Games don’t always have to be artistic achievements with legendary elements. Sometimes, you need the interactive equivalent of a popcorn flick. This isn’t to say there aren’t layers to the story in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Rather, Kazushige Nojima, Tetsuya Nomura, and Tomoco Kanemaki came together and made something that is entertaining on multiple levels. It often feels intentionally and unintentionally funny. Likewise, the narrative does do some genuinely interesting things. But what really helps is this one of those games that very clearly broadcasts what it is. As a result, it feels quite satisfying.
Editor’s Note: There will be Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin story spoilers below.
So right off the bat, we have an idea of what’s going on with Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin’s story. This is because, well, it is drawing from the very first Final Fantasy. People have an idea of what’s going on in the world. Even if they didn’t play that game, there’s sort of a cultural awareness regarding it. There’s evil in the world. There are crystals to visit. Four heroes set off to save the day. While this story is offering a different take on that, it is kicking things off with a similar foundation. Four warriors of light bearing crystals come to Cornelia. They’re dark, possibly corrupted. The same four fiends are there. Chaos is our foe. It’s all fitting, which is comforting in its way. The familiarity gives us a sense that something is coming. It sets us on edge to anticipate things.
Especially since we also know that Jack, our hero, is an icon. Before the game even released, Square Enix let us know he’s Jack Garland. As in the Garland who kidnapped Princess Sarah of Cornelia in the original game, is connected to Chaos, and is responsible for the time loop that appears there. We go into Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin knowing how the story will go. Which means the mystery becomes about what causes him to become the villains we know they’ll be.
Again, which becomes satisfying as time goes on, because we see people hinting that they know what’s happening. Jack is as oblivious as all of us. We’re learning what’s going on alongside him. But right away, King of the Dark Elves Astos recognizes the group. He knows what’s happening. While it might seem a little off-putting, it soon becomes clear that he’s a friend. And as we see him interact, he opens up. We understand how the time loops have hurt him too. How he’s also against the Lufenian’s actions as well and willing to help. The lengths he’s gone to in order to assist.
But Astos opening up isn’t the only foreshadowing that helps keep Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins so enjoyable. There are also those four fiends. Going into the game, people might get suspicious. Not long before it came out, I told a coworker, “Ash, Jed, Neon, and Sophia are absolutely the fiends.” And as expected, they are. We see them start to regain their memories as we play. They get deja vu. They recognize what’s going on. They realize when Jack is starting to get back to the person they recognize. It starts to become more obvious that each one of them is also Lich, Kracken, Marilith, and Tiamat, and they’re assisting this Garland even before he becomes the Garland players know from Final Fantasy. So even before we get to the reveal, we are sort of expecting. Which means someone might pick up on clues ahead of the unveiling. For example, like how Kraken’s tentacles match Jed’s hair.
There’s even the way Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin handles its obvious “isekai” element. From the moment we saw the initial trailers, which featured Jack, Ash, and Jed in contemporary clothing and Jack playing Limp Bizkit on his phone, it seemed like a case of actual people transported to a fantasy world. The actual Lufenian plot involved sending its agents, the titular Strangers, to keep using Cornelia and this other world for their own purposes. It used them to maintaining a time loop and continue a constant fight of light against dark.
This means that when someone does reach the end, we get to the most satisfying part of all. We see Jack embrace being the villain. And because this game is so over-the-top and even campy, those moments when he’s snacking on the scenery become even more satisfying. We get why this person and his allies, who we’ve probably grown to love, made this face-to-heel turn. We understand what made the person so against Chaos accept it the way he did. We see how breaking the Lufenian time loop to create the situation in Final Fantasy is an ultimate “greater good” situation.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is available for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.