They did it their way
Stranger of Paradise was a very different lens into the world of Final Fantasy than we’re accustomed to. Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo partnered with Square Enix to reimagine the story of the first Final Fantasy, creating a lovably irreverent protagonist with Jack Garland in the process.
It was, by all accounts, a solid vision of an action-driven, alternative take on Final Fantasy‘s origins. The team continued to build on it over time, with more downloadable content and jobs, adding some classic pieces of Final Fantasy mythos in the process.
With the recent release of the Steam version, we got a chance to catch up with director Daisuke Inoue and ask some burning lingering questions about Stranger of Paradise, now a little over a year since its launch. We’ve previously talked with him about updates and feedback, so with this interview, I went a little more broad picture. We talk about adapting Final Fantasy into the action realm, the fashion, and of course, the use of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” How could we not?
What was your design goal with Jack? Did you want players to connect with him right away, or later as more is revealed about both him and the story at large?
I didn’t necessarily want people to connect with Jack right away. Rather, for this production, instead of emotionally connecting with the character, I wanted people to ultimately understand why Jack was saying the things he was saying and why Garland ended up the way he did, while tracing things back to the world of the original FINAL FANTASY.
Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” plays early on in Stranger of Paradise, and appeared in the promotional material. What was the reason you chose this song, especially when it’s pretty tonally different from the music we hear Jack listening to in-game?
It might be a bit of a stretch to say that we “chose” the song “My Way,” as this song is where the title began.
It all started when Nomura-san showed me a video with the Japanese translation of “My Way’s” lyrics. The song is about a man who has achieved what he believes in, despite his sorrows and regrets, and although I’m sure the Japanese translation contains many liberal interpretations of the original English words, [it] conveyed this concept in a very cool and compelling way.
Garland standing in the Chaos Shrine expecting to “end this,” looking back on his life in a way that connects back to the lyrics of the song… When Nomura-san showed me the video, he suggested that this is the sort of image that he wanted to create.
I think it’s fair to say that the concept of Jack Garland was inspired from there, and it set the direction for the game’s scenario.
Since the implied translation of the lyrics for “My Way” marked the inception of this game, no song other than “My Way” was ever considered. That is my answer.
What process went into translating popular Final Fantasy jobs into action-RPG move sets, and did you have any difficulties with some of the less combat-focused options like White Mage? Do you have a favorite job in the game?
As a team, we did run into some issues when trying to incorporate a few non-combat jobs into an action RPG, but without exaggeration, by simply considering, “What would Jack do?” we were able to solve these problems.
For example, even if you are a white mage, a job type with restorative abilities, if you are Jack, you could fight by incorporating offensive white magic while casting support magic on yourself in order to attack… Something like that.
I think the bigger issue we ran into was differentiating the jobs and making each one feel unique. We felt a strong synergy with Team NINJA, who have a lot of experience in creating action heavy titles, so their expertise led to the creation of diverse and fun jobs.
My personal favorite job is the swordsman, as its spirit of simplicity and fortitude fits the image of Garland in the original FINAL FANTASY. When I had a hard time deciding on which job to play, I defaulted to the swordsman because of this.
Despite the world being very fantasy driven and jobs focusing on Final Fantasy combat, the fashion of Stranger of Paradise is varied and even modern at times. What was your intent with the costume designs and equipment, and was there an intentional contrast or aesthetic you wanted to create with the party’s outfits?
Originally, the world of FINAL FANTASY was made to appear high fantasy, but is actually a low fantasy, or more of a sci-fi, world, with a mix of high-tech machines, robots, buildings, and the ancient futuristic people (Lufenians) who created them. At least, that is my interpretation. This interpretation may differ from one person to another, but as STRANGER OF PARADISE further brings out this worldview, it’s not surprising that modern interpretations of costumes and designs may be present. Rather, the design work for this project is based on the understanding that the world is a diverse blend of these elements.
As for the party characters’ outfits, our intention was to reflect them being brought from a modern world somewhere, so their default clothes reflect this relative simplicity or basicness. We also wanted that to inspire players to change up their jobs and equipment quickly and often while playing, so as to fully portray the diverse job system in this title.
When considering the direction for DLC, what was your goal with post-launch additions? Is there anything in the Final Fantasy universe you would like to still tackle?
When we were considering the direction of the expansions, we started with the idea of depicting the later lives of the characters. We were torn between having this take place either following the events of the original FINAL FANTASY or directly after the events of STRANGER OF PARADISE. However, I remember thinking that we should first properly depict their endings for the sake of the players who love this title and its characters, and that we should prepare an element of play appropriate to these.
The world of FINAL FANTASY has expanded greatly, so there are certainly things we can do and things we would like to do. At any rate, I hope that we can continue to challenge ourselves to do things that cannot be done with the numbered titles.
Are there any other franchises you’d like to see adapted, in a way similar to Stranger of Paradise?
Origin stories for The Legend of Zelda’s Ganon and Bowser from the Super Mario series immediately come to mind… But those are completely different IPs from a different company, aren’t they? (laughs) I always wanted to know why Bowser is so fixated on Princess Peach… but I guess I should at least answer this question with something from SQUARE ENIX, so in that case, I’d have to say DRAGON QUEST!
While it may not quite resonate with people overseas, if we dare to make the somewhat gentle/laidback world of DRAGON QUEST one that is more aggressive/thrilling, this may be a good opportunity to have a wider audience overseas get to know the franchise.