Pandora’s Tower Review
Pandora’s Tower, an action RPG game on Wii with certain unique elements and themes. The game was developed by Ganbarion, a video game studio oddly known for games adapted from anime like One Piece: Grand Adventure, One Piece: Gigant Battle and so on. Certainly, Pandora’s Tower is an awkward addition to their line-up of developed games.
Pandora’s Tower tells a tragic tale of Aeron and Elena. Elena got cursed during a festival, and when left unattended, will slowly transform herself into a monster. In order to slows the transformation or to even lift the curse, Aeron, Elena and a mysteriously knowledgeable merchant, Mavda, traveled to a place known as The Scar, and therein, lies The Thirteen Towers, where Aeron hopes to lift Elena’s curse by hunting and bringing back flesh of other monsters, most notably, the strongest beasts of each towers, the Masters.
The story of Pandora’s Tower is that of tragedy, irony and brutality. There may be some questionable aspects regarding Pandora’s Tower but the story is definitely where it shines. It uses the traditional theme of saving your loved ones with an extremely saddening twist. At first, we are shown a vague opening sequence and three characters – Aeron, the blonde knight from Athos, Elena, already in the middle of her beast transformation, and the mysterious merchant, Mavda – walking to the towers. All plot points aren’t develop carefully from the start but instead, developments on the background story and the characters are carried out in between dungeons. Talking to Elena more, whether or not it’s from when you’re not wandering in the towers, or if it’s part of the main story sequences, show that these two have a history, and an extremely tragic one at that. I do admit that at their very base, all the characters aren’t a really likable cast, but it is extremely easy to sympathize them, due to the nature of the story.
Another interesting aspect to the storytelling is it’s way of presenting the game’s settings. The current war between the nations, the origin of the Masters, the controversy surrounding The Thirteen Towers – The vague settings behind the story is not shown to you straight in the eye, but in contrast, the settings is slowly build up with different books you can find in the towers or observatory. It’s certainly an interestingly creative way to present a setting, and it’s all up to the player to either immerse more into the game’s world by looking for these scattered books, or be ignorant of them altogether. Mavda also pays a lot for the information given by the books, so looking for them is definitely recommendable.
In terms of battle gameplay, Pandora’s Tower’s isn’t too deep. With a weapon on hand, you can unleash a basic attack combo, or a single charged attack. You can also dodge or guard, similar to most action games. However, the main highlight of the combat, is the Oraclos Chain.
The wide array usage of the chain, is a creative way to make good use of Wii sensor control, and executing all their different moves, is perhaps the most entertaining part of the battle gameplay. In combat, the chain can be used to pull an enemy, tear them off, chained them along heavy objects or other enemy to restrict their movements, or even swinging them up and slamming them down to the floor. The chain is also your primary weapon to use when fighting against bosses aka the Masters of the towers, as your melee weapons like the sword or the scythe won’t work on them. As such, the prominent presence of the chain ironically make all your melee weapons secondary.
Strict usage of the chains and complicated bosses designs means more strategies brainstorming. Bosses have a wide array of attack patterns, and one needs to understand a boss attack styles and patterns, and to swing the chain at the perfect timing. Afterall, swinging a chain and pulling means lesser maneuverability, and that makes dodging the bosses’ wide area attacks even more difficult. Certainly unique though, as opposed to classic action’s slash-and-dodge style.
Not limited in fighting however, the chain is also used majorly in non-combat situations. Miscellaneous things like destroying crates at a distance, pulling an item from afar, pulling a dead monster for their flesh or other items and so on. Most prominent of them however, is it’s usage in platforming. The game has various jumping puzzles throughout the tower which requires witty usage of the chains; ranging from pulling yourself into a broken ladder or grapple stone, swinging yourself across ledges via a grapple point, blocking vent from a steam pipe by wrapping chains around it and so on. Again, another creative method to blend in the use of Wii control sensor in an action RPG – and makes exploration and platforming entertaining and refreshing.
However, exploration can get annoyingly tedious at times. The game introduced what they call a “curse timer”. Elena will slowly turns into a beast once the timer depleted – she will transform partially once that timer is 1/4 at the end, barely even human once that timer is almost at the end, and will turned into a complete monster once the gauge on the timer empties out – leading to a game over. It is essential to move quick, making use of any shortcuts available to go in and out of the tower – giving any fleshes on hand to Elena for her to feed on, and returning swiftly to the towers to where you stopped exploring. The curse timer was interesting, but can easily becomes an annoyance in later part of the game, even with shortcuts.
The game also has multiple endings, and the most important element which effects the ending is affinity status – a measurement of the bond between Aeron and Elena. To increase the affinity, you had to chat with Elena regularly, choosing positive dialogue choices and most important of all, giving gifts. The massive amount of “love” you need to give her to achieve the best S ending can be slightly frustrating too, especially when increasing the later levels of the affinity – dialogues are easily exhausted, and money are incredibly sparse as you can only earn them through books, which means less gifts for Elena.
Pandora’s Tower looks good; and the exotic towers designs are especially a highlight. The interiors of the towers feel pretty awe-inspiring and gorgeous… at first at least. They appear very repetitive as the game progresses, especially if the towers are of the same element – not just the outlooks, but even the layout and structure looks like a complete clone. They did a fine job with the character models however, especially with their intricate designs, though textures look pretty bland and at times, they can look quite blurry when up-close.
Last but not least, the animation sequences at least managed to save Pandora’s Tower from being too repetitive. We are almost treated with the same gobbling scenes every time servant fleshes or master fleshes were given to Elena. Luckily, the scenes were always in different variations, for example showing the same scene in different angle, and of cause, the subtle but gradual change in Elena’s reaction in eating them.
Likewise with the visuals, the music of Pandora’s Tower also suffers from extreme repeatability. The same background music will play whenever you enter any of the towers. The other major track is “Elena’s theme” of cause – the soothing, heartwarming song Elena sung in-game is also used as background tracks in different variations throughout the game. Other then that, the music of Pandora’s Tower is extremely disappointing overall – bland and repetitive.
Pandora’s Tower is a more unorthodox game, especially compared to the likes of The Last Story, and even Xenoblade – Pandora’s Tower fellow competitors from Operation Rainfall. It is a good game however, though some may be a bit frustrated due to some tedious elements and repetitive nature of the game. It’s a game worthy to try still however, especially with it’s vague, but intriguing plots, thematic explorations and satisfying gameplays.
Interesting RPG.. hope there are RPGs like these in PC.
Sadly, JRPGs doesn’t have a significant presence in PC gaming, as far as I know..
Pandora’s Tower sounds like a pretty emotional game. It’s a shame that it’s limited to the Wii.
It’s chain battle system works well with Wii though, but I suppose it will work as well with some other sensor-type consoles.
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