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On crystals, and punching them

On crystals, and punching them

Di you know that there are five party members in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin? Because I didn’t. It’s just one of the many things that sets this game apart from its inspiration, and easily one of the most mysterious. There were supposed to be four warriors of light, one for each crystal. So what’s the deal here? Is there a fifth crystal? Is one of the warriors a fake? I don’t know! (Yet.)

But that’s just a vaguely-related intro paragraph. The real thing I wanted to write about today is a weird little detail that I noticed about the game.

In Stranger of Paradise’s combat system, there are two ways to defeat an enemy. Firstly, and most directly, you deplete their HP bar. This is how you defeat enemies on pretty much every video game, so I feel like it doesn’t require much in the way of explanation.

The second way to win is the deplete the enemy’s Break Gauge. Similar to the Stagger mechanics in several other more recent Final Fantasy games (The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy and Final Fantasy VII Remake, at least), once the gauge fills up, the enemy gets stunned for a few seconds, in which they are unable to attack and take significantly more damage than usual. Stranger of Paradise adds a fun twist, though! Breaking an enemy gives you the ability to run up to them and perform a finishing move that will kill them regardless of how full their HP bar is. Using this finishing blow is important, because it restores your party’s MP and increases their max MP. It’s a very useful technique!

When you use one of these finishing moves, Jack rushes up to his opponent and grabs them, which causes a bunch of crystals to start forming from their body. Jack them proceeds to stomp, crush, or suplex the body, which smashes it into a million tiny crystal fragments. It’s reminiscent of finishing moves from other action games, like God of War or Doom 2016, but not so violent. Still very violent! Just not quite as much.

But then you get to the tonberries. They’ve been a pain in the butt since Final Fantasy V, often being able to kill your party members in a single hit. They also have an attack that does damage based on how many enemies you’ve defeated, and boast an absolute buttload of HP. Tonberries in Stranger of Paradise are no exception. But what’s weird about a tonberry in this game is how Jack kills them. Instead of tearing a limb off and using it to impale their body, or something else equally extreme, Jack simply approaches the monster and calmly rests his hand on its forehead. The tonberry them begins to vibrate as its body turns to crystal, until it shatters into dust.

It’s a weirdly gentle way to finish off these monsters, who are easily the most difficult non-boss enemies in the entire game (or at least, what I’ve played of it so far). I can’t help but wonder what the story is there. Was it simply that contrast that the developers were going for? Did they want to be a little kinder to the tonberries, since they’re cute, fan-favourite monsters? Maybe Jack has a secret history with tonberries? Once again, I don’t know! And I even Googled this one, because I don’t anticipate that there’s actually going to be an in-game answer. But no such luck!

I suppose that if I ever want something resembling an answer, I’ll have to throw this one out to as many YouTube video game theorists as I can find, in hopes that one will deign to cover it. Because I darn well can’t be bothered to do the research myself.

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