The mere existence of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is, well, strange. When Square Enix announced it was remaking the beloved Final Fantasy 7, it made sense. It was, after all, the game that put the world’s most ironically named series on the map—one that many JRPG fans still hold dear. And with so many other adored games in the series to draw from, creating a spin-off inspired by the now 35-year-old and largely forgotten original is an odd choice. The game itself is stranger still.

Stranger of Paradise offers a new take on the bare-bones narrative of its pixelated predecessor, with developer Team Ninja injecting the series with a more edgy tone. At least that’s what it was going for, but cringe-worthy dialogue from over-the-top characters sees the game sail right by the realm of cool and land squarely in a field of cheese. The largely nonsensical plot sees our band of heroes, led by Jack Garland, setting out to restore crystals and kill the evil overlord known as Chaos, who may or may not even exist. Each of the game’s characters can be summed up with one adjective. There’s the spritely Jed, the stern Ash, the wistful Neon and Jack, who can only be described as driven, and driven by only one desire. To kill Chaos. For all its absurdity, the story is nonetheless entertaining, with each level bookended by short snappy cutscenes that never feel like they intrude upon the action.

While it’s more forgiving than Nioh, Stranger of Paradise does have more in common with the samurai-inspired Soulslike than the Final Fantasy series. The many aspects of combat feel overwhelming at first, but the mechanics click surprisingly quickly. The Job system offers a wealth of different fighting options, catering for a variety of playstyles. Foes are thrown at you thick and fast, and being able to switch between classes and swap in and out abilities makes for encounters that are both robust and gratifying. In a nice nod to the series’ roots, you even go head-to-head with Final Fantasy favourites like Cactuars, Marlboros, and Tonberries.

Battles are given extra depth thanks to Soul Shield, an alternative method to regular blocking that reduces an enemy’s Break Gauge. Fully depleting this gauge allows you to swoop in with Soul Burst, a showy finisher that sees enemies turn crystal before spectacularly shattering into tiny pieces. It’s both slick and undeniably satisfying. You can also temporarily absorb certain skills with Soul Shield to use back against your enemies. Turning a Cactuar’s deadly 1,000 Needles attack against the bouncy menace elicits a feeling of sheer delight if you’re a Final Fantasy fan who’s long been on the receiving end of this spikey signature move.

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