Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Demo
"Say The Line, Jack!"
Indeed, by the end of the demo, the player will understand that the mission is to kill Chaos. Who is Chaos? What beef does Chaos have with Jack? It doesn't matter, we have to eliminate Chaos. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin releases next week and during Sony's recent State Of Play, it announced a new final demo. This demo includes the first three stages of the game, which may not sound like a lot, but it also includes everything in between. It's essentially a preview of what players can expect in the full game, offering several hours of content. For a demo, that's more than a steal and it's more than enough to give my thoughts on Stranger of Paradise.
When first announced during E3, many Final Fantasy fans were left confused about its premise. Here was a new Final Fantasy game in a genre that very few FF games touch upon. The last game that did this, Dirge of Cerberus, was known infamously for its legacy. This is most certainly not a Dirge of Cerberus, with gameplay reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7 Remake yet not as restrictive. With Team Ninja in charge of development, much of the developer's touch is felt in Paradise, especially during its opening cinematic. The creative free reign they had was also supplemented by the game's ESRB rating, being one of the few Final Fantasy titles to be rated Mature.
It's The First Final Fantasy, But Unapologetically Edgy
The opening cutscene depicts a masculine figure decked out in a suit of armor, fighting waves of guards while kidnapping a girl. In his wake, the guards are left mutilated, turning into crystalized corpses as blood paints his armor and the halls. Not only does this set the tone for the game's story, but it lets the players know that this is a violent Final Fantasy this time. Depictions of blood and gore are shown in generous amounts, clashing with the vibrant colors of the game's world. It's successful in showing a dark world contrasting the bright, blissful, and unaware town of Cornelia.
For those unaware, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a modernized reboot of the original Final Fantasy. As each Final Fantasy is self-contained, exceptions permitting, I think the proper term would be a "retelling" than a "reboot." Important figures from the original game like Garland and Chaos are mentioned. The plot for both titles is generally the same as four Warriors of Light band together to save the world by, well, defeating Chaos. The classic suits of armor and robes are replaced with modern clothing and technology that would feel right at home in Final Fantasy 15. Cellphones and Bluetooth headsets are present, yet somehow the more things are different the more they stay the same.
Surprising In-Depth Gameplay Offers Customization Unseen In Final Fantasy
As mentioned briefly, the gameplay is similar to that of FF7R in that the player can move freely and attack while the enemy does as well. Rather than waiting for your turn, the player can attack the enemy at any given time like most action-adventure titles. Unique to Paradise are multiple ways to defend yourself aside from guarding and evading. During combat, both the player, their party, and the enemies have a "break gauge." This works similarly to FF7R where if the gauge shatters, the target is stunned and open for a critical attack.
Players can risk their gauge by using something called a "Soul Shield," where a successful deflect will restore the player's MP. If an opponent uses a specific attack and the player shields, they can not only absorb the attack but use it against the opponent. An example early on is the bomb enemy type that cast Fire. The player can shield the Fire attack, granting the spell as an instant ability, and use it in turn. This is similar to how Final Fantasy 8 used its "Junction" system. So far there are mechanics from FF7R and FF8, showing that Team Ninja had used many points of reference.
Familiar Enemy Types And Aesthetics Keeps Things Familiar Despite Gameplay Overhaul
By the end of the first level, players will have fought iconic enemy types including bombs, goblins, wolves, skeletons, and even a Cactaur. The latter also includes its infamous "10,000 needles" attack and its ability to reach breakneck speeds. This is what impressed me during the demo. It's not a traditional Final Fantasy title nor does it advertise itself as such. It adds just enough familiar details that a Final Fantasy fan will pick up, but everything is unique.
Jack is quite possibly the biggest "edgelord" I've seen in a protagonist and makes Lightning look incredibly hospitable. It makes Stranger of Parasite humorously self-aware of how serious it takes itself, while also breaking the fourth wall in knowing the player doesn't take it seriously. In-universe it's serious, but to the player, it's laughably camp, which is great. I've laughed at most scenes for its absurdity than when it genuinely tried to crack a joke.
Five Days From Now We Have To Defeat Chaos
There are many ways to play Stranger of Paradise, all of which are reflective of the original Warrior of Light's capabilities. By default, the player will begin with a Greatsword. However, as they obtain new weapons, they learn new classes. A dual-wielding thief has a different skill tree than a mace-wielding mage. Even the "mage" class gets their hands dirty as the player can incorporate weapon-specific attacks and abilities in close-quarter combat.
At any given time, the player can use up to two classes and certain abilities from one class can transfer over to another. Venom, an ability learned by the thief class, can be used as a mage for example. Suddenly there's a pissed-off venom-soaked mace-wielding battlemage prepping a Waterga spell for several enemies at once.
By the end of the demo, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is shaping up to be a solid action title. With games like Final Fantasy 15 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake blurring the lines between an action game and a traditional RPG, this title pushes the envelope further and gives the long-standing RPG series a fresh coat of paint. So far, the quest to kill Chaos never sounded better before.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will release on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on March 18th 2022.