Starting off our Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin review, it’s worth noting the franchise has been very unique due to the fact that the IP has been attached to many different kinds of video games. Despite being one of the godfathers of the JRPG genre, Final Fantasy has been a fighting game, a 3rd-person shooter, and now a character action game.
Developed by Team Ninja, Stranger of Paradise is a unique entry into the ever-expanding franchise. This Nioh-lite title combines the fun, action packed combat that Team Ninja is known for with the memorable characters and designs of Final Fantasy.
When I took up the mantle of doing our Final Fantasy Origin review, it was a perfect time because I had just finished the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster and was knee-deep in the series lore, and needed more. I wanted to get my hands on Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin to see what a new developer would be able to accomplish with the IP and to allow Team Ninja to wash off some of the wasted potential from Final Fantasy Dissidia NT.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Team Ninja
Platform: Windows PC, Xbox One (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: March 18th, 2022
Giving Team Ninja the reins on this action game was a good choice. After the success of Nioh and its sequel, Team Ninja has worked hard to reclaim its place amongst the Kings of action games. Stranger of Paradise is a more accessible version of Nioh, supported by the Final Fantasy job system.
In the beginning of the game, Jack will start with a handful of jobs to choose from and has to level up to unlock new advanced jobs along the way. Each of these jobs use unique weapons and skills to help turn the tide of battle against your enemies.
As for me, when doing our Final Fantasy Origin review I leveled up Warrior and Berserker and never looked back. As you level up your jobs, you can unlock new abilities, stat increases, and combo attacks which can be equipped onto almost any job. This makes it even more important to unlock and level as many jobs as you can.
The combat in Final Fantasy Origin revolves around two bars that you must try to focus on, the health bar and the stagger bar. When an enemy’s stagger bar is completely broken, you can execute the enemy to get more experience for your job. When you are fighting a boss, your primary means of beating them is knocking out their stagger meter, which can range from easy to nearly impossible.
You also have three primary ways of mitigating damage: block, dodge, and mana block. If you use your mana block to parry enemy attacks, you will build up your mana bar allowing for you to use more devastating attacks against your foes. You can also use the bar to catch certain enemy attacks and be able to use them against your enemies.
Perhaps my biggest complaint in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is your team’s AI as you play through the game in singleplayer. Your partners are borderline useless and will only serve to be cushions for a boss to beat on while you try to recover.
Doing our Final Fantasy Origin review, it became clear the game is a weird fanfiction style retelling of the first Final Fantasy game. But the problem with retelling the story of Final Fantasy 1 is that the game did not have much of a story to begin with.
Therefore, it does not have much to retell, so Team Ninja barely attempts to try. In fact, one of my favorite early cutscenes in the game, just after the defeat of Garland, cuts back to our cast talking to the King, only to pick up right as Jed is saying something along the lines of “….and that’s how we got out of that situation.”
Team Ninja did not think it was important to properly introduce our cast of characters or give them a proper moment where they all meet each other and form friendships. Instead, the game opens up with Jack meeting Jed and Ash in an incredibly awkward scene where they just decide to work together to “KILL CHAOS.”
Then, the video cuts to some unknown amount of time into the future to when the game actually takes place. We do not see the three initial protagonists grow together or get to know each other. Team Ninja just decided that was not worth making and skipped it entirely.
As I progressed through our Final Fantasy Origin review, it goes without saying that the best character is Jack. Jack is an enigma, who is somehow so terrible that he comes around to being amazing. All the memes of Jack prior to the game’s release have built up this reputation of Jack being some dork who takes himself way too seriously, and they were right on the money.
Jack is a character I do not care about, I have no compassion for, and, for some reason, I am emotionally attached to seeing him succeed. At the end of the day, I am just happy to see him on screen being Jack, whether it is him tapping his foot because the King talks too slow, or telling a Dark Elf that he wants to skip the cutscene dialogue, Jack is truly one of a kind.
At the end of the day, Jack, by being so weirdly generic looking and having the personality of a sack of gravel, somehow cemented himself as one of the most iconic video game characters of the modern era.
The sound design of Stranger of Paradise can be split into three different categories: music, sound effects, and voice acting. The music is very traditional Final Fantasy music remade for this game. It was very fun to go through each level and hear the familiar music of past titles playing in the background.
Accompanying the music are some good quality sound effects. The sound of combat and the background ambience helps to bring more life into the world. The sounds of slashing swords, magical spells, and the satisfying thud of fists connecting with bodies brings me a certain level of enjoyment.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the Stranger of Paradise’s voice acting. The voice acting is pretty bad, but I am not upset about it. A good dub can really make an experience whereas a bad dub can completely ruin it. But, somehow the dub of Stranger of Paradise is so bizarre and alien, that it comes around from being bad to being amazing.
Much the same way that I can not fault Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin for having a terrible story, I just can not bring myself to fault it for having a bad dub either. Because it all just blends together to create a bizarre title that has stuck with me.
Just for an example, there were cutscenes at the beginning of this game that are played so straight, but came off so goofy, that I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. That is a feeling I have not had in a long time when playing a game.
One small thing that really stood out to me in the sound design department was that even though you only have two teammates out with you on the field, when there is in-game dialogue, you will hear everyone in your group talking, even those who are not on the field with you.
It is when we reached the graphics that my Final Fantasy Origin review became a little difficult to write. I played the game on an Xbox One X instead of a modern console or PC. However, I was surprised at how smoothly the game ran with little-to-no issues during my playthrough.
As I played, I got what felt like a consistent 60 frame rate on my One X without any noticeable frame drops, which is even more surprising when looking at the graphics. Instead of lowering the graphics too much, Team Ninja instead went the route of having enemy pop-in be a very short distance away, which normally, in most games, would be a terrible choice.
But with Stranger of Paradise, the levels are designed into small arenas rather than one long continuous flowing battlefield. You will move from one location to the next fighting a small group of enemies in each location before you get the boss. In a way, I was reminded of the way that Final Fantasy XIV’s maps are designed.
While I know that Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will look better on modern consoles with the addition of systems like ray-tracing, higher frame-rates, and better quality textures, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the game both ran and looked.
What makes Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin even more strange is that, despite having many negative things to say about the game, none of these problems took away from the experience of the game. In fact, these weird flaws in the game’s presentation helped to cement it as one of the most memorable gaming experiences I have had in quite some time.
If you are looking to play a Final Fantasy game for the story, you should definitely skip Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. But if you are looking for a fun action game with fun monster designs, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin would be the game for you. Maybe we will eventually see a sequel, perhaps a retelling of Final Fantasy 2? That would be pretty awesome, don’t you think?
Our Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin review was done on Xbox One X using a copy obtained by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has been available for Windows PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.