QCF: The Guided Fate Paradox

IS has been publishing RPGs in North America for quite a while now. Whether it's their super-deep, wicked complex strategy games, turn-based RPGs or even a side-scroller or two, their efforts are decently enjoyable with only a few outright duds to speak of throughout its vast sub-genred library. Well, they're back yet again with their latest title, The Guided Fate Paradox. But this time, NIS brings another as-yet explored RPG genre subtype along with it; The Rogue-like RPG.

The Guided Fate Paradox follows the exploits of Renya, a downtrodden, luckless teenage high school student who, straight out of the gates, monologues his lament for having never won a thing in his life. In the midst of this down-and-out self-reflection, he is taken aside and talked into playing a random-draw lottery for a potentially fabulous prize. After far too much resistance, Renya wins the grand prize; he is to become God--of course.

The idea behind all of this is that as god, Renya is able to help grant the wishes of those that pray to him by using a fantastical divine machination known as the Fate Revolution Circuit. By defeating the demons and monsters within randomly generated dungeons, the person whose wish is being addressed has their metaphorical demons vanquished as well, allowing them to muster up the confidence to succeed at what they needed help with in the first place. Of course, being NIS, most of the circumstances surrounding everything is off-the-wall crazy; pretty typical stuff right?

So, anyone familiar with games like Dungeon explorer and Shiren the Wanderer knows the drill here. You go into a dungeon with basic levels and barely any equipment. If you die, you lose everything. It's simple, and it's just how the rogue-like works. In The Guided Fate Paradox though, a number of things raise the mechanics to proper NIS levels. For one, your base level will stack as you gain more of them. Live or die, even though you drop to level 1 every time you leave the Fate Revolution Circuit, that Level 1 will be a stronger Level 1. You can also boost the power of your weapons and equipment by using the special attacks that are linked to them. When they are used enough, they then reach Burst status, and can be upgraded.

As all of this is happening, you will also be getting tiles to boost your base attack permanently, defense, speed and magic stats. These tiles are placed in a separate grid within your main menu and proper placement can lead to some huge stat increases if you're careful; you can even get access to a permanent equipment set, so if you bite it, you're not totally unarmed the next time you head back into the Circuit.

In the dungeons themselves, things get a bit iffy though. Everything happens on a square-by-square scale, meaning that you can really think through how everything will play out to make sure you can get through the ordeal that lies ahead of you and take as little damage as possible,. It's kind of like Strategy RPG meets Action RPG, which in itself kind of feels like a bit of a paradox. When you are in an open area, the field of vision is adequate enough for you to see what's going on with no trouble, even though the extreme edges are a little hazy. In the narrow corridors connecting these though, the field of vision becomes frustratingly narrow, and you'll end up running into a bunch of surprise enemies this way. Of all of the mechanics in this game, the narrower field of vision in corridors is definitely the most irritating. A real pain in the ass, actually.

Another interesting aspect that comes off as a little unnecessary is the hunger gauge. This gauge will steadily deplete over time, and will drop faster if you’re carrying heavy items around like a chump. If you get too hungry, performing various tasks will eventually lead to losing HP, which is a good way to get killed off and thrown out of the Fate Revolution Circuit. Eating food at regular intervals helps. It adds a new dimension to the rogue-like formula, but comes off as tacked on and mostly needless, especially with the sharp climb in difficulty that occurs between areas.

As for the actual combat, direct combat will occur turn-by turn between you and your opponent. At this time, you can choose to either attack normally, or use some SP to perform a special move. Some special moves have varying range, so often, you don’t have to be right up in the enemies' grill to get the job at least off to a good start. The more special moves are used, the better you will power up your equipment for better bonuses later, so careful management of your curative items is also key. Thankfully, there are a lot of them throughout the dungeons you will traverse. Items and objects lying around the dungeons can also aid you in combat by heavily damaging certain foes, or causing various ailments.

Overall the gameplay is enough to stand on beyond the mildly interesting plot which, all told, isn't exactly too gripping. However, like any other NIS offering, there's a lot to tool around with, so if you love stat building and a sharp challenge, The Guided Fate Paradox will at least deliver there, despite its irritations.

In terms of visuals and sound, not a lot really pops out about The Guided Fate Paradox. The sprites are kind of chunky and the OST is pretty bland for the most part, much like a lot of the other NIS games we've seen over the years with very rare exception. That's not to say that there isn't anything to like here. The character design isn't at all bad, albeit a bit gratuitous and the large portrait sprites for the game's exposition are actually animated -- rather well I might add -- when the characters get to talking in the story sequences. There are also a few really nice standout tunes throughout the game as well, so the OST isn't a total bust. The main theme is pretty good too.

One thing that isn't quite so great, as expected, is the voice acting. In stark contrast to the original Disgaea, The Guided Fate Paradox has some bland, often over-forced and usually badly delivered VO. Thankfully, there is a Japanese option to keep things from shredding your eardrums with awkward-sounding dialogue. There's also the use of the phrase, “Those tits are Old Testament huge,” which was pretty uncomfortable to get through, especially 10 minutes in or so. So there was that.

In the end, the stuff to like outweighs the stuff to hate in your typical JRPG sense. The Guided fate Paradox is a game that should entertain you if you're into to quirky Japanese roleplaying titles, rogue-likes, fan service or NIS in general. It's decent, but only just. The Guided Fate Paradox is available now for $49.99.

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