I’m am sure everybody has wondered what it is like to be god at least once in their lives. It’s really a glamorous concept. What would you do with that power? Would you use your power for good or bad? Would it be as glamorous as the concept makes it out to be?
Well as The Guided Fate Paradox from Nippon Ichi Sofware shows us, it certainly isn’t as grand as you would think. That is really the thing you have to keep in mind with this game, not everything is as it seems and this is where the story really gains it’s depth.
It’s been a while since I legit got invested into a game story. Everything comes across with a huge “been there, done that” feeling and everything seems phoned in and why shouldn’t it be right? Games are about the gameplay and the story is just dressing to get you to the next gameplay segment as a means to tie everything together.
Then you get something like this. Guided Fate Paradox certainly doesn’t break any new ground with it’s story and it’s hardly something I would call revolutionary, but what it gives you is genuinely interesting characters and true emotion conveyed to the player based on what the characters do. This is what really surprised me about the game.
On the surface you see what looks to be a pretty standard rogue like, and for the most part it is with some nice little tweaks that we will get into later. However, I feel it really needs to be stressed how interesting the story was. Often I find myself just waiting for long story segments to end in games so I can get back to playing the game. That wasn’t the case here. The dialogue is sharp and quick witted, the writing flows very well, and the localization from NIS America is fantastic.
You start off as some down on his luck high school student who wins a magic lottery that decided he will be god. You get abducted by your angel partner and taken up to start your job. This sets the tone for the game overall, yes, it is very silly, but during the entire time he is wondering how he will explain this to his family and other stuff along those lines. Most bits of silliness in this game are accompanied by equally impactful bits of story.
Take for example the very first chapter in the game. Your job as god basically has you granting the wishes of people and the first wish you are set to grant is from Cinderella, yes, that Cinderella. Basically the actual Cinderella is tired of repeating the same story over and over again so she needs your help to assist her in going rogue and sabotaging the story.
However, this brings up a lot of questions such as would sabotaging the story lead to this iconic story being forever changed for kids around the world? You deal with these issues when you are granting the various wishes in the game and the conclusions are always very satisfying and due to the very well done localization and overall writing I mentioned before, these segments will have you glued to your screen.
The characters you encounter in the game, such as the other angels, all have their own motives and they seem to all have contempt for you when you see them by themselves, but they shower praise on you when they are with you. It’s really a great dynamic and seeing their opinions change as you accomplish things in the game is again, very satisfying. If you are anything like me, you will be anticipating these segments just to see the characters individual reactions since they are characterized so well.
I really can’t say enough about the overall story in this game, I found it to be that enjoyable. However, all the good story in the world would be worthless if there wasn’t a solid game backing it up, and thankfully, Nippon Ichi delivered on that front as well.
As mentioned before, the game is a rogue like. If you aren’t familiar with that term it literally means the game is like Rogue, a 1980 dungeon crawling game. Rogue likes usually feature: turn based dungeon crawling, lots of items and weapons to pick up, and randomly generated dungeons.
This follows that formula on the surface basically word for word. It spices this formula up with some nice tweaks however. When you go into dungeons, you are always accompanied by an angel partner controlled by the AI. They have their own sets of skills, can wear their own equipment, and are fully capable party members. To add a bit of strategic depth to the game you can set how you want this AI to perform and can adjust this on the fly to be ready for any situation.
Also, to add some flair to the rogue like tradition of lots of loot to pick up is that every piece of equipment you pick up in the game, from traditional swords, to tuna heads as helmets, to prinny jets, shows up on your character in the game. It’s a purely cosmetic thing, but I always appreciate it when games do this since it really lets you customize the look of your characters. For example, lets say you are looking to make a legit looking warrior, you would pick a nice looking helmet over the tuna head even though the tuna head might technically be better. It adds variety to what you pick for equipment instead of just wearing whats stronger.
You will also be changing up your equipment because of the BURST feature in the game. How it works is that whenever equipment is used it gets closer to burst status. When it reaches burst status it’s stats start to decrease and you have to go to the blacksmith and get it refined which increases it’s overall stats and makes the weapon stronger.
From my experience with this system, the overall gains you get from refining weapons doesn’t really seem that great in the beginning and it’s also very expensive at first. However, as you go through the dungeons getting tons of useless equipment, you can sell it all and you will amass quite the fortune as you progress. Refining bursted weapons becomes a viable option when you have the money, then you can make some very powerful equipment.
You really do want to burst as many weapons as possible though since when a weapon reaches burst status you get holy icons to use in your divinigram. What is that, you say? Well yeah, I was getting to that. The divinigram is kind of like this games sphere grid for those familiar with Final Fantasy X. The holy icons you get from bursting weapons can be placed on the tiles for permanent stat gains which is very important since every new dungeon you go to resets your level to 1 and these gains from the divinigram will always be with you regardless of what level you are at.
To add an interesting twist to this, you can purchase holy artifacts from the story which have a number of various effects. The thing that makes using them interesting is that they have to be placed on holy icons, meaning you lose the effect of the icon when you place it. But, a 50% increase in your ARM efficiency will offset the negative four hit in strength you took to place that icon.
As you unlock more and more features for this it gets really in depth and I really enjoyed playing around with it. Later on you unlock god energy which has to flow along the path of holy icons and when it comes in contact with a holy artifact it greatly increases the gains it gives you. This grid is also the only way to increase your item carrying capacity, yes, those who read my Etrian Odyssey review will know my great distaste for limited item carrying capacity systems, but at least this game gives you a way to increase that capacity, so it’s not quite as annoying.
A bit earlier I mentioned how you have to start back at level 1 when you enter each dungeon, however, there is a bit of a twist to it. Any levels you gain in dungeons will be lost at completion of that dungeon, but, once you beat that dungeon those levels will be added to your total level and your base level 1 stats will be increased slightly. It’s kind of like forced transmigration in the Disgaea games. You are going all the way back to level 1, but you have the potential to be much stronger. This is why playing around with the Divinigram is so important, since those gains are permanent.
The actual combat itself is what you would expect of a rogue like. It has the same real time, but turn based system that all rogue likes have. Each movement, use of an item, any kind of action is a turn and the enemies will only move when you move. This gives you time to plan out any actions, but it also makes it very hard to escape from battles if you are getting overwhelmed. Thankfully this isn’t nearly as hard as most rogue likes are known for being, but it isn’t super easy either, so just make sure you are prepared and you will be fine.
Weapons in the game are an interesting lot. Every weapon in the game I found was a melee weapon, yes, even stuff like guns which have ranged attacks as their specials. Each weapon comes with it’s own special and if you are holding the same weapon in each hand, you get a super special. Even armor comes with special attacks and something I learned as I progressed though the game is to not be frugal with your SP. It’s best to abuse the specials since your SP regenerates so quickly it’s generally not an issue.
As with most games NIS America puts out over in the west, the game is very anime in it’s look and feel. It has the same sprite based look that disgaea has, however it’s not as refined as the recent Disgaea games. Everything is very colorful and the various special effects for the attacks look great, but the sprites themselves seem low res and the backgrounds most certainly are and coming from that, have this dull washed out look to them.
Despite being low res though, the sprites are very well animated and the designs are great. The monsters you meet throughout the game all look fantastic and are equally as well animated as the main characters and some of the bosses look downright spectacular. So while the graphics might not be the best on a technical level, I feel the art direction and character that was put into everything more than makes up for it.
During major story sequences you are treated to full screen animated displays of the characters which really make the cut scenes pop. These scenes are also fully voiced and in NIS America tradition, they offer both japanese and english language options. I naturally picked the japanese language track which sounded fantastic, but from what I heard of the english track, it does its job quite well. They seem to be getting better and better with their english dubs.
Now, one of the reasons I am glad I got the limited edition of this game on order, is that I get the soundtrack with it and when you hear the music in this game you will probably wish you did so too. The music in this game is out of this world and all you really have to do it boot up the intro to see why.
You are immediately treated to an intense hard rock song and you get similar stuff during boss fights and the like. It’s great stuff from top to bottom and you can even set what song you want to play on the main hub after you get the ability to buy it.
This was one of those games that just had me saying wow quite frequently as I played it. Not necessarily because it’s the best game in the world or that it does individual things better than anything else on the market. It’s just that the whole package that is this game just clicks. Everything works with everything else and comes together so nicely. The great writing and interesting story had me anticipating the story sequences and the addicting loot oriented dungeon crawling had me itching for more gameplay, especially since I wanted to see what every piece of equipment looked like on my characters.
And that is what I mean, every little thing adds to the overall charm of this game and while I knew I would end up liking this since I like the genre, I didn’t know it would make this much of an impact on me, and in the end, isn’t that what games, especially RPG games are supposed to be? Experiences that let us get away for a while and let us look back fondly on them after they are a thing of the past.