The long rumored Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin was announced, inexplicably, around the same time as the confirmation of Final Fantasy XVI’s existence.
In case you haven’t heard, Stranger of Paradise is a remake of the original Final Fantasy for the NES, starring a generic video game man aptly named Jack, that seems as if he had just jumped out of the cover of a 2012 first person shooter. Dressed in a plain black Hot Topic t-shirt, listening to nu metal and rap rock, Jack’s task is to annihilate Chaos once and for all alongside a cohort of colorful and unique characters that clash with his fantastically plain design.
While Final Fantasy XVI is led by the popular team behind the unstoppable force that is Final Fantasy XIV, and is continuing with the trail of grounded political intrigue set by its predecessor, another corner of the internet has collectively decided to pour all their love and interest on Stranger of Paradise.
But make no mistake, there’s a plethora of good reasons to be excited. The first and simplest is the people involved. The game is a collaboration between Square Enix and Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja, the developers behind the recent Nioh series. If you have played the fantastic Nioh 2 you are already familiar with what the game is gonna offer: tight level design, visceral action and immediate enjoyment from the very second you grab the controller. And if you haven’t, you should definitely play Nioh 2.
Not only that, but Stranger of Paradise demonstrates an astounding amount of respect and reverence to the source material. Containing several maps and music tracks from multiple numeric entries in the franchise, all remade with extreme detail and love, the game also seems to hint at having ties to the fighting game spin-off Dissidia. Environments that could not be realized in the NES are being recreated with extreme fidelity, even going so far as to reference the original concept art for the game, something that not even the pixel art remaster considered doing.
But there is something way more gripping surrounding the discourse of the game. The seventh generation of consoles established a standard of graphical fidelity, aesthetic and design philosophy that has become the norm: a unified “Western aesthetic” and inflated production values. Games, like cinema before it, wanted to be taken seriously. And to do that they had to adopt certain rules and conform, lest they risked being considered immature, too anime, be reduced to a niche in a show of the underlying subconscious dismissiveness for non-Western video games.
While Final Fantasy XVI is the game that was always going to happen, Stranger of Paradise is the game that we thought could never happen again. Except it’s coming soon and it’s looking like an absolute riot.
The fanbase of the kind of JRPG that is earnest and campy has kept alive and strong, with fond remembrance for games such as Devil May Cry, Kingdom Hearts, The Bouncer, Dirge of Cerberus, Gungrave, to name a few. With games like the recent Devil May Cry V and Kingdom Hearts 3, and impossibly enough, not one but TWO new Gungrave entries, no longer do we have to subsist on crumbs and morsels from the floor.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin is shaping up to be pure videogame kitsch: a relic from a forgotten time, with contemporary sensibilities and an accomplished team behind it. And while it might look like a game about a generic edgy man dressed in plain clothes, it is nothing short of an unabashed celebration of Final Fantasy, a look at its past, its present and its future. And we couldn’t be happier about it.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin launches March 18, 2022 on the Microsoft Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles.