The most exciting aspect of videogames is the power they have to allow an ordinary person to do extraordinary things (the most exciting aspect of videogame reviews is the power they have to all begin the same way, with a hackneyed line about power and escapism in a similar vein to 2002’s Spider-Man; I am impotently unable to do anything about this.)
Some games provide a purer form of escapism than others, with no real-world points of reference to contextualize - and therefore limit - the game world. Providing the player is willing to swallow the premise of the game, everything else is Mastercard (is it profoundly irreverent, or just lazy? We’ll never know, except it’s definitely lazy.)
And, in the case of The Guided Fate Paradox, the premise is enough to hook you in for a very interesting, celestial ride.
First scene: kid strolls through shopping mall bitching about his bad luck. Random girl harasses him into entering a tombola-style lottery; harangued enough, kid agrees. Kid wins. Prize? He becomes God. I will now return to full sentences.
So, primary character Renya Kagurazaka (not sure if you can tell, but this game is Japanese) becomes God. As God, his job is to answer the prayers of various believers. Answering prayers involves entering a machine where ‘copy versions’ of the believer are present, and are being assaulted by their own demons. This ‘Copy World’ is a very traditional dungeon crawl, and the player searches for the exit of each floor while battling various creatures. Battling is fun and easy to grasp, and completing each level of a dungeon rewards you with more story.
You’ll be pretty sucked in by the narrative, provided you’re willing to give it a chance. Once you reach Celestia (Heaven), you’re greeted by a band of angels, who are all very different. Some are clearly evil and not to be trusted, while others are over-sexualised in that oh-so Japanese RPG way (one character’s introduction is followed by a Renya aside of “wow, that one has HUGE tits”. Can’t fault the accuracy, I suppose…)
It’s revealed fairly quickly that all in heaven is not well, with a plot to take over Heaven clearly brewing right from the first spin of the lottery drum. There’s certainly enough depth in the story to stop things congealing.
The leveling system in Guided Fate is an interesting beast. Although characters do level up during levels, at the end of the level your stats are reset to what they were at the beginning of the dungeon. However, every piece of equipment can be ‘burst’ through repeated use. When an item bursts it creates a tile which can be placed on the Divinigram (which is not dissimilar to Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid), which in turn becomes a permanent boost to the character’s stats. It’s a semi-complex system, which is how such systems should be – it don’t feel like success if it wasn’t earned, which, I believe, could easily be a line from the 2002 film Spider-Man.
Bringing in another convention from the roguelike genre, if you die in a dungeon, you lose all the gear you were carrying. That might not seem like much of a blow, but given that after each item bursts it can be upgraded and improved, losing a whole armament of laboriously earned gear can be pretty nauseating.
As loath as I am to use the words ‘super’ and ‘cute’, graphically the Guided Fate Paradox is super cute. A lot of anime-style games use the lack of photo-realism as an excuse for laziness, but here the animations are crisp, and the occasional full screen character introduction art is spectacular. Every character is memorable and different, which is more than can be said for a HUGE number of similarly styled games.
Voice acting is solid, brought down by the occasional repetition of certain phrases. Particularly noticeable is laughter from one of your angels, which is the exact same recording of an over the top, “Mwa-haa-haa” style laugh delivered twice as loud as the rest of the dialogue. It’s minor though, and everything else is well done. Comedic lines are delivered with a sense of timing and most words are pronounced correctly; it’s as good as it gets.
Musically, too, the game is lovely. Dark, cello-centric tones echo around dusty halls as you enter the Copy World to fulfill the wish of a zombie. Cinderella’s Copy World is a juxtaposition of jarring, rage-fuelled music and waltzy classical stuff. It’s just nice, and well thought out. Good stuff.
The Guided Fate Paradox is one of the few games in recent times that I’ve had the drive to play from beginning to end, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. The dungeon crawl aspect of it can be a little repetitive at times, but for the most part it’s a fun, engaging game with plenty of humour, action, and randomly inserted titty jokes. It’s currently about $60, so maybe wait until it’s a bit cheaper and scoop it up – it’s very much worth it.