When I first saw “Z.H.P: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman” for the PSP, I thought, “what a great name for game!”
However, when I actually got around to trying it out, I found it was one of the weirdest titles I’d had the pleasure of experiencing, as it was a game where dying was an essential part of progress and tied to the very core of the title both in gameplay and in story.
Unfortunately, it was all too foreign to me and with other, more anticipated titles arriving at my doorsteps, I eventually forgot all about it.
Many years later, the spiritual successor to Z.H.P arrives and this time I was able to see it to the end and was left pleasantly surprised.
The curtain opens to your everyday, average high school student, “Renya”, as he is picking up some groceries at the mall. Renya has never been the lucky sort- he has never won anything from a giveaway in his whole life and never won a single dollar playing the lottery. However, on the way home, he is dragged to play the lottery by a cute, albeit pushy girl.
He unexpectedly wins the super duper grand prize and is told by the girl that the prize he just won would allow him to become God. Then, she whips out a nail bat and hits him over the head, knocking him out instantly.
Renya, or “God” awakens in Celestia and told by the girl that she and her senior angels would serve him in his duties as God fulfilling wishes for the true believers.
Equal parts preposterous and hilarious, the premise to set the stage for Renya’s coming exploits as God is quite creative and wholly interesting.
In the world of Celestia, Renya is surrounded by angels (both male and female) with their own unique personalities and motives for supporting their new “God”.
Lilliel, the self-appointed personal angel of God is a rookie angel and constantly refers to her handy dandy manual during tough situations. Even though she lacks experience, her earnest desire to do nothing but help Renya in his quest to grant people’s wishes had me feeling sympathetic towards her rather quickly.
Then there was an angel by the name of Galtion, whose calm and gentle demeanor was often betrayed by his desperation to see a wish of his own fulfilled.
All in all, the cast of the Guided Fate Paradox were an interesting bunch and I never found myself being bored by their various antics.
Given Nippon Ichi games aren’t generally known for their deep, involving stories, I wasn’t expecting much but fortunately when I started delving into the act of granting wishes, I was left impressed by the variety of scenarios I was presented with.
At one point, I was granting the wish of Cinderella who became self-aware and wanted to escape the constant repetition of her own story. In another, I was granting the wish of a zombie who wanted to stop being a weakling so he could attack humans and eat all the brains he wants.
With each chapter came a new wish to grant and the twists and turns in the story came frequently and kept things interesting from beginning to end.
While it’s all well and good that the story is interesting and well worth experiencing, it’s the game play where the title shows off its unique flare.
Delving into the Fate Revolution Circuit to grant wishes puts Renya and his angel companion in a simulated copy of the real world, where they must clear the monsters that inhibit its depths that serve as roadblocks against the mighty task of changing someone’s fate.
In a grid based arena, every single action, whether it be a step taken or an attack initiated, is considered a “turn”. For every turn that the player takes, so do the enemies, and positioning plays an important part in success as it’s rather easy to get cornered by an overwhelming number of enemies if the player doesn’t practice caution and carefully observe the enemies and overall layout of the battlefield.
While each stage isn’t too big, it is often filled to the brim with treasures so it behooves the player to carefully scope out the entirety of the map for items. Even so, there are invisible traps hidden everywhere so it’s important to keep oneself at the best conditions at possible.
Luckily, with each turn, the player gains back some of their HP and SP(MP) but at the same time their EN(endurance) goes down and requires keeping a good stack of consumable food items to keep EN up, unless the player wants to face a situation where they are no longer recovering SP and taking HP damage with each step they take.
The five item slots available to both Renya and his angel companion comes with different +% benefits to stats, along with a skill that can be activated at the cost of SP. The items level up through use and when they reach “burst” status, they afford the player with a Holy Icon which are permanent stat boosts that can be slotted in the upgrade screen known as “Divinigram”. However, when the item is bursted, it loses most of its +% benefit and it’s unwise to keep using the same item for too long. This works out nicely, as the sheer variety of items on display is impressive, and it would be a shame if the player was stuck using the same set of items through the whole game.
Bursted items can be leveled up to become more powerful than ever and also take longer to go into burst status, allowing for the player to use it longer.
While item usage is straightforward, maximizing the use of the Divinigram by shifting the various types of energies into Holy Symbols that have effects like “+5% to Arm 2 item” was quite the hassle as the control within that upgrade grid was crude at best.
I would’ve much rather preferred a simpler upgrade mechanic with more visible effects over the convoluted grid nightmare of Divinigram.
Given Guided Fate Paradox is most certainly a roguelike, outside of the random nature of the dungeons, there are some rather strict punishments for death.
When the player dies, all the items they had equipped and in their inventory will be stripped away completely, along with half of their money and their level will be reset to one.
Even though that seems incredibly harsh and, to some degree, even cruel, given the player gains stats by the culmination of “total levels gained overall” and the regular story mode dungeons only go up to the tenth floor, it’s really not that bad.
The worst thing that can happen is losing one’s best upgraded items, but a divine summon mechanic is introduced later in the game that can allow the use of a set of items for a few turns without ever having to lose them from dying so it’s really not too devastating.
Still, dying is less than ideal in any situation so it makes each step into the unknown world of the Fate Revolution Circuit a tense affair and makes the difficult boss fights feel even more intense. It’s also helped by the excellent soundtrack, as it sets the tone perfectly whether the player is taking a moment of respite in the heavenly Celestia or going toe to toe with a devilish foe.
Since this is a roguelike, there is a great deal of random factor and I ended up in a situation where I was instantly killed in the blink of an eye before I could reach into my inventory to activate my trusty exit item more than twice but I suppose that just comes with the territory.
After completing the game, all of the progress in the form of items/gold and levels are carried along as multiple secret dungeons become available with cameo bosses like Laharl and Asagi waiting in the depths, ready to sink the player into despair with their gaudy stats.
At the end of the day, I was thoroughly impressed by Guided Fate Paradox, both in terms of story and game play. With plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing throughout the adventure and an addictive roguelike game play, I wanted to explore every inch of these randomly generated levels.
It’s an excellent title to introduce those unfamiliar with roguelikes to the genre, and those already a fan will find much to like here.
Fun Tidbit: Find a Brave Legs as early as you can and equip it to make all traps obsolete!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.