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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin review — The memes just aren't enough

A potential cult hit hampered by its own confusing design.

Stranger Of Paradise Fist Bump
(Image: © Windows Central)

Final Fantasy is one of the most well-known and beloved franchises in video game history, with an impressive legacy spanning over 30 years. So, with entertainment's current fixation on reboots, remakes, and remasters, it wasn't shocking to hear that Square Enix was aiming to publish a game that would revisit the events of Final Fantasy 1. However, I don't think any of us were expecting a modern, action-focused take on Garland's origin story set in a proto-futuristic alternate timeline from Team Ninja, the developers of critically acclaimed titles like Nioh and Ninja Gaiden. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, that's the bold promise of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.

No matter where you stood with this project after initial details began to emerge, it's safe to say that everyone's collective expectations and wildest fantasies for it were dramatically shifted following a series of meme-worthy trailers. Our testosterone-dripping protagonist Jack, his taste in early 2000s inspired rap-metal, and his obsession with killing Chaos instantly became the focus and arguably the selling point of Team Ninja's upcoming adventure.

As someone who appreciates some Grade-A cheese, I was ready to embrace this utter nonsense with open arms. Still, shockingly, even the campy trailers couldn't prepare for what was in store. After rolling the main credits and spending 30 hours with Jack, Jed, Ash, Neon, and a host of other unbelievably ridiculous characters, I can confidently say that Stranger in Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is dumber and more outlandish than I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, the nonsensical game direction and outrageous dialogue just don't do enough to negate its myriad of frustrating flaws.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Square Enix. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin: What's good

Stranger Of Paradise Jack

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

You've seen the gifs, you've seen the memes, but the sheer number of times "Chaos" is said in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is genuinely staggering. Most of the game's story is presented through brief in-engine cutscenes at the beginning or end of your assigned missions, and one of the characters mentions Chaos and how it must be killed most of the time. Jack and his gang of rag-tag companions are hellbent on finding and destroying Chaos, and they make sure to tell you about it any chance they get. Thankfully, this lends itself to a constant stream of incredible video game memes.

CategoryGameNameXXX
TitleStranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
DeveloperTeam Ninja
PublisherSquare Enix
GenreAction RPG
Xbox VersionXbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Game Size76GB
Play Time25+ hours
PlayersMultiplayer 1 - 3
Xbox GamePassNo
Launch Price$60

There are sequences of exposition that are literally 10 seconds long where Jack laughs to himself and says things like "Chaos exists. I knew it. I told you," and then it fades to black. That particular and absolutely unnecessary scene serves as your only setup for an entire region of the game. What's even more beautiful about this poetic nonsense is that this moment is only one of many similarly pointless cutscenes. So many of the primary sources of narrative in Strange of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin are delivered in this manner, and it's impossible not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

It feels like Harley Davidson was responsible for the entire wardrobe while Skrillex's cousin handled the score.

While Jack acts as our primary Chaos-spewing vessel, he certainly isn't the only offender. His bro-tastic companions Jed and Ash also share an unwavering disdain for Chaos. One of the very first cutscenes in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin involves Jack, Jed, and Ash grunting to each other in what I can only assume is admiration. (I just told myself this is a tribute to the iconic alley scenes from King of Hill to make any sense of it.) It's completely bananas and unbelievably fitting that the first lines of dialogue in this game don't contain any dialogue at all.

There's so much big Chad energy flowing through every moment in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Jack screams out corny one-liners while executing enemies to dated EDM tracks, and the outfits and character customization are jam-packed with leather and studs. It feels like Harley Davidson was responsible for the entire wardrobe while Skrillex's cousin handled the score. If you're nostalgic for Monster Energy Drinks, Terminator Salvation, and your uncle's motorcycle phase, you'll likely feel a strong sense of familiarity here.

Stranger Of Paradise Characters

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Underneath the imposing weight of iconic memes lies generally engaging combat and a compelling Final Fantasy job system. As you'd expect from Team Ninja, hacking and slashing your way through hordes of enemies and a handful of over-the-top boss encounters feels fast, fluid, and fun. Flashy animations and gruesome executions also add a healthy amount of flair and production to fights. Fans of Nioh might find Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin a tad clunkier, but there's no denying that combat is clearly one of the strongest elements in this action RPG.

I found the depth of class and combat customization quite impressive.

An elaborate job system with a staggering number of classes to choose from does an amazing job breaking up the monotony of smashing right bumper and right trigger. I loved experimenting with the various jobs in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. As a Pugilist, I could rush down enemies with a flurry of fist attacks. However, if I felt more inclined to battle from a distance, classes like The Black Mage allowed me to cast devastating magic from afar. Each job altered the gameplay in refreshing ways and this encouraged me to chase new class unlocks in the game's skill trees.

Players can also customize the roles of their two AI companions to complement their preferred playstyle. Ash offers an assortment of hard-hitting melee-focused jobs. At the same time, Jed provides more nimble support with roles like Assassin or Ninja. There are a total of four support characters to choose from, and each of them introduces a unique dynamic to the battlefield. While you can certainly find a combination that works and roll with it for the entirety of the game, I found the depth of class and combat customization quite impressive.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin: What's not good

Stranger Of Paradise Outfits

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Early on, I enjoyed the gimmick of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin's outlandish storytelling, but the more I played, the more I found myself questioning the overall intent. The laughably bad dialogue and campy character interactions initially led me to believe this team strived to deliver a B or C-rated action movie in video game form, especially with a lead character who can aptly be described as a poor man's Sam Worthington. In many ways, Stranger of Paradise feels like an early 2000s Uwe Boll film adaptation of a video game that was then adapted back into a 2022 video game. Unfortunately, the back third of this campaign replaced the memes with painful exposition.

While the events of this title ultimately culminate into the origin of Final Fantasy's main protagonist Garland, the overall approach to Stranger of Paradise is drastically different. The focus on hunting and killing Chaos is there, but there's far more emphasis on machismo and melodrama. Despite my appreciation for the potentially unintentional comedic leanings, it's clear the game aims for a darker and grittier exploration of Final Fantasy's original story, and the team does not stick the landing. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin feels like Kingdom Hearts if it was written by someone going through a midlife crisis.

Stranger of Paradise feels like an early 2000s Uwe Boll film adaptation of a video game that was then adapted back into a 2022 video game.

From a painfully generic pirate attempting his best Vegas-strip Jack Sparrow impersonation to a royal emperor molded after the one and only Burger King, it's wild that Jack, the walking masculinity machine, isn't the most cliché character here. If you're hoping for a gripping narrative experience with compelling developments and dynamic characters, I don't think you'll find it in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. It's also tough to take any in-game events seriously when your character is wearing clawed dragon gauntlets and a fedora during cutscenes.

Stranger Of Paradise Enviroments

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Outside of a laundry list of criticisms regarding the inconsistent tone of the storytelling, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin suffers from a slew of fundamental design and performance issues. With inspirations derived from Dark Souls and other FromSoftware RPGs, discovering shortcuts and cleverly placed traps started off novel and interesting. Sadly, after about 10 hours of playing, the repetition of the game's stage layouts became impossible to ignore. The restrictive exploration of environments and constant tight corridors make Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin feel like a PS2-era JRPG in all the worst ways.

The impressive combat was constantly dampened by low-quality visuals and discouraging framerates.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin also has a severe loot problem. It feels as though almost every enemy you defeat drops equipment rewards. On paper, this sounds satisfying and rewarding. Unfortunately, the execution of these mechanics is frustratingly cumbersome. There were several occasions where I couldn't acquire new gear within a stage because my inventory was full. I was forced to exit to the world map to dismantle hundreds of pieces of seemingly useless equipment before being able to progress in the campaign. Inventory management became a tedious necessity here.

In addition to some disappointing and confusing design decisions, this action RPG doesn't look or run exceptionally well on Xbox Series X. Characters and environments are aggressively fuzzy and frequently completely washed out, environmental textures are bland and repetitive, and there are massive frame pacing issues during combat and cutscenes. Every time I triggered an execution, gameplay would stutter or even screech to a halt. I can ignore some frame drops here and there, but performance in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was nothing short of jarring. The impressive combat was constantly dampened by low-quality visuals and discouraging framerates.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin: Should you play it?

Stranger Of Paradise Jack Character

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

My initial impressions of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin were fairly positive. The dumb dialogue and gripping combat were enough to keep me engaged with this action-oriented spinoff despite its rough edges. Unfortunately, it's impossible to ignore the flaws that showed up over time. What started off as a hilarious venture into a world full of unbelievable characters devolved into a monotonous and frustrating chore. If you're in the mood for an action-focused JRPG that's dramatically more consistent, I'd suggest just playing Tales of Arise instead.

With some updates to the game's loot system and improvements to performance, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has the potential to be a worthwhile action RPG for diehard Final Fantasy fans. However, there are just way too many things this game doesn't get right. It certainly isn't one of the best RPGs on Xbox, but if you have a few dedicated friends willing to endure this adventure via online co-op, you can undoubtedly share in a few great laughs. Still, I can't recommend Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin for anyone interested in a serious Final Fantasy story.

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.

7 Comments
  • Yeah I know there's an audience for goofy over the top action games, but I definitely don't like the idea.
  • I enjoyed the demo and I heard the story was goofy as hell so I bought it on PC. At least then I can refund if needed.
  • So you'd be better off replaying final fantasy mystic quest
  • That's a completely different game, different cast, different story, different everything except world.
  • Yeah, you'd be better off
  • Hate to say it but the ps5 visuals are no better. I actually didn't know this was coming out until earlier this morning around 1am or so. As soon as I found out there was a demo I downloaded it on my series x and ps5 after GTA 5 was done downloading. Oh I love you gigabit lol Anyways they looked identical in both modes as far as I could tell. Played on a 65" LG C1. VRR on Xbox helps with some of the minor frame rate dips. I wish ps5 had VRR but I enabled black frame insertion and it helped smooth it out a little bit. After I finished both demos I bought the PC version lol. I figured I could refund that one if it runs like Elden Ring. Speaking of Elden Ring... On nVidia (and this has been working for me) before I play i go into the cp and disable shader cache, reboot, go back in again and enable shader cache at 10 gigs (I'll go higher when I swap in a bigger drive for my Windows install drive) and so far... No stutter. Ever. Of course that doesn't mean it won't start at some point and never stop but give it a try if you can and see if it runs any better for you.
  • I don't know of a Final Fantasy game that actually has decent writing, so this is par for the course.