|Title: The Guided Fate Paradox
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Age Rating: Teen
This generation of consoles saw quite a bit of new ideas from Nippon Ichi Software. Besides updated re-releases and sequels for the ever beloved Disgaea series, they have been releasing a slew of new IPs recently. One lofty title really stuck out to fans of the company; there was simply nothing quite like it. That game would be Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman, a title that combined the grid-base structure seen in many NIS games, but adds quite a few spins with a mixture of multiple genres and sub genres of RPGs. Being the spiritual successor to Z.H.P., The Guided Fate Paradox had big shoes to fill, considering the game has been called one of Nippon Ichi’s best offerings in years. Does the game fulfill its role in giving fans more of Z.H.P.’s unique gameplay style while still managing to stand on its own?
The story revolves around a normal high school boy named Renya, who proclaims himself the unluckiest person in the world when it comes to lotteries. Only this time after encountering what seems to be a cosplayer in a maid outfit at a mall, he wins for the first time in his entire life when she pushes him to try her raffle drawing. He not only wins, but the prize is none other than becoming God; though with great power comes great responsibility. This maid, Lilliel, turns out to be an angel, and she takes Renya to Celestia, telling him that he must now fulfill wishes. The wishes are picked out by his servants who are also angels dressed as maids and butlers. If he doesn’t, he will be consumed by the very essence that allows him to do such a feat, the Fate Revolution Circuit. Thus his journey to guide people’s fate to a revolution begins, and unbeknownst to him, a dark plot surrounds this whole ordeal.
The story has quite the emphasis in this game; descending to a new floor in its 10-floored dungeons triggers cutscenes and portraits that play out visual novel style. Its script contains humor with the localization, adding a few memes and subtle references throughout the game, at points with characters not taking situations seriously. While the narrative is similar in style to Z.H.P., it does start out a lot more serious than most NIS games, including Z.H.P. The plot is continuously moving towards a darker tone, with the motivations of everyone around you becoming more and more apparent and giving the impression that not everything is what it seems. These include one reason why you’re training; all the while fulfilling wishes is to get the power the fight “them”. “Them” refers to the demons of the Netherworld and their supposed leader, Sataneal.
The plot stays interesting with a colorful cast that thankfully gets their fair share in the spotlight as well as personal motivations in this war between Angels and Demons. The twists and turns you won’t see coming give you a sense of wanting to see more, grasping your interest from start to finish. What I love about NIS is that they’re not afraid of making competent main characters, and Renya fits the bill; he may be a kind person at heart, but he has his own reasons for accepting his fate, and not just for survival or for wanting to save the world. Couple him with Lilliel with her own endearing quirks and you have a good balance between the pair when it comes to dramatic and comedic portions. A nice touch was that NPCs outside the dungeons will periodically get new dialogue, and it’s not worthless banter; instead, you get more in-depth details of the world and the characters that live in it, giving the setting a little more depth.
While the plot is good, one thing that disappointed me was that the game only offered one ending. This surprised me, since not only did Z.H.P. have more than one ending, but a majority of NIS titles have had multiple endings. Not that the one and only ending was terrible — by no means, in fact I felt satisfied, which is rare these days. It’s not like there was no opportunities in the ten chapters the game has, which strikes me as strange, not even a single game over ending or various character endings, let alone a bad ending after the final boss. Less endings doesn’t necessarily make it less repayable, but with how enjoyable the main plot was, the missed opportunities did made me crave for more.
When it comes to gameplay, The Guided Fate Paradox is anything but standard, with new additions being constantly added as you progress through the game. Mixing multiple gameplay conventions of NIS games with its own unique structure, it is grid-based, roguelike, dungeon crawling, with a somewhat turn-based system. Within dungeons you’re placed in a grid system with a blank map that constantly updates as you go along, like most dungeon crawlers. Most dungeons are 10 floors long, with a boss at the end for each chapter as you progress through the story. Most actions will use up your turn, and the enemy will follow up with their own action. Actions from simply moving, attacking an enemy, using an ability, picking up and throwing an enemy or an object on the ground will have your turn end, then the enemy(s) turn will commence.
So attacking thin air or throwing a character are just some of the tactics you will have to utilize if you’re going to want to survive the randomly generated dungeons. There’s also a level of action and strategic gameplay mixed in with the variety of dungeons that are, for the most part, completely different when it comes to progressing. From an overly simplistic dungeon, to using cannons to move around rooftops, to having you outrun a deadly mist with enemies constantly impeding your progress, there is a lot of variety. Health and SP constantly regenerate with each turn’s passing, but what doesn’t regenerate and what you need to always keep in mind is the Energy Bar, as any action consumes energy. When it runs out, your health slowly drains away, so you need to prepare beforehand or get lucky and find food on the dungeon’s floor.
In most cases you aren’t in this alone, as Lilliel and other partners down the line will tag along in the dungeons. You can have them follow along with you, or give them specific orders; they can move throughout the floors clearing enemies out, throw you, or simply stay put. They also have their own specific abilities that can help in dire situations, such as giving you food when energy is low, heal you, help out grinding in numerous ways, or use a devastating attack on enemies in the vicinity.
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