Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – Game Review


Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

(available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One and PC)
(PlayStation 5 version used for review)

I’m sure that at this point you’ve at least heard of Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Whether it’s from the clips you’ve seen online to the trailer saying CHAOS more times than the entirety of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, this game was met with infamy before it even launched. Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was first announced at e3 2021 and was released on the 18th March 2022 for Playstation 4 & 5, Xbox One & Series X and Epic Games Store.

The story is a dark retelling of the first Final Fantasy game. In the game you play as Jack Garland, a gruff, tough guy who’s fixated with destroying Chaos, a god-like being said to be nothing more than a story. Joining him on his quest are his friends Ash, Jed and Neon, who also share his obsession to slay the dark being. The story was something I was actually excited about experiencing, mostly for how hilariously bad it looked to be – if you’ve seen the clips going about online you’d know what I mean. Sadly, I did not get the gloriously crap story I was hoping for, instead the story was just your generic, run of the mill bad. The characters’ personalities are practically non-existent and we get nothing new about them with little development. It’s really not interesting. 

The best I can say about the presentation is that it’s okay. You can definitely tell that this game was designed more to play on the previous generation’s consoles, but even then it doesn’t look that great. The character models don’t seem to have been improved at all since Final Fantasy XV, and don’t really stand out that much. The voice acting really isn’t going for any awards, it’s painfully static to the point of almost being monotone and the actors are trying so hard to sound tough or playful that it just becomes cringe inducing. Even the soundtrack, which in my opinion is the best part of the presentation, I’m mixed on. On one hand I can’t deny that it does match up to a number of Final Fantasy soundtracks, the songs are epic and to add to the atmosphere and the battles, but at the same time they don’t stand out and are somewhat forgettable (except for the main battle theme, but you hear that song so often that you’ll eventually wish it was). 

Strangers of Paradise is an action dungeon-crawler that’s very reminiscent of a souls-like. Something that I found surprising – that no doubt a lot of other people probably would as well – was the fact that, for the most part, the game was actually a lot of fun. While the combat does get monotonous after a while, it’s still a lot of going through each dungeon and killing enemies whatever enemy crosses your path.

 One of the best parts of it is the customizability. Like a number of other Final Fantasy games, you have a selection of jobs that you’re able to unlock and upgrade as you go along. You have a selection of eight weapons to wield, though you’re only designated to using the ones that your current job will allow. What I found amazing is that not only do all the weapons work very differently from one another, but I actually enjoyed using all of them, obviously I had my favourites and least favourites, but I never found myself dreading using any of them. 

As you max out your jobs, you’ll gain points to spend on that job’s skill tree, letting you unlock new attacks, bump up your stats and even unlock even more jobs to use. With each job you’ll also unlock a series of special attacks that you can attach to your normal attacks and create a combo. What I love about these attacks are not only the fact that you can essentially create your own attack patterns, but that these aren’t linked to any particular job, as long as you have the necessary weapon you can perform the attack, no matter what role you’re performing. However, each job will have one ability that can only be used by them, such as a unique buff for the caster, a special attack, or the ability to cast spells. 

As to be expected, these attacks require you to use up a bar of the MP gauge. At first you’ll notice that the MP gauge is very small (only two bars available), though you will be able to increase those bars as you fight. The way you most often will is by a special guard called a Soul Shield. When an enemy attacks, you can use the Soul Shield to finish their combo early and in doing so you’ll increase your MP gauge slightly. 

The enemies that you fight are monsters that you would expect to encounter in other Final Fantasy games, like Bombs, Flan and Tonberrys (oh god, not the Tonberrys). These enemies will of course have their own resistances and weaknesses to certain weapons and magic attacks. This is something that I’m honestly mixed on, mostly on the weapon resistances as it’s really annoying when an enemy is resistant to all weapon types except for one and you’re wanting to level up a job that doesn’t use that weapon. When you attack an enemy with a weapon or spell that they’re weak against, their break gauge will steadily decrease with each attack. Once depleted you’ll be able to perform an attack that will kill them instantly and increase your MP gauge by a decent amount

So yeah, I had a surprisingly decent amount of fun with this game, fully planning on recommending it as something I had a ton of fun with… at first. Sadly, while the game is a decent time, it’s almost completely ruined by a couple of mechanics and design choices. 

First of all, the level design isn’t that great. The settings of the levels are ok, despite them looking no different to a place you’d expect to find in other Final Fantasy games, but the designs are very bland, mostly consisting of corridors that look almost identical to one another – making exploration more of a pain as you’ll get lost easily – and small arenas for fighting in. Even in the optional side quests, you just go through small sections of the main missions levels with a rope bannister keeping you in that small section (Jack Garland: Oh no, a rope bannister, my one weakness.)

Easily the most infuriating part of the game is the Break Gauge. Not only do your enemies have a Break Gauge, but so do you, and it will deplete as you get hit, block or use the Soul Shield. Now this is a mechanic that normally I wouldn’t mind, I’d welcome it even. I thought it would work like the Posture System in Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, where it would help to encourage you to learn how combat worked and punish you slightly if you get too greedy or don’t time your parries properly. However here’s the main difference, in Sekiro if your Posture Metre depletes all that happens is that you stagger for a second, leaving you susceptible to a potential combo from your opponent. In Strangers of Paradise if your Break Gauge empties, you stagger until it refills – which mind you is at the speed of a snail after a caffeine rush – you lose all the buffs you applied to yourself and you lose a bar from your MP gauge. This is way too punishing, especially with how quickly your Break Gauge can deplete. With Sekiro it takes a good while for your Posture Metre to be fully drained, meanwhile in this game it can literally be decimated after one or two hits, and that’s if you’re not blocking. And to make matters worse, as far as I’m aware, there is no way to strengthen it, so there’s no way to make it less of a headache for you. To be frank, it’s insulting how unfair this makes the game; especially since it makes the White Mage job near useless. 

Another big problem I have with the game is the consumables, or to be more precise, the lack of them. Literally the only consumables available in this game are Potions, all the other ones you’d expect to find in a Final Fantasy game – let alone a JRPG – are absent. And yes, you still get status ailments like Poison and Sleep, that last for a really long time and will make things more of a pain for you. In fact, there aren’t even spells that can cure them. What makes it even worse is that there are some lines of dialog during battles that implies that you should have been able to heal these ailments, implying that these were originally gonna be features in this game but were either scrapped or weren’t put in due to time constraints. Yet another thing that makes this game all the more unfair. 

So if consumables are missing, then what do enemies drop when you kill them? Armour and weapons, and a lot of them. Yes this game follows in the same footsteps as many looter-shooters like Destiny 2 or the Borderlands series, and this is something that at first, I actually didn’t mind all too much. I liked the idea that I could be getting items that could potentially make me stronger with every kill. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last, and it eventually became a bit of a nightmare. Because of how much you get in every level, you’ll find your inventory getting filled up after one or two levels, meaning that you’ll have to scrap a good number of them. This is especially bad as you’ll find yourself either spend hours sifting through menus trying to pick out the best equipment every time you reach a resting point, or you’ll just do what I did and throw most away, only keeping whichever ones had the best stat increases or the highest job affinities, meaning that I’m definitely not getting the best equipment that I can.

Finally are the AI partners. You’ll have two of them with you out at a time and will aid you in your fights. You do also have the option of multiplayer, and if able to definitely do that instead. While your NPC allies aren’t bad, they’re not exactly useful. They’re not very good at avoiding enemy attacks and enemies will almost always go after you, completely ignoring them. So multiplayer is definitely the path to go here.

As I leave Strangers of Paradise I find myself conflicted. I will admit that I think that the game is ultimately a lot of fun, even in the last few hours that I was playing it, I can’t deny that I was having fun in moments – enough that I was considering going for the platinum trophy for a short while. But, as I said, there were just a few decisions and mechanics that ultimately ruined the game for me and ended up with me not finishing the game. If you do have fun with this game, I can totally see why. But ultimately, the game left me unfulfilled, and I have absolutely no desire to return to the game anytime soon. 

6.8/10

Elliot Chapman
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia6th July 2022
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