What would you do if you became God? Not just any god, like your Poseidons and Athenas, but the Lord Almighty himself? That’s the question The Guided Fate Paradox throws at you, as you inhabit the body of a new God. Don’t expect your traditional Old Testament version of the Lord, though, as the madmen over at Nippon Ichi Software have crafted a supremely odd take on him.
In The Guided Fate Paradox you are Renya Kagurazaka, your everyday Japanese student. He is just like you and I, except with nothing going for him. No girlfriend, few friends, zero parental guidance and, as he says, absolutely no luck. You see, Renya has never won anything in his life, no matter how small the prize may have been. On this day, however, all of his luck is about to change.
Coaxed into entering a raffle by the mysterious girl working the contest, Renya actually manages to be the lucky winner. His prize? Becoming God of course! The contest girl reveals herself to be an angel named Lilliel, who will help guide the protagonist into the world of being God. Soon enough, Renya and Lilliel are on their way to the heavenly world of Celestia, where they rub shoulders with a host of angels and other heavenly creatures.
Although Bruce Almighty conditioned me to think that being God was all fun and games, I soon found that in the world of The Guided Fate Paradox, this was not true. Upon reaching Celestia, you are thrown into the world of wish granting. While Renya is not allowed to choose whose wishes he can fulfill, due to the very logical reason of him choosing only people he knows, the mysterious Fate Revolution Complex will. Created by a mystery man, the Fate Revolution Complex takes account of every prayer and wish that comes God’s way and then allows the various angels of Celestia to choose one for God to fulfill. These prayers come from all manner of characters, though, including humans, zombies and even fairytale creatures. Nothing is off limits when it comes to the power of God, I suppose.
If that brief summary alone didn’t set you off, then you should know that The Guided Fate Paradox is a very odd game. Of course, if you have had any experience with the other titles that NIS America has released, you would have expected this. Their titles tend to have very outlandish plots combined what I would call divisive humor, and this one continues that trend. The whole idea of becoming God via a raffle is absurd, and the game has the decency to at least poke fun at it. However, for every joke that hits (specifically when Renya is being baffled by everything in Celestia) there are two or three that whiff completely. Perhaps the type of humor here just isn’t my cup of tea, but I found myself groaning more often than laughing.
With the game featuring a wide assortment of characters, it was important that Nippon Ichi Software nailed the aesthetics of the game, and for the most part they did. Featuring the work of Noizi Ito, The Guided Fate Paradox boasts vibrant character artwork that really popped on my television. The sprites used for the actual gameplay are also nice and colorful, even though they don’t have a ton of animation. I just wish that the female angels residing in Celestia weren’t all dressed in maid outfits. I understand that there is an audience for this type of design, but it just comes across as creepy here.
Going further, the provided voice work, although certainly welcome, is more of a mixed bag. The voicing of Renya and Lilliel are the highlights here, but some of the characters either come off as bored (the angel Neliel) or extremely annoying (that zombie pictured above).
At its core, The Guided Fate Paradox is a dungeon crawler with rogue-like elements. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a rogue-like dungeon crawler is typically classified as a title with a heavy emphasis on level randomization and death. Basically, every time you enter a new dungeon or decide to revisit an older one, its design will be different.
When you enter the Fate Revolution Complex in order to fulfill a wish, Renya and Lilliel are placed onto an isometric grid. Together, you two move across this grid, while keeping track of your health, energy and magic. Combat is your basic turn-based combat system, with you and Lilliel taking turns attacking enemies and vice-versa. It’s nothing too deep, but it certainly gets the job done.
The real depth to the gameplay comes from the absurd amount of items you can acquire. Both Renya and Lilliel can be equipped with five different items; head, left arm, right arm, legs and body. So, if you want, you can equip your characters with mushroom hats, a battle axe, an ice gauntlet, a car for legs and bat wings. While your character will look extremely goofy, each of these items has its own special attack. Figuring out which combination of items to use for each level is integral to being able to advance at all in the game. Plus, as you use each weapon in the dungeons, it will reach a burst point. By reaching burst status, you can bring the item to the local blacksmith in order to increase its power. You can do this time and time again in order to build up a high powered arsenal, which, of course, will help with clearing the many dungeons you traverse.
While its goofy story and cutesy graphics may say otherwise, make no mistake about it: The Guided Fate Paradox is a brutal game. It’s the type of game that will chew you up and spit you out and make you want to quit before you even get that far into it. Enemies will constantly be stronger than you, helpful items will always be scarce and the randomized levels will always be full of death dealing traps. NIS seems like it takes perverse pleasure in watching you fail over and over again, which is something that you will do. Additionally, since this is a rogue-like, every time you die you will lose all of the items you were carrying and half of your money. At times, this harsh difficulty makes the game feel extremely unfair, which is especially true considering that it wastes no time in throwing you into the deep end – something that almost turned me off completely.
After getting promptly destroyed in the second level of The Guided Fate Paradox, something stuck with me. I realized that there are two things you need to do over and over in order to succeed. For starters, you need to grind. Not the sexual kind of grinding mind you, but the type of grinding that involves you killing weaker enemies repeatedly. Doing this will help boost your dungeon levels, as well as your permanent level.
To continue, the other thing that you must do is learn to embrace death, which may sound hard to do at first, but after you die for the 50oth time you’ll kind of get used to it. Dying repeatedly will help unlock new features and abilities, which otherwise would not have been unlocked until later in the campaign.
Due to the fact that difficulty can make or break the game for some people, it’s hard to really recommend The Guided Fate Paradox to those who aren’t extremely dedicated dungeon crawler fans. After a little while though, I started to really enjoy my time with the title, and came to like the fact that it was so difficult, because accomplishing something felt rewarding as a result. It is certainly not for everyone, but those that stick with The Guided Fate Paradox will be rewarded with a fun and deep dungeon crawler.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 exclusive, which was provided to us.