Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – PlayStation 4, 5 and Epic Games Store – a strange game retelling the story of Final Fantasy’s first villain within a Dark Souls-like action role playing game

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a strange game, it’s a retelling of the first Final Fantasy from the perspective of the series’ first villain, Jack Garland, and employs the Dark Soul’s genre for its gameplay elements. The game was released as part of Final Fantasy 35th anniversary celebration along with Chocobo GP. It seems that between the two games, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is definitely the more grittier of the two aimed at serious players who want a challenge and an interesting story. It’s a good additional the growing Final Fantasy catalogue.

For my part, I can’t say that I am particular fond of the Dark Soul’s gameplay. I prefer a good challenge, but one that doesn’t make me spend hours on end trying to hit the right beats. Plus, in general, I don’t have the patience to time my moves nowadays. That’s mainly due to the fact that work requires longer hours out of me and with a kid, I can’t just dedicate large chunks of time mastering a game like I used to.

The opening scene within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin where the mysterious Garland kidnaps the princess
The opening scene within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin where the mysterious Garland kidnaps the princess

The gameplay is pretty fluid and solid. The main protagonist Jack starts with a blank slate and has the ability to change roles as he turns job experience. In fact, he can have two jobs equipped at the same time. He starts with basic jobs like Mage and Ronin and as he progresses and gains experience in the game he is able to unlock advanced jobs like Sage and Dark Knight. Certain jobs are way better than others. It seems that jobs with magic fare better than close range jobs due to the ability to attack from afar.

Most of the enemies in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin are deadly, even those damn bats that appear out of nowhere in caves! Fodder enemies have the ability to kill you with ease if you are not careful. More crucially, most of the bosses will take a lot of strategy and retries before you can finally down them for good. As a general tip, for bosses, it seems the better strategy is to block than dodge because dodging is much harder to time.

The coolest part to the gameplay is that most enemies have both a health and break meter. Dropping either meter to zero will kill most enemies, but dropping the break meter allows Jack to perform a cool instant kill by turning the enemy into a red crystal and seeing him smash that crystal on the ground into smithereens.

Jack versus the Chaos Advent early in the story within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Jack versus the Chaos Advent early in the story within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

The story of Jack and his companions is pure nonsense. It’s feels so lukewarm to watch a bunch of cookie cutter characters band together and speak nonsense for 80% of the story. Something, something, blah, blah… hang on… 12 hours later, wake up to something interesting finally happening. While I was certainly interested in understanding Jack’s backstory, I didn’t feel invested in the story until the final saga. The final saga definitely dials up the intensity and makes the whole journey feel more worthwhile. Until that point, there is a lot of redundant moments that don’t help the story or advance my connection with any of the characters. (In fact, I don’t even remember any of their names.)

If I only pick on the crucial saga in the story, I think the story is worth telling because it paints Jack Garland in another light as an ant-hero, it demonstrates that he isn’t some one dimensional being (as he seemed in the original game), and at least explains why he was so dead-set on wanting to find Chaos. Still, they could have done a lot more to make the story much more solid.

Jack versus Lich in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Jack versus Lich in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

In terms of visuals and sound, the visuals are not as polished at the main line Final Fantasy games. There is definitely a drop in quality and polish between this game and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Characters would have clothes that go through their heads and some of the key story scenes look blocky and stiff. For me, the lack of polish and clean touches to the visuals is somewhat of a turn off.

While it is easy to equip the best equipment and armor, I wasn’t a big fan of Jack and company wearing all sorts of clothes they equipped. In some missions, Jack looked like some homeless guy who picked whatever threads he could find on the street. It wasn’t appealing. I wish there were options to allow the character some freedom in setting the threads for the characters so they looked cool in the cutscenes.

One of the interesting things about the game are the many worlds that Jack visits in his journey. Each mainline Final Fantasy game has a world reflected and reimagined as a place that Jack and his company journey through to defeat the boss at the dungeon. Most of these worlds have tracks that pay homage to their original world like Refrin Wetlands which is based on Final Fantasy XIII’s Sunleth Waterscape. It was fund guessing which mainline Final Fantasy game represented each mission.

A volcanic realm based on a Final Fantasy VI realm within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
A volcanic realm based on a Final Fantasy VI realm within Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

I played Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin on the PlayStation 4, but it also available on the PlayStation 5 and PC via the Epic Games Store. It’s worth playing and I’m looking forward to playing the downloadable content when it comes.

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