a certain degree. This also allows more freedom in terms of creating a build which is tailor-made to you.
What inspirations did you look at for the crafting system? Are there any you particularly like?
Inoue-san: I personally like the the crafting system in FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES RINGS OF FATE and FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES ECHOES OF TIME, so I suggested a similar mechanism!
However, I think that the development team wanted to make use of the knowledge they gained from series that they had worked on in the past.
I do remember debating with the devs about whether we should make it so that you could craft anywhere, or if we should limit it to certain places. In the final game, you can craft at the Smithy, which I think is a good system.
Okay, let’s talk story. With Frank Sinatra's My Way and the intense song that Jack listens to after beating Chaos, it seems like he has an eclectic taste in music… but it also seems to come from our world. How is that possible?
Fujiwara-san: Jack’s line in the trailer, “Where do I come from?!”, shows that he is a ‘stranger’. He isn’t from Cornelia.
Perhaps the place that he and the others originally came from incorporated cultures from lots of different worlds, including the one that we ourselves live in. This mystery will be uncovered during the course of the story, along with the memories of the strangers.
In other words: spoilers. Alright then - unlike many games of this type, you’re not going it alone in STRANGER OF PARADISE - you have a party alongside you. Why was this important?
Inoue-san: We wanted a lot of people to be able to play the game, and we thought that a party would be the best way to do that.
When we were looking at that balance, two people didn’t feel like enough and four people felt like too many. After looking at all the different options, a three-player party felt like the sweet spot for us.
The second consideration is that the player character can switch between different jobs, but the other party members can only have one job. Again, this felt like the right kind of balancing.
In total, there are five party members including Jack. But Lukhan’s Prophecy - as alluded to in the original FINAL FANTASY - says there are four Warriors of Light. So… what gives?
Fujiwara-san: You are quite right in noting that it is different to Lukhan’s prophecy.
That is related to how the story will change - if there were just four Warriors of Light like in Lukhan’s prophecy, that would just be a remake of FINAL FANTASY I.
It’s these kinds of things that show that the story is moving in a different direction. People will say: “Five? There are supposed to be four!” That’s exactly the kind of thing we want them to notice, and it will come into play in the story.
Finally, you collected a lot of feedback from players during the TRIAL VERSIONS of the game. How has this been incorporated into the final release?
Yasuda-san: We have made adjustments to the final version of the game based on the feedback we received.
In particular, there were lots of comments about improving the AI for the party characters, framerate stability, and how difficult it was to match in multiplayer, so we prioritised these areas.
We also received lots of other feedback regarding playability and adjusting the difficulty levels, which really helped us improve the game.
Many thanks to Inoue-san, Fujiwara-san and Yasuda-san for taking the time to answer our questions (and so deftly dodging our attempts to get spoilers out of them).
You won’t have long to wait to experience the game first-hand: STRANGER OF PARADISE launches on March 18, 2022, for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via the Epic Games Store.
Anyone who pre-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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