The original Final Fantasy successfully translates the fundamentals of pen-and-paper RPGs into a console RPG that, for its time, features an incredibly ambitious story in comparison with other NES titles. That said, it’s easy to see how the original game in one of the medium’s longest-running and most critically acclaimed series was beginning to show its age in comparison to how the franchise had evolved, prompting Square Enix to bring fans one of its more interesting Final Fantasy spin-offs. Rather than retell the Final Fantasy origin story in the context of another classically-styled JRPG, the decision was made to transform the first game in the series into a Soulslike.
Enter Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, a collaboration between Square Enix and the developers behind Nioh at Team Ninja. Taking the core components of Final Fantasy‘s story but retelling them in the context of the player character being Garland, the game successfully inputs the monsters, character classes, and world of Final Fantasy into a mostly satisfying Soulslike that takes some interesting liberties when it comes to its retelling of the story of the four Warriors of Light. It’s an interesting experiment, to be sure, and one’s mileage may vary with the game. Still, it does a great job of reimagining the origin of one of gaming’s most important series, and it’s time to see how it stacks up to the very first Final Fantasy that acts as its source material.
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: Side-by-Side Comparison
Other than releasing 35 years apart, there are plenty of differences to spot between Final Fantasy and Stranger of Paradise. Outside both games telling the same course of events and featuring many of the same characters and enemies, the gameplay of these two titles could not be more different. Additionally, the ability of modern hardware to render some of the series’ iconic and memorable monsters and locations helps Stranger of Paradise stand out definitively over 1987’s Final Fantasy in the visual department.
|Characteristic||Final Fantasy||Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin|
|Director||Hironobu Sakaguchi||Daisuke Inoue|
|Platform||NES/Famicom/MSX||PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox Series X/S|
|Copies Sold||1.46 million||1.65 million|
|Number of Classes/Jobs||12||35|
|Four Fiends and Chaos||✅||✅|
|Warriors of Light||✅||✅|
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: 5 Must-Know Facts
Here are 5 must-know facts about the original Final Fantasy and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin:
- The original concept for Stranger of Paradise comes from longtime Square Enix employee Tetsuya Nomura, who initially began his tenure at the company as a monster designer before eventually becoming the lead character designer on Final Fantasy VII and the mastermind behind the Kingdom Hearts series.
- The original Final Fantasy is essentially a very foundational digital version of a tabletop or pen-and-paper RPG, but Stranger of Paradise is a full-blown action-RPG more akin to Dark Souls or Team Ninja’s own Nioh series. The game shares directors from both Square Enix and Team Ninja.
- While Final Fantasy gives the player 6 initial classes to choose from that then evolve into 6 different advanced classes, Stranger of Paradise expands this number to 10 base jobs that then evolve into a total of 35 different expert and advanced jobs after leveling up.
- Stranger of Paradise expands on the time-loop premise of the original Final Fantasy while also providing some unexpected twists and surprises of its own, but it does not actually take place in the same world as Final Fantasy, instead existing in a sort of mirror dimension.
- Both Final Fantasy and Stranger of Paradise take roughly 16-18 hours to beat the main story, but to do everything in Stranger of Paradise increases that number to 55 hours of gameplay. In comparison, most completionist playthroughs of Final Fantasy run for about 20 hours.
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: RPG vs Action-RPG
In terms of which game is more true to the spirit of Final Fantasy, that honor undoubtedly goes to the original game and progenitor of the series rather than the action-RPG spin-off. Stranger of Paradise may reimagine the events of Final Fantasy and present its locations and plot points for a modern audience, but it is not similar to any other game in the series. In contrast, Final Fantasy is the foundation on which the entire franchise is built and is a pure RPG experience.
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: Class Differences
One area where Stranger of Paradise definitely ups the ante over the original Final Fantasy is in its class variety. Only 6 base classes are available in Final Fantasy, with each of them having a predetermined evolution after acquiring the rat tail and visiting Bahamut. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, on the other hand, has 10 base jobs that each evolve in exciting ways to eventually include up to 35 total job selections, many of which represent popular class archetypes from other Final Fantasy games. Each of these classes plays differently than another, encouraging player experimentation and adding substantial combat variety to the gameplay.
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: Building Out the Narrative
Stranger of Paradise may have initially been sold to players as a “Soulslike retelling of the original Final Fantasy“, but that’s not entirely true. Instead, players assume the role of Jack, who is actually the main antagonist of Final Fantasy Garland. The story references the time loop and cycle of conflict at the heart of the original Final Fantasy, only now players are actually seeing the events unfold at the beginning of the time loop, challenging their companions and then sending them back through time repeatedly at the game’s ending until they eventually are strong enough to defeat Jack — breaking the time loop and playing out the events of 1987’s Final Fantasy.
Stranger of Paradise vs Final Fantasy I: Replay Value
Replay value is an interesting subject to tackle with Final Fantasy games, as simply completing one playthrough can typically take dozens of hours. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the original Final Fantasy‘s runtime pales in comparison to later games in the series, only requiring around 16 hours to beat the main story. Still, once a player beats the game, there’s not much reason to immediately jump back in. In contrast, Stranger of Paradise has so much variety in its combat that there’s plenty of reason to attempt playthroughs using different jobs and trying out different difficulty modes, etc. That said, each playthough of Stranger of Paradise takes anywhere from 18-55 hours depending on how much content players engage with, so it’s a much larger investment of time.
Stranger of Paradise is an interesting Final Fantasy spin-off and a novel way to reexamine the plot of the original game in greater detail. It’s also a great proof-of-concept for Square Enix to put their resources behind developing a AAA Soulslike set in the Final Fantasy universe with the studio’s full talent behind it. Does it beat Final Fantasy as the better version of the origin of the series? Absolutely not. The original Final Fantasy is one of the most important games to release in 1987, and even during the lifespan of the NES, period. Stranger of Paradise, by comparison, is a one-off oddity among a plethora of Final Fantasy spin-offs. In terms of which game is the best origin of the series, that honor belongs to Final Fantasy.