When I first played Zettai Hero Project, I fell in love. The game felt like a return to form for Nippon Ichi and it really had a unique perspective and presentation for a dungeon crawler. When news came out that The Guided Fate Paradox was actually a spiritual sequel to the game, I was pretty excited. Not only was this a big 20th Anniversary Project, but they were also going to be putting it on the PS3, so I could enjoy looking at crisp HD sprites.
Read on as I unravel the paradox.
The story of The Guided Fate Paradox is amusingly bizarre. You, as Renya Kagurazaka, are a loser in life. Literally, he has never before won a game of chance. That is until one day he reluctantly spins a lottery machine and out pops the lucky ball. His prize? He is now God. Yes, that God.
As God, it is his job to grant wishes. By going in to a giant machine and entering the Original World, with a trusty angel beside him, he can attempt to fulfill their prayers.
It wouldn’t be a Nippon Ichi game without some interesting and quirky plot line, and what we have here ties in very well with the battle system that they have transferred from Zettai Hero Project. The plot will have you dungeon diving to take on a self-deprecating zombie, a scorned mermaid with a grudge against men, and even Cinderella. Unfortunately, this is where I begin to grow weary of the project. Instead of trying to grant the wishes of normal people, we have to dive in to the world of fantasy creatures, people, and settings, solving the mundane riddle of their prayers by beating the answer into those that ask the question.
Instead of dealing with the prayers of the real world of Renya Kagurazaka, I’m stuck trying to get a knight to confess his love for a princess. This is a bigger issue, because they never feel the need to focus on that one issue. They want to splice together numerous other ones and it eventually dulls the game.
The story is kind of all over the place, and the fact that the prayers themselves aren’t all that compelling really under serves the title.
The core game however is as solid as it has always been. Something that I’ve always enjoyed about the way they pace these games is that it unravels the games mechanics gradually by letting the characters get adjusted to the system. Instead of just dungeon diving and praying you’ll figure it out, the game guides you along chapter after chapter. This isn’t a weakness like Final Fantasy XIII’s long tutorial, because it works a pace that feels natural to your characters progress.
This is very important because this isn’t a simple game to explain. It follows the basic dungeon crawler formula by having you delve lower and lower until you reach your goal. You acquire items through killing enemies or finding them on the ground along the way that helps you find portals allowing you to go further down the rabbit hole. The system takes an isometric approach with different levels offering up a wide variety of design styles. They also make it a bit easier on you by giving you someone to help out. An angel to drop down with you.
This angel can be told to stick near you or run amok, but they work in tandem with you to make the system easier to understand. They then throw in mechanics to build your stats up. Diving into new dungeons will always start you back at zero, but after leaving each dungeon your base stats level up which means each time you level up in the dungeon, you get a little bit stronger and stronger as the game goes on.
Pairing this with a strengthening panel that opens up around chapter 3, allows you to add new attributes and abilities to your characters base. These abilities can only be applied by mastering a weapon (called bursting in game). Once an item is mastered, it’s base stats drop substantially as if you had broken it. You can either keep the thing and pay to fix it or just toss it. The whole game is filled with making small decisions on which items to move down the rabbit hole with. Sure, you don’t want to throw away that samurai helmet because it’s special, but you don’t have enough room for health items in case you get stuck. With hundreds and hundreds of items, this is a real conundrum.
What do you do? If you die it won’t even matter as you’ll lose everything.
It is a complex system simply laid out in the game, and much like Zettai Hero Project, The Guided Fate Paradox has a wonderful dungeon crawler behind it’s bizarre story.
That, I guess, is the problem I am having with this game. It isn’t necessarily better than the game that came before it. Despite the interesting new level designs, the story here trudges along. Each and every floor you clear opens up a branch of the story that wants to talk about a number of things going on both in the prayers and behind the scenes. It gets a bit much when you begin counting everything up.
What it boils down to is about 4 or 5 different stories going on just in trying to figure out in scenarios which boil down to why 2 librarians shouldn’t turn themselves into a giant monster. Seeing as how each new floor opens this dialogue up, it’s hours before you make any real progress. Since the dialogue crawls along, you have either the option to skip it all or read half of the text before moving to the next long diatribe.
I really wanted to just skip it all, but I’m reviewing this like a professional. I had to read it.
It isn’t that the story is too complex or that it isn’t interesting. It’s just I don’t need to stop everything to hear about some issue that may be important a few chapters later. When you are going down 10 floors, this can drive you absolutely nuts.
If the characters or the setups were more compelling, this wouldn’t be an issue. The focus just isn’t there to enrich the world. It is there to create an explanation as to why they are using zombies and swamps in their level designs. You know, because the character they are saving is a whiny zombie. It should be simple and they try to complicate things through so many different scenes that it just breaks you down.
You don’t need a scene with the angels wondering if their new God is going to cut it every time you go back in to the dungeon. If it isn’t important to the story, let me kill some monsters. The game does open up a bit and allows you to dungeon dive in an extra dungeon, but it comes a bit late into the story.
This is where I’m usually supposed to figure out the review score. This game itself is very good and does some really interesting things. Design techniques like using a rotating cube as a series of floors in one level was something absolutely brilliant, and the battle system still holds up amazingly well. Additionally, the art style is very nice; if you are a fan of Noizi Ito (Shakugan no Shana and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), you have that going for you.
The story, characters, and settings are what start to really grind on you. It is all skippable, but that’s not an excuse. It’s not an excuse because the game’s predecessor did it better. It had a more interesting setup with it’s Unlosing Ranger, and they executed the storyline with some really interesting out of the box ideas.
I’m giving this game the review score it is getting because it is a good game with the caveat that it isn’t better than the game before it. It is flashier at times with a few new things going for it. The Guided Fate Paradox just can’t live up in terms of the plot.
[+Lots of Items] [+Solid Gameplay] [+Interesting Mechanics] [+Fun Level Designs] [+Rich Customization] [-Tedious Plot Progression] [-Uninteresting Characters]