The journey to Pandora’s Tower’s release has been a long one, with many thinking that the last of the ‘Operation Rainfall’ trilogy wouldn’t see a western release. However, thanks to Nintendo and XSEED, the rest of the word will finally be able to experience Pandora’s Tower’s take on the action-RPG for themselves.
While Xenoblade was a fusion of western and Japanese RPGs, and The Last Story took ideas from cover based shooters, Pandora’s Tower feels more like an action game than your usual JRPG. Players battle trough the game with different weapons and the game’s cool chain weapon )more on that later).
The entirely of the game takes place in an area called ‘the scar’, a massive canyon housing 13 towers suspended by giant chains. These towers are where you will be spending most of your time battling through enemies to reach the master at the top. The reason this must be done is because the main character, Aeron’s, friend Elena has been cursed and the only way to lift it is by having her consume the flesh of each tower’s master. Gameplay wise, the curse manifests itself as a bar in the lower left corner of the screen, which indicates how far along the curse is. The progression of the curse can be reverted slightly with the flesh of regular monster, but it’s only a temporary solution, hence the need for the master flesh. If she isn’t given monster flesh, the curse slowly transforms Elena into a hideous monster, with more of her body being changed the longer the curse is left.
The process of gathering monster flesh introduces Pandora’s Tower’s best gameplay mechanic, the Oraclos chain, a weapon that allows Aeron to, among other thing, rip out the flesh of enemies he encounters. The chain also helps with manoeuvring through the towers, with it allowing you to swing between platforms and hit switches . While the first few towers are easy enough to navigate, they soon become more complex further on and offer a decent challenge for players. The most inventive uses for the Oraclos chain come from the boss encounters, with different uses of the chain being required for each one. The bosses are one of the main highlights of the game, since they are a lot more interesting than the regular enemies you face.
Regular combat would be a pretty standard fair if it wasn’t for the Oraclos chain. Aeron has access to a few different weapon types, from his default sword to the speedy twinblades. Each weapon can be upgraded using materials gathered during Aeron’s expeditions, giving him access to more attack during combat. Regular combos consist of pressing the A button repeatedly and their length is determined by your current weapon’s upgrade level. Each weapon also has a certain rhythm that you need to keep when pressing the attack button, which means that you need to concentrate even when utilising normal attacks. Those that don’t have a good sense of timing may have some trouble pulling off some of the longer combos. The Oraclos chain can be used in conjunction with your equipped weapon to attack enemies and remove armour that they may be wearing. These extra features help to make battles more interesting than they may have been without them.
Another area in which Pandora’s Tower differentiates itself from other action games is Aeron relationship with Elena. An affinity gauge is present whenever you are with Elena, which changes based on your interaction with her. Talking with her, giving her gifts and even supplying her with the flesh needed to stave off the curse increases the affinity gauge, offering new events when it reaches certain levels. The game’s different endings are also dependent of the value of the affinity gauge, with the best endings requiring you to have a good relationship with her.
Elena herself is a well-developed character, with each conversation slowly revealing more information about herself and her back-story. The same can’t really be said for Aeron. While some of his past is shown through flashbacks as you progress though the game, you don’t learn a lot about him. I suppose this was done so the player can create their own personality for him, but it can be a little awkward to start off.
Attention also needs to be given to game’s art style. Even though you can tell that Pandora’s Tower is held back graphically by the Wii, the designs for each character, bosses and the towers themselves are very well done, with Mavda, a strange shopkeeper that accompanies the couple to the towers, being my favourite. The game also boasts an amazing soundtrack which work well with the games art style to make boss battle even more intense. Voice acting is also well done, and Elena has many well delivered line. The only downside in this area is that some lines can be repeated many times, which sometimes becomes annoying, though it’s fairly rare.
Overall, Pandora’s Tower is a well-designed action-RPG, blending many different features together to create something unique. While parts of the game can feel repetitive, the rest of the game is a joy to play through. Pandora’s Tower is the perfect send off for the Wii, with it probably being the last great game for the console.
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