Because it was on sale and to celebrate me finally getting a PS5 (thanks to the PS5 in stock reddit) I decided to try out the Stranger of Paradise FF Origin demo. It was surprisingly fun and so I decided to buy the full game! There will be spoilers for Final Fantasy 1 as well as this game in this review so be aware!
Story (⚠️Spoiler Warning!⚠️)
So to start off, this game is actually a prequel to Final Fantasy. That means we are basically seeing the birth of Garland, the main boss of FF1! I didn’t really realize it at first because the entire time it seems like Jack and co are these “warriors of light” and there’s a king and princess and it’s very similar to how FF1 plays out. The difference is, while this time none of the “warriors” have memories it’s because their memories have been erased in the time loop and not because you’re starting FF1 in year 1987 with Butt, Poop, Fart and Boob because you only have 4 letters to name your characters. Finally as you go through the story they reveal that some evil Luferians (aka the Allagans for those familiar with FF14) have forced Cornelia into a time loop and the only way to stop it was for Jack to BECOME CHAOS and force a new warrior of light to defeat himself. And so the game ends showing the actual Warrior of Light silhouette coming to defeat Jack Garland now in his bad-guy armor along with his fiend friends whose human forms were Jed, Neon, Ash and Sofia.
I didn’t watch the extremely spoiler filled “final trailer” on youtube for this game and I pretty much went in blindly. Thanks to this the story ending was a surprise for me. That said I kinda wish we saw more of the really cute cut scenes in the flashbacks. The scenes between Jack and Princess Sarah were really cute and the BroBFF scenes with Astos were so nice (´;ω;`) It’s like 90% of the game was just “I wanna KILL SHIT *smashes blood crystals*” and then suddenly the last 10% was all these nice cutscenes and then it was all over. I was so sad because damn I wanted to see more of that! And also, it feels so bad now killing Garland as Warrior of light. There’s in fact a Warrior of Light DLC but it’s insanely hard (and requires you to play on Chaos/Bahamut mode) so if you played on EZ mode like I did save your money and just watch a youtube video.
[Kanade] The trailers didn’t really do the game any favors because it made the game seem like it was going to be a “Japan’s extremely warped assumptions regarding American tastes” ironyfest like Metal Wolf Chaos (lol I keep typing “Metal Fox Chaos” because of that stupid FATE that I had to do over and over in FFXIV to get the Gunnhildr’s Blade title). Instead it was much closer to being a remix of the various Final Fantasy games along with trying to clean up the silliness of the “so they sent you forward in time to send them back in time to send them forward in time” time loop of the original game. And yeah, it’s a ~dark fantasy~ but in the same kinda way that a lot of action RPGs are rather than our initial assumptions that it really meant it was going to be an edgelord fiesta.
So I decided to play with Japanese voices as usual because TsudaKen was voicing Jack. This made some of those funny “bullshit” videos sound funnier to me because I wanted to see what the Japanese equivalent would be. Just like with Nier Replicant, Jack sounded a lot angrier in English while in Japanese he just felt like he was damn tired of everything.
I liked the boke and tsukkomi between Neon and Jed who I had in my party the entire game to fill in the pretty boy/waifu quota. While I didn’t have Ash in my party (because for some reason this game only lets me have 3 people in the party like FF13) and Sofia showed up late in the game I never really bothered using them lol. 💦I made Jed Samurai/Thief/Ninja and Neon was doing most of my tanking with Knight and Paladin so I could sit there spamming casts with my Sage. It was nice to hear the entire party chit chatting during dungeons even if they weren’t actively fighting. As I mentioned in the story section, I really wish we got more screen time with princess waifu and Jack together as well as Astos, they truly deserved more than they got. I also kinda wish they got better outfits. I pretty much changed gear several times throughout the dungeon so most of the time I looked like some clown with unmatching clothes and there’s no DCL or “glamor” system to look at least like the “starting” set.
Your party members also get sidequests throughout the game to give them new jobs. We noticed while going through them that “oh hey, for once they don’t make the girls have to be healers or support jobs.” We made Neon a tank (she got both paladin and rune knight as options), and while we didn’t use Sophia since it would be redundant, she could be a dragoon or breaker.
It’s been a while, but for once I didn’t have to inject a million cheats to get through the game. Oh yes because this game is modern and has an easy mode for those like me who just want to experience the story and don’t care about grinding or optimization. What a concept! Amazing! While I struggled at first figuring things out, once I got used to everything, I found Sage to be my favorite job. The casters in this game are like melee casters in where you cast spells first and then you run in and do some melee attacks to regen your MP. I liked Warrior and Berserker and eventually those 2 jobs led me into Breaker which was my favorite melee job for simply 1 reason: Zantetsuken. That thing basically instakilled everything, in the true spirit of Odin. 😂 So when fighting bosses or trash it made things very simple and I would swap between Sage and Breaker depending on if I had MP or not or if the enemies were annoying and interrupting me while trying to cast.
Not sure how much of this is “lol easy modo“, but the game has a pretty broad character customization system. There’s 8 starting classes, which then can converge or diverge in different ways as you unlock more advanced versions of them. Then on top of that, you can often choose between a variety of different weapons on each job which make them play out very differently (like a slow and powerful axe compared to a faster katana compared to the longer range on a spear). We didn’t bother with the first DLC (since it more or less turns the game into a Diablo II-style ilvl grind), but it seems like it then expands the customization and itemization even further. But also at the same time, we never felt particularly overwhelmed by all the customization either because the core of the game was pretty easy to grasp and didn’t have any of the incredibly tedious kudaran of games like Tales of Zestiria.
There was also a similar system to Scarlet Nexus, which had a “break gauge” and when you reached that gauge you would “brain crush” the enemy instantly and defeat them while seeing some cool animation from the character. Of course if you got tired of that animation you could turn it off and shorten it but NO I saw it every time because it’s SO FUCKING BADASS. 😎😎😎 The Crush Animation STAYS ON. And so since Scarlet Nexus was my favorite battle system, this actually now came in 2nd. If only we had that brain mode that SN had which is super fun or as I like to call it “ok I have HAD ENOUGH of this SHIT 😡” mode. So overall, I can only praise the system for having so much variety, and fun gimmicks. My only confusion was the fact that the game has no invisible wall collision which means you could accidentally fall off edges or knock enemies off them lol. I’m used to games having walls so I frequently would walk off the edge in a てへぺろ(๑ゝڡ◕๑) fashion. I also kinda wished the game had photo mode because it was so pretty in certain spots but sadly it was not to be. (´・ω・｀)
It’s good that this game had a demo on PSN because I was apprehensive about it initially since it’s a Dark Souls-style action RPG (::extremely grognard voice:: no, ACTUALLY it’s a Nioh-style action RPG) and we’ve had many a conversation along the lines of “wtf, Dark Souls/Elden Ring/etc. look like the shittiest shit that was ever shat out of a butt, like who the hell finds this kind of torture fun?” So I was expecting a lot of frustration (or maybe just a little bit of frustration, since then it would trigger an immediate ragequit), but fortunately it turned out that the game is very easy and removes some of the annoying death punishments when you turn the difficulty level all the way down. It’s not entirely brainless since you can still die very quickly to tougher enemies like boss tonberries, but it’s not longer like “oops if you get hit once you instantly die and have to start all over again.”
So overall, I really enjoyed it. I think if you’ve played Final Fantasy 1 you should absolutely play this game and if you haven’t played FF1, I would recommend playing it AFTER completing this game (though you might have a lot of feels-bad-man vibes 😂.) The final note I want to make about the system is I played the PS5 version but apparently the Epic Fail games PC port is trash and has frame drops, crashing and stuttering. I have no idea if they ever fixed this, but knowing Square Enix, probably not. So if you do end up playing this game, definitely pick up the console edition.
I’ll go a step further: along with being a sorta combo remake and prequel of FF1, every level in this game is based on a noteworthy area in a previous Final Fantasy game, so the more of them that you’ve played, the more of these references you’ll notice as you go, like seeing the Mirage Tower reimagined as the Crystal Tower or Pravoka turned into Sastasha. Then tack on all the other callbacks with gear, skills, classes, codex entries, etc. that it’s actually quite a fanservicey trip.