The Guided Fate Paradox has come over to North America courtesy of NIS America, the folks responsible for giving us such treats like the Disgaea series and the Etrian Odyssey games. If you're aware of the company and its catalog of games, then chances are that you're a pretty big Japanese role-playing game fan and are very much appreciate of the niche RPGs that NIS America offers. The Guided Fate Paradox goes beyond what other games do and gives you the chance... to become God.
That's right. The Guided Fate Paradox's strange tale surrounds a young man named Renya. One night while he's passing through a shopping area, he comes across a pretty young woman who offers him a chance to draw from a raffle. He happens to draw a winning ticket and is then bestowed with the coolest of prizes: he gains divine power and becomes the new God.
Blasphemous plotline aside, this is actually a pretty cool concept and is amazingly Japanese. If you've ever played any of the other strategy RPGs in NIS America's long history, then you kinda have a taste of what you're in for with The Guided Fate Paradox. In fact, it plays a lot like a Disgaea (which makes sense since the same team worked on both games), but harder. The Guided Fate Paradox, with its goofy concept, is one of the most difficult and complex games you'll come across.
As God, it's your task to guide the fates of your subjects and grant wishes. In order to accomplish this, you'll have the aid the pretty lottery girl, who happens to be an angel named Lilliel. She gives you a tour around Heaven, introduces you to several other angels (some of whom are pretty shifty characters), and then takes you to see the Fate Revolution Circuit. The FRC is basically a celestial supercomputer that sifts through the prayers and wishes of every being in existence. It includes the wishes of the living, the dead, fictional characters and even aliens. The FRC also conveniently filters out the wishes so that they match God's current skill level.
To grant a wish or answer a prayer, Renya must step into a Copy World, which is a copy of the wisher's actual world. It is here that he can run around a dungeon and defeat aberrations that seek to keep the wisher's fate unchanged. By advancing in the dungeons in the Copy World and defeating monsters, Renya will be able to see the person's fate change little by little, until he's able to defeat a boss character and change their destiny once and for all, thereby granting the wish.
Actually getting through dungeons can be quite an ordeal, since the game's difficulty is pretty high and causes you to lose all of your levels, items and equipment upon dying, although the experience you gained will go towards your overall character experience. In order to avoid losing anything, you can store your items for safekeeping and grab them later on. Death is inevitable in The Guided Fate Paradox, but you're God, so you don't really die anyway. Just think of it as kind of like a 2D, strategy RPG version of Dark Souls; the more you die, the stronger you become.
Getting into a fight means using your equipment's inherent skills to do damage. For example, you can equip a pistol in your left hand and a spiked ball on your right. Using either one's skill will result in a ranged shot or a strike with a big, spiky fist. After a few shots, your opponent will die. Each piece of equipment has a skill and will be be leveled up after continues use. Some battle animations can get downright silly, like "Impossibru," a move that causes your enemy to explode while you fly away, not looking back at the explosion like the badass you are.
While the battles and the animation might be quick and goofy (you can literally throw monsters at each other, a la Disgaea), the real star of the show is the unconventional story. As God, Renya will come across many different characters with varying degrees of wishes that range from weird to poignant. The first wish comes from Cinderella, who wants to break free from her cycle of "happily ever afters," as dictated by her story. The second wish comes from a wimpy zombie who's terrified of humans, but is always hungry for brains. Go figure, right? The colorful cast of characters and their short little vignettes make The Guided Fate Paradox a treat for anyone who enjoys a unique story coupled with challenging gameplay.
The only real things that pull down The Guided Fate Paradox's score is the fact that it's so crippling hard, even for veterans of the genre. That, coupled with its uniquely Japanese story, could turn off a lot of gamers who aren't already fans of the niche market from which it hails.
Still, if you're not afraid to sink hours of your time into a challenging game full of dungeons, funny characters and the occasional touching moment, The Guided Fate Paradox might be for you. Just be warned that the tasks ahead will be difficult, but at least they'll be worth the narrative payoff. And that's a wish come true for anyone.
This review was based on a digital copy of The Fated Guide Paradox for PlayStation 3 that was provided by the publisher for review.