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What The Critics Are Saying About Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

"Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin" has piqued players' interest since its first trailer dropped and it became one of the best E3 memes. Protagonist Jack Garland and his ragtag team of colorful characters are on a quest to kill Chaos, and he really wants you to know it. It's a hilarious and compelling tribute to the "Final Fantasy" series on its anniversary, though how "good" it objectively is may be up for debate.

"Stranger of Paradise" doesn't take itself as seriously as, say, "Final Fantasy 7 Remake," which is considered an emotionally compelling work that challenges artistic boundaries. Players know what they're getting into by just watching the trailers, which support the game's self-aware form of comedy. Jack responds to a character's backstory monologue with "bulls***" and blasts "Limp Bizkit" as he walks away from her. The last trailer blended a bit of real life into the script with Frank Sinatra's "My Way," which fans found questionable yet intriguing. With time, it became more obvious that "Stranger of Paradise" would be one of the games to blow everyone away in 2022 — though it wasn't clear if it would be in a bad or good way.

The verdict is in: "Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin" isn't a critically acclaimed masterpiece, but it is entertaining. Here's why.

It's ridiculous to some fault

Most critics agree that "Stranger of Paradise" is ridiculous. Many have reported on the subpar voice acting and cutscenes, but there's something about it that's tasteful in its own way. 

VG247's Dom Peppiatt summed it up as one of the "best 3/5 games [he's] played in years." He lamented the fact the game failed to do anything notable with the rich lore behind it, and admitted that "the performances are laughably bad, the levels are irritating, the gear system is convoluted, and the bosses can flit from unmemorable to infuriating." Still, he somehow enjoyed it enough to call it a "B-movie game." Peppiatt concluded, "It's loud, dumb, and full of fun. You have to ignore a lot – a lot – of issues if you want to extract the joy from its chaotic heart."

Tomas Franzese from Digital Trends agreed with the sentiment that "Stranger of Paradise" is a "Final Fantasy" game that doesn't take itself too seriously. "It's hammy and clunky compared to its much better peers, but is so earnest in its delivery that you can't help but adore it," he wrote. However, he noted that the pacing was "all over the place" and that the ending escalated at a shocking pace.

Interestingly enough, both of these reviewers (and others) agreed that the combat and class system helped fill the void of a meaningful story and dialogue.

It's not quite Dark Souls

"Stranger of Paradise" was advertised as a "Final Fantasy" game with "Dark Souls"-style combat. However, it ended up reminding reviewers more of "Ninja Gaiden," which makes sense as the same developers responsible for that game are behind the combat in this one. Koei Temco's Team Ninja is known for developing high octane action games like "Nioh" and "Ninja Gaiden," and carried over its combat expertise into this "Final Fantasy" spinoff.

Inverse's Hayes Madsen, who called the game the "best Final Fantasy spinoff in a decade," described the combat system as "eye-wateringly fast and brutal." The Job System, which is the game's equivalent of a class building system, offers players many options for building Jack into a protagonist that best fits their playstyle and takes advantage of unique action mechanics like the "Soul Shield" and "Soul Burst." Skill trees also help players to plan out job paths.

Similarly, Digital Trends wrote that the game obviously took inspiration from "Dark Souls" but ultimately didn't find much overlap between the two. Franseze built his character around the Pugilist, Monk, and Tyrant jobs so that he could "attack and stagger enemies super quickly," and noted that the class system's flexibility helped him accomplish that. 

Level design is meh

Critics can't agree if "Stranger of Paradise" is a genius comedy spectacle or the result of poor writing, but they do tend to converge on its monotonous dungeons. These levels, which should be vaguely familiar to hardcore "Final Fantasy" fans, are purposefully designed to reference past "Final Fantasy" games. It could even be considered a throwback present to series devotees for "Final Fantasy's" 35th anniversary. However, the dungeons seem more concerned with aesthetic rather than compelling level design.

NME's Oisin Kuhnke, who gave "Stranger of Paradise" its most critical rating at this time of writing, especially bashed the poor pacing and level design. They enjoyed Jack's hammy outbursts and acknowledged the working parts of the game, but concluded that it was "just a mess" when put together. 

"The set dressing from place to place was different, sure, but I would argue that this game has more corridors than the infamous 'Final Fantasy 15,'" Kuhnke wrote. "And in turn, for me at least, the combat suffered. Enemies became a hindrance, a sentient blocker that was slowing me down in my quest to escape this level's nightmare tunnels."

"Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin" launches March 18, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.