The Square Enix presentation at the Tokyo Game Show gave us another trailer of the new Final Fantasy spinoff produced by Team Ninja, Strange of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. It also came with a temporary second trial for players to test the game anew and provide feedback after enjoying the gameplay.
Without a doubt, the second trial is a far better version of Strange of Paradise than the first time I played it. You can actually see the scenario now, the characters are sharper and more detailed, and some new mechanics have been implemented, such as changing team members before selecting a stage and equipping them with loot collected from monsters. Check out the trailer showing the graphical improvements:
But are the upgrades enough? Will this stop people from flooding the Internet with more memes about the protagonist Jack's vocal anguish calling for Chaos? Or were people just too stunned to find out that Jack's name is Jack Garland, the antagonist of Final Fantasy I?
The game's producer Tetsuya Nomura and writer Kazushige Nojima are both Square veterans and have worked on great franchises like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Fans of Kingdom Hearts joke to this day - or get extremely serious - about how Nomura messed with their heads and the plot, so it wouldn't be strange to expect some fantastic or confusing twist in Stranger of Paradise to surprise fans.
Antagonist is the new protagonist
The second trailer introduced us to new characters, such as the King of Cornelia, Princess Sarah, and Neon, the supposed fourth Warrior of the Light. In an illustration by Yoshitaka Amano, we get to see a fifth member, the same woman who is lying down when we first see Tiamat in the trailer. Tiamat, by the way, is one of the Four Fiends of Final Fantasy I, created after Garland's hatred merged with the four elements of the world.
The plot remains similar. The king asks the Warriors of Light to prevent the darkness from enveloping the elemental crystals. Our solicitous top models accept, at the risk of causing an aneurysm in Jack due to high blood pressure.
In an interview with Famitsu, Nomura said he blatantly announced that Jack is Garland because apparently, players found out too quickly. So instead of being immersed in an already not-so-mysterious mystery, Nomura preferred to change the marketing to focus on the journey of how Jack becomes Garland and not that he is, in fact, the first antagonist of the franchise. Or that could be the misdirection of the decade, and the game shows us that Jack is not Garland, Chocobos are not friendly, and Final Fantasy XV was just a collective delusion because Square will release another much better fifteenth installment anytime now.
New features, jobs, and second map
The second trial of Strange of Paradise brought new Jobs to the Warriors. 6 basic ones like Swordfighter, Swordsmen, Lancer, Pugilist, Duelist, and Mage; and seven advanced ones, Knight, Warrior, Dragoon, Monk, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage, and Red Mage.
Each job has its own gameplay, but some share the same weapon and skills, especially those unlocked from classic jobs. The number of jobs brings an absurd dynamism to the battles, and you can change between two Jobs by pressing one button in the middle of the fray. The Job tree is still extensive, but now you can only access it in saves.
The new trial introduced a second map. Refrin Wetlands is a lush, green environment with a weather-changing mechanic. The map also features new monsters already known from the franchise, such as Sahagins and Coeurls. The weather-changing feature guarantees some puzzle time, but nothing too elaborate.
However, there is something important to note. The weather-changing system was previously seen on Final Fantasy XIII, in the Sunleth Waterscape area. At a certain point in Refrin, the soundtrack of the map resembles - very closely - the soundtrack from Sunleth Waterscape. Nomura said Stranger of Paradise would bring many references from other games in the series, and he seems to deliver that promise.
Let's talk about the plot
Jack and his friends wear casual clothes as if they have just stepped out of Lacoste. The three are pompous, a little too casual, and are entirely at odds with the game's fantasy theme. But considering that Garland/Chaos is all about time-traveling, let's keep an open mind.
At the end of Chaos Temple, we find out that the armored knight is actually an armored amazon. Neon, the group's new member, said she gave in to Chaos, hoping she would be defeated by a band of heroes, thus ridding the world of evil. It didn't work out, but it's at this moment that one of the most contradictory scenes to public opinion takes place. Jack utters a "bullshit," turns his back on Neon, opens up a Spotify equivalent software, and leaves to the sound of heavy metal. So, what the hell just happened?
Before entering Chaos Temple, a Fool's Missive implies that the Chaos Temple appeared somewhere in the future, which may or may not explain our contemporary boys. But what about the king and princess of Cornelia still wearing epoch clothing? Intriguing.
From what we can see in interviews with the director and producer and the trials, Jack believes himself to be a Warrior of Light, destined to defeat Chaos. He must have some personal reason because there's no other explanation for someone to be infuriated 24/7. But in this unbridled hunt, he ends up becoming Chaos itself.
Stranger of Paradise's main plot seems to be shaping up to introduce us to Jack's journey into becoming Garland. Let's not forget his companions; after all, Nomura said that each member's name has a hidden meaning in the story. We can only wait for the official release day, March 18, 2022, to unravel the story of an angry man and satiate any crazy theories we see being discussed on the internet.