Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins — the latest venture in the universe of Final Fantasy. After some initial widespread issues with a corrupted download, we finally managed to get our hands on the demo version of this new Final Fantasy experience. It’s a Souls-like, everybody! Kind of, anyway.
After having finally managed to download the demo, I played through the entirety of the demo and even took down the nefarious Chaos — you’ll be hearing his name a lot. And despite some minor grievances, the game really isn’t that bad! Let’s get into it.
We should quickly go over exactly who is making this game, as even though it has Final Fantasy in the title, it’s not being made by Square Enix themselves. While some of Square’s big names are involved, such as character designer Tetsuya Nomura and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, Team Ninja are the ones in charge of development for Stranger Of Paradise — and most of you reading this will doubtless remember some of their other games.
No doubt you’ve all heard of the Ninja Gaiden series, which recently got a high-profile rerelease on modern consoles. The fast-paced, hack-and-slash game focused on the exploits of the legendary ninja Ryu Hayabusa as he protects the world from fiends of the underworld. No? Maybe you’ve heard of Dead or Alive and its famous jiggle physics.
Regardless, all you need to know is that Final Fantasy Origin: Stranger of Paradise is not Team Ninja’s first attempt at a Dark Souls-esque game, as they are the guys behind the Nioh series. While most games that imitate the Dark Souls formula attempt to fall short, Nioh changed things up and made the game much more action-packed, without removing the key features that make it Souls-like.
So how is Stranger of Paradise?
Honestly, it’s fun! There are definitely some story pieces that are being withheld from us in the demo, but rumour has it that our three main characters, Jack, Ash, and Jed, were whisked up from their own world and transported into the world of the first Final Fantasy — they got isekai’d, minus Truck-kun.
After getting through the short but thorough tutorial, the game kicks off with you and your party entering Chaos’ fortress in pursuit of Garland, the big bad who’s in charge. To start out your character is equipped with a greatsword and has the job class of Swordsman — this may change upon full release if we have the opportunity to choose a starting job class during character creation.
Each job class comes with its own skill tree which, upon acquiring job points, can be levelled up. This grants the player increased stats, new abilities, and finally the ability to upgrade into an advanced job class. For example, Swordsman class can upgrade to Warrior, which allows you to use War Cry, a skill that deals damage in an area, while healing the player over time.
Next up is one of the most interesting features of this game, and that is the ability to rapidly switch between two different classes. Holding a greatsword isn’t the only way to fight in Stranger of Paradise; you can also wield powerful magic that not only deals damage to enemies but can also clear paths you may not have otherwise been able to reach.
As you fight your way through the armies of Chaos, each time you use an ability or cast a spell, your total MP will be reduced from a total of 5 bars down to 2. This makes the Soul Burst mechanic extremely handy. Whenever an enemy’s Break Gauge is emptied, which is done through repeatedly attacking them, you will be presented with the ability to perform a Soul Burst — an execution ability that restores MP and increases your maximum MP as well.
Break Gauge isn’t exclusive to the enemies; the player has one as well and these operate in a similar way to the posture bar in FromSoftware’s Sekiro — as the player gets hit, their break gauge will fall, and if it hits zero the player will enter a stagger state where you’re left wide open. Using Soul Shield is a way of defending yourself from this, as it acts as a block/parry when timed correctly. Using your Soul Shield effectively can not only keep you safe but also stagger enemies, reduce their Break Gauge, and grant you MP — as well as providing a convenient opening to strike back.
It has potential
Even though all of these mechanics may not be completely original or are slight alterations on mechanics from other games of a similar genre, they all mesh into one another really well, resulting in a smooth experience that feels really responsive. The game wants you to make sure you use your skills that consume MP wisely, but at the same time reward you for stylish play, as seen with the way Soul Shield works.
The game does a really good job of teaching the player how to progress, and even though you will most definitely die numerous times, you constantly feel as though you are learning more and more with each encounter. This was particularly the case during my experiences with Chaos, the demo’s boss battle. The boss has two phases and just as I began to think I had him all figured out, he suddenly pulled out another bunch of moves.
All in all the game has a lot of potential and I say this as someone who, upon seeing this game’s reveal, was filled with a sense of dread at what this game is going to be. My biggest issue with this game is with its characters. Jack… Really? I know we’ve had our fair share of spiky-haired edgy boys, but this is just a generic man. At least you get to dress him up in some fancy armour rather than being stuck in that T-shirt for the whole time.
The demo for Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin is available now exclusively for PlayStation 5. It will be available until June 24, and includes an opportunity to fill out a survey after you play and provide your own feedback to Square Enix. The full game is planned for release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X in 2022.
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