Right from the beginning, there was something about The Guided Fate Paradox that intrigued me. It may have been the randomly generated dungeons or the very abnormal story. The game has a very unique story, as well as deep, difficult gameplay. While the PlayStation 3 exclusive JRPG from NIS is not perfect – it takes more than half the game for the story to become interesting and there are some unnecessary difficulty spikes, as well as a few other minor gripes I had with the game – it proves an overall fun experience over its long playtime.
The story of The Guided Fate Paradox is not one that you see every day. You play as Renya Kagurazaka, an ordinary teenager who gets into an extraordinary predicament. While at a mall, he wins a lottery. This lottery is not your everyday lottery. Instead of winning some money or some everyday object, Renya “wins” the opportunity to become God. Yes, God. He then is taken up to Celestia, the place where God, the seven angels – who have been part of the divine power, each having his or her own set of abilities – and all others associated with God reside. Renya then must start guiding the fates of believers who pray to him.The game takes you to answer the prayers of many beloved characters in pop culture today, from a zombie to Cinderella to a mermaid and more. The prayers are overall fun to watch, but they become somewhat predictable after the first few because they all follow the same pattern until late in the game.
However, answering prayers is not the main objective of the game. Renya answers these prayers just so that he can become stronger and fight “them,” a group of characters who Renya must defeat, or else they will take over Celestia. The fact that the characters are not revealed until later in the game makes it so that the story never really picks up until over two-thirds of the way through. After answering the first few prayers, it becomes a bit tedious to answer prayer after prayer with little reason. Once the story does start to pick up, the game becomes much more interesting. There are plot twists and side stories with a few of the angels, and the best prayers of the game are the last few.
Later in the game, the story, which ended up taking me nearly 40 hours to beat, becomes much more serious and, at points, even sad. When Renya must fight “them,” he starts to show his true feelings towards some of the characters in the game. An overall theme of the game is love, which is shown not only through Renya for his Guardian Angel, Lilliel, but also through some side plots with other angels, as well as Renya’s actions toward the believers who prayed to him. In fact, the love shone through to me, and when the game ended, I wanted to see more of what happened after the ending because I loved the characters so much.
One odd aspect of the game that I liked was its self-awareness. There are multiple times where characters will say “Final Boss”, “Save your game”, and other things that apply to actual game part of the game instead of the story. It was a nice refresher to have the game be so lighthearted with things like this, unlike many other games that come out.
The gameplay of The Guided Fate Paradox is fun yet difficult. Before each mission, you will go to the “open” world of Celestia, where there are a few different shops to go to and some characters to talk to. Once you get into the missions, however, the game turns from a lighthearted story to an unforgiving turn-based dungeon crawler. Playing as Renya, you can equip items on 5 different parts of the body as well as a supporting member of your party. Each has a special move to use on either enemies or yourself. Once used enough times, each item also has a boost mode. When this happens, the stats of the item decrease, and the only way to increase them is to go to a blacksmith in Celestia.
The game is turn-based, with each step that Renya takes symbolizing 1 turn. This gives the game a deep level of strategy. You can choose to fight every enemy that pops up or run through the level without fighting a single one. It is, however, highly recommended that you grind because the game becomes very difficult very quickly at points. One level in particular is a seemingly unnecessary difficulty spike that caused my demise multiple times near the end of the level. This difficulty slowly goes back down once you learn to grind in each area and level up Renya, but it was an unexpected and unnecessary turn in difficulty that felt forced.
In each dungeon, Renya levels up through fighting enemies that hinder the believer’s wish from being granted, called aberrations. If he dies while he is in the dungeon, he loses everything – items, levels, and money. The only gain from dying in a dungeon is a small increase in base stats, but for these increases to make a noticeable difference, you must do this many times. This is why grinding is highly recommended. You don’t want to be under-leveled going into a boss battle where the boss kills you nearly immediately, as you then must restart the dungeon once again.
Each dungeon is randomly generated, with aberrations and layouts different each time you load up the first level. Each dungeon also has its own unique hazards and characteristics. One will have moving platforms after a few turns, the next has low visibility when you walk on a certain platform, and another has water levels that you must pull a lever to recede.
In each prayer, there are 10 floors, with a story bit between each and a boss battle at the end. Renya fights in a world called the “Copy World” which is a world made by a machine called the “Fate Revolution Circuit.” Renya can see conversations happening in the “Original World”, which is another world between the Copy World and the Human World. After these story bits, Renya goes to another floor in order to get to the next story bit, and repeats that process until the dungeon ends.
The Guided Fate Paradox is not a game that will blow you away aesthetically. The main gameplay features 2.5-d graphics for its gameplay. While these can be nice to look at because they are colorful and the level designs are usually above average, they aren’t fantastic. The conversations that happen in the Copy World or in Celestia are much more detailed and aesthetically pleasing than during the gameplay. Finally, there are some times that the game goes to a full animated scene. These scenes are beautiful, I just wish there were more of them.
The game, in its lightheartedness, is very immature. Five of the seven angels are female, and each of them is dressed in a maid outfit. Each of these is extremely sexualized, and there is even a character whose point in the game is to make sexual remarks to Renya. While it wasn’t a huge annoyance, this aspect of the game did make me cringe at points, as it seemed like the game was trying much too hard to act immature.
The soundtrack to the game is also above average. The few songs that I noticed were played during boss battles and important fights throughout the game. These songs, which include the main theme, make you feel heroic and powerful. The voice acting, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. I personally loved the voices of the main characters, but some of the voices for believers and their supporting characters are bad and uninspired.
I didn’t know much about The Guided Fate Paradox going in, but coming out of it I am happy I played it. While its problems are apparent – some of the voice acting is cringeworthy, the game is very immature, and it takes too long for the story to pick up – the game’s positives outweigh the negatives. The story is great once is picks up, there is a very deep gameplay system, and the soundtrack is great to listen to, especially during boss battles. While I can’t recommend this game to everyone due to its niche personality, if you like JRPGs, you will like The Guided Fate Paradox.