|Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin|
|Release||March 18, 2022|
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin[a] is an upcoming action role-playing game developed by Team Ninja and published by Square Enix. A spin-off of Square Enix's Final Fantasy series, the storyline follows a set of characters brought into a fantasy world to face the malevolent Chaos. The game is set to be released in March 2022 for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is set in a dark fantasy interpretation of the setting for the original Final Fantasy game, with a group of people drawn into it from another world. The main character is Jack Garland, a man consumed by a need to destroy Chaos. He is accompanied by other companions, including similar newcomers Ash and Jed, and during the journey faces a knight who has taken on the role of Chaos; while seemingly the foretold Warriors of Light, each has doubts as to whether that is their role.
Stranger of Paradise is an action role-playing game in which players explore environments and fight monsters of the Final Fantasy series. Combat takes place in real-time, with Jack being able to switch between two assigned jobs and use physical and magical attacks. Once an enemy's "break gauge" is depleted, Jack can perform a finishing blow that crystallizes the enemy, allowing Jack to harvest them and restore a portion of his magic meter.
Final Fantasy Origin is being co-developed by franchise creator Square Enix and Koei Tecmo division Team Ninja. It is being co-directed by Daisuke Inoue from Square Enix and Hiroya Usuda and Nobumichi Kumabe from Team Ninja; co-produced by Jin Fujiwara from Square Enix and Fumihiko Yasuda from Team Ninja. The story and scenario are being written by Stellavista Ltd. freelancer scriptwriter Kazushige Nojima. Longtime Square Enix employee Tetsuya Nomura created the original concept, and acts as character designer and creative producer in the game. The music is being composed by Naoshi Mizuta, with additional contributions by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki. Nomura created the initial idea for Origin after production finished on Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, imagining an action-focused game about conquering locations. When later approached for a new Final Fantasy concept, he combined this initial concept with a different concept of a game series focusing on an angry older protagonist to create the final concept. Due to the shift in tone, Nomura originally thought it would be an original title, but Inoue and Fujiwara pushed for its inclusion in the franchise.
The aim behind the title was a mature, "brutal" take on the Final Fantasy series that would separate it from the rest of the franchise while retaining connections to it. The gameplay was designed to emulate Team Ninja's known style of challenging action combat; Team Ninja had previously worked with Square Enix on Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. The job system, a recurring feature of Final Fantasy, took inspiration from the system created for Final Fantasy V, with Inoue saying there were more jobs than that game featured in Stranger of Paradise. The level designs deliberately emulated or referenced other numbered entries, such as a wooded wetland area taking inspiration from the Sunleth Waterscape from Final Fantasy XIII.
Rather than a remake of the first Final Fantasy, Origin was a new storyline using the original as inspiration, focusing on the themes of examining the role and goals of Warriors of Light. In contrast to the pale crystals used across most of the series, the red crystals and blood-colored elements of artwork emphasised the darker tone. Commenting on the scenario, Nojima highlighted one line, "it's not a hope or a dream. It's like a hunger. A thirst", as the mainspring of the story. The subtitle had a dual meaning of the party literally being strangers in the game world, and the party being unwelcome in the game's "paradise". The character Princess Sara was designed by Roberto Ferrari, who emulated the original game's design for her. The key artwork was created by Square Enix's Image Studio CGI division under Nomura's supervision.
The game's existence was leaked by industry insiders in May 2021 and was shown during a Square Enix livestream forming part of E3 2021; its platforms are PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows via the Epic Games Store, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. A limited time trial version was also launched alongside the announcement, intended as a standalone demo to elicit feedback from players to finetune the game prior to release. During this early promotional stage, Square Enix decided to focus only on the opening section and early premise of the game, keeping other details secret. The trailer met with a mixed response from journalists and fans due to its tone and characters designs. The demo was balanced so it was approachable using different playstyles, incorporating different job types and difficulty levels. At release, the demo was found to not launch due to corrupted files, prompting Square Enix to work on a fix. A patch was released on June 15, fixing the corrupted files and allowing the demo to be played. The patch came included with first-time downloads. Due to the initial troubles, the demo's availability was extended by two days.
Based on feedback from the first demo, the graphics and performance were improved, and commands were included for players to trigger party support commands manually. Nomura originally planned the game's marketing around the mystery of Jack's identity, but Fujiwara told Nomura that many Western fans correctly guessed that Jack was this game's version of Garland. In response, Nomura reworked the marketing to focus on how Jack became Garland, with the image of Garland carrying Sara becoming a key image related to both the opening and the second half of the narrative. The game is set for release on March 18, 2022. A second demo was released between October 1 and October 11, allowing players to try out the multiplayer content. The demo also included an expanded version of the first demo's single-player content.