|Dev: Nippon Ichi Software|
|Pub: NIS America|
|Release: November 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes|
by Jenni Lada
Prayer is a powerful force, and many out there believe there is a divine being that hears those prayers and acts on them to make our lives better. NIS America's The Guided Fate Paradox focuses and expands on that concept by giving people a look at what a god might go through to make these wishes come true. Except, in this case, changing someone's fate involves entering dungeons with angels and beating up monsters to indirectly influence real life, and God is an unlucky high-school student that happens to "win" the right to undertake this task.
The Guided Fate Paradox is really the story of Renya. He's an unlucky young man who wins a supermarket lottery run by an angel named Lilliel Saotome, an angel that wears a maid outfit and has a Japanese last name. Which is apparently a trend, because when Renya arrives in Celestia to begin his god-ing, all seven angels in residence wear the same kinds of outfits and follow the same patterns. They also all unfailingly refer to him as God, and count on him to grant people's prayers.
Though Lilliel states that millions and billions of prayers are coming in each day, helping people won't be too difficult for Renya. Celestia houses the Fate Revolution Circuit, which is basically a massive super computer. It sorts through all of the prayers from humans, aliens, imaginary characters, and more, providing God access to the ones that are at his skill level. God then goes into a fabricated dungeon that is a Copy World of the Real World. By seeing snippets of the most crucial information in the Copy World and defeating the aberrations (monsters) within, Renya will see the Real World change. After defeating the "boss" of each Copy World dungeon, the person praying will experience a revolution, and his or her life will be changed.
While such an idea may seem outlandish, it's helped by the fact that The Guided Fate Paradox's script is inventive, well written, littered with humor, and even occasionally insightful. For example, the first prayer Renya and Lilliel tackle seems cute on the surface, but is surprisingly deep. It seems like it's a prayer from Cinderella to change her fate. Really though, it could be seen as a personal crisis and even a Feminist exploration of the Cinderella tale. While the Copy World is parroting back typical events from her story, with minor changes as Cinderella gets fed up and tries to look for more depth and truth, the Real World vignettes have her exploring the nature of the tale itself: that it isn't really about Cinderella because she's such a passive figure, and more about the prince's quest for a bride. She even wonders why he would bother with her, and what made her special.
Granted, it isn't a fully explored mission. Cinderella doesn't get all of the answers she's seeking. However, she does find truth and a satisfying result is achieved, and the players are treated to an initial mission and overarching storyline that's surprisingly engaging and thought provoking.
Not all The Guided Fate Paradox prayers are so exploratory, though. Some are there just for fun. Like when Renya must go through the Copy World of a zombie afraid of humans, but still coveting brains. Said zombie is in a world similar to ours, where media such as The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies, and Night of the Living Dead have desensitized humans to the zombie menace. Needless to say, I found it one of the funnier missions in the game.
Although, a fascinating storyline is nothing if it doesn't have great gameplay to back it up, and with The Guided Fate Paradox, Nippon Ichi Software has clearly learned from its Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman experiences. It isn't that the earlier game, which could be seen as a spiritual successor in terms of gameplay, isn’t great, but that The Guided Fate Paradox is even better by comparison. Aside from one minor control issue, it borders on being one of the best rogue-likes I've played in years.
Once Renya and his angel subordinate enter the Fate Revolution Circuit, they are taken to a randomly generated Copy World dungeon. It's filled with monsters and traps, like any good rogue-like, but these are considered aberrations that are seeking to keep the subject's fate from being changed. Renya can use standard physical attacks or special skills tied to his equipment to make fighting and dungeon crawling easier, though the special skills do reduce his SP.
It's a necessary sacrifice, because using equipment's skills is essential. Doing so increases their experience, and when they are maxed out and a skill is used, an item will Burst, and Renya gets a tile to improve his overall stats on the Divinigram. Fortunately, it isn't as though a player is going to find him or herself trapped with no SP. Holding two action buttons together will regenerate Renya's HP and SP at the cost of energy. Energy can be replenished by eating food items found in the dungeon or bought in Celestia.
Food, equipment, healing items, money, and other items are found scattered around Copy World's floors. These can be held in the bag, equipped by Renya or the angel, or thrown at enemies. It's best to keep an assortment of different items on hand, like medicines and status afflicting orbs, because traps could be anywhere, and sometimes, monsters just appear. Though most equipment will probably end up sold in Celestia, I recommend trying on each item at least once, because they alter Renya and the angel’s appearances in hilarious and incredible ways. Even an item that doesn't offer massive stat boosts could make a character look amazing.
The only hitch in an otherwise wonderful dungeon-exploration experience is The Guided Fate Paradox's throwing mechanic. Renya is supposed to be able to pick up and throw items and monsters in the Copy World by using the right analog stick. However, that control is also tied to various quick-check menu options. This means that instead of picking up or throwing items, perhaps during a boss fight where such an option would have been helpful for dispatching minions, I kept going to menu screens. It was frustrating, and I found I avoided lifting and throwing whenever possible, because it wasn't worth the trouble.
Of course, not all of Renya's time is spent in the Fate Revolution Circuit. He can leave by completing the dungeon, using an exit, or dying. Completion and exits are the preferred manner, since you retain all items acquired in a dungeon when you do. Die in a dungeon, and Renya will be stripped of his equipment, lose all of the things he was carrying, and have half of his money taken from him. It's brutal, but that's the way rogue-likes go.
Fortunately, even in a worst-case scenario, Renya's always entering a dungeon in a better position than before. While he always goes in at level 1, it's a better level 1 each time. This is because the levels he earns while in a dungeon go to his cumulative level. His stats boost each time, so every level 1 is stronger and better.