"Dying with beauty, or living with ugliness. Which would you be happier with?"
This slogan, and a sole image of a girl with a tattoo on her back, were all that were teased by Nintendo back in January when they announced Pandora’s Tower for the Wii. It seems a short time ago, but the game was released only four months later. Created by Jump Super Stars and One Piece developer Ganbarion, this Action RPG has been well received in the East. With confirmation that the game will be coming to Europe in 2012, Cubed3 takes a look at why you should be considering buying this game when it hits our shores.
Pandora’s Tower is set in the kingdom of Elysium on the continent of Graecia. A young girl named Ceres is chosen to sing at the kingdom’s harvest festival, but just as you would expect, things go wrong. Beasts begin to attack and leave Ceres unconscious. Before the guards find her and take her into custody to question what she witnessed, former soldier Ende comes to the rescue and helps her escape. A strange dwarf merchant named Graiai assists in their getaway and guides them to a safe tower.
It turns out that Ceres was cursed in the attacks; she is slowly turning into a beast herself. The only way for Ceres to relieve herself of the curse is to eat the raw flesh of beasts that reside in thirteen towers. Even worse for the poor girl, is that she comes from a vegetarian society! Using the power of the Orichalcum Chain that Ende receives from Graiai, he must venture into the towers, each of which is based on a different theme, such as water, rock and fire, and bring back the flesh of the bosses that occupy them for Ceres to reluctantly munch on. As progress is made, you will come to learn the reasons as to why Ceres has been cursed and more. The story might ring a few bells with those that have played Shadow of the Colossus.
The mysterious Orichalcum Chain has the ability to tell you just how much time Ceres has left before she will turn into a beast. The timer will count down as you traverse the towers, reminiscent of Majora’s Mask, and you will need to return to her to give her the raw meat you have collected so far in order to temporarily bring her back to normal. Running out of time will result in the worst case scenario happening and ending the game...Whilst feeding her the flesh of monsters in the towers will only hold off the curse for so long, the only way to rid it for good is to bring her the chunks of meat that you rip from each tower’s boss. Each boss has a different way of being defeated, and using the chain is key to doing it.
Making the most of the chain in combat is of great importance. You can defeat enemies in a number of different styles, such as targeting their legs to trip them up, or even swinging an enemy around and throwing it off a ledge or into another fiend. Alternatively, you can restrain their body completely then hack away with your sword. As you tug on something, a gauge builds that increases the power of the chain. Fans of God of War will sense some familiarity here. If you like, you can simply hack-and-slash your way past monsters, but you will need to use the chain to rip off their flesh to add to Ceres’ feast. There is an element of strategy in how best to combine your primary and secondary weapons. Basic dodge and block controls are also available, and will need to be utilised to the fullest against bosses and tougher enemies of the game.
As you progress you will gain more weapons than just the standard blade, including a dual sword and scythe. The strength of these weapons can be increased by obtaining materials that can be found throughout the towers and by defeating enemies. Bringing them to Graiai will allow them to be powered up. Weapons will also begin to crack and become damaged the more they are used, so they will need to be repaired eventually. Money is made by selling meat; the rarer the meat, the more money received for it.
The chain has other uses outside of combat too, namely in the game’s puzzle elements. In a sort of Legend of Zelda hookshot style, you can use it to grapple onto ledges and other points to pull yourself towards them and get to higher ground, swing on hooks, pull levers, and also bring out-of-reach items toward you. As may be expected with a game of this nature, the controls have been designed around using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. The pointer can be aimed at the screen to pinpoint the exact place you want Ende to throw his chain. You can even zoom in to get a closer view of specific areas to give greater accuracy. This also helps in targeting specific parts of enemies. There is support for the Classic Controller, which is very welcoming for those who prefer only button-based gameplay, although it would seem the game works best using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination. It should be noted that you cannot control the camera; fixed camera angles are present here, with some scrolling automatically as you move to a different part of the screen.
Outside of all the dungeon crawling, there is a dating simulation aspect in Pandora’s Tower as well, which allows for a change of pacing in-between the exploring of towers. By talking to Ceres and bringing her gifts and meat, you can increase your relationship status with her. Multiple game endings can be obtained; the ones you see will depend on your level of intimacy with Ceres.
Each tower has been designed beautifully, and the character models are just as good. Ceres in particular has been very well created and her emotions are portrayed vividly through her expressions. Her gradual transformations into a disgusting slimy creature really make you feel for the girl, and watching her attempt to eat her first piece of raw meat makes you cringe yourself. The story-driven narrative is fully voice acted, although main character Ende is a man of little words; this is another one of those silent protagonist titles. The reason for this could be so that the player feels more a part of the story and becomes attached to Ceres that little bit more, in turn driving you forward to help her.
Of particular interest is the game’s soundtrack, in that it features a selection of reworked versions of beautiful classical music, such as the late Franz Liszt’s Liebestraume No.3 and Verdi’s Dies Irae. The old fantasy setting of the game means these themes fit extremely well. A New Game +, multiple endings and an emotional story mean RPG fans should be very pleased with what Pandora’s Tower offers.