The hero has to collect chunks of monster for his beloved to eat. Could this be the most disgusting reason for killing monsters ever?
Anyone who has seen the recent TV Ad will already know that Pandora’s Tower is the final entry in a series of JRPGs that have been released for the Wii. Although there really is nothing linking Pandora’s Tower to the previously released Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, other than genre, Nintendo have seen fit to bunch all of these games together for their advertising campaign.
Pandora’s Tower starts at the harvest festival of the Elysium Kingdom. A beautiful young woman by the name of Elena has been selected to sing at the local festival, but as she begins her performance she is viciously attacked by a mysterious monster and becomes the victim of a horrific curse. This curse transforms her beautiful body, mutating her into a grotesque monster. What begins as a strange tattoo on her back spreads across her body as she becomes consumed by the monster she will become. The only way to save her is to explore and fight your way through 13 towers, retrieving purple chunks of Master Flesh for Elena to eat, harvested from the monsters of the castle by using the Oraclos Chain. She will need to consume this purple flesh in order to slow down the transformation process.
This may only be a temporary measure, but that doesn’t stop Elena’s hero and guardian Aeron from beginning his first journey into the 13 towers to try and save the woman he loves, all with the assistance and wisdom of Mavda. Mavda is a strange old weathered merchant woman, who transports a weird skeleton on her back and is first met when she helps the two escape the perilous city and head towards the towers.
Throughout this RPG journey, you’re constantly aware of the meter which monitors Elena’s transformation and keeps the player aware of how soon she will need her next supply of master flesh, before she transforms back into the beast. This mechanic adds a level of tension to the game which will push the player forward with more abandon, forcing them to take risks.
Exploring each room within the towers, you’ll be collecting a fair amount of items and materials, whilst at the same time trying to defeat each of the monsters and finding the source of the chains, which are required to be broken in order for you to unlock the dungeons doors to discover the end of level boss. Using the Wii Remote, you can use the Oraclos Chain as a functioning tool for prizing open doors, swinging across various platforms, ascending walls and for collecting out of reach items. The chain can also be used for combat in a variety of different ways, such as wrapping the chain around a monster’s heads, or binding them up to prevent them from attacking you. Using the chain is an effective combat solution to destroying monsters or simply restricting their movement within the game.
Aeron also wields a sword, which can be useful for short bursts of attacking. However, there feels like very little feedback for this weapon and much more emphasis is put on pointing the WiiMote at the screen and flicking the wrist to use the chain. Swordplay is required at times, but undoubtedly plays second fiddle to the more interactive Oraclos chain.
When you are not roaming the towers in the hunt for master flesh, you will spend time in the Observatory, where Elena patiently waits for her rather disgusting meal. It is here that you will also be able to chat with Mavda, who will take great delight in revealing Elena’s past, providing gifts for your next journey, or trading with you.
Whilst the idea is sound and exploring each of the towers was enjoyable, I never felt truly content with the games’ mechanics. Most of the time, I felt it was all fingers and thumbs with responses delayed and latch points for your chain not always showing up. The camera angles didn’t help, with them being all over the place and not always following my movements as I felt it should.
Visually, I felt that the game was underwhelming, with the environments seeming quite blurry and muddy. When compared to the other games that were mentioned earlier, there really is a very noticeable difference and the overall “washed out” look of the game did nothing to convince me to come back for more.
Then there is the meter on the screen instilling a sense of urgency and pressure for me to return to Elena with chunks of master flesh. Usually in an RPG, the player is allowed, even encouraged, to wander around and explore, and become engaged in the storyline and characters. But the constant rushing back to Elena meant that time spent in the towers was always hurried and thus, not as enjoyable.
There are some good ideas here and I look forward to what the developers, Ganbarion, come up with in the future. Pandora’s Tower is by no means a bad game, but when it is compared with the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, the game just feels less refined.