The Guided Fate Paradox
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (Nippon Ichi Software)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Fantasy Violence, Language, and Suggestive Themes
NIS America always puts out at least interesting and at least adequate games. I mean, we are talking about the same company that put out the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, to give an example of a recent series, among other notables like Cave Story 3D and the Disgaea series. Whether they appeal to you or not, NIS America games always have a style and sense of humor that really stands out from the rest of the industry. And, needless to say, The Guided Fate Paradox does quite a good job of showing off the style and some of the flaws of the typical NIS America game.
Any game that starts off with your character being proclaimed as God is bound to pretty interesting, and that’s how The Guided Fate Paradox starts. Renya Kagurazaka wins a random lottery in order to become God after introducing himself as one of the unluckiest men of all time. While this is a pretty predictable turn of events, the complaint about being the unluckiest guy in the world plays a pretty big part in the nature of him playing at God as he receives a multitude of mixed blessings. After all, he gets to play God, but if he fails to fulfill his duties, some of which include answering the prayers people and things, he will be consumed by Misery, an apostle of the Fate Revolution Circuit.
And then there’s the fact that he’s not the first God and guiding people’s fates isn’t the only thing that he has to contend. The angels are at war with the demons, after all. Couple the war with the fact that at least some of his angels have questionable loyalties, while others have ego problems, and we’ve got an interesting and problematic world that Renya’s been thrust into. And to think, all this came about because a cute girl dressed as a cosplay maid asked him to give a spin to the lottery machine and then smacked him over the head with a blunt object after he had won.
The Guided Fate Paradox, like many other NIS America games, has a wonderful script. Which is important with any game. It’s incredibly intelligent while also being funny. Just for an example, one of the biggest parts of an earlier mission actually does a bit of a feminist deconstruction of Cinderella and the whole trope of the “happily ever after” fairy tale. There are a lot of ways where something like that can go horribly wrong. But somehow, it manages to do it in a way where it actually starts the whole God part of the game’s story running strong. It also really builds the character of Renya as he tries to save the story while fulfilling the wish or prayer that’s being addressed. Another early wish deals with getting a weakling zombie to have the ability to eat brains and survive. Oh, there are so many self-aware horror jokes in that wish fulfillment. These are just some examples of things that you will run into.
Another rather distinctive aspect that carries over into The Guided Fate Paradox is the art design. As usual for NIS America productions, it’s driven very much by anime and manga. The mixture of gameplay imagery and character animations during discussions are beautifully drawn. Sometimes they also convey the emotion that they’re trying to convey as well. So even though the animations are pretty static, they aren’t necessarily wooden in how fixed they are. It just works.
Lastly, the trailer given, even while starting to play the game, is just awesome. I know, a trailer or music video is a pretty superficial aspect to talk about when assessing a game. But sometimes it turns out to be a pretty thing to look at. For one thing, how much do you give away? What do you use to get the audience’s attention? These are great things to think about. I mean one of the things that really hooks the audience about a game, show or movie is how they’re first introduced. The trailer to The Guided Fate Paradox really works well as it only gives the broadest strokes of information (see directly below).
There really are a few flaws for The Guided Fate Paradox. One is easily fixed though. Since pretty much everything in the text boxes in the American version are in English, you can read while putting the spoken dialogue into Japanese. The English voice acting can get a bit grating. It can also give a couple of poor miscues on what a character’s intention and personality is. In some cases, that can be a slight issue with the writing too. For example, your personal angelic assistant Lilliel’s repeated use of a more typically evil laugh while trying to act confident with a hearty laugh. But quite often, the English voice acting just isn’t as good as the Japanese.
Combat needs some getting used to. It’s mostly because of the fact that during regular floors of dungeons, you have a party of at least one other helper angel. However, when you get to the boss of each dungeon, you have to fight alone even if the boss doesn’t. There could’ve been either a stronger narrative explanation and build up to the angel not being able to help during the boss battles. But then again, that’s just a personal gripe.
The Guided Fate Paradox went for for a grid-based isometric presentation that you can pivot the map on. At least that’s the case of when you’re in one of the dungeons. That being said, it takes some getting used to the directional controls. Luckily, it isn’t too big of problem once you get used to it. But then again, that’s also contingent on getting used to it. If you’re a particularly quick learner, you’ll be used to it by the second half of the first mission.
The leveling system for The Guided Fate Paradox is odd, but it’s not necessarily a problem. Each time you leave the Fate Revolution Circuit, you’re brought back down to an individual level of 1. However, for your work in each dungeon, you get a bonus to your base stats. So technically, even though you always start your time in the dungeon off at level 1, you’re only at level 1 stats for the first dungeon. It’s kind of cool and kind of odd at the same time.
Then there’s the body modification system, which tries to take the mess of a license board system from Final Fantasy XII and make it actually work. It’s strange, but again, not bad this time. And it’s partially because it actually works. It does allow the game to be far less level-grinding. There’s also another added appeal to the way that the body modification system is actually discussed. And what’s appealing is the fact that during the explanation, the game does kind of make fun of the grind-heavy RPGs.
The Guided Fate Paradox will not appeal to everyone, even though it is actually a pretty well done game. If you’re a fan of any of NIS America’s currently published catalog of games, it’ll definitely be up your alley. If you’re not a big NIS America fan, then it’s a toss up based on your tastes. If you like a smart game that actually does have a pretty deep narrative, regardless of the quirks, you’ll probably enjoy the game. If you like dungeon crawlers, you might enjoy the game. There is a lot to actually enjoy with the game, even with the quirks. Again, it just takes getting used to or getting around the quirks that might give the game problems outside of the hardcore NIS America fans.