By Operation Rainfall Contributor / May 12th, 2012
Note: This game was reviewed by one of our staff that lives in Europe. Obviously this review of Pandora’s Tower is going to be considered biased coming from us. But, that does not mean we don’t have an opinion about how the game is. So just take it for what it is, an opinion.
Personal Quotes: Pandora’s Tower was the game I was least interested in, out of Xenoblade and The Last Story, but after playing the game, and finally beating it, that changed. I was captivated by the gameplay, the dungeon design, and especially its story. I also loved the orchestrated music, which is inspired by old works like Dies Irae and Liebestraum. My favorite theme is the ending theme, which is absolutely gorgeous, in my opinion. I felt very rewarded when the credits rolled past me, and most importantly: It felt memorable.
Full Title (Japan): Pandora’s Tower: (Until I Return To Your Side)
Release Date: April 13, 2012 (EU), North America: TBA
Pandora’s Tower is not what you usually expect from Nintendo. It’s great to see a more mature game on the Wii, and it might be late on schedule, but it’s still worth checking out if you want a good ol’ Hack-and-Slash game.
The game opens with a festival, where one of our main characters, Elena, sings at the Harvest Festival, in the Kingdom Elyria. Our main hero Aeron shows up among the crowd, to see Elena sing. The festival stops abruptly, and a monster appears and ravages the festival. You then see Elena and Aeron run from soldiers, and a mysterious character—whose name is Mavda—who is part of the Vestra tribe. She helps them escape from the soldiers, and they flee the kingdom.
After that, the group travels through the country, where they at last arrive at the titular Pandora’s Tower.
The introduction goes by really fast. It actually doesn’t give any background information on any of these characters. It does give you background information, but only later, and even then it’s still pretty vague. But despite those inconveniences, you start the game fairly quick.
You start off at Treetop Tower, and the game gives you a nice tutorial on how to use your weapons, like your sword, your items, and most importantly, The Oraclos Chain that you gain from Mavda.
The Oraclos chain is not only for attacking, but also to see your connections with Elena. On the left side of the screen, there is a yellow bar which fills as you raise your affinity with Elena; moreover, the Time limit is displayed.
Using the chain is pretty simple, and it helps removing repetition in combat. You use the chain by pointing the Wii remote at your target, and then press B to latch onto an enemy; then fling it to sustain damage onto the enemy. The chain can be used in many different ways. It’s like the hookshot from Legend of Zelda, but it has more uses than that. You can use it to find items you normally can’t see, and you can swing enemies around with the chain, or throw them over ledges, sending them to their deaths. You can also bind enemies together, and if you attack an enemy on one end, it will also hurt the other enemy at the other end of the chain.
My only problem with the chain was that when I had to swing an enemy, by shaking the nunchuck, it was late to respond, but it could just have been my controller that’s a little broken.
Another item is the sword, and various other weapons you find around the Tower. The first weapon you gain is the sword. It’s good to use, but you’ll notice some of the enemies take a great amount of stabs to kill, even when upgrading your weapons. Using your weapon is a typical hack-and-slash affair, but the different weapons makes one think about the best strategy to take out different enemies.
Now the main character, Aeron, isn’t the most interesting character. He is a bit boring, and doesn’t talk a lot. He talks when it matters the most, and some scenes with Elena and Aeron are quite loveable, but if he had more lines, he would seem less bland, and, well, less boring. Elena, on the other hand, is a very talkative person, with a lot of spoken dialogues, and has a very outgoing personality. She is always cheerful, and always greets Aeron when he comes home. Also, another thing about Elena is the gifts you give her. When you give her flower seeds, she’ll bloom them. When you give her a dress, she’ll wear it. When you give her jewels, she’ll wear them. Not only is it satisfying to see that she uses what you give her, but giving her gifts and talking to her plays a lot bigger role, which we’ll return to that later.
Another important thing with Elena is the Time Limit. As the timer goes down, Elena will slowly transform due to a curse, and when the timer runs out, it’s Game Over. Now, the Time Limit is not a deal breaker, and that is coming from someone who hates time limits. The Time Limit is well implemented, and it never felt like I was rushing through the dungeons; they were designed so that you can quickly return to Elena. When you think the Time Limit is low, you can always give Elena some flesh you gained previously from some of the enemies to refill it. The game doesn’t punish you for returning to Elena, and you can quickly return to where you were last before leaving, by using the Tower’s shortcuts.
So, the dungeons of the Towers are well made. They are made to be somewhat complicated, but they’re not too confusing; they are also made so that you’re able to return quickly to Elena. What you have to do in the dungeons, is to locate a chain that holds the boss door locked. After destroying all the chains you can face the boss. You don’t need to destroy all the chains and the boss in one go. You can return to Elena to fill up the time limit by giving her flesh from some enemies you kill. There are different kinds of flesh you can give her, and each of them fills the time limit by a certain amount.
Some of my favorite aspects of the game are the bosses. The bosses are challenging, and very well thought out, and it is so satisfying to see that when you finally defeat them, their flesh gets ripped out of their bodies. I might even dare to call them some of the best bosses EVER made for this generation!!! Okay, I might not go that far, but they are great nonetheless. Each boss gets taken out the same way: by killing them with the chain. They have very obvious glowing weak spots, which has the Master Flesh which will help Elena against the curse. The bosses seem like it would become dull and boring, but it never actually does, because each boss has their own unique design, and none feels the same.
Now for the multiple endings. Each ending is based on your relationship with Elena. There are 5 different endings, and they are each judged with how full your yellow bar on the left side of the screen is. If it’s to low, you get a “bad” ending; if it’s high, you get a “good” ending. The ending credit’s music also changes based on your ending. It adds a bit of replay value, and there is also a New Game+ if you want to see all of them.
The game does have its faults, but it is a great game nonetheless, especially if you don’t care much about graphics. The game is also great for those who are fans of hack-and-slash games, or for some who want something a bit different than what is usually offered on the Wii.
I had a lot of fun with this game, and it was consistent throughout. It might not be the grand scope of Xenoblade, or filled with Hironobu magic we love so much, but Pandora’s Tower is in a class all its own, and it deserves attention; if it gets that, then we just might see more of this kind of game. Only time will tell.
The good: Well-designed dungeons. Great bosses. Wonderful music. Multiple endings. Great voice acting.
The bad: Not enough enemy variations. Aeron is a bit bland. The art direction is just as bland as him. Not enough background information on our main characters. Game is a bit short, clocking in at 10-15 hours