Nippon Ichi Software’s tactical role-playing Disgaea series is one of my favorites in all of gaming. I love its quirky humor, ridiculous story, simple control scheme, and the flashy attacks you can unleash. But most importantly, I love the fact that it’s easy to spend 500 hours in a single Disgaea game.
Back in 2010, NIS took aspects from its Disgaea formula into a roguelike RPG with the severely underrated PSP cult title, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman. Now the developer is attempting to expand upon what made Z.H.P. so great with their newest title, The Guided Fate Paradox. Thankfully, not only does the game live up to the legacy of its spiritual predecessor, but surpasses it.
The Guided Fate Paradox puts you in the role of the world’s unluckiest high school student, 17-year-old Renya Kagurazaka, who wishes for nothing more than for his luck to change. And change it does, because after winning a lottery in the mall, Renya becomes God. Not a god, the God.
As God, it’s up to Renya to answer prayers that have been filtered by a machine known as the Fate Revolution Circuit, and guide the fate of those who called for his help by granting their wish. He does so by entering the Circuit and going into the Copy World, a dungeon that’s a copy of the Original World, stripped down to the bare essentials relating to the wish. By defeating aberrations, manifestations of mental obstacles keeping the wisher from changing their own fate, that appear in the randomly generated dungeons, Renya is able to fulfill his duty as God and grant the desire of those who have prayed to him.
The storyline in The Guided Fate Paradox is relatively good, and I found it to be engrossing. It’s a unique take on the idea of putting players in the role of God, filled with a wide cast of interesting characters along with typical anime tropes and meta-humor that’s accustomed to NIS games, and functions as much more than just an excuse to provide you with the gameplay. That being said, this is a NIS game, and as such, the gameplay is the real star.
Like Disgaea, The Guided Fate Paradox offers many different mechanics that create an overall deep system, but they’re introduced to you in such a way that you never feel overwhelmed. Try to stay with me as I explain the basics.
For starters, you and your angel partner are able to equip your head, two arms, torso, and legs with insane weapons and armor. Your equipment is reflected on your character, so if you equip those bat wings to your torso or that car to your legs, your appearance will change accordingly.
Each piece of equipment, regardless if it’s weapon or armor, has a special skill for you to use. Doing so drains your SP meter, but like your health, it regenerates with each step you take. Unfortunately, your energy meter is constantly draining, and you’ll have to make sure to eat to keep it from bottoming out and draining your health.
After constant use, equipment will “burst,” causing a slight decrease in strength while granting you Holy Icons (more on those in a minute). You can reset the “burst” status on your equipment by upgrading it at the blacksmith, which also gives you more time to use the equipment before it “bursts” again.
Whenever you die in one of the game’s many unique and diverse dungeons, not only do you lose all of your equipment and everything in your item pouch, but the level you were inside of resets. Still, leveling up is essential as even though you’re level one each time you enter a dungeon, the levels you gained are added to your Total Level, which are your base stats (eventually you can trade in levels from your Total Level for rare items).
Now, Holy Icons, and later Holy Artifacts, are placed on the Divinigram, a grid-like system reminiscent of the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. The Divinigram is extremely important for both you and your angel partner, as it functions as a way for you to raise your base stats. Different equipment will grant you different Icons; if a weapon on your arm were to “burst,” for example, you would be granted Icons that enhance your attack level.
Holy Artifacts, meanwhile, grant you special skills and abilities. The downside is that they have to be placed on top of Icons, thus negating their effects. And because Icons can only be placed next to each other, it gets tricky trying to craft your Divinigram to give you ideal results for both you and your angel partner.
Still with me? Good, because if you can wrap your head around these base mechanics, you shouldn’t find understanding gameplay in The Guided Fate Paradox too difficult.
Perhaps my only complaint with the game is that, at times, the story can really drag. And good God (pun intended), does this game have a slow burn! On top of an optional tutorial, the entire first chapter holds your hand, bringing the flow of the game to a snail’s pace as you watch a cutscene or listen to your angel partner explain something you’ve probably already figured out by now.
Though it can be insanely difficult, The Guided Fate Paradox offers players a deep, addictive gameplay system and a thoroughly entertaining story, making it one of the best RPGs to come out this year. Expect to grin ear to ear in victory as you defeat a boss that’s been causing you trouble, but also expect to spew expletives at your TV as you reload your game to prevent yourself from losing precious items after gaining 18 levels. If you fall into the niche of gamers that the game appeals to, you can easily get over 100 hours of content, making it well worth the $50 price tag.