Most Final Fantasy spinoffs veer towards the cute and comforting, like Chocobo GP and Crystal Chronicles.
Stranger of Paradise takes things to a much darker, more sinister place. You’ll still find your Cactaurs and Tonberrys, but you’ll also have epic, blood-soaked duels and brooding dialogue.
You’d almost mistake it for a Devil May Cry game at first glance, actually, and that’s not a massive surprise considering Team Ninja are responsible for this new take on the massive franchise.
Set in a parallel universe to the original Final Fantasy, you play as Jack, Jed, Neon, and Ash, a quartet brought together to battle an unstable element and those who serve it.
Served to protect the kingdom of Cornelia, the warriors each wield a crystal when, combined, potentially has the power to defeat Chaos and save the realm. However, the warriors seem unsure of themselves with their memories seemingly wiped and their trust in one another yet to be fully realised.
As a selected group of three, you’ll fight through waves of enemies, collecting items and armor aplenty, while carving out a designated job with experience points and new attributes.
The jobs are interesting as, with the flick of a button, you can be playing as a mage who casts frost and fire just as quickly as a Swordfighter. You should try and build a few up at once to mix up your attacks but also so you can have fight different types of enemies easily and effectively.
The job system makes the experience feel wholly Final Fantasy, even though there’s more than passing homages to other Koei Tecmo titles. The jobs themselves also help to keep the game fresh and different, while you can change weapons and armor so quickly you’ll rarely look or fight the same way from the start of a level to the end of it.
As you’d expect, they also come with special abilities which recharge and can be built up through battle, such as swirling slashes and leaping strikes. There’s a style for everyone, with combat being the game’s strongest suit.
You can even unlock sub-jobs via the main classes so you can keep a similar armor and weapon-set but mix up with new attack opportunities and defensive properties.
For what may seem like a hack and slasher on the surface, Stranger of Paradise is surprisingly feature rich, really giving the player options to mould the experience to their playstyle, arguably better than most of its competitors on the market.
Where it falls apart is the story which, as you’ve probably seen from the demo and videos online, is really ham-fisted and clunky. The characters themselves don’t come across well, the lines they’re fed come across more like statements than flowing interactions.
There’s a plot here that’s worthy of a Final Fantasy, talking about agents of light and chaos, but unlike the mainline series there’s a layer of emotion missing and the characters feel bland and underwhelming. Certainly none as memorable as a Cloud or a Yuna.
And yet, you’ll find yourself laughing at some of the scenes inadvertantly and unintentionally because of how over the top it all is and, at times, pathetic.
There’s a decent chunk of content to work through here, though, with side quests that let you discover hidden treasures, lots of people to chat to in order to better understand the expectations on you, and weapons which can be smithed, harnessed and evolved in unique, dazzling ways.
Action, undoubtedly, is where Stranger of Paradise shines, and even though you can just mash buttons to hack through most bosses and mobs, on higher difficulties there’s an art to your approach. Tactics will need to be better considered and a call on your allies to keep you in the fight will see you right.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin is a title that, at times, you feel like shouldn’t work, casting a beloved franchise in a light never before seen. At times, it’s bold, other times, it’s lacking. It’s not a perfect game, but it is an enjoyable one, and among the more memorable Final Fantasy spinoffs, for better and worse.
+ A mixed selection of jobs and battle options really keep the experience fresh
+ A unique, bloody take for Final Fantasy that seperates it from anything you’ve seen before
+ Lots of content to wade and battle through
– Story is lacking with forgettable characters and poor dialogue
– Possible to mash through without delving too deeply into the finite methods of combat
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins is out now on PC, PS5, and XSX
Played on PS5
Code Kindly Provided by Square
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