by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
The World Lies Shrouded in Darkness…
The Final Fantasy series has been a mainstay of the Role-Playing Game genre ever since the initial title released in 1987 as a form of 'last hurrah' for Square before it evolved into the company known as Square Enix. In the story of Final Fantasy there is a prophecy about Warriors of Light that come bearing crystals that will bring balance back to the world, typically by defeating a great evil. About a year ago a new game released, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, which appears to be a retelling of the original Final Fantasy, starring a man named Jack and his compatriots, Jed and Ash… only things don’t quite seem right, the Crystals wielded by these Warriors are Dark, the prophecy told them to expect four, and players will note the strange… modernity about the clothing and mannerisms of the Warriors.
This is most notable by Jack's smartphone, which stands out in stark contrast to the medieval feeling of the rest of the world. This creates an interesting puzzle that could either lead gamers to want to solve, or otherwise the contrast could throw them off and actually remove interest.
The Quest to Kill Chaos
As mentioned above, Stranger of Paradise feels downright absurd thanks to the surreal contrast of the protagonists versus the world that they are within - not helped in this reviewer's opinion by the characterization. A journey to bring balance back to the world is all well and good, but the Stranger of Paradise almost seems to feel contempt for the base plot that it shares with so many other pieces of media, thanks to Jack's most common sounds - way too serious action-hero grunting, or asking where Chaos is so that he can kill it, the end goal of their quest. This is so prevalent that it seems that Jack has no motivation or characterization besides his mission, which can damage interest from gamers since he doesn’t seem to have any interesting draws.
The story of Stranger of Paradise is broken down by having a 'world map' where players can choose missions, a stark change from exploring the world like a good portion of Final Fantasy games have, which creates another separation between players and the story that they are attempting to experience. If gamers can get past these issues however, the story does begin to get interesting after an initial slow start that seems to drag on.
But How Does One Kill Chaos?
To contrast the slow start and difficulties in taking the story or characters seriously, the combat is engaging and very fun in Stranger of Paradise. Players are given multiple tools to make use of, and my personal favourite has to be the Job system. As more weapons are acquired, gamers can change Jack's Jobs to allow him to wield different weapons and abilities, with a button that lets players swap between equipped Jobs.
This isn't just weapons and abilities either, this also includes equipment, meaning players can strategize and make sure that their Mage Job has clothing that boosts magic, while physical attack buffs can be focused on classes like Pugilist or Lancer. Jobs can't be changed mid-combo or during actions, so players have to be careful choosing when to make the swap since it will leave Jack vulnerable for a brief moment.
Another useful mechanic in Stranger of Paradise is called 'Break' - essentially a stamina gauge for characters as well as enemies that lowers as they get pressured by constant attacks. Once it reaches the end and someone is Broken they are left quite vulnerable- and if Jack hits a button prompt there's a pretty visceral attack called a ‘Soul Burst’ that crystallizes and causes monsters to explode, which can stun and deal damage to others.
Getting the Ball Rolling
Stranger of Paradise is a game that has a bit of a slow start and the painful edginess of Jack contrasting with the world around him can be difficult to take seriously, but if gamers can persevere through that the combat more than makes up for it, making for a very fun game - and as time passes the surreal contrast of Jack begins to make more and more sense. That being said the game is a little bit of an investment at first, but once the ball starts rolling Stranger of Paradise is a fantastic Action RPG with very engaging combat that’s all centred around a fun and compelling Job mechanic that helps gamers play the way they want as they quest to kill Chaos and bring balance back to the world.
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Fun job mechanic, Engaging combat
Slow start, Hard to take seriously at first