Three men walk into a castle…
Searching for Chaos. Not sure if you heard of this one before. No, it’s not a joke. Will they find him? who really is Chaos? We’re baffled by that fact. I sure was. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin starts this way on the demo, opting out to a lighter form and a protagonist with happier surroundings. These three are short one warrior to be considered the predestined warriors of light they claim to be. Team Ninja seems to be heading up the development efforts through another alternate Final Fantasy title since Dissidia NT’s launch.
How was this Narnia-esque go-around?
Jack and his cohorts are charged to eliminate Chaos through the crawl to get to him. Looking at Jack’s duds, perhaps he and his friends were brought in from an offshoot of our own world and because of “Chaos”, they were summoned here in the first place. My own speculation here.
The scene is darker than many Final Fantasys’ ever let on. Jack’s friends are also dressed mostly in black. Each area and corridor is grittier than ever before. Not much has been said about the plot. As some of the news outlets have clamoured since the E3 debut, Stranger of Paradise is loosely based in the world of the first Final Fantasy game. There seems to be an absence of Light – the real hero of the story. The fiends you encounter in usual Final Fantasy titles, such as Bombs, globins, skeletons, and Cactuar, are all present. Even the spells and moves, from previous entries, make appearances.
The trio, mostly lead by Jack, do the dungeon crawl to get to the BOSS BATTLE, where the demo ends. Ash is a fighter or probably a monk, while Jed seems to be a thief. Jack starts off as a Swordsman, carrying a greatsword. Depending on pacing, this could be a 20 or so minute run. Goblins are the first the bunch encounters. They aren’t the goblins we all know and love, so Magic Hammer won’t stifle anyone. They’re nearly as hideous as their FF15 approach. Jack’s moves and the game’s vibe feel similar to another Team Ninja work – Nioh. Especially with the “get healed up at a save point and everything resets” aspect. Enemies seem to be rejuvenated as if the threesome were barely there. On death, they start back to where the last point was. Stats are still in place from the death, but MP will stay in the spot of death Special Moves and Spells rely on MP. The UI is similar to other current gen FFs, which is clean and easy to read what’s going on. Visually, you can feel the darkness. NPCs can be revived by the use of potions, which seems to cap at 5.
Jack can change between two classes
Next to that is a Stun guage, which depletes on blocked and unblocked hits. There is a parry mechanic, which gives clean hits to perfectly timed blocks and if the Soul Shield is used, MP is rewarded. Perfectly timed Soul Shield guarding against enemy special moves can result in a bit of a Mega Man situation whereas Jack can use the said attack against enemies for a limited time. It did feel nearly Brave Fencer Musashi-esque, but the limited use was quite strategic.
Enemies also have the stun gauge shown, too. Once theirs is fully depleted, and they still have HP left: Jack can go in for the finishing blow, which usually decapitates them in style, leaving MP behind to collect. If Jack’s is zero, he’s stunned. The action’s quicker, with everything in real time. No turns to wait. The Lightbringer mode seems to negate the stun bar for a small amount of time, yet on each hit Jack makes to the enemies, their block bar totals are diminished and their deaths are automatically MP collected. Mechanics, such as wall splats, are in – which felt pretty refreshing. Combos can use special attacks such as Onslaught when they are mapped. Gear is represented on screen, so the original Old Navy attire Jack rocks will change. Each item either being a boon or deficit to the character.
Boss wise is of course who you’d expect at the end of the tunnel – Garland, Final Fantasy’s main antagonist. Whether this is canon to his point remains to be seen. At this point, once the mechanics are understood, he could be not too bad of a task since he’s following the same stun rules, minus the “death on stun”. Garland takes the blows of the two NPCs without flinching sometimes. Standing over his body did feel satisfying, but at the same time, I was expecting a second form.
Other weapons are found through the castle, which can lead to new classes. Black Mage seemed to be the second noticeable standard class to get before I upgraded to Warrior. Stats and moves are controlled by job trees. Each time a class level up is achieved, points are added to the job tree. Traversing through it leads to optional boosts or moves. The demo game can be played several times over.
The gripes thus far with Origins
Small gripes are not totally game-breaking. Jack’s companions cannot be controlled by AI preferences or attack/defensive manoeuvres. Or even gear customisation. They get what they come with and you have no idea as to who is either okay to fight, health wise or not. Ash and Jed also only attack groups of enemies and bosses. The double team nearly becomes useless in Hard Mode when their damage usually doesn’t go as far. If one enemy is running around, they leave the work to Jack by doing absolutely nothing but move around. There isn’t much in terms of a map, but this can be intentional. Aesthetically, it doesn’t seem to push many things on the PS5 to put it into a PS5 game. I felt as though the in-game visuals felt a little lacking by a couple of gens. More of a nitpick than anything else. This is a very early multi-console game.
Stranger of Paradise seems to be just that – a different kind of Final Fantasy game based on the lore. However, there are several steps it takes to be as familiar as its new family members could. If this is going to be the way this title’s going, perhaps the palette change could whet the appetite of the many waiting on 16’s arrival. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will be available on for all consoles and steam in 2022.
You can download the demo here for free from the official PlayStation store.