The Guided Fate Paradox Review

The dungeon crawler genre is one that I have grown more and more fond of over the past few years as I have learned to appreciate what it has to offer. This is especially true in the turn-based format. You take an action, such as taking a step in any direction or swiping a weapon, and in return so does the enemy. Every one of these actions ultimately has some sort of consequence, so it is important to plan several moves ahead much like a game of chess.

It is this feeling of deeply-rooted strategery that drew me to Guided Fate Paradox shortly after it was announced for Japan, quickly becoming one of my most anticipated titles when it was announced for localization early this. Having only played a tiny bit of its predecessor, Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman for the PSP, which this game takes a lot of its features from (aside from being made by the same developer), I could only really appreciate it for what it is: a fun plot-driven roguelike that is probably one of the most approachable titles in the genre.

Even fairytale characters want to have their wishes granted.

The story puts you in the shoes of the normal boilerplate high school student Renya Kagurazaka. After complaining about how he is quite possibly the unluckiest person on the planet, he comes across a cute girl in a maid outfit working a lottery stand at a supermarket. In what can only be described as a master stroke of luck, or not, he wins the grand prize: become God.

After being knocked out by the lady and dragged to Celestia, Nippon Ichi's name for Heaven, Renya, acting as God, must answer the prayers of any living creature. Of course, a single person wouldn't be able to handle all of these wishes. Using what is called the Fate Revolution Circuit, the machine narrows down the wishes to ones that are more appropriate to his current level, and Renya must work to guide their fates to a revolution, which isn't always apparent at first.

To satisfy these wishes, Renya must venture inside the Fate Revolution Circuit into a dimension called the Copy World, a place overrun with the inner demons of Players will spend the majority of their time in with the main plot of the game weaving in between both this and the Original World. These wishes also work as providing depth to the different angels that live and work in Celestia, explaining some of their personality and backstory, and are rather fascinating for the most part.

The only real complaint I have with the story is that it can be pretty jarring when no matter which angel Renya has accompanying him into the dungeon, they are always replaced by Lilliel, the aforementioned cute girl wearing the maid outfit. Not only does this show a real disconnect with the gameplay side of things, but it also happens often where cut scenes just end and gameplay begins, and vice versa.

To keep one's sanity in check, Guided Fate Paradox is not as punishingly difficult as this genre tends to be. While the difficulty spikes immediately after the tutorial, there are plenty of ways that the game offers relief during the experience. For example, Renya can call upon his angelic cohorts to assist him along the way, each one carrying their own player-selected equipment and inherent abilities and can also be ordered to act freely or conservatively.

The Divinigram is complex, but also powerful.

The death penalty in the game is as punishing as one would expect: the character goes back to Level 1, and you can say goodbye to all of the equipment and items collected along with half of your money. This can be incredibly frustrating when the game gives you the ability to level up equipment after continued use through the blacksmith, and hours of progress can be lost in a single swoop. This can obviously be avoided by following the golden rule in roguelikes: save often, as I was reloading the game a lot.

It doesn't end there, thankfully. When you fall, the game is there to pick you back up. For the first handful of deaths, a new feature is introduced. There is a bank to deposit money, a warehouse to store excess items, and even swappable equipment sets that can be summoned and are active for a short period of time. Also, even if one happens to die, Renya has permanent base stats, called Total Level, that increase in place of levels to make sure that the second go-around is at least a little bit easier. 

The Divinigram board also makes a return from Z.H.P., allowing one to increase said base stats or increase features such as item storage limits in a variety of different ways. Really, it's this sense of aid in a time of need where one never feels completely helpless at nearly any point in the game, and I appreciated this variety of support.

Certainly, the severe challenge is there for those that want it. For many of the later chapters, simply trying to brute force oneself through the stage can be a big mistake, especially with the energy bar draining every step of the way and few ways to replenish that bar. The game makes it pretty clear upfront that it won't hold your hand once you're inside the dungeon and especaily during some of the impressive boss fights where some of these creatures can take up a big chunk of the stage itself.

Character designs are easily one of the best parts of the game.

Presentation-wise, the game is a step up from my time with Disgaea D2. The moving character portraits makes a return from Disgaea 4 which is very much appreciated, and other than the mechanics themselves, nothing feels too far out of reach with a lot of actions being mapped to buttons and even the analog sticks. The character art also looks incredible thanks to artist Noizi Ito of Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Shakugan no Shana fame. Everything just looks very bright and colorful, offering a nice contrast to what the genre tends to see.

Overall, I had a very good time with The Guided Fate Paradox. Sure, I can continue to fall back on the issues that many of Nippon Ichi's titles tend to have: inconsistent story pacing; a heavy reliance on anime stereotypes; and gameplay bogged down with a large assortment of mechanics that feel disconnected from each other. The story on the other hand, while not overly captivating, does provide plenty of meat to support itself especially when it came to the wishes themselves. Not to mention, the entire cast of characters that inhabit Celestia and the Netherworld are just so darn likable.

The Guided Fate Paradox doesn't come through completely unscathed, but it manages to offer the right mixture of approachability, naturally-escalating difficulty, cohesive storytelling, highly-detailed sprite work, and a decent amount of replayability, all wrapped up in a boldly unique and charming experience that many can appreciate.


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