The Guided Fate Paradox – PS3
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Genre: RPG
Reviewed by Charles Boucher

Review Score: 3 of 5

The Guided Fate Paradox is one of those games that’s almost unnecessary to review: If the idea of an irreverent Japanese roguelike-visual novel hybrid with a bunch of interlocking character advancement systems, awash in anime tropes appeals to you, there’s no reason not to buy it right now. If you’re the kind of person that gets upset just thinking about that, you should probably move on by. For the few who’re curious but not committed, let’s figure out if you’re going to be into it!

The Guided Fate Paradox is about Renya, a Japanese teenager who’s had terrible luck all his life. After winning a lottery, he’s selected to be God, and whisked away to Celestia, where he’s attended by angels, all dressed as maids and butlers, who assist him in granting prayers. All of the characters, at least on the surface, seem like pretty typical anime stock characters, from the naïve girl who provides innuendo with a straight face for the protagonist to react to, to the amorous older woman who refers to herself as a big sister, from the straightforward sporty girl to the girl who insists she has magical powers.

Everyone’s got something past the surface, though, and the game’s visual novel scenes are awash with references to secret rules, gossip about the new God, and double dealings between Celestia and the Netherworld. This is all delivered through cutscenes before, after, and in the middle of dungeons, which are really the meat of the game. Each dungeon is based around fulfilling a wish, whether it’s from a fictional character, or someone from another world.

The graphics are beautiful, with HD sprites, great environments, and strong character designs. It especially makes gear loadouts a joy, as the piles of weird crap you can equip are all rendered on Renya’s sprite (Though, strangely, not in the world, where they instead use generic images for their gear type). The music is great as well, especially when it starts to get heavy, with the opening theme being a standout.

The dungeons are pretty typical Japanese roguelike fare. If you’ve ever played a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, or Azure Dreams back on the original PlayStation, you’ve got a pretty good idea what you’re going to be coming into here. The dungeons are turn-based, isometric affairs, where you’re trying to get to the bottom of the dungeon to kill a boss, before you starve to death or get killed by enemies or traps.

You’re going to die. A lot, really. It’s the nature of the genre that eventually, you’re going to get in over your head, be swarmed by enemies, and have no escape item. But that’s not too bad! Your equipped items- which are the source of your powers and some of your stat upgrades- will all go away, but you’ll find more as you go. Every time you enter a dungeon for the first time, and whenever you die, your level is reset to 1, but each time you level up, and when you power up weapons, you increase your maximum stats. So, really, as long as you’re playing, you’ll slowly get stronger, making it so that, even in the roughest dungeons, you won’t run up against an impossible obstacle.

To help further ease the situation, you can eventually bring any of your angels into the dungeon. They’ll help you fight, without using up any of your resources, making them better than a lot of roguelike pets already. Each has a special power, and you can set their AI to match the situation you find yourself in. It works a lot better than I was expecting, and even if they die, that just changes the situation from a methodical dungeon crawl to a mad dash to the bottom, where you’ll fight the boss without your angel, even if they’ve survived.

It’s a pretty tight formula, but I found myself somewhat annoyed by the game’s structure of sandwiching dialogue and cutscenes between floors. Part of a good roguelike is getting into the flow, and being able to knock out one floor after another. The Guided Fate Paradox regularly interrupts your progress, making each short floor feel like something to itself, rather than part of a whole. While this only happens on your first run through any given dungeon, it can make it hard to enjoy the dungeon on its own merits as you go.

The Guided Fate Paradox isn’t one of my favorite games, but then, my tastes in anime and roguelikes both differ from what the game immerses itself in. For the kind of person who loves the kind of anime where a bland guy is surrounded by a bunch of quirky girls, or who love the Mystery Dungeon games, The Guided Fate Paradox is a great, refined example of all of that. For the curious, it’s definitely worth a shot.