I’ll be honest; I wasn’t expecting the Team Ninja and Square Enix-developed Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin to receive a new demo ahead of release. Still, I’m glad they chose to route to highlight the changes made based on feedback from the previous demo.
For those not in the loop, this title is an unconventional prequel set before the events of the original Final Fantasy with Nioh-like gameplay mechanics. Rather than simply being a Nioh reskin, though, various Final Fantasy series staple implementations like a Job system and magic are included to make this experience undeniably more distinct.
The first demo contained a singular area players fought through and eventually faced off against Garland. Now, this second demo includes that same content alongside more story scenes and a newly unveiled explorable area holding its own new boss fight.
While the inclusion of the first area’s demo may seem unnecessary, it’s vital as it demonstrates the optimization the game has received. Perhaps the most noticeable is the lighting, which was originally too dark to the point where simply seeing the environment was a hassle for some players. The developers desired the lighting to match the narrative’s more grim tone, but that’s thankfully been kept in check in favor of a more enjoyable gameplay experience.
Party member customization has also been provided in this build, which was a notable absence before. Players can now equip their party members with gear, and though they can’t swap Jobs as Jack can, this makes them more helpful during encounters. In addition, a new mechanic called Resonance can be activated to make them more aggressive. So, while party members have been buffed, there are points where I found it to be just a bit much.
For instance, during my bout against Garland, using Resonance caused my party to inflict around a sixth or so of his entire health bar at once. This overpowered execution wasn’t an omnipresent factor for the entirety of the demo, especially during the second area. Still, I do hope that the final game tones their efficacy down a tad so players can’t just hang back and rely on the AI to win in their stead.
In terms of critiques, the performance was subpar at certain points. Where this became most noticeable was when entering the second explorable area, and every aspect from camera speed to movement tanked considerably for roughly half a minute. I expect pressing issues of this nature to be paid attention to ahead of the full release, but they are still worth noting.
As for the gameplay itself, my love for the addictive Job system coupled with continuous looting has only been fortified. Additionally, the degree of build variety has only been amplified in this demo with the number of Jobs one can pick. I do wish that more Job loadouts could be switched to on the fly instead of merely 2.
Still, I realize that having more may inhibit difficulty balancing due to the increased variance in firepower and the Break gauges being individualized instead of overarching. Even when taking that nitpick into account, though, the brilliant enemy design is truly all that’s on my mind the more I fight and how indescribably satisfying it is to achieve victory.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin captivated me from its first demo earlier this year, and this second demo has only enhanced my enthusiasm. Expected optimization issues and other minor faults aside, the gameplay loop provides a thrill I never knew I needed from Final Fantasy. I was unsure what to expect from Team Ninja given my unfamiliarity with their library, but they’re certainly on my radar now with their stellar execution of this upcoming title.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin is releasing for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on March 18, 2022.
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