LifeisXbox’s Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin review | This is an alternative prequel of the original Final Fantasy that was playable on the NES. In case you are wondering, that one released in December 1987! Square Enix works with Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja for Stranger of Paradise, celebrating the series anniversary. I’m always excited to test out a new RPG, especially if it comes from Team Ninja but I expected a better experience. Now it’s more of a meme-worthy candidate for most moronic characters in a game. Quality-wise it is all over the place making it very interesting to write about and hopefully read. So let’s get to it!
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Team Ninja reimagines a lot about Final Fantasy | Comparable to a museum walk of the franchise, as a loyal fan it is quite an experience to recognize certain areas from older Final Fantasy games. Castle Cornelia is a great example, but the fanservice is mostly in all the recognizable areas from many previous games. Take Mako Reactor from FF7 for example, which is fresh in your mind due to the remake on Playstation. Small drawback is that it all seems a bit strange, there is no solid line in the environments. However, Square Enix’s franchise has a rich history and Stranger of Paradise uses that in a smart way. In a way you can compare it with Final Fantasy characters appearing in Kingdom Hearts, it makes the fans heart beat a little faster. So even though it doesn’t make much sense to have all these different environment styles it is a great plus for those with knowledge about the past.
- Brilliant fighting | What else did you expect from Team Ninja? This Japanese studio made Ninja Gaiden, Nioh and Dead or Alive so they have lots of experience with combat mechanics. If you played Nioh before this will feel very similar but more open for all gamers. Stranger of Paradise roots are in the Souls-genre but it is a very forgiving one, all mixed with the familiar Final Fantasy job-system. 26 different jobs are available, divided into three categories. You can level up basic jobs and unlock advanced jobs, leveling up those will unluck powerful expert jobs. Finding a preferred fighting style might take a while but that’s part of the charm! Each job has different passive abilities and bonuses, so learning how to play a red mage or monk job takes time. In my playthrough I went full mage and ended up becoming a powerful sage. You can toggle instantly between two jobs, so it is perfectly possible to be a mage and a knight. Each role has specific gear too so your look changes in an instant, helpful to know which class you currently have equiped. Not only the jobs-system makes the fighting stand out but there is also a break mechanic. With this you can do parries that refill your magic meter, copy enemy attacks and perform brutal executions. The result is an action-RPG that is really fun to play and learn, so gameplay-wise it is quite impressive.
- Blurry mess of visuals | Clearly the developer has tried to create a visual showcase but it has become a Mona Lisa that someone has rubbed with a bleach cloth. Environments look like you’re looking through a pair of bedazzled glasses. Spaces are either unrealistically large with little furniture or they were intentionally made narrow so they had to do little to finish it off. But the strange thing is that suddenly it can also be different. As if certain environments were created by a completely different team. Some cutscenes look drop-dead gorgeous, the caves you quickly encounter in the game also look colorful and magical. And then suddenly it’s terribly bad again with childish effects that tune from two generations back.
What we Disliked
- It has been since Binary Domain that I saw such ridiculous characters in a video game | One of the main characters Jack can be compared to a mix of testosterone factories of the WWE world, the comedy-like behavior of soccer star Neymar on the field (for the Meme-worthy moments) and the entire movie cast from The Expendables. It’s incredible how bad the characters are, a total lack of personality, old-fashioned cliches and not a glimmer of originality. To have to write that about a Final Fantasy game is remarkable. A franchise that has beloved characters like Rikku, Quina Quen, Vivi, Squall Leonhart and so many more… Character designer Tetsuya Nomura might be a big name in the gaming world but with Stranger of Pardise he will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
- Bad story & dialogue | You’ll hear one word many times, namely Chaos. Main objective in Stranger of Paradise is finding and killing Chaos. This is not told in a B-movie way, but I would believe it when Square Enix announces that the storytelling was done by a group of orangutans from the Leuser region. It is shockingly monotonous and painful to follow. Unnecessary cutscenes are everywhere and the game repeats itself so many times with the same explanations over and over again. The pace of the story is so extremely slow and simply boring. Surely Final Fantasy experiences are known for their captivating and unique magical stories but this title is nowhere near that.
How long to beat the story | 20 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 30 hours
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