I have played many Final Fantasy games, and have enjoyed many hundreds of hours of them. The series has made some serious changes that didn’t initially gel. Looking at you Final Fantasy XII, well that was until I played it again 10 years later and realised it was amazing.
So a souls-like merged with Final Fantasy? I was as open minded as I could be going into Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
A Stranger to both
First of all, the souls-like aspects aren’t as intimidating as you maye expect. So don’t be scared off. Souls games tend to be absolutely brutal, and this can be if you want it to be thanks to difficulty settings.
What the game shares with Souls games is the structure of advancing. You will make your way through a level, and every time you get killed you reload back at your save point. As you advance you can unlock shortcuts so that if you die you can advance further forward faster.
Now saving will be absolutely crucial here of course, so you don’t lose that sweet sweet progress. Well when you save, all the enemies are resurrected. This is a soulsy thing, and that means you have to be sparing with your use of saving at times. Especially if you are using enemies as a way to tell which path you haven’t used yet.
So what is so different to a souls game I hear you ask. You have the option to choose the difficulty level. That’s it. I mean it’s a little thing, but that is the reason I beat the game so it’s a pretty damn big deal. There are easy to hard options, but also a casual option that is more generous with things like the MP you drop when you die, and I’m not ashamed to say I casualled it.
Even in casual I had my ass kicked a few times, but if you want it to be brutal then you absolutely can. Options are the spices of life. Or was it Variety? Who cares, you can play it in easy mode.
Strange yet familiar
Despite the massive amount it borrows from the souls series, it is a Final Fantasy game in so many ways. Immediately you are presented with this beautiful castle that couldn’t look more like art work from FF15 if it tried. The characters’ looks and styles are as Final Fantasy as they come, and then there are the enemies.
Nothing reminds you that you are playing a Final Fantasy game than being zapped by a Coeurl, or looking into that freaky tentacled massive mouthed beast known as the Malboro. There are little details like cactaurs that randomly appear. They aren’t too hard to take down, but killing one drops some serious loot.
One of my favourites and most hated are the Tonberry’s floating around. Anyone familiar with the series will know these iconic bastards. It doesn’t matter what level the enemies were or how kitted up I am, these beasties could slaughter me in seconds. In these moments I had to take the timing and dodging down or I would be smoked.
A bit Strange, a bit familiar
One aspect of the game I found interesting was the leveling which is split across the gear and the job system. The jobs system has you earning skill points to spend in a tree, and regularly at the end of a tree you unlock new job types. The jobs bring different skills and you can equip two at a time to switch between.
This becomes helpful as you start using different melee jobs with different magic types to smash your enemies. There are more nuances like jobs that use more than one, but I never got too into the weeds of that.
The equipment levels are what will gauge if you are strong enough to tackle a mission. Basically every enemy you beat drops gear. You can get into the detail of each drop and decide which stats you wanted to boost. Because of the frequency I opened the menu every so often and used the auto-equip system. You can get into this if you want, I did not.
Final Fantasy Origin
I have been focussed on what makes this game feel like a souls inspired Final Fantasy game, but with any of these there is of course a story. The majority of this story is told with cut scenes at the start and end of each mission. These short snaps at times don’t contain much information and so I wasn’t that engaged for the bulk of the game. Then suddenly near the end it got good.
The short version of it is you are Jack, a man tasked with destroying this being Chaos. You start with your team of two allies who go around defeating these chaos enemies, freeing the power of the crystals that they are corrupting. Along the way Jack learns a lot about what Chaos is and his part to play in the world’s destiny. It is hard to go into much more detail without spoiling the actual good bits.
The story starts off a bit meandering and unengaging, but at the end of the game I kind of appreciated some of the early story bits more so it kind of works in the end. It doesn’t have the exciting breadth of a normal Final Fantasy game, but given it is based on the first Final Fantasy game I may have been asking a bit much.
Don’t be a Stranger
The early stages of the game feel a bit all over the place, but when it gets going it becomes engaging. The game is fun enough to play, and the difficulty options make the game so much more accessible than I was expecting. That ending, phwoar, was well worth it.