Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin took the Internet by surprise when Square Enix debuted the trailer during E3 2021, but not because it was unexpected.
The game leaked weeks before E3 and was something everyone anticipated.
No, what made FF Origin so surprising was… Chaos.
Or more to the point, Jack’s obsessive, face-punching, T-shirt-wearing need to find, meet, and destroy Chaos.
It quickly became the stuff of memes, not helped by problems Square Enix experienced trying to roll the demo out.
Beyond the corny trailer and edgy, mid-naughties hero, though, Final Fantasy Origin has the potential to be one of the better games in the series.
Finally, a Focused Story
The best Final Fantasy games know what story they want to tell and waste little time telling it.
Just look at Final Fantasy 6. There’s barely an ounce of excess narrative fluff on that one, unlike the bloated, if stylish, FF 15 that still doesn’t know what its point is after more than 20 hours.
Jack’s mission to kill Chaos might be meme fodder, but at least it’s the kind of single-minded determination that means we won’t be left wandering through time and space looking for Lightning and ending up on a road trip.
Fresh Combat for the First Time in Years
Shifting to action-based combat is nothing new for Square Enix, but the Origin demo is doing something different from FF7 Remake and the other action spin-offs.
Origin takes the classic job system and infuses it with new life, adding new importance to different skills and giving us a completely fresh way to use them. It's an area of Final Fantasy most of Square Enix's innovations haven't touched, and frankly, it's overdue some new attention.
We Can Play Dress Up
Final Fantasy Origin lets you change outfits, which is really the best part of the series’ job system. Say what you will about the killer skills each job comes with. The best Final Fantasy is the one that lets you save the world looking like a complete doofus.
Final Fantasy Origin is weird, and that’s before we know anything about it. But that’s okay too. Square Enix is at its best when it’s at its weirdest, e.g. when a demented clown takes over the world or an otherworldly being with mommy issues controls the source of all life.
An enraged hero finding the cardboard villain of the original Final Fantasy and clocking him in the face is equally as absurd. In Final Fantasy world, that surely (hopefully) means we can look forward to something good
Great Expectations (Are Bad)
And that’s a good thing. People are approaching Origin with low or carefully managed expectations, which gives Tetsuya Nomura room to go wild and take everyone by surprise.
It’s a freedom not reserved for most mainline Final Fantasy games that carry the series’ formidable legacy on their shoulders, and it gives me high hopes for what the design team could deliver.
Of course, I could be completely wrong and Origin ends up being the regurgitation of everything wrong about 2007 game design that the trailer first suggests it will be.
But there's strong promise in what Nomura's doing here, if only because it frees the storied series from the weight of its own greatness and gives it the power to surprise again after more than 30 years.