In The Guided Fate Paradox, you get to play God. Being a Nippon Ichi Software game though, the physical embodiment of God is assigned to an adolescent teenager on the verge of puberty. Naturally.
Renya Kagurazaka is a typical Japanese teenager, unremarkable in every way. All that was about to change after a fateful encounter with Liliel, a girl dressed in a maid outfit tending to a lottery machine. Succumbing to his base desires, Renya decides to throw caution to the wind and play the luck of the draw in an attempt to impress the girl. Little does he know what lies in wait for him. For this isn’t any ordinary lottery machine you see, the grand prize being chosen to assume the role of God. Our unsuspecting hero is not aware of this minor detail however and chalks up the win to a change in his rotten luck. It’s only when he is knocked out and taken to Celestia that he realizes that it’s still as rotten as ever. Waiting for him there are an assortment of angels all inexplicably dressed up in maid and butler outfits. Each with their own set of ideals except for one thing they all have in common. None of them take the new God seriously. At least not until Renya proves himself worthy of the title. So how does our hero go about doing this? That’s when things get interesting.
Renya’s main responsibility as God is to fulfill the wishes of his followers. As compensation for his lack of experience and power, a machine called the Fate Revolution Circuit helps narrow down wishes that are more pertinent to his current level. Initially these wishes are all handpicked by the angels each coming with its own set of moral dilemmas. The motive behind this is to ascertain whether Renya is even up to the task of Godhood all the while molding his personality, imbuing him with the qualities they deem befitting of God. The narrative manages to elevate itself eventually from a tedious first half full of inappropriate and unfunny moments. It takes its time but it finally does pick up.
In order to fulfill each wish, Renya has to navigate through a place called Copy World. Only accessible though the Fate Revolution Circuit, Copy World is a replica of the real world except that it’s teeming with monsters. The fate of both worlds, Copy and Original, is intertwined. Any changes made in the Copy World directly alter events happening in the real world. This is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time in the game. Each wish has its own unique dungeon consisting of randomly generated maps. The Guided Fate Paradox plays out like a typical rogue-like/dungeon-crawler with a nod to Disgaea and a few tricks all its own.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, The Guided Fate Paradox is an incredibly hard game. The tutorials and the deceptively easy first few levels might make it seem like a breeze initially. It’s not. Once the gloves come off, they stay off. Be prepared to constantly be ravaged by random traps and monsters appearing out of thin air when you least expect them. Death in a dungeon has severe repercussions as well, robbing the player of all their possessions and half the coin they’ve accumulated. Furthermore, level grinding is rendered near useless by the fact that the character in play is reverted back to level one every time they leave a dungeon. One benefit of level grinding still remains though, the base stats of the character increase whenever leaving a dungeon as well. So even though the character will always have to start at level one whenever entering a new dungeon, it’ll always be a stronger level one than before. The level design for the dungeons might seem a bit generic as is the case with most games of the genre. Though the art style might look generic, it is counteracted by different methods of traversal. You’ll be jumping off medieval rooftops one moment while traveling across a revolving library the next. The varied locales play into the strategy of clearing a level, they’re not just for show (actually they’re not for show at all, we’ve established that). The cherry on top is the creative boss battles at the end of every dungeon. With new elements of game play being introduced constantly throughout the game, it never ceases to entertain.
At a glance, The Guided Fate Paradox appears to be a Disgaea skin-job through and through. Considering that the development team is largely comprised of people from the Disgaea team, comparisons were inevitable but it goes beyond that. It’s just downright sloppy at times. Assets from the Disgaea games seem to have been reused here particularly the character animations. Another thing it retains is the dated visuals. They look even worse here, lacking the polish the Disgaea series has garnered over the years. The only saving grace is the hand-drawn sprites. These games have never been about the visuals really though. What it lacks in visuals, it more than makes up for in the game play department.
The Guided Fate Paradox is a great example of never judging a book by its cover. Beneath its seemingly shallow exterior is a deep and rewarding experience for those bold enough to venture through it. It definitely ranks amongst Nippon Ichi Software’s finest.