November 7, 2013
The Guided Fate Paradox starts out as the player playing as Renya, a 17-year old high school student who’s down on his luck until one day when he meets a cute girl oddly dressed in a maid outfit. You happen to have a lottery ticket in your hand that day and end up winning the grand prize in a raffle --- a blow to the head with a spiked club. After coming to your senses you find out you’re in a place known as Celestia filled with angels and demons dressed like maids and butlers. And also, just for good measure, you’re now God.
As the God of the game’s world, your job is to answer the prayers of all the living creatures (including some fairy tale-esque ones) through a process known as the Fate Revolution Circuit that can guide their fates to the happiness they desire. In addition to this you need to get acquainted with the people living in Celestia, learning the ropes and overthrowing a scheme by Disgaea’s Netherworld to overthrown the heavens. All in a day’s work, eh?
As far as the story goes, if you’ve played any of Nippon Ichi’s in-house developed titles you’ll have an idea of what you should expect. This is especially true if you’ve played Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman which this game is a spiritual successor of sorts to and is developed by the same team. The angel/devil angel isn’t too preachy and most of the characters are developed nicely, although a few mixed with their English dubbing is quite grating. Like most of NIS America’s releases you have the partial English dub and a full Japanese track available, the latter of which is recommended for most players out there if you didn’t already pick it from the outset. The music is symphonic metal and works quite nicely when paired with the game.
If you’ve played ZHP, you’ll be right at home with The Guided Fate Paradox’s gameplay mechanics. Unlike the strategy RPG mechanics found in Disgaea, this game is a straight-up roguelike. For those unaware of the little-known genre, roguelikes have you (sometimes with partners) tackle a randomly-generated dungeon filled with enemies and treasures where you dish out attacks in a turn-based manner alongside the enemies. The catch is that you typically lose all of your items found during that run and get your level reset back to Level 1.
The Guided Fate Paradox’s twist on these mechanics is that when you die and get your level reset, your previously earned levels are sent into an overall “total level” that you can use to assign points to Reyna’s attributes in a manner similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid through the Divinigram. This grid allows Reyna’s core stats (attack, defense, hit, speed) to be improved and can be altered using items such as Holy Artifacts and Holy Icons, which are available via the in-game shop along with upgrading the weapons and amount of items the player can carry in a dungeon.
As far as the dungeons themselves go, you’re tasked with moving through each floor, killing the enemies you encounter and grabbing whatever treasure you find along the way. You are accompanied by one of your angel companions that have skills ranging from healing, shielding and launching follow-up strikes to your attacks based on their behavioural AI. The dungeons typically consist of 10 floors with the enemies becoming increasingly stronger the further you progress. By the time you get to the final stage, which involves a boss fight, you will be without the aid of Renya’s angel partner. So in practice these dungeons are a test of stamina of sorts as you need to defeat enough enemies to level up, but without pushing yourself too far and having all your progress go to waste.
To help players out, the game has some special items called divine weapons which can activate screen-filling special attacks in order to deal damage in a wide radius. That isn’t to say this is an all-powerful tool, however, as you can and will end up in situations where you’re simply outmatched. This means the best course of action is to keep enough exit items to get out while you’re still able and to know your limits. It’s a rewarding, but at times infuriating system to say the least.
Graphically this experience won’t win any awards due to its more simplistic fixed-perspective nature, but it does have a certain charm of its own. Just like ZHP, anything Reyna equips is visible in-game so you can easily end up with him wearing a fish head, Prinny jet and mech legs if you really wanted to. The character designs are done by Noizi Ito, who is most known for her work on the anime series Haruhi Suzumiya and definitely give the game a different look that what most of NIS America releases.
The Guided Fate Paradox is a downright evil game at times as you’ll cry and curse at the TV when you die after a near-perfect run. Still, its attention to the little details keeps you going as your time never feels wasted due to the stat-raising levelling mechanics. It’s not a game that will appeal to everyone, but it’s still a decent roguelikes that will see you enjoying your time playing as a god in Reyna’s world.