The Guided Fate Paradox PS3 Review

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While I’m not a religious person, there is something fascinating behind the concept of being able to play God – the one almighty being that sits above the clouds somewhere and watches over us, listening to us and leaving us to self-destruct on the planet. But, if we are to believe what we see in the entertainment medium, being God isn’t what it is all cracked up to be. Just watch Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan in the film Bruce Almighty for a good example. Poor guy was so happy he got to play God, as it was his chance to create a new life and flash off his newly acquired godly powers for his own good. It didn’t last long; dude became overwhelmed with voices from prayers from inhabitants of the planet that the fun was gone and he was left with chores of ungodly proportions. It’s no wonder Bruce wanted to quit such a demanding job.

The Guided Fate Paradox puts players in the role of God, well, in truth; you’re in the shoes of one Renya Kagurazaka, a young boy who tells us that he has the worst luck in the world and never seems to win anything. He’s as average as you can be, monotonous life, a couple of friends, no girls in sight, and isn’t the most intelligent in the class. This all changes when he meets a strange girl dressed up as a maid in his local shopping centre. Forced by her positive attitude, Renya takes part in the girl’s lottery game to see if he has the chance to win. Expecting to fail, he’s in shock when the winning ball falls out and he has won the price of a lifetime – becoming God. Renya is in serious doubt about the authenticity of the prize, but he’s soon whisked away to the heights of Celestia, where he finds out the girl is an angel and is offering her services to help in any way she can. Renya begins immediately as his role of God, and must answer the wishes of people praying for help during the course of the game.

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If there is one issue I had with The Guided Fate Paradox it’s the fact the game begins with an incredibly slow opening. The action takes around an hour to get going, as it spends a good time building up the main character and his place as the new god. After all the introductions to the characters are out of the way, it takes another few hours to get into the gist of its mechanics. Even when you’re past chapter three of the game’s ten chapters, you’re still learning new features. The pacing is very stop-start, which is due to the visual novel nature. After beating a floor for the first time, which doesn’t take much more than a few minutes, you’re given a cutscene that fleshes out more of the characters involved within that chapter, sometimes spending more time during these scenes than gameplay, unless you die, meaning that, thankfully, don’t have to watch the cutscenes you have already seen as you make your way back up through the dungeon’s floors.

As for the story, it’s anime tropes and clichés that can be amusing at times, but it never reaches the great comedy routines of the Disgaea series that I have come to love from the developers at Nippon Ichi Software. The quality of the characters ranges across the spectrum. They are some neat and truly interesting characters, such as Cinderella’s wish to break free from the forever repeating fairy tale, to the annoying, such as the zombie who is incredibly scared to the point he cannot build up the courage to attack humans. He’s also one infuriating character, with a voice and attitude you just want to slap. It’s irritating, but I can’t really mark the game down for it, as it’s supposed to be like that for the story. That doesn’t stop it from being the chapter I hated the most. There’s an overarching storyline that involves good vs. evil, which I’m sure you can figure out who the evil is – it is God’s nemesis.

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When The Guided Fate Paradox was first announced there was a lot of talk about it being the spiritual successor to Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman. For any readers who don’t know that game, it was a PSP title from Nippon Ichi Software, in which the player took on the role of the new Unlosing Ranger and had to stop the Darkdeath Evilman from formulating disasters on the planet while helping humans, resembling what you do as God in this game. While The Guided Fate Paradox isn’t link to Z.H.P., it’s very much mechanically a similar experience.

You might have heard the term roguelike quite often in the last couple of years. It’s a genre that has grown tremendously popular – even though they are some of the most challenging games available – thanks to digital distribution exploding, offering indie game developers the chance to explode into the forefront of people’s eyes with new and fascinating titles. The Guided Fate Paradox is a dungeon crawler that mixes up the elements of roguelike to bring a compelling designed RPG to the PlayStation 3.

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Before any trip into a dungeon, you’ll be in the safe haven of Celestia. This is God’s home base, where you have access to various functions, like a shop to buy new equipment, a bank to store or withdraw money and a blacksmith to upgrade weapons, along with other features that get more complex, such as exchanging your total level points for items. Once you are ready to explore, you can jump into the Fate Revolution Circuit, a machine that is used to reach out to the person who is praying to God for help, and start tackling the game’s dungeons.

Nippon Ichi is often known for creating great strategy RPGs, but the gameplay for The Guided Fate Paradox is more straightforward. It’s still features grids, but you’re free to walk around dungeons without a turn-based feature to obstruct your movement. The concept behind the dungeon exploring is that when you move to a space, the enemy will also move to a space at the same time. Coloured grids around the enemies show where they are patrolling (white) or their attack range (red). An angel companion is available to go with you, who is controlled by the AI, but does a good job helping with backing up the main character. The angel can also be set to various AI states, such as always covering God or being free to attack enemies at will. The amount of times my angel companion has helped me is easily over double digits. One thing I found strange was that she doesn’t’ appear in the boss battles. There’s no explanation why – she’s just not there.

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The game takes time to get to grips with its controls, because the four camera angles and the movements with the D-pad aren’t fluid – you might move or attack in the wrong directions as you adjust the movement controls to the camera angle on screen. Once over that hump, there shouldn’t be any problems with the otherwise standard control layout for such a game as this.

When either the enemy or your character is within range they will be able to attack. Normal attacks are usually just one block in front, but depending on what equipment you are wearing will determine what special attacks you can do. This act is similar to how special moves work in the Disgaea games, in which each attack will display how many blocks in front or around the character the casting will hit. The battle system is rather simple; there isn’t some crazy feature that makes it complex to understand, as it’s the other mechanics that make The Guided Fate Paradox deeper.

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The start of every dungeon forces God to begin at level one, but will quickly increase in level until the player dies or completes the dungeon. Death is a key feature of a roguelike; it’s something that even the best players won’t be able to avoid in The Guided Fate Paradox. If you die before hitting the end of the dungeon or you beat the boss, you will reset back to level one. If you died before finishing the dungeon, then you will also lose all items being carried and equipped, plus a percentage of your money will disappear. If you think you aren’t going to make it to the top floor, then a special item called Exit will allow you to leave unharmed and claim the experience to add to your total level without losing all the gear.  There’s nothing worse than having spent money levelling up Renya’s gear, only to lose it 20 minutes later because of a careless mistake. The game has no compassion for your mistakes, but, if you do manage to survive a dungeon, then I advise players to stock cash and spare items away, so you have something to fall back on when you die. It’s also nice to see that the character dons the equipment.  The amount of times Renya was wearing bizarre gear, such as having a tank tracks for legs, bat wings for a cape or an army hat on his head, makes for extremely amusing situations.

Dying doesn’t mean you’re instantly back to weakling status, as depending how many levels you gained inside the dungeon determines how much of a permanent boost you get to God’s total level. This total level can never be removed, so death upon death will eventually lead to a more powerful level one character than you initially started the game as. It’s similar to reincarnation in the Disgaea franchise, and it allows for gamers to eventually overcome an obstacle that might be too challenging by overpowering it through grinding. No matter who you are, you will have to grind at some point in the game to make sure you are strong enough to finish it.

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Levelling up the total level enough times means you can adjust core stats in the Divingram. This is a board that features empty spaces that allow the player to place down boosts in one of four stats, strength, speed, hit and defence. These adjust the benefits you gain from levelling up the total level. On top of that, players can also place artefacts in the Divingram that will offer perks or boosts to Renya, such as adding more strength or more items in the inventory. Artefacts will also send out energy beams that when placed on top of the planted stats on the chequerboard will buff Renya even more.  It might seem irrelevant at first, but as more skills and artefacts unlock, where you place or unlock tiles will determine how much of a boost Renya will get. It’s a vital part to understand in making it easier to get past the challenging gameplay.

The art style is typical Nippon Ichi Software anime inspired. The camera is zoomed in and there is no function to zoom it out, which means the sprites are huge and pixelated, but I feel that adds charm to the visuals. The Guided Fate Paradox certainly won’t blow your mind away with fancy graphics, as the dungeon layouts are plain, surrounded by empty space as a background, but it’s wonderfully appealing in its own way. The soundtrack is decent enough too, featuring various styles of music to back up the on screen themes and action. I can say I wasn’t expecting the heavy guitar song to be the game’s main theme. It seems a little strange seeing a picture of Renya and the angels with this electric guitar rift blasting out. Voice over work is mixture of great and bad, it depends on the cast of characters – some you’ll enjoy and some you’ll want to kill. There is also the option for Japanese for those who love to have the game it its original voice over work.

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The Guided Fate Paradox starts off on the slow side, and it does have some pacing issues, but once the game gets going and it has unlocked all of its mechanics and features, then it turns out to be rather solid Japanese, roguelike, dungeon crawler. This RPG has lots of content to last you hours upon hours and a story that is mostly enjoyable with plenty of laughs thrown in for people who like those cliché anime jokes. This is totally a niche title that only a select few will understand and appreciate, and it knows that and doesn’t try to hide it. The Guided Fate Paradox is also a title that I feel newcomers can get into, too, thanks to its easy to understand tutorials that aren’t all thrown on the player at once. At the same time, it’s also one that fans of niche titles will also be able to enjoy, soaking in all the Japanese quirkiness that Nippon Ichi Software seemingly love to give to its fans.  In the end, this is a good attempt at blending genres together to give a satisfyingly challenging RPG.

7/10

by

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Version tested: PS3

Developer: Nippon Ichi Software

Publisher: NIS America

Genre: Role-Playing Game