Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin's levels are based on other classic FFs - here's which
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a lot of different things at once. As a series quite familiar with quirky spin-offs and sudden shifts in direction, perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprising choice to see Square Enix give Final Fantasy an action-focused retelling, but it’s certainly not an iteration of the story we expected. Developers at Team Ninja and creative director Tetsuya Nomura have billed it as a game distinct from its namesake, even at the same time as it's made ever-more clear how much clear inspiration this title draws from both FF1 and the rest of the series. The more we see, the more these pieces come together.
Perhaps Jack isn’t the hero we’ve come to expect from Final Fantasy, but many of the locations in the various Final Fantasy Origin trailers look quite familiar. In fact, it appears that each stage Jack visits in his adventure is based on a classic location from another Final Fantasy - albeit dropped into the world of FF1, and mapped into an existing location in that version of Gaia, the classic FF setting.
If Stranger of Paradise wants to connect the worlds of Final Fantasy through a modern, alternate universe take with Jack, it looks to do so in a nostalgic tour through heavily-inspired recreations of classic locations from every FF game - a clever celebration in this series anniversary year.
Revealed FF Origin Stages: Working out Their Inspirations
After one-too-many sessions rewatching and pausing trailers, we think we’ve pieced together most of the locations referenced in Square’s footage and what game they're from. And if we didn’t see it accounted for, we’ve also got some guesses on good fits based on the assumption that each FF will be represented by at least one stage. In those instances, we've got some suggestions of what stages we'd like to see from the missing FFs.
Naturally, this page is full of analysis and guesswork - but we'll find out exactly how much we got right in a month, when the game releases.
The Western Keep - Castle Palamecia (FF2)
We found the dots on this stage difficult to connect, which is perhaps no surprise when it comes from the 2D FFs, when the individual characteristics of each location were a little less thoroughly defined. We originally thought this location could be FF6's Figaro Castle, as that is a heavily-defended fortress and seat of military might - but Square Enix has finally revealed that this stage is in fact based on Final Fantasy II.
Square Enix notes “giant arrows will come flying at Jack,” when exploring The Western Keep and that it’s “an ancient castle bearing the stark scars of war.” In the world of FF2, we think that lines up with Castle Palamecia, which is the capital of FF2's empire and home to the Emperor, that game's primary villain. It's set among the mountains, and isn't far from a desert - proximity to desert and what looked like sandstorms, which was an element of the screenshots that also made us wonder if this was Figaro.
So, while Square Enix did not confirm the official name of the FF2 location, it seems safe to assume this is Castle Palamecia. At the end of the reveal clip, you can even see what looks like the Dark Knight boss from the Emporer's lair.
Crystal Mirage - Crystal Tower (FF3)
Due to the technical limitations of the hardware where they originally appeared, it’s fair to say that the earlier FF games have less visually iconic locations. One of the most striking from the first three games is the Crystal Tower, however - so much so that we’ve seen Crystal Tower reproduced several times before in Final Fantasy, in FF14m Dissidia 012, and World of Final Fantasy.
Square Enix’s official description of the ‘Crystal Mirage’ stage in FF Origin is that it’s a huge tower that “rises above the trees deep in the forest”. Even back on the NES, the original Crystal Tower was set in the middle of a maze that was surrounded by dense forests - so the areas sure appear to be a match.
There’s also a couple of cuts in trailers with purplish hues, stained-glass windows, elaborate wall panels, and large crystal fixtures. We initially thought this might be FF9's Desert Palace, which has the first three of those features - but the crystals give us pause for thought - and now we think tehse are likely areas from the higher floors of the tower. On NES, the color scheme of the Crystal Tower subtly changes across its floors - including cyan, purple, and the more traditional bright blue crystal hues.
Update 3/5/2022: It's official - the Crystal Mirage in Stranger of Paradise is a nostalgic nod to Final Fantasy III's Crystal Tower. Square Enix confirmed our initial observations via Twitter, sharing new footage of the stage and its enemies. The top floor will also rely upon another magic gimmick, so not too far removed from some of our speculations.
The Flying Fortress - Tower of Babil (FF4)
We were torn between two different stages for this one before Square Enix made the official announcement, zeroing in on the technological nature of this stage and considering it was likely to be one of the few futuristic locations from FF4 and FF5. As it stands, our first guess - FF5's Ronka Ruins - was wrong. Instead, Square Enix has revealed the Flying Fortress is actually a tribute to Final Fantasy IV's Tower of Babil.
This all tracks, as the Tower of Babil is an ancient tower of unknown origin that features technology that is far beyond the capabilities of FF4's world. In its position in FF1's world for Stranger of Paradise, it's a towering Castle in the Sky - another thing that pushed us away from the Tower of Babil, which is, well, a Tower. However, the fact Square Enix notes that it's the “remnants of an advanced civilization” coupled lines up with the tower's likely Lunarian origins better.
So, our first guess was wrong - but at least we now have confirmation that this is FF4's representative. Will Dr. Lugae make an appearance?
Ruins of Machina- Ronka Ruins (FF5)
We were right on this prediction, just wrong about what the official level was, Final Fantasy V's stage representation heads to Stranger of Paradise through the Ronka Ruins. In the action game, it's called the Machine Ruins, but Square Enix confirmed the reveal with their latest tease.
In FF5, Ronka is a remnant built over 1,000 years before the game begins, and you explore what's left of a collapsed civilization. The ruins also take flight, kind of like what you see in Stranger of Paradise's Flying Fortress, but this level is still separate. Originally, we thought the Flying Fortress was Ronka - they look kind of similar in passing.
Sunken Shrine - Mako Reactor (FF7)
Let’s start with one that is clear and obvious; the first time we saw this screenshot of Stranger of Paradise, we briefly thought Square Enix had actually included an FF7 Remake screenshot by mistake - though look closer, and you’ll see differences. Such an industrial area doesn’t strictly fit into the world of the first Final Fantasy - so it makes sense that in this version of the world, such high technology might be hidden under the sea. Of course, in the original Final Fantasy VII, an underwater Mako Reactor is a major story location.
The resemblance to FF7’s Mako Reactors is uncanny, and it doesn’t stop there. An official Square Enix description describes it as a “high security facility”, and suggests that the mysterious light being extracted within it could be “the lifeforce of the planet”. So, that’s that settled. Interestingly, this reactor being matched to FF1's Underwater Sunken Shrine also draws a comparison to the underwater Mako Reactor that features prominently later in FF7.
The same description notes that the facility is controlled by machines - so it seems likely we might see some of ShinRa’s robotic goons recreated in FF Origin’s combat system.
Update 3/2/2022: In a new blog from Square Enix, Stranger of Paradise director Daisuke Inoue acknowledged Final Fantasy VII's inspirations seen in the Sunken Shrine, explaining the "location is underwater, and the motif used was a dungeon from the original Final Fantasy VII that’s in the sea."
Inoue went on to say it'd be hard to compete with the same level of detail FF7R paid to the reactors, but the dev team has interpreted this area in a way that suggests it's "fun in its own right" and serves as a fitting interpretation for FF Origin.
"I believe we’ve made an interesting dungeon," Inoue said. "With lots of differences in height, and where the level design makes you think: '…is this that place?'"
Mt. Gulg - Fire Cavern (FF8)
On our first pass, we thought Stranger of Paradise hadn’t revealed a level that would work for Final Fantasy VIII just yet, so we guessed Team Ninja would go with something like Lunatic Pandora. That guess wound up wrong, and the FF8 stage was really there all along. In a new video reveal, Square Enix confirmed Mt. Gulg takes its firey charm from the Fire Cavern.
Usually, we'd expect to meet Ifrit there, but in that same announcement footage, Jack is introduced to Marilith. In Final Fantasy, she's the six-armed Fiend of Fire encountered at Mt. Gulg and the Chaos Shrine - it makes sense we'd find her snaking around in this stage.
The Wicked Arbor - Evil Forest (FF9)
We almost wanted to call this one Macalania from FF10, but Square pointing out the Wicked Arbor’s hostile flora and thick shroud of miasma made Final Fantasy IX’s Evil Forest seem like the most obvious answer. Zooming in as much as possible doesn’t reveal any hidden Plant Spiders, and there’s no petrified forest there just yet, but the ethereal (and far more welcoming) Macalania just doesn’t make sense in the same ways.
In FF9, the Evil Forest plays host to an army of bug-like, plant enemies spawned by the Mist. It’s your first real introduction to the miasma and the role it plays in the story. In one of FF9’s animated scenes, you see those twisting coils of ivy walls SE mentions in the Wicked Arbor’s description. To top it all off, those little mushrooms look oddly familiar.
Update 3/8/2022: It's correct - The Wicked Arbor in Stranger of Paradise draws its inspirations from Final Fantasy IX's Evil Forest. In another reveal shared on Twitter, Square Enix posted new footage of the area acknowledging its roots in FF9. There's also a brief shot of a familiar Evil Forest boss, Plant Brain.
Hallowed Massif - Mt. Gagazet (FF10)
There are a few snowy mountain regions scattered throughout the FF series, though arguably the most significant is Final Fantasy X's Mt. Gagazet - and that is the stage representation for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, with Team Ninja confirming a revisit to the snowy Mt. Gagazet in an update on the game's official Twitter.
We did wonder if the developers might pick the equally iconic Macalania Woods instead - but as soon as we saw Evil Forest was FF9's representative, we realized that was unlikely. Gagazet sets it apart, and gives another type of Biome for Jack and his warrior of light buddies to visit in Stranger of Paradise.
The Ancients’ Tower - Delkfutt's Tower (FF11)
It’s not the most descript preview, but “a white building with an unshakeable sense of otherness” is about all Final Fantasy XI veterans need to start searching in the right direction. This stage has already stirred up a few threads on Twitter, and we agree - The Ancients’ Tower in Stranger of Paradise is Delkfutt’s Tower from FF11.
Those smooth, pale pillars devoid of oversaturated colors are eerily similar to the dungeon, and referring to it as something belonging to “Ancients” gets a little more heavy-handed. In FF11, the location itself was pretty distinct as a relic from eons ago. It was also home to hostile undead, dangerous ancient devices, and Gigas. Jack even fights a Gigas in the trailer, but it’s Square’s note on floating, urn-like objects that had us all finally convinced this is Delkfutt’s.
Cavern of Earth - Tomb of Raithwall (FF12)
In direct contrast to the Mako Reactor area we have FF1’s Cavern of Earth, which has been reimagined as a tribute to Final Fantasy XII dungeon Tomb of Raithwall. The original FF1 has plenty of dungeons that are essentially caves, and FF12’s sprawling royal tomb is one of the most unique cave-like dungeons in the history of the series.
The screenshot used to reveal the stage certainly closely resembles some areas of the dungeon in the original - in particular, the location where the cast of FF12 fight a particularly iconic Final Fantasy enemy - the Demon Wall.
It’ll be interesting to see if this boss makes an appearance in FF Origin, and how a boss whose main characteristic is moving very slowly towards you to instantly kill you translates to thise Soulsy action combat.
Update 3/2/2022: In the same aforementioned Sunken Shrine blog post, Inoue also spoke to observations that this reimagined vision of FF1's Cavern of Earth used motifs from FF12's Tomb of Raithwall. According to the director, its earthy atmosphere led to the concept of it "being a place where the dead sleep," so it made sense to turn to Raithwall.
"The original area in Final Fantasy XII features quite an impressive boss - even by the Final Fantasy standard, who stands in the way of the player," Inoue said. "We wanted to channel this concept into our dungeon. However, it would incur a lot in the way of costs if we were to make it a boss, so we ended up implementing the idea into the dungeon as a mechanic."
The boss Inoue references is likely the formidable Demon Wall - a massive stone enemy that slowly pushes the party back in a race to beat the creature before running out of space in the narrow area.
Refrin Wetlands - Sunleth Waterscape (FF13)
The Sunleth Waterscape might not be the very first area you think of when you think of Final Fantasy XIII, but it certainly has one of the most iconic pieces of theme music in the game, something which is replicated dutifully in FF Origin’s music for the Refrin Wetlands stage, hinting back to its inspiration.
In addition to borrowing some of the musical score and the look of Sunleth Waterscape, the Refrin Wetlands stage also features an in-level gimmick directly borrowed from FF13. Both versions of this location feature weather-changing orbs that when interacted with can affect your path through the terrain and the enemy encounters you’ll face in this little slice of nature.
Update 3/4/2022: The Refrin Wetlands Stranger of Paradise stage does indeed pull from Final Fantasy XIII's Sunleth Waterscape. Another Square Enix update confirms the ode to Cocoon through its new theme arrangement and footage of the area's weather-changing orb mechanics.
Pravoka Seaport/Pirate Hideout - Sastasha (FF14)
Briefly visible for just a few moments in the combat trailer for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an area that looks remarkably similar to Sastasha, the very first dungeon featured in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Sastasha hosts a series of caves connected to the sea, and it’s a place used by pirates as a store and hideout.
FF1’s world already has pirates as regular NPCs, and minor bit-players in the story - a group of pirates is one of the earliest of the FF1 bosses - so it appears to make sense that they might be hanging out in a Stranger of Paradise version of Sastasha, with its distinctive glowing coral formations.
Update 3/9/2022: It's Definitely Pirates - another preview from Square Enix confirms Jack will visit a Stranger of Paradise take on Final Fantasy XIV's introductory dungeon, Sastasha. The Pirate Hideout also features Sahagin enemies, like those you saw in A Realm Reborn, and, of course, the obvious watery bandits.
Unknown - Insomnia Citadel (FF15)
Final Fantasy XV’s most striking imagery often comes from Insomnia’s throne room, and we saw various iterations of Noctis occupying the same seat through earlier days when it was only known as Versus. If the level’s decor wasn’t convincing enough, during SE’s recent Origin livestream, Behemoth comes crashing down to attack Jack and the party. We don't know what this stage is called yet, or which FF1 location it's been mapped to, but this is definitely Insomnia Citadel from FF15, if not Insomnia itself.
The monster is a series staple, but Insomnia is home to a particularly nasty one as a boss, and the outside of Insomnia Citadel was frequently used as a demo stage showcasing a fight against a behemoth from very early on in FF15's development - even back when it was Versus XIII.
In addition, other shots in the same stage showed Insomnia's elevators, which have a particularly iconic and memorable look. Those elevators in FF Origin are, without a doubt, the same ones we saw in Insomnia’s Citadel.
Missing Final Fantasy titles and their possibilities
Okay, so, assuming we're right in relation to the Stranger of Paradise stages above - and we feel pretty confident as SE narrows it down - that leaves a few Final Fantasy games unaccounted for. But which locations might make good levels in this Souls-style action game? We've got some dream ideas of levels that'd be a good fit for what remains... but this is pure speculation, remember.
Unknown - Floating Continent (FF6)
While we don’t have an image or official stage name, Finaland noticed the Stranger of Paradise OST points to the area themes and associated level by name. We have all of the other stages mostly ruled out as a possibility, and on disc four there’s a track titled Where the End Begins - Motif from “Floating Continent.” Even without images to go off of, we’re going to say Stranger of Paradise takes us to a location inspired by FF6’s Floating Continent.
Prior to the official tracklist reveal, we thought the Western Keep was inspired by Figaro Castle. Square Enix has since confirmed that’s actually a nod to Final Fantasy II but didn’t give us the official area from its mainline namesake.