The Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin demo is quite good – despite the botched E3 presentation

Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins

It’s fair to say that the reveal of Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins at the Square Enix E3 presentation was a disappointment.

On paper, it’s a thrilling concept: created by Team Ninja (Nioh, Ninja Gaiden), it’s a Souls-like Final Fantasy action game with nods to the original game in the series and its Warriors of Light.

The reveal was rough at best, though. And while a demo was made available after the presentation on PlayStation 5, many gamers reported issues with even opening it due to corrupt files.

It’s not the best start, then. But now the demo is playable and… it’s quite good actually.

Team Ninja has a great pedigree with the Nioh series, itself a Souls-like game, and that shows here. The controls are very similar; potions take the place of Estus flasks; the levels loop on themselves with shortcuts and checkpoint cubes restore health and revive enemies.

It’s also hard. Really hard.

In combat, though, the game sings. Lead character Jack (yes, really, that is his name – a generic name for a generic himbo) has both regular attacks and special attacks mapped to the right triggers, as well as a Soul Shield ability that works like a parry and replenishes the MP used for special attacks.

Jack can also switch between different Jobs in typical Final Fantasy style. Beginning with Swordsman, you’ll soon unlock the Black Mage and Lancer Jobs. These can be switched between on the fly, immediately opening up varying abilities.

Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins

Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins. (Square Enix)

That includes a variety of melee attacks, or – with the Black Mage – magic attacks. Soon you’ll get into a rhythm of swinging, dodging, spending and conserving MP, and using the Soul Shield to counter enemies.

It feels great, Team Ninja surely confident in their ability to create a solid combat system – even if the final battle against Chaos in the demo is an off-putting leap in difficulty.

Problems with the demo arise though with…everything else.

The shoddy graphics are immediate from the start, with blurry textures, poor framerate and – worst of all – unimaginative character designs. Jack begins wearing a basic modern day t-shirt that is utterly out of step with the gothic castle setting that feels more like a Devil May Cry knock off.

When Yoshitaka Amano created such beautiful, vivid designs for the main series, it’s an utter letdown to see such a generic dark fantasy world with the Final Fantasy name slapped on it.

The presentation feels like something a teenage boy would think is cool. It’s all moody and gritty, with areas like “Temple of the Dead”, and dialogue like “the darkness is so thick I could taste it”. It’s laughably bad.

Jack is joined by two companions, Ash and Jed, but they’re superfluous. Not only do they barely aid in battle (and cannot be controlled or levelled up, at least in the demo), they are devoid of personality. 

The core gameplay has plenty of potential, but this origin story just doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game at all. And that’s saddening. Instead fans will be strangers in their favourite series, left out in the darkness. Can you taste it?

The Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origins demo is available to play now on PlayStation 5.

Check out the reveal trailer below.

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