With The Guided Fate Paradox set for a November 5 release on PlayStation 3 in North America, NIS America script editor Nick Doerr gave us the rundown on Nippon Ichi’s brand new roguelike RPG and spiritual successor to Z.H.P.
— For those who aren’t familiar with The Guided Fate Paradox, could you briefly introduce the story and system of the game for us?
Doerr: The story of The Guided Fate Paradox begins with Renya winning a mall lottery. The grand prize, it turns out, is to become God. He is whisked away to Celestia, where he meets his angel underlings (voluntary or not) and is briefed on what his duties as God entail.
Essentially, he has to enter a machine called the Fate Revolution Circuit, in which he guides the fates of those who have prayed or wished for help. By taking care of the obstacles in their mind (that just happen to exist as monsters in the machine), Renya can help these individuals overcome their doubts and make a change in their life.
The game system is similar to Z.H.P., in that it is a roguelike with a heavy emphasis on story and stat building. You’ll spend a lot of time in randomly generated dungeons full of enemies that react to you in a semi-real time manner. In other words, every step you take in a dungeon will result in the enemies on that floor also taking a step. While Z.H.P. is a more contemporary comparison, it reminds me of Lufia 2’s dungeons… But I digress.
One major addition this game has that Z.H.P. did not is the ability to take a partner angel into the dungeons with you. They also have stats to boost, so don’t neglect your partner and only power up Renya!
— Games localized by NIS America are often known for their quirky humor and distinct personalities, but as games like Soul Nomad show, you occasionally release games that are a little darker. How serious is The Guided Fate Paradox throughout the game?
Doerr: Compared to happy-go-lucky fun-fests like the Disgaea franchise, The Guided Fate Paradox has a fairly serious overarching story. That isn’t to say it has nothing silly in it at all—the characters are all unique and have their own quirks to keep the story light, but certain aspects of the story and how Renya’s actions affect others make every story sequence or villain encounter feel significant.
I wouldn’t call the story “dark,” per se, but it tells a much more serious story with more realistic repercussions. You really get the sense that you, as Renya, are literally dropped into a world steeped in millennia of history, and that your angels know much more about your job, the world, and each other than you do. The game presents its world in a really cool way, I feel.
— The name of this game sounds unusual at first, but as you consider it in relation to the content, it really begins to make sense. How difficult was it to find a translated name for this game that you were comfortable with?
Doerr: With all our game titles, we go through the same general process. We transliterate the title, discuss the story and themes as a group (involving all of the localization crew), and start to brainstorm ideas that coincide with the story, theme, and the original title.
Long story short, it was about as difficult as any other title! I think we nailed it with this one, though. It brings together the concept of “fate” that is ever-present in the game’s narrative, your main duty of “guiding” these fates, and the paradox that you, as God, are actually helping people make their own decisions—a “paradox” that stands at odds with the idea of “free will.”
— Views on religion can be difficult to explain between cultures, and The Guided Fate Paradox has more than a few religious themes. Has NISA modified much of the game in order to have the religious elements make more sense from a Western view, or is most of the game being kept as close to a direct translation as possible?
Doerr: We kept it as close as possible, since many of the religious themes brought up in the game are Western in origin—specifically Christian. That’s not to say this is a Christian game or anything, it’s sort of like the religious themes presented in Xenogears—common religious ideas modified to fit the confines of the world and story presented. That said, if an element left us an opportunity to improve or tighten the themes, we did so. Like, we tweaked the hierarchy of angels to represent the Western view, and we gave a more defined hierarchy to the demons—devils are like squad leaders who command demons, for instance.
— Renya seems to be nothing but an ordinary high school student, but as the spiritual predecessor Zettai Hero Project showed, there can be a lot more to someone than anyone expects to find. What’s our protagonist like, and how does he handle becoming God?
Doerr: Renya literally is an ordinary guy. He speaks like a normal guy, reacts like a normal guy, and gets passionate over certain things (boobs) like a normal guy. That last one’s normal, right…?
Even so, because he associates with angels for most of the game, he stands out. The angels are stiff, formal, and in a way, they’re naive or even ignorant about humanity. It makes for an interesting dichotomy with Renya, who values very “human” things.
Renya’s actually pretty hot-blooded, too. It takes him a while to embrace his new duties, but when he does, he puts everything he’s got into doing what needs done.
— Is there a favorite angel at the office? If so, who and why?
Doerr: There are a few opinions in the office… A lot of us like Cheriel, because she has a very consistent, perverse personality throughout the game. But that’s not the only reason. She has a distinct and interesting past that gets touched on in the story, and her ability to act like an airhead, but in actuality be incredibly intelligent, makes her dynamic AND dynamite.
I personally like Lilliel, the main angel who helps Renya, because you get to see her growth throughout the story, whereas the other angels are pretty set in their ways. It’s interesting to see how interacting with a human can change how an angel shows emotion, or approaches delicate situations. Plus, she’s absolutely adorable!
— One element of Zettai Hero Project was the ability to customize and power up your character by implanting chips. This system has returned for The Guided Fate Paradox, but you have many more characters to modify now that you have angels going to dive into the dungeons with you. Has anything in the mechanics of the game been changed to improve the rate at which players get gear they can slot in for bonuses when compared to Z.H.P., or will players have to work extra hard and be careful in order to improve their allies?
Doerr: There is indeed a faster method of powering up! As you use weapons and armor in dungeons, they will eventually reach something called Burst status. This drops their power until you take it to the Blacksmith and get it upgraded. When it upgrades, you also get a tile to place on Renya’s or an angel’s Divinigram—the Celestia version of Z.H.P.’s Shadowgram. Weapons and armor both can Burst, so as long as you continuously swap out your equipment, you’ll have more stat-boosting tiles than you can throw a Prinny at!
Certain types of weapons and armor give you specific tiles as they Burst. For instance, Bursting a sword will get you an ATK+ tile. Bursting a shield will get you a DEF+ tile, and so on. Figuring out what gets you what is important, especially if you want to maximize the boost to affect all the different stats!
— Speaking of the system of the game, how does The Guided Fate Paradox differ from Zettai Hero Project? Will equipment still be breaking on us all the time, or will we want to choose our outfits with a little more care? Has anything new been added that players will be able to enjoy?
Doerr: As I went into above, equipment doesn’t break, but it will weaken when you Burst it. It’s mainly a way to have you try out all kinds of weapon and armor combinations.
Each weapon and piece of armor has a unique skill attached, so choosing the best getup to tackle the various obstacles in each dungeon is important.
Another new feature, like mentioned previously, is the ability to bring a partner into dungeons with you. You can issue them basic orders, chat it up, or get them to throw you…among other things.
There are also several additional dungeons not part of the main game to enjoy. Maybe you’ll run into some familiar faces there, assuming you can survive long enough to make it to them…
— Voice-acting is always a fairly big concern when it comes to RPGs. Do you have any idea how much of the story will be voiced, or is that still in the planning stages?
Doerr: The entire main story is voiced…basically. I believe the only scenes we left unvoiced were those unvoiced in Japanese and a few tiny scenes explaining some game / battle mechanics. Main story aside, we decided not to voice the small bits of dialogue with NPCs in the Celestia base so we could accommodate a more complete dub of the main story.
— Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the game as long as we’re here?
Doerr: Well…there’s so much to say, but experiencing it for yourself is always the best way to find out what you’ll enjoy the most. The dungeons are really cool—one that acts as a gigantic cube stands out to me, since you can throw things right off it, or walk off the side and feel completely lost as you figure out what side of the cube you need to get to.
Also, as a huge fan of Noizi Ito’s art, being able to work on a game that she contributed to was such an honor for me. I hope that all the hard work everyone put into this game helps to make it shine. Please enjoy it for hundreds of hours, or stop after experiencing the main story. As Lilliel would say, “It is up to you, Lord!”