By: Matthew Striplen
Ever wanted to play God? Me too, but being God may not be as easy as it sounds. In The Guided Fate Paradox, you control Renya, a typical 17-year-old Japanese schoolboy who wins the lottery and suddenly becomes God… because you know, that’s just how things work in Japan. Duh! Fight your way through hoards of aberrations to grant the wishes of a few lucky believers, or else be consumed!
During gameplay, Renya is dropped into a gridded world. Action is turn based, and movement can only be made in the four cardinal directions. Instead of the directions being the traditional north, south, etc., they are northwest, southeast, etc. Since the d-pad is obviously set to the traditional setting, controlling the character takes a while to get used to. Due to the style of gameplay, however, a single misstep may result in defeat.
One of the biggest problems I found with the game came in the form of turning. Renya is incapable of simply turning around while remaining in the same spot unless faced with an enemy. This prevents the player from targeting aberrations outside their immediate line of sight. Attempting to turn without having an enemy in an adjacent tile simply moves the player to that next tile.
While only a few buttons can be used in the heat of combat, many more abilities exist. To access them, the player must pause the game to bring up the menu, then look up the desired move. With the large number of buttons available with the PS3 controller, simply assigning functions to additional buttons would have made more sense than scrolling through a list. Since many moves are not readily accessible, players run the risk of overlooking them entirely.
I was very disappointed in the graphic presentation of Guided Fate Paradox. In the era of HD, there is no excuse for blocky and grainy graphics. Most environments are nondescript. In battle, each character is represented by a less-detailed sprite, similar to the Paper Mario series but without the 2D aspects. In cut scenes, however, characters are displayed as incredibly ornate and elaborate anime-style drawings, which look terrific. The fact that the cut scenes looked so great made me wonder why the same care was not given to the combat sequences. The camera is controlled entirely by the player but still manages to be awkward. Maintaining a clear line of sight is often a challenge.
The soundtrack is scored for full orchestra but synthesized. The title theme is unusual in that it calls for solo organ. Hearing an underused instrument in a game soundtrack was refreshing. The sound effects are quite good as well, each hit yielding a satisfying thud. Voice acting is also top notch. The English actors perform in the Japanese style well, creating characters that are larger than life yet believable. Only one character comes to mind that was less than satisfactory, and unfortunately, it was so bad I ended up skipping most of his lines. Who knew zombies could be so whiny?
While technically a dungeon-crawling JRPG, The Guided Fate Paradox seems split between that and a visual novel. Massive cut scenes pervade the entire game, meaning the player’s time is about 50 percent gameplay and 50 percent cut scenes. The opening scene alone is over 20 minutes! The storyline is quite silly, taking full advantage of the fact that God is an awkward 17-year-old kid. Read previous statement as “prepare for tons of hilariously perverted dialogue.”
As God, Renya is served by a multitude of angels, including his personal assistant Lilliel, who accompanies him into battle. These angels assign God wishes to grant by way of the Fate Revolution Circuit, a massive machine that replicates portions of the universe, allowing God to alter the fates of a believer. Once inside the machine, only the important pieces of a wish are displayed, which “justifies” the generally sparse atmosphere. To prevent the changes of fate, monsters or aberrations attack Renya at every turn. Strangely, defeating all aberrations is not the main goal of each wish, as they spawn infinitely. The player must only reach the portal to the next floor, while a boss fight always stands between the player and the successful completion of an individual wish.
Upon entering the world, the player will be greeted by an intimidating number of bars, all of great importance. They include the health, SP, energy and God Mode meters. The HP and SP meters come standard in most RPGs, but the energy and God mode bars are unique. Every action requires the usage of energy, including basic movement. Once the player depletes the energy gauge, HP will rapidly drain. The God Mode bar slowly fills over time and induces a powerful transformation.
One of the stranger qualities of the game is the setup of each world. Each level is randomly generated, using repeated structures to define the landscape. This would be all fine and dandy if each generated map remained consistent in terms of difficulty. Instead, certain worlds would spawn massive amounts of aberrations surrounding the player while others would place the exit portal just a few tiles away. These inconsistencies prevailed from start to finish and could easily result in sudden defeat. I’m not sure if this is a glitch or just weak programming, but this should have been fixed before releasing the game to the public.
The Guided Fate Paradox features a very complex leveling system. Levels are accrued by defeating opponents, but they’re “lost” after each wish. Though the shown level is always 1 at the beginning of any wish, Renya keeps all stat boosts, essentially making him the same level he was before. The actual number of levels are stored and can be traded in for special items. Purchasing these items will make the grand stat total decrease, so spend wisely.
Any equipped items also gain experience and will “burst” when enough has been acquired. Once they burst, a stat-boosting “Holy Icon” can be placed on the Body Modification board. This board is by far the most complicated aspect of the game. In short, various items can be placed on the Body Mod board to boost stats, gain new abilities, or improve old ones.
With all that said, gameplay is grueling and cruelly unforgiving. If defeated, Renya loses every held item and half of his carried money. Luckily, the player can store funds and items, making them resistant to these deductions but only outside battle. Additionally, once defeated, the player must complete the entire wish from square one, old school Super Mario Bros. style, except that wishes can easily take over an hour. Sinking an hour or more into a game only to be sent back to the beginning definitely caused me to rage quit a few times.
When I first turned this game on, I was ready to dismiss it as gaming fluff void of challenge. Man, I could not have been farther off. This is a serious RPG that requires careful strategizing to complete. I generally don’t like to spend so much time in my reviews discussing game mechanics, but they play such an integral role in The Guided Fate Paradox that I couldn’t simply bypass them.
Basically, if you love crazy JRPG story lines and leveling systems mixed with ultra detailed, chess-like action sequences, you’ll definitely enjoy this game. While Guided Fate Paradox presents many fun and innovative ideas, the negative aspects mar the overall experience.