Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review
Since its days on the NES, “Final Fantasy” has been one of the greats in the JRPG genre.
From the epoch-shifting “Final Fantasy VII” to the spin-off titles like “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles,” fans have never been in short supply of something new from this series.
At E3 2021, Square Enix had a big reveal that took many by surprise. It was a trailer that—for the most part—seemed like it was for an all-new game unrelated to anything Square is known for.
However, that notion was quickly discarded when the title was finally revealed: “Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.”
Fans had no idea what to make of the teaser trailer. Between it being a souls-like game being made by Square, Tetsuya Nomura being attached to the project, and the overwhelmingly laughable dialogue in the trailer where it felt like every other sentence was about fighting and killing Chaos, nobody expected this game to surmount anything.
This was also because “Final Fantasy XVI” is right around the corner, and fans knew the latter would be a far larger endeavor with a more hands-on project than whatever this was going to be.
Words of doubt quickly dissipated when the demo for “Stranger of Paradise” was released on PlayStation, and even the skeptical were sold by the over-the-top strangeness, no pun intended.
It almost felt like Square saw the tone of the “Devil May Cry” series and took a mountain of notes. As of March 18th, the game has found its way into the public’s hands, and the scores were rather mixed.
To clear the air, “Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin” is neither a remake nor a straightforward prequel to the original NES “Final Fantasy.”
Instead, it’s a retelling of the events, barring some parts that were omitted from this iteration of it while also acting as a prequel in terms of the story content.
While this is not necessarily a faithful adaptation, it’s modernized in strange ways and yet tries to keep the spirit of the original.
Starting with the story, players control Jack, a warrior accompanied by his two comrades, Ash and Jed.
The three of them are more or fewer knights of an unnamed kingdom that are haunted by the name Chaos, a force said to bring destruction and despair upon the world.
For those who watched the aforementioned trailers for the game, it’s fairly blatant that Jack and his companions’ sole mission is to kill Chaos.
However, the king requests that they take on the mantle of the prophesized “Warriors of Light” and save the four elemental crystals spread throughout the land that are seemingly being corrupted by a dark force.
The presentation is off the wall, excluding gameplay. While it does go for a dark fantasy aesthetic, it’s very modernized, similar to the more modern entries like “Final Fantasy VII” and “Final Fantasy XV.”
Speaking of the latter, the game dabbles in the use of licensed music which contrasts pretty jarringly in this particular case.
Where “Stranger of Paradise” faulters is how it’s implemented. When “XV” opens with Florence and the Machine’s cover of “Stand by Me”, it works because of the context it’s presented in and thematically suits the game as a whole perfectly.
When “Stranger of Paradise” drops the player into an open field with Jack listening to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra on his wireless earbuds, it feels out of place.
On the topic of this game’s oddness, it’s almost wonderfully self-aware.
There’s one particular scene after the first boss fight in the game where a character has this long, emotional monologue and then Jack just says it’s a load of garbage and then walks away, blasting Limp Bizkit through his earbuds. Yes, that happens.
The tone of this game is all over the place, but it’s hard to tell whether or not this is to its detriment.
Visually, the game is a mess. For the sake of transparency, this review is based on a PS4 copy. Allegedly, the PC version is somehow even worse.
The cutscenes look fine, but during gameplay, the graphics make everything look blurry and the locales look nice but feel empty and pointless.
The gameplay feels like a “Final Fantasy” version of “Nioh”. It’s pretty challenging on the middle “ACTION” difficulty setting, and fights can sometimes be unforgiving.
Prepare to die a lot from enemies dogpiling on Jack because the lock-on system won’t always act according to the player’s inputs.
The job system gives Jack and the player a wealth of options when choosing how to fight, and leveling each job up is simple.
The game also allows the player to “optimize” their gear, which means that the game can automatically equip party members with the best gear available.
However, the equipment system has a rather annoying side. While it’s possible to upgrade armor and weapons, the party’s equipment never tends to stay the same since enemies drop steadily improving gear like candy.
So, what point would there be to upgrade a piece of gear if it’s going to be outclassed by another two missions later?
Overall, “Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin” is a weird experiment from Square that simultaneously is enjoyable and mediocre.
The tone is oddly comedic at times and yet overly serious at others. While the gameplay is good, it’s clear that some jobs are better than others, creating a fairly noticeable imbalance.
Not only that, but the game isn’t always the best at explaining mechanics to the player. Despite this, it was still a pleasing experience, but nowhere near of the same caliber as the mainline “Final Fantasy” entries.
Jonathan Ross is a fourth-year telecommunications major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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