REVIEW – The title of this game is one of those typical titles that I somehow always forget. It’s like one of those mobile games where it’s as if the developers made up the title variations from random words and then used what they thought worked well. By the end of the game, however, the title makes sense, but by then we’ll have struggled a lot with Chaos – both the “evil force” of the story and the chaos raging in game design, story and loot system.
Final Fantasy Origin refers to the location in the name. Think of it as a kind of “alternate Final Fantasy 1”, where people are sucked into the world by some strange force, but they don’t know it. Their memories are gone, and all they remember is that they want to kill Chaos.
Clichés and boring heroes everywhere
The above introduction may sound exciting, but the truth is that it’s not the story or the heroes that will make us love this game. The protagonist, Jack, is a complete bore, like a human terminator spouting fantasy clichés and constantly repeating that his mission is to destroy Chaos – all of which he can repeat at any moment and in any context of the game. “Stalked” by his two good friends Jed and Ash, the three of them decide to team up and fight the big bad together, all because they have cool matching crystals.
The dialogue is also overly kitschy, bordering on parody. I don’t think the story wants to take itself seriously, despite the slightly more serious tone it strikes later in the story. Who knows, maybe the makers intended this as a bitter satire on the main characters’ obsession with power and the usual Final Fantasy clichés. Or maybe they just really couldn’t think of anything else to say, other than this awful dialogue. Still, the game itself can be good, right?
Nioh or not Nioh: that is the question
The real triumph of Stranger of Paradise lies in its combat system. We’ve come to expect nothing less from Team Ninja, which has spoiled us with gems like Ninja Gaiden and Nioh. While there will be those who say it has a soulslike feel to it, the reality is that Team Ninja has moved away from that formula to get closer to the traditional action RPG. The main difference from games like Dark Souls or Nioh is that there is no energy bar. This game design decision changes the fundamentals of combat by making it faster, more direct, and more dynamic.
In fact, the fact that this game is different from the soulslike ones is a refreshing change of pace. Team Ninja has developed a really complex yet fun and engaging combat system. While the combat is not too difficult in principle, it pays to learn the enemy’s attack types and exploit their weaknesses to defeat them.
Among other things, fighting is fun and exciting because it rewards you if you master it, but it also punishes you if you mess up too badly. The idea is that each enemy has a break bar, broken by special abilities and combos. If you can do it, you can absorb your opponent to increase your MP so you can make more special attacks. In the event that you miss and are defeated, your MP is reduced.
Enjoyable and easy to learn combat system
We should add that each weapon type offers a different style of play, with its own combos and skills that you need to learn. All this is complemented by a complex system that starts with classic professions such as swordsman, mage or ronin, which have skill trees to unlock the classic advanced classes of the series. The best thing is that you can switch between jobs mid-fight, which opens up huge possibilities during skirmishes.
When Team Ninja was developing Stranger of Paradise, they knew it would be a difficult game for Final Fantasy fans; especially those who only like turn-based combat (or possibly newer versions of it). That’s why they went to great lengths to make the game easy to get into.
Stranger of Paradise starts with a choice of 3 difficulty levels, which you can change at almost any time. There are also other elements that make the game easier; for example, you will always have two companions to help you by distracting enemies and constantly damaging them. While Stranger of Paradise is far from the hardest game to play, it can still be challenging, especially in boss fights, and your companions are vital in these situations.
A generation or two late for this graphic
If you’ve been following the game and paying attention to the videos and screenshots, you’ll have noticed one of the first negatives of Stranger of Paradise: the visuals and art. You have to admit: this is a game whose graphics and visual quality in general are on a par with those of a generation or two ago, or if we’re being generous, with those of action-RPGs from the beginning of the last generation. Most of the time, you’ll find dark, mediocre or downright poor quality textures and even some performance issues. The original Final Fantasy style is recognisable, but only in a somewhat kitschy, clichéd way .
While we’ve praised many aspects of the game’s combat, there’s one that we think is a disaster: the loot system. Stranger of Paradise throws weapons and armour pieces at you from time to time to make your characters stronger or more affinity. That’s fine, the problem is that you’re given so many weapons, with so few upgrades, that it’s both tedious and pointless to constantly strap them on. But the worst part is that there’s also an inventory limit, so you’re forced to take time between missions to throw away the junk you’ve accumulated to get better weapons.
So what is this “Paradise” like? Fresh, sweet or rotten?
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will be remembered as a truly “memorable” game in the series and in our memories – in both good and bad ways. Some parts of it are just ridiculously disastrous (the story and the loot system), but if you can let go of its flaws and learn to enjoy it, you’ll find a game that will entertain you immensely at the same time, especially if you like action RPGs with a well-developed combat and progression system.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Stranger of Paradise becomes something of a cult classic in a few years’ time, and there are those who will defend it tooth and nail. We did enjoy it, but it would be irresponsible to ignore all its faults. We’ll see where gaming history takes it.
+ Extremely fast-paced, enjoyable combat system and gameplay
+ Well-developed character tree and development system
+ Dynamic gameplay
– Two generations delayed graphics
– A story so stupid it’s a parody of itself (maybe it is)
– Overwhelming loot system, with bags of weapons and armour
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Team Ninja
Release date: March 15, 2022