We talk to prop-making and cosplay master LittleJem about bringing the weapons of STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN to life.
By Duncan Heaney

In STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN, protagonist Jack wields some incredible weapons.

Take his default Greatsword for example. This massive blade is as beautiful as it is imposing - the kind of elaborate weapon that could only exist in a FINAL FANTASY game.

…or is it?

Thanks to the talents of propmaker LittleJem, Jack’s sword has been brought to life in stunning detail. This full-size sword captures all the details that make the game’s weapon so eye-catching, but in a tangible, physical object. Take a look:

You may already be familiar with LittleJem - she’s built an incredible reputation thanks to her meticulous quality of her cosplay and hand-crafted props, inspired by games, TV shows, anime and more. Check out her Instagram and other social media accounts to see her amazing work:

LittleJem holding Jack's Greatsword from STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN

Photo credit: LittleJem

Her new FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN-inspired Greatsword may be among her most impressive accomplishments yet - and she actually made two of them! But how did they come to be? We talked to LittleJem to discuss the making of the blades, the art of cosplay, and the wild ride her career has taken her on so far.


How did your career as a cosplayer and prop-maker get started?

It was probably around eight years ago now.

I watched a lot of anime and played a lot of games, and as I was going into a store to buy some merch from, I saw there was a poster for a convention with their voice actors on. But on the posters, they were dressed as their characters.

I thought: “What the heck? I want to do that!”

I went online and I tried to find costumes for the characters I really loved, but I couldn’t find them - so I realised I would have to make one.

When I went to my first convention wearing my own costume, everyone just loved it. It was such a nice feeling - there were so many other people who’d made or bought their own costumes, and everyone looked great. I felt like: “Okay, I need to keep coming back to these things,” and it snowballed very quickly from there.

You’re very accomplished at cosplay and prop-making, but where do these skills come from?

Trial and error - a lot of error at the start!

I don’t mind that - if you’re doing a hobby, you should welcome error. Every time I got it wrong, I’d just tell myself: “That’s fine, just try again,” or move onto the next thing.

I did that for so long, but now I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m starting to discover things that haven’t been taught by somebody else. I have been doing my own tutorials, which hopefully can help others.

I’m also perfecting other stuff that I’ve already learned through classes - for example, I did a leathercraft workshop with official teachers. That was very cool, but I don’t think I’d have been able to do it at the start - it would be quite intimidating.

So, it really is a bit of everything - for about five or six years, it’s been trial and error, YouTube and Google.


Photo credit: LittleJem

What are your favorite series to work on?

I tend to do game characters more than anything else. This year, it’s been FINAL FANTASY XIV - with everything going on in the world, and being in my house a lot more, I have loved playing that. I’ve been very inspired by the beautiful designs in it.

FINAL FANTASY in general has been a series I’ve loved while growing up - especially FINAL FANTASY X as that was the first one I really fell in love with. But then, I also keep coming back to the games I’ve been playing for years, like League of Legends and The Legend of Zelda.

Do you consider the props part of your cosplay or as a separate project?

That’s a good question. Props are what I look forward to the most. I should probably go to sewing school or something like that, because I haven’t had as much motivation to learn to sew at a very professional level (laughs).

I tend to look at props as a reward - like the desert of a meal. Once I’ve done all the sewing, I can do all the foam-smithing, and make the props. So, yes, they are separate in a way.

LittleJem holding Jack's Greatsword

Photo credit: LittleJem

Let’s talk about the amazing STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN Greatswords you’ve created. How did you get involved in the project?

I've worked with Square Enix on a few other projects before, such as NieR Replicant, which was awesome.

Someone from the company emailed me to ask if I was up to the challenge of making props for FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN.

What reference material did you use for the sword?

I was fortunate enough to have what I call a bird's eye view - or plan view - of the sword, which was given to me by the art team at Square Enix.

That was very useful, but I also took a lot of textures from the official trailers that have come out. I paused them, screen captured, zoomed in… and so on, just to grab a little bit direction.


What materials did you use for the sword?

Because this sword is nearly two meters long, I really had to think about the weight, and how practical it might be if it was going to be picked up by someone.

So, I went with a very strong wooden dowel in the center, with the rest made entirely from a very light version of EVA foam. I use as what’s known as craft foam, which is the lightest, but the hardest to use because it’s what I like to call ‘fluffy’ - it has a lot of holes in it.

Can you take us through the process of actually making the props?

What I normally do for projects like this is make the canvas the exact size I would like and scale the image in Photoshop - in this case based on the plans that Square Enix gave me. That keeps width and height accurate. I then trace over the design to create what I call a blueprint and I print that at full scale.

For Jack’s Greatsword, I got my dowel sword and made sure it was centered on top of the piece of paper and marked where that would be.

Next, I transferred that over to the foam. To work out the sword’s thickness, I looked at side views in the trailer, and stacked and then glued the foam sheets together to match it. Then, I literally just carved it - just as you would do with a sculpt.

The next task is to sand it down, which I actually had a lot of difficulty with. I have a standard UK garage, and the sword is very big and hard to move around. We also had constant rain while I was making this, so I couldn’t take it outside to sand it.

In the end, I broke the sword apart so I could move it, and then glued it back together again when I was done.


What came next? The detailing on the blade?

Actually, once I'd done the main blade, I swung around make sure it wasn't going to break! Cosplayers like to do sort of different tests - they’ll either just throw it on the floor to see if it breaks or swing it round like a crazy person and make all the neighbors wonder what the heck they’re doing (laughs).

After that I did the details, which is a similar process to what I’ve described but a lot smaller and more manageable. But also very, very time consuming!

I used the same foam and the same glue but had to make sure I used my original drawn pattern to keep the sword symmetrical - or as symmetrical as a hand-made prop can be.

I glued the detailing on, and then sealed it using rubber sealant. Then it was just a case of painting it.

How long did it take to make end to end?

I tend not to keep track because it’s a bit daunting!

I made two swords in the end, which took around seven days, working nine to five. It takes a long time to make sure that the details are in the right place, and you haven’t been messy with the glue.

How big and heavy is the final prop?

This sword is 190cm long so it's a new it's a new record in terms of size for me! It’s very light though - I think it’s around 1.2kg, or something like that.


Photo credit: LittleJem

What was the most challenging thing about making the swords?

The size, for sure.

Because I wanted to keep the weight as low as possible, I used craft foam - it’s got more holes in than other foams so it’s lighter. But that also means that it’s harder to sand and soaks up more rubber sealant and paint. That’s much more difficult to deal with - especially when you have a space issue like in my garage.

When it came to painting, you obviously can’t do that in an enclosed space. It needs to be in a well-ventilated area, which for me is outside. If I got a break in the weather, I’d run outside quickly, and spray it while I could.

I would keep my eye on the weather app constantly, though it did lie to me a few times so sometimes I would sit by it and literally watch paint dry.

What part of the project are you most proud of?

Probably the symmetry. Whenever I see a prop with good symmetry, I really appreciate it because it’s one of the most difficult things to get right.

Also, I realised that the handle looked like a wrap I’d never done before! It took a while to research what it could be and realized that it’s inspired by what’s called a ‘bullwhip’ wrap.

So, I had to spend a long time on YouTube working out how to do it. I actually had a friend doing it next to me because he was so sure he could do it before I could, but I did it so much faster than him. To this day, he’s still not done it (laughs).

But learning new techniques, is something that always happens when you're making props. It doesn’t matter if it's just ‘another’ massive sword - you will learn something else that you didn't know. That’s why it’s always really fun and exciting for me.


Is there anything you’d still particularly like to cosplay or make?

I’ve always wanted to cosplay a female version of Tidus, from FINAL FANTASY X.

I love the Brotherhood sword he uses - the one with the water effect on it. It’s honestly stunning. I’d love to do that with resin - it would probably weigh too much, but I feel like it needs to be made.

Also, any time a game with a female lead is announced, I’ll look at the designs before it’s out to work out if I can make them, and then when I play it decide on the characters I really love. For example, when FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE came out I did a Tifa costume, because I absolutely love her.

Finally, do you have any advice for anyone who wants to do what you do?

If you’re going to do really big props - which I encourage - work out where you’re going to store them first.

I actually have most of my big props on my wall, not because I’m showing off (well, maybe it’s a little of that), but because that’s the best place to store them. If they’re lying around, they kind of get in the way, especially if they’re two meters long!

My strong advice for cosplay, especially if you’re new, is that you’ll be learning so much, so quickly and that can be stressful. So, if you really want to see a character or prop come to life, just make sure it’s one you really, really love.

Many thanks to LittleJem for speaking to us - and her incredible STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN props!

You can see much more of her work on her Instagram, YouTube channel and more. Go check it out:

STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is out now for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via the Epic Games Store:

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