I would’ve paid big money to be in the meeting room when Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was pitched. I imagine it would’ve been bonkers! Koei Tecmo pitching to Square Enix about remaking the original Final Fantasy but make it an action RPG.
It’s an insane premise!
What’s even more insane is that it got greenlighted!
Well now the game’s out and I’ve had a couple of weeks to play it.
Is it worth the time?
What is Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin?
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a loose adaptation of the original Final Fantasy. It’s a third person action RPG that’s also online capable (with up to 2 other players) developed by Koei Tecmo and published by Square Enix. The game is available on the Playstation 4 and 5, as well as the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles.
Square Enix also kindly gave us a review copy of the game! Thanks guys!
I’m going to admit something that’s considered blasphemy. I’ve never played the original Final Fantasy…to completion. I did play the port on the original Playstation and the GameBoy Advance adaptation but never got around to finishing either.
That’s why I was actually looking forward to playing Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, I had no expectations at all coming in.
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it…but it sure wasn’t easy.
Think of Stranger of Paradise as an alternate reality version of the original Final Fantasy. It has that game’s major characters and that game’s atmosphere, but the plot is different yet familiar at the same time. Yes, it involves the Warriors of Light and their quest to stop Chaos…but that’s pretty much it for the similarities.
If you’ve played the original game to death, playing Stranger of Paradise is still recommended, if only for the alternate take on familiar events.
Despite the game being an action RPG, it pretty much eschews normal RPG conventions. You don’t get to explore towns, quests are all taken one at a time via the overworld screen and combat is king.
That’s because more than anything else, you’ll be fighting in the game. You’ll fight lots and lots of trash mobs, mini-bosses and a boss at the end of every mission. You’ll fight similarly themed enemies in side missions. You’ll fight, fight, fight and fight.
Thankfully, the fighting is very well done. You can do basic attacks, combos and even execute special skills you unlock. Combat is fast and fluid and reminds me of the God of War and Devil May Cry series but with a Final Fantasy twist.
One unique aspect of the game is the Soul Shield. It’s basically a special counter ability that lets you absorb certain enemy attacks (and reuse them), while cancelling out nearly every attack it disrupts. It’s an incredibly fun ability to use, provided you don’t mess up the timing.
You see, the Soul Shield drains your Break Meter whenever it’s active. If the Break Meter drains completely, you’re open to being stunned by enemies. The meter replenishes slowly when you’re not blocking or using the Soul Shield so you can’t really abuse either techniques for long without consequence.
Enemies too have a Break Meter, which you whittle away with attacks. Once the meter’s drained, you can do a finishing move that kills the enemy AND replenishes a bit of your MP.
Speaking of MP, it plays a crucial role in fights.
Every job uses it so you need to manage its usage while you fight. MP is refilled via normal attacks or via finishers and you can even extend your maximum MP amount temporarily with each enemy attack you counter with the Soul Shield.
That’s not the end of it!
You can also swap to another class in the middle of battle, which adds another element you have to contend with on the fly. It gives the combat system a dizzying amount of flexibility as you can pretty much mix and match the game’s classes to find a combination that you like.
I prefer to have a healer class paired with a DPS class at all times, so that I can build up MP with the DPS and then use it to heal with the Healer class.
This gives the game a risk/reward system that you have to juggle.
Do you go in for the kill with normal attacks so that you can raise your MP level or wait and counter so that you can go for a quick kill? Wait too long and the enemies will decide for you!
That’s because the bad guys in the game hit hard, fast and often. On the Normal difficulty, prepare to die…a lot! It’s not Dark Souls-level of difficulty, but the game is still unapologetically relentless and tough.
Unfortunately, certain gameplay aspects doesn’t take that into account.
I’m talking about the potions mechanic.
Potions are random drops that you can get from enemies or chests. You can carry up to 9 at a time and they carry over between stages. The problem is that they don’t replenish if you die and restart at a checkpoint.
There’s no way to buy more in a mission if you’ve used up a ton fighting a boss (or the general enemies), which can mean the final boss of a mission is literally unbeatable unless you grind the mobs for more potion drops.
Despite the action oriented nature of the game, there are still aspects of the original that peek through here and there.
There’s a Job System that you use to switch to different jobs. There’s a leveling system which allows you to learn skills and boosts and to unlock more advanced jobs. There’s even an equipment system that changes your appearance while boosting you stats.
In that sense, it feels like an real time action packed version of Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix’s incredibly fun MMO.
One of the best aspects of Stranger of Paradise has got to be its awesome visuals. The fast and fluid fighting would be of little use if the visuals were crap. Thankfully it’s not.
Characters are massively detailed, environments are huge and interesting and the battles are filled with spectacular effects. On the PS5, it’s certainly one of the most visually striking games of the year.
The Bottom Line.
Despite the change from RPG to a more action oriented game, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin isn’t a bad game. It’s combat is fun and incredibly flexible once you’ve unlocked the jobs and the visuals are pretty sweet too!
Unfortunately, the standard difficulty is waaaaay too unforgiving, especially with the potions issue I mentioned. Loading is weirdly lengthy too, despite there being a native PS5 version of the game.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment though is that there’s no more town or overworld exploration, which makes the game feel like it’s nothing but an endless series of battles and cutscenes.
Great combat and visuals, paired with a decent story but the lack of regular RPG features (like town exploration) make the experience much too repetitive and linear.
- Fast and fluid fun combat.
- Job system gives you flexibility.
- Visuals are damn good.
- Story is a nice twist.
- Remixed Final Fantasy music is pretty good.
- No town exploration.
- Potions don’t replenish upon death.
- Standard difficult is tougher than most games.