UPDATE: Pandora’s Tower has been announced for North America, published by XSEED Games, and scheduled to be released Spring 2013!
Pandora’s Tower was released in Europe on Friday, the 13th of April, 2012. The game has yet to be confirmed for a North American release. Of the three games Operation Rainfall is campaigning for, Pandora’s Tower is the most niche.
This article concludes a three part series about the title. Each article highlighted a different reason Pandora’s Tower is important as a Nintendo property. The articles were released throughout our month long celebration of the game.
One of the most amazing things about Nintendo as a publisher is the way in which they work with outside developers. Nintendo employs in-house teams who work with and oversee outside development teams. These teams work with 1st party studios such as Retro, and independent 3rd parties funded directly by Nintendo, such as Monster Games, or in this case, Ganbarion. Nintendo’s work with outside studios has resulted in such classics as the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Eternal Darkness, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, F-Zero GX, Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story. Often they work with established and accomplished studios, but at other times their collaborations with lesser known studios have resulted in some truly magical experiences. Developers like Good-Feel and Next-Level have made some excellent titles in direct collaboration with Nintendo. Often giving us something Nintendo proper wouldn’t do themselves.
Ganbarion’s pedigree before Pandora’s Tower was primarily in anime and manga license games, such as several One Piece titles, and the oft imported Jump Super Stars/Jump Ultimate Stars. The One Piece titles were fairly well received (for license games), and the Jump series was a quite popular take on the mascot brawler. Pandora’s Tower is their first original IP. Considering the relationships Nintendo has fostered with new developers in the past, as well as the import love for the Jump series on the DS, Pandora’s Tower is an exciting prospect. This is not a traditional game from seasoned veterans of the video game industry. This is a studio’s first shot as a legitimate developer. A studio fostered by Nintendo.
New blood means new possibilities, new ways of looking at old formulas. Nintendo offers the guiding hand that polishes out the rookie mistakes. This combination of a seasoned veteran and a new developer is good for both parties. Ganbarion, as the new developer, benefits from the wisdom of Nintendo. Nintendo, on the other hand, acquires a new set of eyes that allow them to move forward vicariously without abandoning their own tradition. Nintendo fostering new developers, is beneficial to everyone, especially the gamer who reaps all the rewards.
Mike D., Editor for The Nintendo Enthusiast, former Operation Rainfall PR Staff:
When I first saw the gameplay trailer for Pandora’s Tower, I wondered why no one else had thought of such a simple and intuitive use of the Wii remote. This isn’t to say that it will revolutionize hack ‘n slash games, but it’s a slick play on the genre (much like a game we just discussed: No More Heroes).
It’s also a welcome departure for Nintendo. The braintrust in Kyoto has a talent for either working with, or buying out, developers who are able to make games that other first-party development houses may not quite be able to. Retro is an obvious example, with their expertise in grafting first-person shooter elements into a Nintendo-styled adventure to create something new entirely. Then there is Monolith Soft, who made an RPG of such stupendous scale that it could fit an MMO within the game world. Now, look at Ganbarion, making a Gothic-tinged adventure with a gameplay style that hasn’t exactly been Nintendo’s forté this gen. It may not scale the heights of the other two, but it’s mining a particular area that no one else in the company is digging toward.
The upside for Ganbarion is tremendous. Were Pandora’s Tower to release now, it wouldn’t face unrealistic sales expectations. It could be part of a larger trial run for a development house that could be something special in the future.
Ryan Tyner, Co-leader of Operation Rainfall
I love playing the games from new developers. They seem capable of offering new kind of gaming experiences that the well-founded developers just cannot. This is because they are free to experiment without having to worry about the constrictions of things such as fan considerations, shareholder demands, and other big budget expectations. Then you figure this company has the benefit of having Nintendo as sort of a mentor, to guide them and to help them in areas that they may be limited. Nintendo knows quality games, and they also know quality developers and even own some. Monolith Soft any one? Yes Americans like their Mario games and their Call of Duty games, but there are those of us that are seeking new and different kinds of experiences that only niche genre developers can bring us.
Alex Balderas, Editor, Nintendo Enthusiast
I don’t even care how good Pandora’s Tower ends up being.
OK I DO care, because I bought it already and it will be arriving in my mailbox in about 2 weeks, but you know what I mean.
OK I still haven’t explained myself. Look, regardless of whether Pandora’s Tower is a great game, OR sells a little or a lot, the inescapable fact is that Nintendo put their trust on them. Chances are this is going to spring Ganbarion to work on an even larger title for the WiiU, and you know what this means? Polished mechanics, better graphics, possibly an even more daring story, and once again, a brave exploration of the territory that Nintendo’s Kyoto studios do not dare explore. Like with MonolithSoft’s WiiU title, the battle has already been won: we’re just trying to see how many spoils we can secure.
Yasmine Barkani, Operation Rainfall Staff
It’s nothing new that Nintendo has relied on an outside studio, and Nintendo has made some true classic my doing that. We all remember the Silicon Knights developers, don’t we? They made one of the greatest games on the Gamecube, Eternal Darkness.
It didn’t sell well, but Nintendo showed a lot of trust in them, and help produce the title.
Retro Studio is also a pretty well know studio too. We all know they rebooted the Metroid franchise to new heights, and helped bring the franchise back from the years of silence, and then they also gave Donkey Kong time to shine in the gaming world once again.
We now have Monolith Soft who has been a first party developer for Nintendo for years since they brought most of the stocks from Namco Bandai. After that, some of Monolith Softs games published by Nintendo, like Disaster: Day of Crisis, and Soma Bringer, was largely ignored in the localization department. Maybe Nintendo thought they would be too niche for others taste, and might not sell as well.
But Xenoblade was far from niche, and had a large audience to appeal to, but it still seemed as the game wouldn’t hit anything else but Japan, because Monolith Softs former titles didn’t really manage to fly far either.
But Nintendo has now localized Xenoblade, and they seem to trust their developers in what they’re doing after all, but who can really say for the future, especially when WiiU hits.
Ganbarion is also an interesting developer who has some interesting and intriguing ideas, with their new game: PandorasTower.
Pandoras Tower did seem like the title that would stay in Japan, much like Fatal Frame 4, and not show what the developers are capable of around the world.
I am personally quite happy, nonetheless, that Pandoras Tower got here to Europe. I can see that a lot of care has been put to the game: The well designed dungeons, the bond you need to grow between Aeron and Elena, and the bosses that are quite fun and challenging.
The Ganbarion studio seems to have a great talent, like other third party studios that have been working with Nintendo. I hope Nintendo convinces Ganbarion to make more titles like PandorasTower, for the WiiU sometimes. I would hate to see Ganbarion not making more of their own products, and just make licensed games instead. I hope Nintendo sees potential in them, and hopefully their game arrives in America one day.
David Fernandes, Operation Rainfall Staff
It seems new IPs are getting harder to make now a days, whether money issues, or companies not having much faith in the idea or the developers themselves. Which is a shame, of coarse I’m not saying abandon an already established IP that still shows life from capable developers. However, if there is anyway that a genre that is on its death bed, or in such shambles, it needs new blood with a different view on things to have it rise again. Yes this can backfire, God of War helped hack & slash games get a resurgence, but at the cost of blatant copies, and most games relying too heavily on timed button sequences that it got annoying. What’s great is that while something like Pandora’s Tower didn’t help a dying genre, it instead took the genre in a new direction, a much fresher approach on the matter of simply killing every baddy in your way.
Love story, a character you see in such pain and suffering you want to help her in any way you can, a female that has genuine moments where you would simply marvel at the attention of detail on how not only you interact with her, but how she interacts with you, and her surroundings. Item managing where its imperative to watch what you carry at all times since you can only carry so much. A shop system that allows you to give gifts to your female compatriot as a way to raise your affinity with her, to also improve your weapons to get an edge on your enemies. Most of this is optional, but it’s the old way of gaming, the more work you put in, the more value you get out of it.
Ganbarion takes some old concepts into completely new territory, a lot of it that seem from heat of the moment, or inspirations. This game is clearly a blue print from ideas that were fostered for years with the key development staff at the company. No one else would have thought to use the hack & slash genre in such a unique way before. Nintendo did a good thing in letting these guys have a shot, actions like this they have done in the past and because of that we have many game franchises that came out those chances. That’s why it’s important for Nintendo to keep the mindset of letting developers they worked with, that they fully trust in to give it all they got, and let the magic happen. In fact not just Nintendo, but many other companies out there should follow suit. Relying on old IPs can only get you so far. You keep making new experiences for gamers, and if those experiences are good, new, and exiting, they will remember these experiences and it will stick with them.
Tyson Gifford, Co-Founder of Operation Rainfall:
The first original IP from a developer is an exciting event. It shows us the true identity of a new player in the industry. Another exciting prospect is when a large publisher takes a chance on such a project. Pandora’s Tower is just that, the first original IP from an up and coming developer, which was financed and published by Nintendo. This is something the entire industry needs more of, fresh blood shaking things up. Nintendo has done this before of course, they have taken an interest in a small unknown developer and worked with them to develop exciting opportunities. In this way Nintendo fans have come to know of developers like Monster Games, Next Level, and Good Feel. And it is in this way that we are now aware of Ganbarion.
Make your voices heard during “Pandora’s Tower” month; Do YOU care about Pandora’s Tower? What does Pandora’s Tower mean to you?
I would like to thank Ryan, Mike, Alex, David, and Yasmine for contributing to this roundtable discussion. We at Operation Rainfall would also like to thank Nintendo, Monolith Soft, Mistwalker, AQ Interactive, and Ganbarion for making the games we are so passionate about. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank everyone who has contributed to, supported, and covered Operation Rainfall since it’s inception last year. Keep fighting!