Stranger’s Paradise: The Origin of Final Fantasy is a Fever Dream | Review

Meme from game

written by Eric Noselder on

“All I care about is killing Chaos. On that. It’s not a hope or a dream. It’s like hunger. Thirst. This is actually the motive for the main character Jack to destroy evil in the world. He himself has no idea why, he is mostly very angry.” The internet was right when they turned this game’s trailers into memes: the story makes absolutely no sense.

Jack and his comrades-in-arms meet for the first time at the gates of Cornelia. Ash and Jed suddenly stood behind him with dark crystals in their hands. “You have one too, right?” Jack roared: “All I know is that I want to kill chaos!” Well, Ash and Jed want that, too. The three have a jerky boxing match and are now friends for life.

The game is completely impossible to follow, especially not for people who don’t have knowledge of the already strange story of the first Final Fantasy from 1987. Stranger of Paradise forms a kind of prequel to it, with Jack being the villain from that legendary game that turns out to be. This was previously explained in detail in the advertising campaign, even if it did reveal the end of the game.

The only advantage of this mess is that it’s so bad that it almost becomes good. Like when Jack punches someone while trying to explain the plot. But it is unbearable most of the time. Even Squall from Final Fantasy 8 still looks like a fun guy next to Jack.

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It also doesn’t help that Stranger of Paradise is rather ugly. It looks like a game that came out at the beginning of the previous console generation, with character models that barely convey any emotions as they move around like Thunderbirds.

What adds to the camp feel is that the heroes are fully equipped during the scenes. So Jack has been wearing a fedora regularly throughout his career. The ugly moving faces of his teammates were covered in some kind of motorcycle helmet.

Stranger's Paradise: The Origin of Final Fantasy

The levels are also not very well designed. Each environment should be an ode to previous Final Fantasy sequels, for example Cave from Part 14 and Reactor from Part 7. These references are so unpopular that some fans won’t even notice them. It is nothing more than a blurry background in which to end your battles.

What is our surprise after all the previous complaints? Those fights are so much fun! In fact, that should come as no surprise, as the game was developed by Team Ninja, the studio behind Nioh and Ninja Gaiden. They applied their expertise to implement a rather profound and varied combat system.

However, flashy movement and quick combos are more important and are more Devil May Cry than Demon Souls. In addition to dribbling and blocking, Stranger of Paradise adds its own interesting twists. Soul Shield is an interesting find, a kind of shield that you can summon briefly and automatically to dodge opponents’ attacks. This armor doesn’t cost stamina, which you need to block again. This makes it an interesting risk: a successful soul shield throws enemies off-balance, but if you turn it on too soon, you’ll be left defenseless.

The well-known functions from the Final Fantasy series are also excellently implemented here. You take two classes in each battle and you can switch between them at lightning speed. For example, as a magician, you can throw a fireball at your enemies, and then, as a knight, quickly deal some blows.

You don’t classify Jack as a character, but only his functions. Each of these categories has its own skill tree, with an option at the bottom to unlock a new (and often better) job. You have to level up multiple jobs to unlock something new, which encourages you to try different classes. For example, to eventually become a sage, you must have played both the White Mage and the Black Mage.

Not all ideas are equally successful. The constant flow of new gear means that you use new weapons every five minutes and the extensive upgrade system is completely unnecessary. It is also strange that optional conversations with NPCs are hidden in a submenu. Not that you’re missing out on a lot in those woody chatters.

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Action-packed combat saves Stranger of Paradise from destruction, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like training. Linear levels offer little surprise and the lack of variety in enemies begins to appear after a few hours. The available side quests don’t change much. These are the same levels with the same enemies, but in a different order. The impressive boss fights still provide the necessary tension, but long before the credits end after twenty hours, the draft has already arrived.

There is plenty of content available for those who want to master the battle system to perfection, with increasing levels of difficulty pushing you to the limit. Then you need to be able to put up with Jack and his unbearable personality for much longer.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will be available on March 18th on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S. For this review, the game was played on the PlayStation 5.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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