Jack Garland is the manliest man I’ve met in a long time. He’s the protagonist of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, a new spinoff from Koei Tecmo studio Team Ninja (Nioh, Nioh 2) and Square Enix. Jack is on a mission to kill a monster called Chaos, and to those who doubt his quest, he says, “Bullshit.” His grizzled face has a jawline sharp enough to cut through the most devastating of dragons, and he himself is so strong he can smash the heads of trolls and giant wolves alike. He’s extremely gruff, and yet, it’s precisely this manliness — combined with a metric fuckton of loot found in the game — that prompted me to turn him into the world’s angriest Barbie doll.
Like Team Ninja’s previous work, Stranger of Paradise thrusts you into souls-like action combat. As you play, you’ll send Jack and his friends through a series of labyrinthian levels set in underwater caves or on snow-capped mountains. As you fight through monster after monster, you’ll also unlock a litany of chests, along with a treasure trove of weapons, armor, and clothing for each party member.
Depending on how fast you progress through the levels, it’s possible to accumulate hundreds of items within a few hours of play. Stranger of Paradise has a full Final Fantasy-esque job system, with the basic options being Swordsman, Duelist, Swordfighter, Pugilist, Marauder, Ronin, Lancer, and Mage. There are 28 jobs in total, but you can max out the stats on the various jobs by equipping the right combination of specialized gear pieces like weapons, helmets, body armor, and accessories for your arms and legs. There are loads upon loads of outfit possibilities.
Upon Stranger of Paradise’s original announcement, fans roasted Jack for showing up to a Final Fantasy game — a franchise known for its elaborate and memorable character designs — in a T-shirt. And while his reveal was admittedly lackluster, it belied what the rest of the game would be: a giant, elaborate opportunity to play dress-up with out man Ken ... I mean, Jack.
The loot is absolutely fantastic. I won’t share all of the gear here; discovering the gear for yourself is half the fun. But I do want to show some of what you can get in the earlier parts of the game — by which point you’ll already have a lot. It’s a wondrous fantasy land of leather, shiny metal, and weird vinyl-looking materials, fit for either a diner booth chair, or an outfit for a true Final Fantasy protagonist.
A beloved item of middle-aged moms everywhere, Jack brings a masculine edge to the classic look of a gray cowl neck sweater with ease. (It looks soft!) There’s a certain punk quality to it all and if you look more closely, there are a few subtle feminine flourishes. There’s a touch of pink in the boot to match the pinkish hues in the metal details in the “Savage Knuckles” weapon.
I call this look “Jack man hat man.” Inspired by Scatman John’s classic hit, “Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop),” Jack rocks a fedora that just screams “middle-age crisis.” This is a paired down look that essentially uses his abs as an accessory. Everything is picked to match the hat, and I think his dragon-armor pants offer a touch of danger to this classic look fit for a pro wrestler as much as it is for Jack Garland.
Now, this one is just me having fun. You can put Jack into these leather joggers with laces on the sides. I paired them with studded boots and purple “Wizard’s Gloves.” The defining feature of this outfit, though, is the purple mask. There’s a feature in the game that allows you to toggle the headwear off and on — but seeing Jack wear his various leather and metal face masks in the cutscenes is an absolute hoot.
These are just a few of thousands of possible outfits. You’ll need to love sorting through menus to do it right, but the results are, well, stunning.