Square Enix released Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin’s second demo, showing off a little bit more of what we can expect from the action-oriented Final Fantasy spinoff. The demo gets... interesting. In one cutscene, Jack, the main character, peaced out after a boss fight in hilarious fashion. Players shared the cutscene all over social media with an air of alarmed confusion, but I am here to state for the record that if all of Stranger of Paradise is going to be like that moment, this game is going to kick so much ass.
When Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin was first announced, fans were a bit surprised since the game is being developed by Team Ninja of Dead or Alive fame. Team Ninja is also behind the Dynasty Warriors-ification of franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Fire Emblem, as well as the most controversial Metroid game. From its pedigreed developer, whatever form Stranger of Paradise was going to take, it was going to be unlike anything the franchise had ever seen — and that’s a good thing. The Final Fantasy series has been around for almost 35 years, and it’s refreshing to see Square Enix continue to try new things. Square Enix has done new and weird things with its IP (Chocobo GP anyone?), but I’d argue a spinoff action game hasn’t been seen since the likes of 2006’s Dirge of Cerberus.
That’s the vibe I get playing Stranger of Paradise — like it’s Square Enix’s attempt to relitigate the merits of Dirge of Cerberus while adding a dash of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for flavor. There’s a break gauge that functions almost like Sekiro’s posture gauge — depleting it makes enemies vulnerable to special finishers, but you are similarly vulnerable if your break gauge depletes. In a growing market of Soulslike games, Strangers In Paradise fits. While not being quite as hard as the famously difficult From Software games, Stranger of Paradise asks a little bit more critical thinking from its players. You cannot spam attacks like you can in Final Fantasy VII Remake and expect to walk out alive. And once you get the hang of changing combos and switching jobs, the combat is pretty cool. There’s also a relentless gloominess present in Stranger of Paradise that was in Dirge of Cerberus. But unlike Dirge, Stranger of Paradise seems to be self-aware of its edgelordiness to comedic effect. Take the gameplay clip that’s gone viral.
This rules. There is something so relatable to Jack — not Squall, not Cloud, not Lighting, but... Jack — essentially throwing up deuces and making his exit while sick tunes blare from his earbuds. In this one moment, Jack became the millennial Final Fantasy protagonist. He’s masked up, pissed off, and finds himself outnumbered and outgunned on a seemingly futile quest to defeat an oppressive and eternal evil while toothy assholes block his path. No, seriously — one way you progress through a zone is by destroying what are essentially tooth-ringed, pulsing butthole monsters.
Is this just a poorly conceived monster idea or a well-crafted meditation on the kind of people who block humanity’s progress? You be the judge. I know the conversation around Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin centers on a cutscene people might interpret as cringe, but that cringe accompanies a demo that’s weirdly compelling and a great new direction for the seminal franchise.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin releases on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC March 18, 2022.