There have been many Final Fantasy spin-off games released over the years, with varying degrees of success.
This year sees the release of another spin-off called Strange of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
Since Team Ninja and Square Enix developed this game, it plays more like Elden Ring and Nioh. If you want to play a more traditional style of action RPG, you're better off playing another kind of Final Fantasy game instead.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a retelling of Final Fantasy 1 as you play the character of Jack Garland with his quest to kill Chaos. At the start of the game, you don't know what Chaos even looks like, but it's the main bad guy that Jack wants to kill.
Unlike Elden Ring and Nioh, Jack is not alone on his journey to kill Chaos. He is joined by the characters of Ash, Jed, Sophie and Neon. Even though it's a five-person team, the game only allows you to have three members in an active party, so two of them will have to sit it out.
One of the already disappointing aspects of this game is that you cannot play as other party members. Only boring Jack is playable as the AI controls the other characters. It's a bit of a letdown since Bandai Namco's Tales of Arise allows you to play as any of the characters in the main party.
That said, at least Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin actually includes two females as main characters. I remember being annoyed that Final Fantasy XV had no playable female characters whatsoever.
Anyway, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins shares some similarities with Elden Ring, although it's got more in common with Team Ninja's own Nioh series. For example, the game isn't open world like Elden Ring because it features separate levels like Nioh does.
This means the levels are short and linear much like Final Fantasy XIII was. Each level concludes with an end-boss, and the game gets harder and harder the more you progress. You will need to constantly level up your weapons and armour to keep up with the enemy's power levels.
The fact that the levels are linear also means that this game does not have a map. You will need to observe the environments carefully to make sure you don't backtrack. You may need to solve small puzzles to get to the next area, as many locked doors exist. I hated how the game had no map, although I got used to it later on.
What some people will like about this game is that it's accessible for beginners. Unlike Elden Ring, there is an easy Story mode that you can set if you're not very good at games in this genre. However, don't worry if you are a veteran because the harder difficulty settings will challenge you a lot!
As for the gameplay, this game is a hack-n-slasher like a Souls game and Nioh. At the beginning of the game, Jack can use a sword and deal a lot of damage in close-ranged combat. However, the best part about the combat is that Jack can change his class type as you progress further into the game.
If you don't like a melee build, you can choose to be a Mage instead and shoot magic attacks from afar. No class type is off-limits, so you can change how you want to play at any time. This is a big plus for me since your class type is locked when you play Elden Ring.
Another great thing about the combat is that you can block and target enemies with ease. The game also does not have a stamina meter, so you can attack as many times as you want. But you still have a magic bar that depletes whenever you try and use special attacks.
By holding down the B (circle on PlayStation) button, Jack can also conjure up a Soul Shield to block attacks. He can even do counterattacks if you can time it properly. Jack can also block using the LB (L1) button, although he can only deflect attacks for a short time until enemies can power through. Of course, you don't want your block meter to deplete because you'll be open to attacks!
One of the most abundant things you will collect in this game is a lot of loot. Every enemy will carry lots of weapons and/or armour for you to use for all the characters. You don't really need to grind too long to earn good equipment as the enemies are quite generous. Defeating the bosses will also grant you even better stuff.
Boss battles are fun and varied, although I was a bit disappointed by how little damage your AI partners do. Not to mention the game only allows you to hoard nine potions to replenish health. I preferred other Final Fantasy games where you can store 99 potions at one time!
While the gameplay is serviceable for the most part, the worst thing about the game is the ugly graphics. Even though I played this game on the newer Xbox Series X console, the visuals resemble those from the PS3's Final Fantasy XIII. It's quite shocking to see graphics that look like a game from two generations ago!
The story and characters are also not very interesting, in my opinion. Jack is boring and uncharismatic, and the other characters don't leave a big impression either. I miss the variety of cool characters featured in other Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X.
Overall, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a competent action game for people that might find it too hard to play Elden Ring. The gameplay is fun for the most part, and beginners will be able to enjoy it. The only things that really hold the game back are the outdated visuals and unlikeable characters.
A code was provided to us for review purposes.