The Stranger of Paradise Demo Is Unapologetically Cringe

The Stranger of Paradise Demo Is Unapologetically Cringe

Jack Garland stares resolutely forward with half of his face obscured by dark red watercolor stains resembling Chaos.

It’s your brain on Chaos. Image: Square Enix

Since its announcement at E3 2021, Team Ninja’s Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin has been a hotbed of shitposts and memes. These memes mostly involve out-of-context scenes from protagonist Jack Garland musical tastes and his unbridled obsession with killing “Chaos”.

Before starting the game’s third demo, I felt that Stranger of Paradise’s clunky dialogue and tone were an overstatement on the internet, and that the game itself, as seen in this latest demo, would be more moderate. I was wrong. That same quirky tone is fully effective, and Stranger of Paradise is shaping up to be the funniest Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played.

The plot of Stranger of Paradise ties into the very first Final Fantasy game from 1987, with the world in, uh, chaos after the four elemental crystals that maintain its balance fall into darkness. A prophecy in the kingdom of Cornelia foretells four warriors of light who will save the world from darkness, and Jack Garland, taken from another world, could be one of them. Stranger of Paradise’s premise sounds like a standard fantasy, but playing it, what stands out is how the game leans into absurd tonal shifts between scenes, up to and including a dynamic of sitcom among Jack’s party.

The demo’s opening scenes perfectly encapsulate Stranger of Paradise’s bizarre tone. the opening cutscene begins in a dark castle bathed in the light of a thunderstorm as a legion of guards gets eviscerated by a hulking knight, who then kidnaps a princess. The demo then cuts to the start of a boss fight between Jack’s party and a multi-headed dragon, located in some sort of factory.

All very dark high fantasy so far, but then a cutscene before the combat tutorial hit me with that tonal boost. The scene opens with Jack walking through a seemingly endless meadow, accompanied by a rendition of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, which can be heard in-game. final trailer. The choice of scene music, which felt like a YouTube fanedit had somehow made its way onto my screen, left me stunned, especially given the ominous opening cutscene moments before. But far from deterring me from the game, it fueled my desire to find out what other cringe-inducing crap Stranger of Paradise has in store.

Another main source of this delicious grimace are the interactions between Jack and his group. When first introduced, Jed, Jack, and Ash growl at each other stiffly before showing off their crystals, essentially cool vibrating rocks, like school kids. After discovering that they’re all on the same mission to fix the crystals and kill Chaos, they engage in a three-way punch and instantly become best friends.

In terms of personalities, jed acts as the party’s light prankster, as I watch Ash like the team Barrettenot just because he’s black, but because he’s a brawler with a heart of gold. Neon, which ends the group at the start of the game, serves as a foil. Jack, a man of few words and many grunts, reminds me of RE6-era Chris Redfield with his bulky, goofy presence and stilted online delivery. Replace Chris’ alcoholism with a fever for killing Chaos and the two are essentially twins.

Jack really, really can’t let the Chaos thing go. Every time he opens his mouth, nine times out of 10, it’s to say how thirsty he is to kill Chaos. Before the group embarks on their journey, Jack goes so far as to compare his mission to defeat Chaos to an insatiable hunger or thirst. His party, on the other hand, either ignores him outright, plays along with his endless rants like a drunk guy they don’t want to piss off, or wonders if their supposed mission is even possible.

At one point, Jack calls bullshit about the refusal, leading to the infamous cutscene where he storms out of the castle screaming digital music from his phone. Now that you’ve played the game, the scene is even funnier as it cuts to the party coming out of the castle entrance with Jack continuing to blast the same song, implying he ignored everyone throughout the walk to the entrance of one of the longest levels in the demo.

When someone offers an attempt, “Yeah, we’re still fixing these crystals or whatever, but you’re going to have to calm down with this whole Chaos thing,” does Jack back down? Absolutely not. His line amounts to a toddler saying “nuh-uh,” which marked my amusement at his antics turning into non-ironic pity. More than killing Chaos, this guy needs a therapist.

Lest I give you the wrong impression, there’s real gameplay between the wild storytelling, and I’m loving it so far. The combat has a good pace, as you’d expect from Team Ninja, and some fun abilities keep it airy. Jack has a powerful form called a lightbringer to take out a crowd of enemies in a jiffy. A mechanic called soul burst lets you collect MP from stunned enemies, turning them into red geodes before they explode with a satisfying pop. Soul Shields require careful timing, knocking enemies back and allowing you to moan them more. Projectile reflections are there too. This robust moveset, alongside a cavalcade of easily interchangeable weapons and jobs, had my mind racing with party-building possibilities to experiment with.

While I’m on the fence about whether Stranger of Paradise’s humor is completely intentional, I came away feeling much more compelled to check out the final game. While its real-time combat system did scratch my itch for crunchy skill-based combat, it was overshadowed by my desire to find out if Jack’s belief in (and the death of?) Chaos will ever come to fruition. . It’s partly out of a need for some sort of closure after listening to him babbling about this singular subject in every goddamn conversation, but also out of a burning curiosity about what this maniac will do if and when he’s right. I believe in you, Jack, even if you listen to uh, Limp Bizkit.

Stranger of Paradise is set to release March 18 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via the Epic Games Store.


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