The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a sequel to 2013’s little-played ultra-niche JRPG The Guided Fate Paradox, which in turn was billed as a spiritual successor of sorts to one of the better (albeit equally overlooked) roguelike dungeon-crawlers of the PSP era, 2010’s Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman. Fortunately for the curious gamer, lacking adequate experience with The Guided Fate Paradox or Z.H.P. doesn’t mean that finding something to savor in Awakened Fate Ultimatum is beyond the realm of plausibility. It’s actually a more easily accessible, streamlined undertaking than its predecessor, focusing on a less convoluted set of plot points and introducing a refined combat system that slowly reveals its complexity over time rather than initiating an awkward tutorial info-dump at the outset.
What gives the game an edge over its previous chapter is, oddly, its simplified central narrative. Guided Fate Paradox often felt far too labored in the story department, attempting to constantly shoehorn in broad themes of right versus wrong and the illusion of ultimate choice when an individual comes into a tremendous amount of power. While, like many of Nippon Ichi’s most memorable works (La Pucelle, Disgaea, Phantom Brave), a substantial serving of genre clichés and anime tropes are frequently on display, the overarching tale deals heavily with the concept of how, essentially, heaven and hell can coexist in any given universe governed by stringent, goal-oriented morals. The main protagonist, Shin, a human-turned-fledgling deity of Celestia, and all the characters he comes into contact with are fleshed out through a series of dialogue scenes (the majority of which are entirely too long) that give each proceeding decision veritable weight.
For those unfamiliar with the roguelike approach, it’s a very specific (one could even say notorious) style of RPG that uses grid-based, randomized stage generation and occasional perma-death punishments to keep players on their toes. Awakened Fate Ultimatum, while falling well short of being groundbreaking, leans firmly enough on its heaven-or-hell selection phases to make an impact in both the immediate and distant future of its gameplay. Truth be told, the game is no next-level Mystery Dungeon, but it’s qualitatively on par with the likes of Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord and Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God. Its graphics are merely mediocre, its voice acting and sound design are passable at best (thankfully there’s an option for either English or Japanese audio). What it is, though, is a generally competent, replay value-wise, late-life PlayStation 3 JRPG that knows what it wants to be and who its audience is.
Fan-service-y harem interplay abounds as Shin must choose between his ideal moe angel (Junpiel) or devil (Ariel) savior, all the while seesawing, in low-budget Ikaruga or Infamous fashion, between karmic light and dark battlefield tactics. The difficulty level rarely drops below challenging; troublesome enemies and tricky labyrinthian passageways are a dime a dozen, and the loot/customization paradigm promotes moments of high intensity, given that any exploratory defeat equals saying goodbye to your hard-earned equipment. With Awakened Fate Ultimatum, NIS gives what lingering fan base Guided Fate Paradox had the follow-up they didn’t even know was viable, while at the same juncture providing a reason to wipe the dust off ye olde PS3, at least for now.