NIS cranks out a refreshingly different tale
Nippon Ichi Software is known and revered for its lavish strategy role-playing titles, gathering a lavish cast of characters and outlandish premises to weave out-of-this-world stories. The Guided Fate Paradox is one such story, acting as a throwback to a style of RPG we haven't seen since that of Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman. As such, this game is considered its spiritual successor. The result is a raucous, lighthearted adventure that combines roguelike action with thrilling dungeon raids that you'll want to embark on, especially if you're a fan of traditional animation and out-there characters.
The Guided Fate Paradox (PlayStation 3)
Renya Kagurazaka is the high school student du jour (because every game like this needs one), and he's unlucky. He's never won one single prize in his entire life. There probably weren't even Coca-Cola points on his bottle cap. This all changes one fateful day as he finds himself the winner of a department store raffle. He's hit the big time with this win, with an opprtunity offered to him to "become God." Renya is granted the ability to shape and grant wishes of those who believe in him, and that's where you come in.
The Fate Revolution Circuit is a machine that allows Renya to enter the wishes of constituents that need his aid. Players control Renya, who's tasked with exploring both the Original World and Copy World that form around the wishes themselves. The Original World is the same plane you and I find ourselves on, where the Copy World is a place where Renya can, in essence, change fate. Renya can interact with the Copy World itself to fulfill the desires of his clients, and this gives him the power to make their wildest dreams come true.
Each Copy World is themed, taking after the character from which it's created. Mermaids who need their wishes granted have an undersea-themed world, while Cinderella herself has a gorgeous castle in hers. It depends on the type of person you're helping, which lends a whimsical dynamic to what could have languished as a "typical" dungeon-crawler with uninspired environments. In fact, Cinderella's story is the first one that Renya must tackle as he becomes acquainted with the Fate Revolution Circuit. Her story is well-established, and we all know that the Prince she finds herself in love with is a romance that doesn't last as long as it could. Cinderella approaches Renya to make it so that the romance between her and her prince has a little more depth than "love at first sight." That's the tone set from the very beginning: occasionally heartwarming, but completely fantastical.
This is a tactical RPG at heart, however, and Renya takes center stage over those with wishes. You'll take turns with different combatants, but you'll only guide one character throughout the play field at a time, which happens to be Renya. His actions take precedence before other units on the map, so anything you have him do, such as swilling a potion to regain health or initiating combat, is done before your opponent. This, coupled with the random dungeons, can make for some challenging segments, but that's what made The Guided Fate Paradox such a treat to play through.
The randomly-generated floors and dungeons are addictive, with plenty of loot and equipment to grind for, considering each time Renya re-enters a dungeon his level resets to 1. Upon death you'll be transported back to home base, having lost gold, as well as any equipment and loot obtained during the trip. While you don't benefit from individual level-grinding, Renya's "Total Level" will grow as you conquer different floors, which is all you need to be concerned with. His base stats will rise, and you'll be able to take on more difficult dungeons without worrying about dying at every turn.
The Divinigram, a board wholeheartedly inspired by the License Board of Final Fantasy XII, is an interesting addition to Renya's growth as well, granting the use of artifacts that improve Renya's abilities tenfold, as well as boosting the effectiveness of the artifacts found while checking out each randomly-generated floor. It adds another layer of strategy to the ordeal, and ensures that even seasoned roguelike players have something to busy themselves with when the dungeons themselves begin to become familiar.
I found fault, however, with the game's pacing and its insistence on tossing tutorials and other lengthy conversations at the player at every turn. There are so many banal lessons, especially at the beginning of the game, that you're left praying to be able to touch the controller long before you can even move a unit around for the first time. It's humorous enough, but there's got to be a limit to this type of things. I can see this souring the experience for a good third of the game for some, which is a shame since there's such a meaty game to get to if you can wade through the "how-to" sections.
The Guided Fate Paradox is an entertaining mixture of strategy, cutesy errands, and character development. It just needs to cut back on its handholding a bit. Still, as it stands, it's an excellent spiritual sequel to a cult favorite. If you're reeling from Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, why not give this NIS release a shot?
7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.
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