Many fans of Nippon Ichi Software probably have some fond memories of Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs Darkdeath Evilman which was released back in 2010. While many gamers enjoyed the roguelike, no sequel for the game was ever created. However fans of the roguelike subgenre have a spiritual successor to the aforementioned game in the form of The Guided Fate Paradox. This is the first time that NIS has brought a roguelike, a genre which is often seen as a niche of a niche, to the PlayStation 3 and now that it has been released in English, was their effort successful?
Everyone has their fair share of bad luck but nearly everyone has managed to win a small prize or get picked in a raffle at least once. Renya Kagurazaka however has never won a single thing in his entire life, not even a consolation prize. As such, when he obtains a raffle ticket from the super market he simply wants to give it to his younger sister since she may at least have a chance at winning something unlike him.
However when a pretty but persistent girl pushes him into trying his luck at least one more time with a raffle, he wins their grand prize… a giant spiked club to the skull and no her name isn’t Dokura-chan. Well where your standard story would end, this one is just beginning because Renya finds himself transported to a heavenly place called Celestia where he is introduced to a number of angels and is declared God.
With his personal rookie angel assistant named Lilliel, godhood may be a mighty gift to bestow upon a teenager, but it does come with a price. After being given the powers of God, Renya must answer the prayers and wishes of the universe. The universe, being the large place that it is, consists of far more than humans however as Renya soon finds himself answering prayers of more than just humans, but even zombies and many more outlandish creatures, some directly out of fairytales. He handles these wishes through a machine called the Fate Revolution Circuit which allows him to guide the fates of those praying for happiness.
If Renya is to slack off in his duties or fail to grant the wish of the devoted prayer, he will be consumed by a creature known as Misery that doesn’t hesitate to remind the player how willing it would be to snack on your flesh if you happen to fall out of line. Even with all of the worries Renya now has on his plate, there are dark forces moving in the Underworld to throw more trouble Renya’s way.
The Guided Fate Paradox’s storyline is already rather outlandish sounding and it is for the best that it is because otherwise the story would probably be a massive chore. The reason for this is that, as the player makes their way through the levels of a dungeon, a little bit of the character’s story is revealed and sometimes these segments can drag heavily. Thankfully if the player isn’t invested in any given segment, there is a choice to simply skip the entire dialogue scene and get back to advancing through the dungeon and completing the wish.
Outside of the one-off dragging moments of the game, the game’s story actually turns out to be rather interesting. Thanks to the random nature of the game the characters tend to be quite over the top and while some of them are simply presented and then thrown away, the core cast is rather enjoyable and everything manages to tie together to create an interesting, occasionally bumpy, storyline.
If you didn’t guess from the intro up there, Guided Fate Paradox is a roguelike but before you run away, it turns out to one of the easier ones thanks to a number of adjustments to make it a bit less troublesome for newcomers to invest in. For those who don’t know, Guided Fate Paradox is a turn-based dungeon crawling style game where Renya and Lilliel (who can be swapped out a bit later in the game with other angels with new skills) venture through randomly generated floors, taking on enemies in their way and advancing deeper into the dungeon to complete a wish in the Fate Revolution Circuit.
As mentioned, combat is a turn-based affair but it is far more complex than that. You see, items can be equipped to the head, legs, right arm, left arm, and an etc. section of both Renya and his accompanying angel. Each of these weapons come with stat boosting bonuses and a special skill. Now attacking normally is pretty much useless in this game since any basic attack is pretty much a punch, even if the player is using guns as weaponry. Instead all important attacks come from skills obtained from equipped weaponry and sometimes equipping the same weapon on both arms can unlock an even more powerful skill to unleash on enemies.
All skills require the player to use SP which can be regenerated over time, but it is essential to time your attacks as the only time that enemies move or take action is after the player does. This means that attacking at the wrong moment or moving in the wrong direction can lead to the player becoming overwhelmed and potentially killed. It doesn’t help matters that moving Renya through the dungeons is a difficult task thanks to how the d-pad and grid system are set up, often resulting in a few accidental movements until the player gets the hang of things.
Every time the player defeats an enemy, their equipped items grow in power until they “Burst” which results in the item becoming weaker but also resulting in an item which will increase the players stats which will be discussed later. Bursted weapons can be refined at the blacksmith to restore them to their original form, with higher stats than before often allowing players to find useful weaponry and upgrade it numerous times. Players also fill a gauge by defeating enemies that allows Renya to enter a God-like state where he can shrug off nearly any attack and unleash massive damage for a short period of time, sort of like a trump card for the many difficult situations the player can find themselves in.
Herein lies the difficult section of roguelikes, if the player dies in a dungeon they lose all of their items, including whatever they had equipped which means that some incredibly powerful equipment can be lost in the blink of an eye. This is more problematic than one may think since every time the player takes an action in the game there is a hunger gauge which will deplete and if the player gets too hungry, their health will begin to drop.
This often meaning that players will need to balance carrying food, healing items, newfound equipment, and much more if they mean to survive longer dungeons. To make matters worse, every time the player enters a dungeon they are reset to level 1. However there is a silver lining here and it is one that makes Guided Fate Paradox a bit easier thanks to grinding, made a bit easier through the use of Exit doors allowing the player to escape a dungeon if the going gets rough.
Every time the player levels up in a dungeon, they immediately gain stat bonuses throughout that dungeon and once the dungeon is fully completed, those levels become permanent stat increases so that the next time the player enters a dungeon their level 1 base stats will be increased, allowing the player to grind stat bonuses if they are facing a particularly difficult dungeon.
Also, thanks to bursting weapons the player unlocks stat boosts that can be applied to Renya’s Divinigram which allows the player to place stat boosting tiles and Holy Artifacts onto tiles to give Renya additional skills. The Guided Fate Paradox provides an extremely deep customization aspect that will take some forethought before entering dungeons or else you will fall victim to the dangers even an easier roguelike game such as this has to offer.
The Guided Fate Paradox manages to make itself look impressive despite having a few factors playing against it. There are some rather low-res and out-dated looking environments and enemy designs that the player will run across in their time with the game but despite that the vast majority of the title is put together so impressively well that those issues can be quickly forgotten. Every dungeon has a nice little theme going for it and although there are only a few enemy types for each area, they fit the theme nicely.
As for the characters themselves they are nicely detailed and many of their designs are rather impressive looking. As they talk amongst each other gorgeous looking portraits will appear while on the field they will still look great as HD-sprites. It is also worth noting that every item equipped to a character, no matter how random it is, appears on the character which can make for some rather ludicrous looking, but highly effective, designs.
There is a point where one has to judge whether or not the person providing the voice work for a character is either poorly performing their role or the script that they are working with is simply not up to par and unfortunately for a lot of Guided Fate Paradox, it seems to be both. The English voice work and localization efforts for the game are rather bad sounding more often than not. There are a few nicely handled characters but in this case, the badly handled characters far outweigh the good. Of course, it is entirely possible to switch to the Japanese voice track which, unfortunately, is recommended for this title.
As far as background music goes, The Guided Fate Paradox is quite pleasing thanks to a number of great sounding songs making up the game’s soundtrack. The music is somewhat your standard fair for a game like this, but it manages to fit amazingly well for many of the dungeons that the player ends up exploring, especially when tense situations arise.
The Guided Fate Paradox introduces the player to a nice storyline which has issues keeping itself interesting at times and suffers from poor voicework and writing but manages to tie it together with a slightly easier but still punishingly difficult roguelike experience. Thanks to a number of great gameplay features and a likable core cast of characters that are presented incredibly well, The Guided Fate Paradox offers a challenge to everyone in a brightly colored package that will leave you frustrated as many times as you cheer getting past a difficult dungeon.
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