Stranger of Paradise: A Bleak Look into the World of Final Fantasy

When I think about Final Fantasy, I tend to think of the more colorful, bustling landscapes. Even the more drab environments, like Final Fantasy IXs Madain Sari, with its desert-like qualities, still have plenty of life and a generally delightful feel. We rarely get to see these settings resembling anything post-apocalyptic or downright horror. With only the most recent Final Fantasy XV and some of its caves getting us the closes the series has ever been to horror. But that isn’t to say the series has not gone dark before. Look at the midpoint in Final Fantasy VI when Kefka moves the goddess statues and brings about a world of ruin.

Spoilers ahead for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin follow…

 Then came along Jack and his entourage in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Set in an alternate universe and is a prequel to the first Final Fantasy. It sees the group traveling through some areas from the first game, only realized in the third dimension, fighting enemies from throughout the series. All for the end goal of defeating Chaos, the main bad guy from Final Fantasy I

Stranger of Paradise room

 While the story is in the category of so bad, it’s good, and the number of times we hear Jack exclaim that he will destroy Choas is laughable. It is met with some spectacular gameplay, and the music absolutely whips ass. What I want to focus on is the modern take on some areas from the Final Fantasy series and how they are presented in this post-apocalyptic, bleak manner.

 Just look at Terra Tortura. Besides it being based on the floating continent in Final Fantasy VI, this gives us a really good look into a world after Chaos has rained over. Not a person in sight, overrun by monsters, this is a good look into the bleak nature of not only Final Fantasy VI but a world post-ruin. Not only is it made out of the terrain from below, but if we manage to take a look towards the ground, we can see that just everything has been laid to waste. 

What I didn’t expect of Stranger of Paradise was for it to show us this fantastic gothic Dark Souls Esque high fantasy dread. When we come to the Western Keep, it’s present in a very standard Final Fantasy fare. We are met with sprawling ceilings and fully furnished dining rooms, all sprawled in dim lighting, giving way to hidden enemies just waiting to attack. Here, we meet the enemy that caught me off guard a few times as well. The Shadow. It immediately makes the player not trust the darkened corners. 

Stranger of Paradise gameplay

 But then, Stranger of Paradise does something unique. It lets you loose outside to this sprawling, haunting castle grounds. Ripped straight out of Dark Souls, it evokes this weird bleak, and downright depressing feeling. With its downright dreary skyline, battle-torn castle walls, and enemies hiding around every corner. This is, again, something we rarely get in Final Fantasy.

With Stranger of Paradise being a more modern third-person take on the worlds of Final Fantasy, we get this brand-new look into the worlds we have inhabited before. However, what stood out among all the levels has to be its introductory level, the Chaos Shrine. Shrouded in darkness, the Temple of the Dead section has expansive ceilings seemingly leading into darkness and creepy lifelike goblins scavenging around. Right off the bat, Stranger of Paradise gives us these bleak vibes, pulled right out of Final Fantasy I.

This leads up to the Tower of Fate, where we constantly get ambushed by the undead and bats waiting to drain us of our life force. The enemy design in Stranger of Paradise is no joke. They really push the creep factor of the enemies that are supposed to make our skin crawl. The skeleton is a perfect example of this. Typically clad in remnants of its past armor, bones held together by rope and magic, they are an easy enemy to fight for sure, but their look really gets the vibe of the game across, detailed and bleak.

Stranger of Paradise monster

 However you look at it, Stranger of Paradise is a fantastic adventure in the Final Fantasy universe. Its cheesy-as-hell dialog only lends itself to making it one of the more exciting times we spend in the world, adding that the combat itself is the true star here. You owe it to yourself to play this game, no matter what you have heard, if you are a fan of Final Fantasy, or if you are a fan of character action games. More people need to play it because I dream we will get some form of follow-up one day.

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