Pandora’s Tower, the last of the Project Rainfall operation and probably the least recognizable of the three. Pandora’s Tower is another RPG game, which uses elements of action-RPG’s but is more level-based, especially compared to that of its two brethren, The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles. In addition, combat takes a bit of twist in this game as your sword/weapon of choice is not the only way to defeat enemies, in fact your chain (called Oraclos Chain) is a integral part of not only fighting, but exploration as well.
Platform: Wii/ Genre: RPG
Developer: XSEED / Publisher: Nintendo
The story of Pandora’s Tower is a relatively simple one, as you take the role of Aeron, a former solider of Athos, who is trying to save his girlfriend Elena. Elena is cursed while she is performing at the Harvest Festival, somehow transforming into a hideous beast. Upon running away from the Elyrian Army, Aeron and Elena get some help escaping the city from a Vestra merchant named Mavda. Mavda brings them to an abandoned tower called the Observatory and explains what is happening to Elena. After the explanation of the curse, Mavda gives Aeron the Oraclos Chain and tells him he must venture to the 13 Towers above the Scar and bring back the Flesh of each of the Masters; that is the only way to rid of the curse. Along your journey of defeating the Thirteen Masters, you learn about The Scar, what the Masters and monsters in the Towers really are, and how war has ravaged the land for nearly five centuries, and why Mavda had decided to “help” you. In a non-spoiler type fashion, the game has multiple endings depending on how you treat Elena (more explained below), so the story and its meanings do alter depending on which ending you get.
Like all RPG’s, gameplay still consists of EXP, a health bar, and a bag to carry your items in. That’s about the end of the generic RPG-gameplay for Pandora’s Tower. Emphasis on gameplay relies on two things, your Oraclos Chain and your interaction with Elena. The interacting in the game is only done in one place, the Observatory. In the Observatory, you can save your game, rest, search the basement of the Tower for unreadable notes, buy/sell from Mavda, and most importantly talk with Elena. Talking with Elena is what effects the ending you will receive at the end of the game! You can talk to Elena about generic things (usually after the first two or three Talks, she says things that she will always say), you can ask her to translate texts, and most importantly you can give her gifts.
Giving gifts not only effects your Affinity Bar with Elena, but also may lead to Elena giving you items. For example, you can give things like Dryad Berries as, later on Elena will make you Cakes with it. You can also buy gifts from Mavda, like curtains, a rug, new dresses, etc. to increase the Affinity Bar at a much higher scale (of course these cost a lot of Leots [the currency]). Be careful though, because there are “bad gifts” you can give Elena, which will negatively effect your Affinity Bar.
Last things about the Observatory is interacting with the only other NPC in the entire game, Mavda. Mavda serves as the store, the blacksmith, and you can also talk to her in general. Talking with Mavda usually has to do with item hints in the specific Tower you are playing or about the monsters. She does not talk much about anything else other than sometimes joking around with you….in a very creepy manner. Mavda allows you to create items in of two fashions, making crafting in this game extremely easy. You can either “Create” an item or “Use a Material”. Creating the item just shows the list of items that you are able to create with the materials you have. The “Use a Material” section shows you all the items you own, and by selecting the material you can see what items that are able to be created using the selected material. Mavda also upgrades your weapons, which receive levels* the more you upgrade them. As in creating they do require materials as well, but some of these higher upgrading levels have materials that are listed “????” until you find them.
Combat gameplay is similar to that of action-RPG. You have free control range of Aeron, you can attack enemies from any location, you can dodge-roll, guard, and of course run away with no extra charge. Aeron also has special attacks, meaning you can charge your weapon to do a more powerful attack. As you level weapons up so do your special attacks; so a level 2 sword would have two special attacks, the one charge special, or the new two charge special (activated by holding A and hearing a ring when you are surrounded by your blue aura). Special attacks are very important in defeating regular Beasts, as they do massive damage and save yourself time from fighting.
Now your Orcalos Chain is really what makes Pandora’s Tower unique. This chain allows you travel all around dungeons, as well as serving as second hand weapon (and to boot the only way to defeat the Masters). The Chain is activated by pointing your Wiimote towards the screen (so yes you do need your Wiimote!) and pressing B. Fighting-wise the Chain allows you to chain enemies in turn immobilizing them, throw them, swing them around, or chain two enemies together. In addition, it allows you to rip off enemy armor or weapons, hit their airborne attacks, and/or damage them slightly. The Chain does have its own “health bar” meaning you cannot use the chain all the time (enemies break free or you use your full power of the chain) but do not fret, as the Chain can never break and can always be used. Exploration-wise the Chain serves as the key to puzzles. The Chain can open special locked doors, allows you to get to higher ground (you must find rocks you can chain up to), activates switches, and serves as a grappling mechanism to get to other platforms.
Key points to gameplay in Pandora’s Tower is that of the element of time. Time is constantly moving in this game and it plays a major role in your curse and how the monsters are in the dungeon. The time is controlled like Xenoblade, using real-time and methods to choose what time you want to leave. If you start a dungeon in the morning, you most likely will return in the evening and vice versa. You can also sleep in your house, choosing what time you would like to wake up and venture, be it night or day. If you go the Towers during the Night, the monsters will be sleeping, however they will me more powerful versus the day. In addition, certain items are only found during the day and again some at night.
Now for the curse and time; Elena is cursed and only has a certain amount of hours before she completely transforms (this is displayed by a small circular chart on your screen). This chart is usually gray, but has two areas of blue and red. Getting to the Blue Area makes Elena “half-transform” and getting to the Red Area leaves you with little time before she completely transforms. Now, sometimes getting a Master Flesh takes longer than expected, so this is where your chain and beasts from the Towers come in. As you defeat an enemy, you have the option of destroying their body for an item or chaining their skin and pulling out Beast Flesh. This Beast Flesh serves as a delay to the curse, temporarily healing Elena to look human. There are different types of Beast Fleshes which give longer delay time, but most importantly they are needed to be given to Elena. Giving Beast Fleshes do increase your Affinity, as well as letting Elena transform does hurt your Affinity.
Last but not least equipment and items. If you have ever played Diablo you would be familiar with the equipment system that is used in Pandora’s Tower. You are given a grid of a certain amount of squares and each item you equip takes a certain amount of blocks. For example, your sword takes six squares, so you lose six squares on your grid. Items can be placed either horizontally or vertically and your equipment grid upgrades every few level-ups or so. Items are held in your bag and are limited until you upgrade your pouch. One problem is that there are so many items in Pandora’s Tower, you will constantly be trying to decide what you want to keep and what you should drop. Items are also not immune to harm, as if you get hit by a powerful attack (and anytime from a boss) an item may break and you will have to repair it at Mavda’s shop. Beast Flesh can also go bad by leaving in your trunk or equipment bag for too long.
I was not all too impressed with the music in the game, as I felt the game was very barren and Resident Evil-esque where you footsteps were heard more than the music. The only time you hear music is when you come to the Observatory and hear Elena sing (which is very nice) or when you fight a boss battle and hear a full orchestrated tune.
Of course the replay-value is very high in this game, due to it having six different endings! Well, one of the endings is a game-over, but still watching them or wanting to get all the endings is a pretty fun challenge. In addition, the game gives you a New Game+, so you can keep all your items and maintain your level. And to boot, they give you checkpoints in New Game+ so you can start from whatever dungeon you want to!
If you ever wanted to play a Resident Evil RPG game that includes Diablo and Zelda dungeon elements then Pandora’s Tower may be your game. The story at first seems pretty simple but changes to a much darker tone and the non-true endings of the game are really something that boggle your mind. One problem with the game is how short it was, I beat the game in about 17 hours which is not RPG like at all. In addition, why would we have a regular weapon if they are a complete non-factor for fighting bosses?
- Unique battle system, chain implementation is fun
- Smooth action-rpg
- Gets more difficult as it progresses
- Practically no music
- Boss battles are chain only
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina Or subscribe to him at youtube here!