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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin review - An entertaining, challenging trip through time

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was a brilliant experience with action, challenge, and a gripping story (Image via Square Enix)
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was a brilliant experience with action, challenge, and a gripping story (Image via Square Enix)

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a game I have been waiting for, and boy did it ever deliver. On a personal level, I do not typically play Soulslike games because I’m terrible at them. With that said, I had to play this.

It takes players through the classic Final Fantasy 1 story, but in a way that they will likely not see coming. We will be avoiding major spoilers in this review when it comes to the story. It is intrinsically linked to the first Final Fantasy.

The story may start a little slow, and it might be complex, but it all pays off in a way that moves me on an emotional level.

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a Souls-like on harder difficulties

One of the biggest questions that will no doubt be asked about Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is, “Is this a Soulslike?” On the greater difficulties (Hard/Chaos), I would say yes, yes it most certainly is.

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Full disclosure, I reviewed this on Normal and Story difficulty because I am certainly not a Souls player. I may try them more after playing this game, however. Most of the fights were a decent challenge on those difficulties, with Zombie Dragon making me want to scream and throw my PlayStation 5 into the ocean.

In its own way, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin may have pushed the Souls genre forward in its own way. That is primarily thanks to the 28 jobs in the game, each with its special abilities and traits.

The job system has a great deal of depth and is worth investing time into (Image via Square Enix)
The job system has a great deal of depth and is worth investing time into (Image via Square Enix)

Players will have Basic, Advanced, and Expert jobs, with Advanced and Expert jobs having specific requirements to unlock, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics. Playstyles will vary wildly for fans of the game, but I spent the most time as Ronin, Samurai, and Breaker.


The Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin story in brief

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I will not spend a lot of time on the story because it’s complex and avoids major spoilers. As in Final Fantasy 1, the Warriors of Light showed up to battle with Chaos, led by Jack Garland. The name might seem incredibly familiar to fans of the franchise.

It makes several callbacks to the original story, with Lufenians, Astos the Dark Elf, Bikke the pirate, etc. The story starts very slow, admittedly, and Jack isn’t very likable at first. I did appreciate him wanting to cut the crap and get to the point of matters in the story. He has a very driven need to kill Chaos, and that’s all that is on his mind.

The story points felt confusing for a fair amount of the game, but everything made sense to me once I got to the end. I feel like it was made so confusing to make the ending more impactful. That worked for me. Everything gets explained as time goes on.

Players will travel across a wide variety of very familiar places in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)
Players will travel across a wide variety of very familiar places in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin players can also unlock a variety of journal entries in dungeons. That, while interesting, honestly just made me more confused until about three quarters through the game.

So it all made a great deal of sense. While not talking about the ending, it is among my favorite conclusions in all of the Final Fantasy franchise, which may or may not be a hot take.


Combat is straightforward but intense

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While Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin's story is a great draw, the main appeal for many will likely be combat. It feels rooted in the Souls genre, where the character and his party dodge roll and run away from huge attacks and strike weak points.

Players will dive into Main Story Missions and Side Missions (tied to the main mission maps), slaughtering enemies solving puzzles, and leading to powerful boss battles. There is no mini-map, and players who aren't paying attention can get very lost.

Thankfully, players will have Save points in the form of Cubes. They refill health, potions, mana and allow the player to make adjustments to their character or even abandon the mission.

The Soul Break abilities are so grisly, but the crystal explosions just look so awesome in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)
The Soul Break abilities are so grisly, but the crystal explosions just look so awesome in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)

Each job has a special ability that they can trigger with the R2 button, as well as activatable abilities and combos to use. Some jobs will feel familiar (Ronin into Samurai, Rogue into Thief, for example) but will still perform differently.

Activated abilities require mana, which is a finite resource. It can be restored using Soul Break or by simply playing Samurai. Samurai’s ability gives back mana using basic attacks, which found its way into my heart.

Soul Break is a prominent feature in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin used throughout the game. Players use a grisly attack when an enemy has run out of guard meters, exploding them in a shower of gore and crystals. It also triggers the second phase of boss battles.

I may have died to the Zombie Dragon more times than any other encounter in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)
I may have died to the Zombie Dragon more times than any other encounter in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (Image via Square Enix)

Each boss fight in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has two phases, and when the player gets halfway through the boss's health meter or breaks the guard meter, they can move on to the next, more challenging phase.

That felt a little repetitive, but at least each boss fight was undoubtedly unique. They all had different gimmicks and special attacks to be aware of. The game does teach combat mechanics quickly and early, like which attacks are unblockable (attacks that have a red aura).

While I was new to the Souls genre, I felt like I picked up on things pretty quickly. Combat is the main draw of the game, and each type of monster has a different way of approaching them, which was great for me.


Mix and Match for victory

Mixing and matching jobs can make for some very powerful combos in the game (Image via Square Enix)
Mixing and matching jobs can make for some very powerful combos in the game (Image via Square Enix)

Another big draw for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is the ability to have two jobs equipped at one time. This can be used to create powerful synergies and incredible combos. Players can combine Breaker and Tyrant to get intense melee combos off or stack a pair of Intelligence-based jobs (Black Mage, Red Mage, for example) to melt enemies quickly.

The party members you recruit can also change jobs, but it’s not clear at first how they get better jobs. It will be done through completing parts of the story, but it also makes the Side Missions more important. Certain Side Missions unlock more advanced jobs for the rest of the party, so keep an eye on those.

But I will say, on the subject of character jobs, gear was a little frustrating. Items explode out of virtually every enemy, and it can be very frustrating to figure out exactly what equipment to give Jack. I find it much easier to Optimize his gear unless the player is very familiar with Souls games and knows exactly what they want in a character.

There are so many different ways to tackle boss fights, thanks to this system (Image via Square Enix)
There are so many different ways to tackle boss fights, thanks to this system (Image via Square Enix)

The job system is the best part of the game, though. It has so much flexibility and will offer different approaches to each stage. I wish there was more of an offering when it came to ranged combat, but that might make many of the fights too easy.


Tributes to the past games through music and stage design

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Each Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin mission has a particular esthetic it adheres to, making each part of the world feel alive. Some players might be turned off by seeing more futuristic technology in the game, such as a dungeon feeling similar to Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Mako Reactors.

Although there was powerful futuristic technology in Final Fantasy 1 thanks to the Lufenians, it fits as far as I’m concerned. Bikke the pirate’s cove felt similar to Final Fantasy XIV’s Sastasha, and the Cave of Earth felt like it was pulled right out of Final Fantasy XII.

I loved all of these little tributes to the classic games. Many stages will feel familiar to long-time fans esthetically, and the music was also incredible. There were so many excellent remixes that tugged on my heartstrings.


In Conclusion

The game tells an incredible story, offers plenty of challenge, and potential replay value (Image via Square Enix)
The game tells an incredible story, offers plenty of challenge, and potential replay value (Image via Square Enix)

Jack Garland’s quest to ultimately defeat Chaos struck a chord with me. At first, the story was standard fare, and Jack’s stoic, grim demeanor may be a turn-off for some. He isn’t that interesting right out of the gate. It takes some time, and the world and its characters open up.

The game will have a decent amount of replayability regarding more complex difficulties, a wide variety of jobs, and online multiplayer. The final story beat blew me away, and while I couldn’t talk about it, I was so happy. The story felt disconnected at first, but it all came together.

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The combat system was solid and easy to learn, and there were so many different ways to tackle the game. It’s satisfying to start a powerful attack, cancel out and avoid something in time, or cancel to chain into another attack.

I also played in Performance mode, so the game could look pretty and have 60fps. It made dodging and avoiding attacks so much easier. I immensely enjoyed this trip back through time, and fans of Souls games and Final Fantasy fans will too.


Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin delivered an intense story, and fantastic combat (Image via Sportskeeda)
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin delivered an intense story, and fantastic combat (Image via Sportskeeda)

Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

Review Code Provided By: Square Enix

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows

Release Date: March 15, 2022

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Edited by Yasho Amonkar
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