Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Demo Impressions — Surprisingly good

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is the new game from Team Ninja and Square Enix, and upon announcement at Square Enix Presents livestream, a PS5 demo was made available to try until June 24th. Now that the issue regarding its corrupted data file has been patched, we can finally take a sneak peek at the trial version of the Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin and see why this guys wants to kill Chaos so bad.

This current build of Stranger of Paradise really feels like an Alpha version of sorts, with its visuals feeling comparatively closer to the look of Final Fantasy Type 0 but with the rough aesthetic seen in the demon world levels of Devil May Cry. The characters certainly didn’t make a good enough first impression in the trailer and neither did they when I started this journey.

You take the role of Jack, a warrior obsessed with vanquishing Chaos. Besides his strange wardrobe that does not even match the Final Fantasy I style guide, nothing else is really known about him. His companions Ash and Jed really didn’t do much besides acting as meat shields that distract enemies as you hack away at them to progress to the next scenario of the game.

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Who thought such plain clothes was such a good idea?

However, once you finally get a taste for its game play, I feel this is where the series shows off its potential. Team Ninja is striving to make the game more accessible especially to players who aren’t receptive with the Souls-like experience. There’s a difficulty selection, and for the purposes of this review, we’re choosing the default setting that is “Normal”. That alone was already an indicator that while the game may be more difficult than the average action slasher, it’s really bordering on the Devil May Cry difficulty spectrum than the more crushing Souls-like variety.

Of course, once we’ve tapped into the tutorial—the Souls-like control scheme does take into effect. The much maligned stamina bar has been split into the MP bar and the Soul Shield Meter. Actions rely on the MP bar and your block gauge takes up the Soul Shield meter. The more you use abilities, the more the MP bar is depleted and unlike the traditional Final Fantasy MP bar, you power up this meter by vanquishing enemies, thereby collecting the Souls currency or Amrita, as we’re in Team Ninja territory. The Soul Shield could be used to activate advanced defensive commands such as parrying and also learning Instant Abilities, sort of like “Blue Magic” to use monster skills.

Once you die, and of course you will die, you will lose the MP meter that you’ve been building up as well as the Instant Abilities you’ve learned by capitalizing on your Soul Shield. In a way the Soul Shield is comparable to Nioh‘s “Ki Pulse” as it requires timing to master. You level up your Job class instead of spending a souls currency, so dying doesn’t feel too cumbersome as you would just have to rebuild your MP meter, which is not a bad deal.

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Building up your Job Class allows you to learn new abilities, add to your stats, and potentially master a new Job. In this demo, the Swordsman could be upgraded to a Warrior, which relies more on the War Cry buffs that strengthen your offense or defense versus that of a Swordsman who relies on their abilities to strike and combo.

The loot system is quite fun and you could build up an armor set or weapon set that suits your Job, which is much akin to Nioh‘s loot system and you don’t lose them when you die. Soul cubes are checkpoints similar to the shrines in Nioh where you can replenish you HP, base MP, and your potions. Once you do so, you’ll also regenerate enemies that you’ve previously defeated.

While monster classes are mostly relegated to goblins and bombs in this trial version, they are a lot more challenging than your traditional Final Fantasy monster mash. Bombs are more menacing, as their fire spells effectively light up your surroundings causing terrain damage and of course their trademark self-destruct could one-shot you if you’re not careful. Goblins and their elite unit Goblin Defender could get troublesome with their quick attacks and stone throw. They could be easily staggered, but the same rules do apply with you and you’re also penalized by being stunned as well as losing some base MP.

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It is definitely a drastic shift from your regular Final Fantasy games, and deviates even more from the Active Time Battle system that we’ve seen evolve in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. However, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin adds to this by creating more diversity in the series. As someone who has appreciated a game like Nioh fairly recently, I’m more open to this type of combat versus that of a traditional Souls-like because it’s friendlier to the non-hardcore gamer.

While all this combined with a fun Job progression system and an addicting loot system is a welcome addition to the franchise, I feel that with the shorter time frame to its release, more improvements could be made to the aesthetic as well as to your party. Besides being meat shields, they felt like they were just there to distract enemies rather than providing something to the story and the party. Much like how I didn’t care for the party in Final Fantasy XV, at least Noctis’ entourage had a personality and while they weren’t much help in combat, they were entertaining for the most part. Hopefully we’ll get an update for its future iterations.

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is announced for 2022 on the PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and the PC.

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