Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin REVIEW (PS5)
Developed: Team Ninja
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: March 18th,2022
Platforms: PS4/PS4/PC/Xbox Family
*Review copy provided to me by Square-Enix
Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an action RPG that is developed by Team Ninja and published by Square-Enix. With all the spin offs the Final Fantasy brand has to offer, Team Ninja decided to bring us not only the weirdest one yet, but one that has vast meme potential. But does this game go beyond just meme status and actually end up a great time? or should it die alongside, CHAOS?. Only one way to find out, so lets go!
The task of bringing balance to this strange but familiar world rests on the shoulders of a man named Jack and his allies. Although his memories are fleeting, he knows his mission: defeat Chaos at any cost. As he battles the darkness consuming the world, he begins to uncover the mystery of his past and finds his true purpose.
Oh boy. Where do I even start with this game. When this title was first revealed to the world, the collective opinion of everyone that is able to complete a human thought was ''What the hell did I witness''. It was weird, the humor was dry, the characters looked generic and not anything like people in the universes across all Final Fantasy's various worlds. It was a confusing time. Flash forward next to the playable demo and.. we still weren't sure on just what the heck this game was. If anything it just made it seem more like a parody or mocking of the RPG genre to be quite honest. But because of the way characters like Jack acted, CHAOS and his attitude of not giving a crap about anything BUT killing Chaos, became an instant meme and gave the game an almost cult like status. That's all good and all right, meme status is great, but it really doesn't matter if the game flops at the end of the day. Well buckle up, because if you were expecting a cheap cash in game with no substance, then you're in for a rude awakening. FFO is definitely one of those cases of ''more than meets the eye''. Both in a good and bad way. Don't worry, I'll explain.
As you start your journey, you're greeted to an opening cutscene with a knight that's completely slaughtering soldiers left and right in brutal fashion, even turning them into red crystals, and it leaves you wondering, could THIS be Chaos? is this the dude that Jack is so angry and grouchy about? No clue actually, because after he's done slaughtering all these puny castle guards, he walks off by himself, carrying a princess. It's a bit humorous though because some of the soldiers stand around literally being like ''Oh hell no, I'm not getting near that guy, let him pass'' because they had just got done watching Rogue One and saw how things ended with Darth Vader. Very smart. Shortly after this scene is carried out, you are placed into a bout against the monster known as Tiamat, as Jack, Jed and Ash attempt to take it down. Yes, this is your intro to start you off. Just throw your butt in a fight and tell you to ''have fun kid''. Right from the start, the game lets you know that its going to be hard hitting and fast paced as you learn about your basic forms of attacking with R1 being your normal light attacks and R2 with your special heavy attacks with other methods of attacking coming very shortly. The opening fight here with Tiamat, while intense yes, is very short lived with Jack and crew making short work of him with Jack slicing and pulling off Tiamat's heads. What the hell Jack? didn't you watch Hercules? you can't just cut off the heads of.. oh wait that actually worked? never mind then. I'll shut up. After this confrontation, you are transported to a vast wheat field, that will now act as your opening tutorial.
Upon gaining back control of Jack, the tutorial starts and this is where you will lean all the basic and advanced moves that will carry you through the rest of the game. As we already started you have R1 for light attacks, R2 for stronger attacks, but in addition to these you add other skills to your arsenal called break gauge, action abilities, soul burst, soul shield, absorb, and special ability known as Lightbringer. All of these are crucial to the way you play going forward. For example when beating your enemy with R1 attacks, you will continue to build upon damage of an enemies break gauge, this will lower your enemies defense and give you an opening to slam away at a monster to your hearts content. Think of it like Stagger from Final Fantasy 7 Remake. However, what gives you the advantage as well with Break Gauge is the fact that when an enemy is near death, you're able to utilize soul burst using Circle on Playstation to instant melee kill a bad guy, giving you back MP in the process. But this isn't the only use of Soul Burst, when enemies with purple aura's attack you, you can use your soul burst and soul shield mode and block their attack using soul burst and temporarily steal their ability like a Blue Mage. For example versus a Bomb, should they use Fire on you, grab the ball with Soul Shield and pocket it. ''Your attack.. IS MINE''. You'll say as you harness your inner Shang Tsung. This is really damn satisfying to do, especially when done versus multiple enemies at the same time. However should you miss with Soul Shield when blocking melee attacks, it leaves you vulnerable and YOUR break gauge will be in jeopardy, so.. don't suck, ya dumb dumb. Finally your last ditch effort attack, known as Lightbringer, is usable when your MP gauge is at 2. Activate it with L2 and O to make it easier to soul burst enemies. Be warned though that you cannot activate this with anything but 2 MP bars or higher, and can run out of MP fast should you use it too much or use R2 too much, which also drains your MP on top of it. But we'll get back into that in a second. Lets hop back into the story and see what ol Oscar The Grouch.. I mean Jack is up to.
Jumping back into the story, were greeted to the first meeting between Jack, Jed and Ash, which is completely random. They walk up to Jack and are basically like ''yo bro, we have dark crystals too'' and they all just stand and stare at each other. I know they're crystals of light, but to me, the way they're now, they just look like Dino Crystals from Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Does this mean Tommy Oliver is in this? Jack powers Dragon Zord to take down Chaos? sign me up. Upon meeting, you're told via black screen and text of their grand adventures they went on together, fighting bad guys around the world, heroic feats. But do we get to see any of it? heck no, we get totally trolled. From here we are treated to the crew on a ship heading towards Besaid.. I mean Cornelia, in order to talk to the king. But the entire time you're on the boat, Jack is bored out of his damn mind. He's like the kid whining in the back seat going ''Are we there yet!?'' but replace that with him not shutting up about CHAOS. He's as bad as Jan Brady whining about MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA. Once you arrive in Cornelia, which looks amazing, you meet the king who tells you of the prophecy of the warriors of light, four will save the land and while he's giving you this heartfelt speech, Jack is like ''Who cares, I HAVE TO KILL CHAOS''. Literally. He isn't having any of his crap. Keep your history lesson king, because I'm making CHAOS.. HISTORY. I know, that was lame, sorry. The king asks why are you so quick to go to your death and Jack still doesn't answer, he just wants to kill Chaos for no apparent reason. Our boy thirsty as heck for CHAOS. Oh my. After learning from the king that Chaos may be in the Chaos shrine, you make your way to your destination but not before being stopped by Princess Sarah, who has a favor to ask Jack. As she's talking about wanting you to look for Garland, who has gone missing ten years ago, she informs you he may still be in the shrine. Jack starts gets annoyed at this point, he just wants her to shut up so he can leave, her mere presence and breathing in the same air he's breathing is ruining his day and throwing off his groove. After she's done flapping her gums, its truly time to embark on your journey.
When heading off to the Chaos shrine to finally get into the core gameplay, which Chaos shrine looks awesome by the way, reminds me of Shadow Lords castle in Final Fantasy 11, you'll notice the mission select screen looks look a dungeon looter game, which each dungeon offering you specific reward drops based off completion and if you're wondering that, then yes you're 100% correct. This is at its heart, a Final Fantasy Dungeon looter. Typical RPG level's are now gone and now you level up via loot adjustments, gear drops and using specific classes, jobs and leveling up just by using their abilities, topped off with all jobs in the game not only having advanced jobs like Pugilist to Monk and Mage to White Mage. All of them individually having their own skill tree that allows you to unlock abilities like Onslaught physical attacks for Swordsman, Concentrate with Mage to increase MP recovery limit, Shield Bash with Swordfighter to knock people back with a shield, etc. Every class you unlock from White Mage, Black Mage, Lancer, Dragoon, Pugilist, Monk, Duelist, Thief, all have their own abilities and skills to master on your journey and just like in Final Fantasy 14, a large variety of skills learned from any class, can be used on another. One example here is I usually play with Swordsman and my subj job as Mage. But using my combo abilities that I can map to my input buttons with L2, I can use abilities like Shield Bash from Swordsman and even Ruin from Mage in combination with my abilities learned from Swordsman. Mixing and matching makes the strategy in this game pretty insane. But were not done talking about all the game play just yet. Heck no, this is just the beginning. But we'll go in depth in just a second, cause I have a lot to say on this, due to this game being so damn beefy with not only its item and gear system, but the way the combat intertwines with both modern action game standards, but also still keeps everything at the heart of Final Fantasy in general. I know, sounds strange, but it will make sense in a minute, trust me. Ok Ok. I can see Jack's getting annoyed at me, I'll keep moving along.
Making your way through Chaos Shrine and learning how to use ladders to create alternate paths to get back to later areas in case you die, you will also learn about glowing cubes that allow you to save your game, change your gear and abilities under battle settings and purchase skills under job trees, give full health, collecting spheres for data and info about the worlds lore, how to use anima shards for extra exp to level each job quickly - and after all that and fighting your way through the castle, you eventually make it to the top of the tower where you finally meet.. CHAOS. Wait that's not Chaos! WERE HERE TO FIGHT CHAOS, NOT YOU. Dang it. He's not Chaos, so he doesn't matter, after an intense fight, Jack slays him with a Saitama One Punch Man like hit. You win. Dah Dah Dah, Duh, Duh, DUH, NUH NUH NUH. From this point forward in the story you meet the fourth warrior of light Neon, who's every word is Bullsh** according to Jack, return to Cornelia to tell the King you accept his new mission to save the world, but he's still full of crap, see a classic Final Fantasy throwback view from a cliff down to the city, get a rock thrown at you by a crappy little kid - which made me want to throw him into a river like Frankenstein's monster did - I hope you can swim chump. Afterwards proceed on your journey through dark castles, scale mountain side cliffs as you venture to find caves to explore, fight a pirate named Bikke, take a ship to meet a dark elf named Astos who may have made a deadly deal with CHAOS, traverse Dark Souls Andor looking towers - which look fantastic and... Oh my god what the heck is that? what is shooting at me!?, I mean, fighting the black knight himself known as Odin, make your way through the robust forest of Refin Wetlands where you can change the land via rain or sun by interacting with nature spheres, climb a mysterious crystal tower and even high five Vin Diesel as you make it to a sky fortress in space, then meet a woman named Sophia, who tells you her goal is to KILL CHAOS, no matter what. Uh Oh. She now just became Waifu material for Jack. There's so many amazing areas in this game, that it's hard for me not to spoil them all, including the story itself. But don't worry, I'll have restraint, just like a cute evil Tonberry, I'm going to take a.. STAB at it. Oh man, I'm sorry, that was really bad. My bad guys. Shifting back now to the combat.
While the story is pretty decent overall, with it being more of a mystery than anything else, and your questions that you want answered never really get answered until the final minutes of this game, even so, the real focus should remain on what makes this game truly fun at the end of the day, the combat. The combat makes this world go round and man is it both complex and deep, but at the same time, very easy to adjust to. As stated earlier, you have multiple jobs to play as, level up, learn new skills, but it goes beyond this. Even though Jack, Jed and Ash and later on Neon, start off as Swordsman, Pugilist, Duelist and Red Mage, they aren't forever bound by them and by going to your Battle Settings, you're able to create what is known as Battle Sets. With battle sets, you're able to create two specific jobs to equip, your main and your sub job, each having their own equip-able gear. Each piece of gear for all classes having multiple item slots, meaning if you equipped a chest piece that has a connecting leg piece, you lose one extra equipment slot, but on the plus side, you might get better stats. Downside, it makes it look like you have on a onesie at times, but at least its not subligar that has your booty hanging out like in Final Fantasy 11 and 14, so win there. In regards to these battle sets I just mentioned, equipping two at same time allows you to switch between them whenever you wish to by pressing triangle. The switch is fast and immediate. This is also extremely useful when wielding a mage class with a swordsman class or any dual melee classes together in general. Why? well it allows you attack as one class then immediately switch to another to continue an ultimate combination attack, its slick as hell.
My go to for my playthrough was always the Mage and Swordsman combination, this way, as a mage, I can hold down R2 to open my magic wheel to attack with fire, aero, quake and water and when held down, it allows me to use strong attacks like Firaga, Waterga, quaga and aeroga. I'm more of a stick and move type of player, so I'd stay back, charge my magic from afar, lock on and then use my spells accordingly against a monster based off the element of that enemy, such as using Quake on a water based enemies or using water on fire blocking my path or on a fire bomb monster itself. Speaking of fire bombs, using your soul shield like I told you earlier, you're able to absorb their fire blast and shoot it right back to them. Normally that wouldn't have any effect, but they're really really stupid and they absorb all the fire energy back into themselves, leading them to swell and eventually pop and explode like the dude in Naked Gun when he gets a hose in his mouth. You stupid fire bomb. Talk about an explosive development. Ok. I'm sorry that was the last one. I swear. Mages are really too overpowered in this title though, on top of being able to cast magic at like 10 feet away from enemies and massive AOE range, you're also able to switch jobs mid fight. For example, getting yourself into trouble with two jobs that just aren't working out? or you keep dying? then that's your cue to get distance from your enemy, go to battle settings, switch to white mage, then cast regen, protect and shell on your party for extra health and buffs, then switch back to previous classes. Game allows for so much creative freedom and combinations and it never gets dull. Fights become nerve racking, intense and chaotic. Its a blast.
As you play through the game, besides the main story, there's actually other things you may do as well. With each mission you progress to, you will unlock side missions related to that stage or area and when completed, you will get better gear and more experience points, It can make your 15-20 hour journey push up to 25-30 hours easily. If you're under leveled and having a hard time, I implore you to do these after EVERY main mission completed. You won't regret it all. New gear will determine if a mission takes 40 minutes or two hours. I'm not joking.
At the end of the day, Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a very weird game, but an addicting one. Sure it's not perfect with negatives like talking to NPC's via the world map feeling pretty useless with nothing of substance ever being said, It's just as bad as the NPC's from Castlevania 2, but to give FFO credit, no one here is telling you ''don't look into the death star'' like in that game, so that's win. Small frame rate drops are also an issue that pops up from time along with texture glitches, and then the story feeling a bit disjointed a times. However, with angry grouch Jack offering non intentional humor by being as obsessed with CHAOS as Wakka is with the Al-Bhed, amazing areas to explore, engaging and gripping combat, deep and strategic job system that allows for dozens of attack combinations, beautiful music, superb and intense boss battles against the likes of Pirate Bikke, Enormous Malboro, Tiamat, Odin, Giant Chimera's, etc, make this title a must play. No sarcasm, this has to be experienced. So with all this having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW. ''BULLSH**''. What? shut up Jack. Like I was saying, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW.
*If you are reading this then you are a silly goose*