Thursday, 17 May 2012

Pandora’s Tower

Pandora’s Tower is one of three traditional role-play games that are an absolute must have for the Nintendo Wii. With the release of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and now Pandora’s Tower, Nintendo’s home console can bow out gracefully to the Wii U knowing that while it hasn’t wholeheartedly served the hardcore gaming demographic, it has still provided breathtaking games to keep veteran gamers busy and the Japanese RPG genre alive.

Pandora’s Tower is an action-adventure and role-play hybrid combining elements similar to The Legend of Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus. This game tells the story of a beautiful damsel who is slowly turning into a monster. It is your role as Aeron to traverse twelve towers and slay twelve demons to then bring back their flesh for Elena to eat and break her demonic curse.

This premise sets up an engaging and enticing adventure that shows off some very interesting and unique gameplay mechanics. First of all Elena’s curse continues to worsen throughout your adventure and as a result, a bar at the bottom of your screen shows the level of the curse. Time mechanics have been known to cause games serious issues; Dead Rising is a fantastic example of a game where timed gameplay simply ruined the fun-factor. Well here luckily that’s not the case because Pandora’s Tower is structured so well that rarely are you forced to frantically race around every area but keeping one eye on the clock ensures you’re always wary of your progress and Elena’s health.

When you do get an opportunity to sit back and take in Pandora’s Tower’s environments you will truly appreciate the well-crafted dungeons. These areas are full of different enemies, puzzles, traps and short cuts to keep you moving forward and constantly in battle. You can always return to Elena should the clock drop down too low and you spent that little bit too much time exploring, but this is a rarity as the game rewards you for pushing forward and finding different paths that help your accessibility throughout the environments.

You may be wondering what the gameplay mechanics are like in Pandora’s Tower. To be honest with you after playing I had a real reminiscent feeling of Team Ico’s work on Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Your main weapon in Pandora’s Tower is the Oraclos Chai, a mystical weapon that offers a whole lot of variety to the gameplay here. Beside your normal swords, spears and other weapons you come across, the Oraclos Chain allows you to grab enemies, throw them around the screen, sweep their feet, combo moves together, grab distant items and other cool manoeuvres. It also serves as your main weapon for defeating each tower’s final boss.

The Masters of each tower can only be defeated by pulling out their weak flesh that Elena must consume. The use of the Oraclos Chain here is a lot of fun and although the way you are forced to finish them off is similar, there is enough variety in the bosses to make sure each battle is unique in its own way.

Outside of the exploration and towers, there is plenty to do in the Observatory. Pandora’s Tower provides a gripping love tale between Elena and Aeron, which can be explored by keeping in contact with the female lead as frequently as possible. You can also find out more about the story in the Observatory, which really invests you into the game and makes you want to continue exploring the towers.

The Observatory also gives you the opportunity to interact with another main character, Mavda. Mavda serves as your inventory shop and also as a dark and menacing entity, providing you with everything you need throughout a role-play adventure. Pandora’s Tower offers an extensive upgrade system for weapons and armours too, so fans of getting the best and most rare items will really enjoy this part of the game too.

From a technical perspective Pandora’s Tower generally does a great job to impress. Occasional issues with the camera can be frustrating, but this is never serious enough to be a real issue. The control mechanics are quite unique and force players to point on-screen and aim when using the Oraclos Chain etc, which can take some getting used to. Pandora’s Tower is a beautiful game with a wonderful soundtrack to boot, both of which dramatically enhance the experience. Pandora’s Tower offers approximately 20 hours of gameplay in total with a bunch of different endings to unlock. On top of this it’s well worth going through a New Game + as new content is unlocked to get involved with.

Pandora’s Tower is a shining exemplar of role-play adventure and it truly shows that the genre is far from dead. This unique, engaging and thrilling game brings together a set of lovable characters and intertwines a beautiful story with fun and interesting gameplay mechanics. As a result you’re left with a well paced experience, one that’s brilliant fun getting stuck into and difficult to put down. Pandora’s Tower gives you the opportunity to put in time and effort and in return rewards you with one of Nintendo Wii’s best games of 2012.

8.5 | Gameplay |
Pandora’s Tower provides engaging and entertaining gameplay mechanics alongside a beautifully woven story with believable and enlightening characters. The Oraclos Chain offers fans of role-play games something a little different than mere dungeon crawling and the clever use of a time-management mechanic ensures players are always on their toes and worrying about Elena and her terrible curse.

8.0 | Presentation |
Pandora’s Tower is a technically impressive game in gameplay, visual design and audio. The story however is definitely the highlight here as a romance blossoms between a valiant protagonist and a plagued female lead. This relationship gets ever the more interesting the deeper you dwell into the varied towers scattered around the Observatory. The ominous and dark tone of Pandora’s Tower forces you keep faith while at the same time battling the ideas that perhaps Elena might not be able to defeat her curse …

8.5 | Replay Value |
With 20 + hours of gameplay immediately present, five different endings and a New Game + mode well worth undertaking, there’s no reason not to keep coming back to Pandora’s Tower. With a host of upgrades and special weapons and armours also available, there’s all the more reason to keep hunting down rare items and forging the best equipment.

8.5 | Final Thoughts |
Nothing makes me happier than a brand new IP in a genre that desperately needed a breath of life. Indeed between them Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower have shown that the RPG is not a dead genre, in fact it one of the only types of games that can provide a real emotional connection in a beautiful fantasy world. If you’re looking for an immersive and engaging experience, then this is absolutely the game for you. Perhaps the time of Final Fantasy and turn-based games are a thing of the past, with this being the modern way to play role-play games.

Igor Kharin.

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