Three years after Nippon Ichi Software released Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman, a spiritual successor has arrived to continue the NISA brand of rogue-likes. The Guided Fate Paradox is a PlayStation 3 improvement of the original, much like Legasista was a console version of the PSP game Cladun. While Legasista tried to change as little as possible for the move to console, The Guided Fate Paradox has had a number of improvements made to the game while sticking close to the formula that worked for Z.H.P.
So, the question is; why did NISA change up the setting of The Guided Fate Paradox? Well, Z.H.P.‘s story was based on 1980’s superheroes, something that in Japan is quite niche. It is doubtful that even outside Japan, even with the cult status that some of the older movies have, the appeal just may not have been there for another run at a similar story. Instead, what we have is a story about a boy who has the power to change the fate of people who have a wish that needs granting.
Renya Kagurazaka was a student with no real luck in life, until the day he won a lottery held in a shopping hall. His prize? He became God. This is no Jim Carrey movie where the protagonist can get up to random hijinx, instead Renya must fulfill God’s duties. This is far easier than it sounds though, as the main task is listening to and helping the millions of wishes that are made across the world. To speed up this process, the Fate Revolution Circuit is used to find wishes that are suitable for the amount of job experience the current God has. The current God? Yes, there have been others before Renya, because if he cannot complete a wish, he will be consumed.
Joining Renya in his new role are a cast of wacky characters including the new angel who inadvertently speaks a lot of innuendo, a veteran angel who would like nothing more that to perform carnal acts on the new God’s body, and other servants who seem to know more than they let on. The people Renya must help have a uniqueness to them as well. The first person requiring assistance is none other that Cinderella herself, and Renya faces a tough choice; will helping Cinderella forever change her story? NISA needed a strong first mission like this or else they may have had trouble convincing people to carry on the game. How can you convince an audience that somebodies fate has been changed unless they already know what the outcome should be?
The Guided Fate Paradox is a rogue-like, but there is some character progression the carries between trips in the Fate Revolution Circuit. Much like Azure Dreams, any items held when exiting a dungeon can be kept and sold, or stored and used later, and death removes all items from the held inventory. Each trip into a dungeon starts the player back at level one. At the end of a dungeon the player’s base stats increase based on the amount of levels gained while in the dungeon, making them slightly more powerful on subsequent runs. Rather than adding a set number of stats to a character, equipment increases certain stats by a percentage.
Equipment has a form of experience as well, except that exiting a dungeon does not wipe that progress. When an item reaches maximum experience it gets worse, but a blacksmith can improve any equipment at max experience so that it is better than before. This can be repeated over and over, at least until a player dies and loses everything they are carrying. Each time a piece of equipment is improved, the player gains a tile to place on a board called the Divinagram. The tile further increases a stat, which stat depends of the type of gear that was improved. Later on, holy symbols can be placed on the Divinagram that give the player new skills and abilities.
Dungeon runs are usually quick affairs that find the player searching for the exit on each floor. Dungeons are not very large, and each floor only takes a few minutes to clear. Enemies an not very varied in the dungeons, but even early on can cause some nasty status effects. Health and skill points restore naturally over time as the player walks around, though endurance diminishes over time as well. Time can be forced to move while a player stands still so that they can heal, but doing so will mean a player will need to find food. Starvation costs health each ‘turn’ and can bring an otherwise successful run to an abrupt end.
The graphics in The Guided Fate Paradox look like they could have come out of Disgaea D2. This is not surprising considering the same team worked on both games. The results show in the way characters move, and also their facial expressions. The animators have had to be little more restrained this time around though, as The Guided Fate Paradox does not have the crazy over-the-top moves usually seen in the Disgaea series. The musical is still quite catchy, but does not have many memorable pieces to it. A nice feature is that the music in the base can be changed, and new tracks can be unlocked later on.
The Guided Fate Paradox is a game that would seem more at home on the Vita or similar mobile devices. The ability to suspend the game between dungeon floors is useful, but can break up the story a little if the game is not resumed soon after. Despite all the angels and the player taking on the role of God, there are very few overtly religious themes in the game, much like in the Disgaea series. Fans of Z.H.P. will find themselves at home with familiar mechanics, as will enthusiasts of NIS’s other works. Newcomers may think the game is rather simple on the surface, but would need to stick around to find the depth in the games systems.