Pandora’s Tower Review (Wii)
We put this Japanese love story through its RPG paces
What happens when video game fans unite and demand to see their favourite games localized? Well usually nothing – but not this time. It’s thanks to Operation Rainfall, a fan driven protest of sorts, that we saw Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and now Pandora’s Tower locally on the Wii.
So can Pandora’s Tower live up to the fuss fans created?
Pandora’s Tower is a rather typical Japanese romance; there’s a girl who is caught in a nightmarish situation and her one true love is the only person who can save her. He’ll go to the end of the world for her because of his undying love and devotion blah blah blah.
In this tale our maiden is Elena – a girl inflicted with a curse that slowly transforms her into a hideous monster. The only way that she can restrain her transformation is by eating the raw flesh of the creatures found in the 13 Towers of the Scar. Inside each of the 13 towers awaits a boss whose flesh will help permanently remove the curse.
To make things worse Elena is a follower of the fictional Aios religion; a religion that teaches strict vegetarianism. Oh the irony.
The player takes control of her lover, Aeron. He is tasked with travelling to the towers and finding the beast flesh she requires to stay alive. It takes a fair amount of time for the plot to develop and you’ll only learn more once you kill the boss in each tower and start lifting Elena’s curse.
Aeron is given a magical chain that’s needed to extract flesh from the beasts. This chain is quite useful and allows him to reach tricky places, bind enemies, pull distant objects and solve a few puzzles.
Most of the gameplay revolves around the chain and there are ample opportunities to try out new tricks and explore various monster-binding options.
For instance, you can bind two monsters together, tie a monster’s feet, muzzle its jaws, or lash it to a pillar. There are a great number of ways to use your chain and it’s compelling to discover new ways of defeating foes.
The chain system uses a bit of motion control in the default Nunchuk and Wii-mote configuration. You can also connect a Classic Controller, but surprisingly it isn’t very comfortable. The game was designed for the Wii’s iconic controller and it works.
You also wield a weapon, but it isn’t nearly as useful as your chain. You can improve or forge weapons through a dull upgrade system but it serves very little purpose. Most of what needs to be done relies on the chain – the weapon system is more of an afterthought.
To find the boss players have to make their way through the tower by solving various puzzles and slaying monsters that lurk within. The towers draw inspiration from Zelda games but fall short on complexity, variety and imagination. For a game that emphasises its ‘tower-ness’ I found them to be pretty disappointing.
An interesting gameplay component has been added in the form of Elena’s curse. As you enter a tower a real-time countdown starts until Elena has completely changed into a monster. A meter is displayed while exploring the towers and as soon as the transformation is complete the game will end.
To ensure this doesn’t happen you’ll need to find some beast flesh and return it to her to reverse the curse. You need to keep a keen eye on the meter and will probably need to make two or three trips back home before you get to the tower’s boss.
The premise of this constant back and forth running is of great irritation. You have to do a fair amount of backtracking and there aren’t always shortcuts to get you back to your last location. I couldn’t help but feel like it’s a poor attempt at lengthening the game.
Your interaction with Elena also plays an important part in determining the ending of the game. If you act like a good boyfriend and bring her plenty of gifts she’ll grow fonder of you and unlock the ‘good’ ending. If you’re a total douche and only save her when she’s on the brink of death you’ll get a bad ending.
We all know that graphics aren’t the Wii’s strong point but it feels like developer Ganbarion could have done better. Textures are horribly dated and Aeron often turns into a barely recognisable blob of pixels. A different art-style would have done this game a great deal of justice.
Apart from the dated graphics, the game also reuses cutscenes far too often. Whenever you give Elena flesh to eat the same scene plays – and considering how you’ll have to give her flesh once every 20 minutes you’ll quickly get fed up with it too.
For a Japanese RPG Pandora’s Tower is a real disappointment. It lacks the proper weapon and upgrade mechanics, free-roaming and overall diversity usually found in the genre. It has everything riding on a soppy love story and a lot of gamers might not enjoy the plot at all.
Sure – if you’re a hopeless romantic you might enjoy the valiant story of a man’s trials to save the woman he loves. But if you’re like most gamers and came to slay some monsters you might find more joy elsewhere.