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Pandora's Tower (Wii) Review

Review for Pandora

Nintendo of Europe may well have overlooked intriguing Wii games such as Captain Rainbow, Takt of Magic, Zangeki no Reginleiv and Fatal Frame: Tsuki Hami Kamen, but in the past six or so months it has attempted to redeem itself with an onslaught of niche RPG adventures, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and now Pandora’s Tower, all of which most presumed would never be localised. With Monolith Soft’s grandiose RPG scoring full marks and Hironobu Sakaguchi-san’s answer to Final Fantasy landing a 9/10, how does the Ganbarion-developed Action RPG fare?

The temptation to call Pandora’s Tower a ‘beast’ of a game is extremely strong, and the reason why is purely based upon the fact that the lead female in Ganbarion and Nintendo’s latest collaboration -- following the resounding Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars on DS -- has been cursed; emblazoned with a evil mark that results in her losing her human form and instead turning into a grotesque being intent on mass destruction of the land, and people, she most loves. It is up to players, in the role of the unfortunately bland hero, Aeron, to seek out chunks of monster flesh for her to consume in order to keep the curse at bay, whilst also delving deep into numerous puzzling towers to track down ‘Masters’ (the boss of each tower), slay them using a mixture of magical chain and traditional weapon, then watch in either delight or disgust -- dependent on your proclivities -- as she devours its pulsating purple flesh, thus breaking down the plague in stages.

The whole concept is absolutely insane in a Silent Hill sort of way, yet without plenty of sexually-themed monsters gyrating around, and with an actual modicum of sense to proceedings. Unlike Monolith Soft and Mistwalker’s ostentatious tales, Pandora’s Tower keeps everything a little more in check, open up bit by bit via tomes that can be found whilst perusing the plethora of rooms within the dastardly towers. For the most part there are merely three main characters, Aeron the hero, Elena the innocent-turned-demonic-abomination, and Mavda…the weird hunchbacked witch-like being that has a massive old man attached to ‘her’ back. Whilst it may sound too insular, it is the compact feel of the adventure that oddly appeals, with it definitely giving off the impression of being alone and up against a world that wants to abolish the potential threat Elena poses without bothering to search for a cure.

Screenshot for Pandora's Tower on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The observatory where Elena and Mavda reside acts as the central hub where Aeron can store items, buy/sell goods, create and upgrade weapons, rest up, learn more about the world around him and the mysteries of the towers he must navigate, as well as simply interact with his true beau, the fragile young lady who would otherwise be lost without her gallant Athosian knight in shining armour. To obtain one of the five different endings and unlock extra cut-scenes, wooing her with gifts, entering into polite chit-chat, and showing appreciation for the housework and activities she does whilst you are busily carving out the innards of some beast in the battlefield, all go towards increasing the bond between the two. Sometimes, though, it proves more amusing to see her reaction when given some random object that bears no relevance to romance!

The core action comes from the Castlevania-esque dungeon exploration book of tricks, however, and the impressive battle mechanic where a special, magical Oraclos chain can be used to latch onto enemies and tie them down, join two together, hook them onto inanimate objects, rip pieces off beasts, tear down defences, and even quickly unlock door mechanisms for a quick getaway where possible. This is combined with the use of standard, upgradeable weaponry, such as the sword that can be charged up for delivering a devastating blow to anything within a close proximity. The chain itself can be charged up as well by holding the ‘B’ trigger to zoom in, tapping ‘A’ to grab onto an enemy and then pull in the opposite direction using the analogue stick for as long as possible before giving the Wii Remote a short, sharp motion jerk to burst through them. Quick shots of the chain can also work to zap flying critters out of the sky, or even drag objects around and launch Aeron across gaping chasms by swinging from protrusions dotted around. The versatility of the chain is phenomenal.

Screenshot for Pandora's Tower on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

In terms of controls for Pandora’s Tower, whereas it is possible to make use of the Classic Controller or Classic Controller PRO, unlike Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, the use of the Wii Remote pointer system to lock onto targets with the chain works far more smoothly, with the Nunchuk acting perfectly for intricate movement around locations and the dodging of deadly blows. Pandora’s Tower may only have just over a dozen towers to investigate, yet everything is played against an in-game timer, and repeat visits to the same tower are certainly the order of the day. Thankfully, the amount of back-tracking involved to quickly work through a level to find some flesh and then return to the Observatory to see Elena force herself to gulp down the entrails, is countered by how intuitive the almost point-and-click chain attack system works and the sheer depth of the thirteen towers that open up one-by-one.

There may be no lengthy side-quests to venture into, nor an overwhelming number of non-playable characters to interact with, yet the masterful core essence of Pandora’s Tower resonates through its every twist and turn, and the grandeur of the maze-like towers, with their multi-layered puzzles-within-puzzles style structure is remarkable indeed, and unlocking all aspects of the towers is only possible by revisiting at varying times throughout the journey.

Screenshot for Pandora's Tower on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The subtle nuance of love and desperation in the air when Aeron and Elena converse is first-rate, encouraging players to work deeper and deeper into the treacherous structures, each time faster than before, until sweeping through corridors and conundrum-filled rooms is almost like second nature in an attempt to swiftly retrieve more lifeblood for the damsel in distress, keeping her mutation-free long enough to reach the ultimate conclusion and break another chain in the terrible bond the curse with her.

Although not the prettiest of Wii games out there on the market today, Pandora’s Tower makes up for its lack of graphical finesse with the imagination of its beasts and the intricately crafted dungeons that must be explored. It does, however, boast yet another successful batch of English voiceovers, as well as some fantastical music that expertly complements the atmosphere in every way, even mixing in some classic pieces from the likes of Verdi and Tchaikovsky.

Screenshot for Pandora's Tower on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The chain and general weaponry combination for the real-time action mechanic battle works quickly and smoothly to prevent it growing stale. The variety of attack styles helps to further drive home its impressive nature, but a free-moving camera would have been beneficial in some close quarter circumstances for ease of viewing.

Graphics

Graphically on par with PlayStation 2 games for the most part, only keeping its head higher due to the creativity of characters and intricate detail included to ensure new locations are as full of life as possible.

Sound

Wonderful rousing music to accompany battles scenes, some majestic classical tunes, and another hefty dose of impressive voice acting.

Value

Although thirteen towers may sound miniscule compared to the depth of recent Wii RPGs, the required revisiting of them, plus changing state of their internal structure, prolongs the adventure considerably without feeling like a cheap method of increasing the longevity.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Many will look at Pandora’s Tower as being the weakest of the three Wii RPGs, with Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story easily making Ganbarion and Nintendo’s effort seem unworthy of attention. However, such a judgement would be unjust, since this Action RPG takes a totally different slant, offering an almost 3D Castlevania and Metroid feel to proceedings, mixing in a pleasant love story and a brilliantly smooth battle system that will widen its appeal. Pandora’s Tower certainly can stand proud amongst its fellow genre stablemates.

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10.04.2012

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Developer

Ganbarion

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (7 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Staff Member

Great review, Adam! I'm really looking forward to playing this next week. It was already fantastic how Xenoblade and The Last Story felt nothing like each other and now Pandora's Tower is going to offer a totally different experience as well. Smilie

 
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I was actually undecided on what to do about PT until I read more European reviews, it didn't sound that great to me.

Plus.. the VA sounded bloody awful in all the trailers I've seen, so I was surprised to see that being praised here. Perhaps I'll give it a shot after all.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Seanna (guest) 11.04.2012 13:34#3

Sounds a bit like the .hack games. No bad thing! Smilie

AdamC3 (guest) 11.04.2012 13:34#4

Elena and the crazy witch are great, but sadly Aeron is bland all round...

Puzzles? It has puzzles?
Even a slight amount already makes it significant different too the other two.

Please give our little random review show a try;
http://randomreviewshow.com/index.html
We have special effects and umm...stuff...

Man I hope Xenoblade & Last Story do well enough to convince Nintendo to bring this state side as well!! Make it a Trifecta Nintendo.

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

If it's got a taste of Metroidvania, then I'm even more excited for it Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Really bowled over by this one...kind of reminded me a little of early .hack games (as Seanna says above), with a dash of 3D Castlevania and the time element made me think of Majora's Mask, which is no bad thing.

I love the chain and traditional weapon combination, as well. My first instinct was to shove in my Classic Controller PRO, but immediately regretted it...Worked really well for Xenoblade, and for TLS I was torn between the two control systems, but for PT it is definitely Wii Remote + Nunchuk all the way. Whilst there is no motion chain slinging, pointing and firing off the chain and then giving the Wii Remote a quick yank to rip it back out of enemies it very satisfying!

Dungeon exploration was a highlight as well, which definitely offset the need to backtrack to the Observatory to watch the delightful scene where Elena munches on the purple, pulsating flesh, drooling slightly as she does... Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Rich (guest) 12.04.2012 07:44#9

No sign of this coming over to the US anytime soon. Guess I'll be importing again! Thanks for making me spend more money guys! Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Rich (guest) said:
No sign of this coming over to the US anytime soon. Guess I'll be importing again! Thanks for making me spend more money guys! Smilie

We Europeans have to import Excitebots, Arc Rise Fantasia, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny... the list goes on...

I won't, like some people I know, say that it's a just retribution for all the times we Europeans didn't get games though... because this should never happen to neither of us IMHO.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Great review! Some rumors have popped up about Gamestop having the exclusive rights to this game in the US, as was the case with Xenoblade. Guess Xenoblade sold great hehehe.

Rob64 (guest) 13.04.2012 17:05#12

The special edition of this is amazing!!

Rich (guest) 13.04.2012 17:05#13

RudyC3 said:
Rich (guest) said:
No sign of this coming over to the US anytime soon. Guess I'll be importing again! Thanks for making me spend more money guys! Smilie

We Europeans have to import Excitebots, Arc Rise Fantasia, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny... the list goes on...

I won't, like some people I know, say that it's a just retribution for all the times we Europeans didn't get games though... because this should never happen to neither of us IMHO.


I wasn't being sarcastic. Actually really looking forward to getting this now after reading Cubed3's review Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Did anyone pick this up today? If so, did you go for the special edition version?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I got the special edition. I was actually horror struck to see that the art book hadn't even been localized for non-english speaking parts of Europe. Not that it's a problem for me, but to some who don't speak English and actually CARE for the contents of the art book beyond the collector factor, that's annoying, and the fact that Nintendo didn't think of that worries me.

Anyway... I only played up till after the first tower. Really enjoying it so far Smilie. Haven't had any problems with the gameplay so far. I stuck with your recommendation of playing with the nunchuk+wiimote combo, I didn't even try to plug in a classic controller, and I don't feel the need to do so. Elena's character model is super well done. I like all her expressions, and most of the time her voice actress does a great job of voicing her dialogues. She only lacks lip-syncing really.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Yes, that's true - the lip-syncing isn't right in the UK version.

I'm not sure why the CCP was included as an option, since moving the cursor with an analogue stick feels so unnatural!

The only voice I wasn't sure about was Aeron's...how is the French voice for him?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

No French dub, it's the English voices no matter what language you're playing the game in, I guess.

So I was commenting on the English dub.

( Edited 14.04.2012 12:07 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

It would be a real shame if this game doesn't make it to NA. It's ironic that Xenoblade's biggest market will be the US Smilie Source Would be kinda stupid to NOT bring it with not only fan support but sales to boot.

Still not really sold on it, not a genre I really like.
Those promotional gold coins kinda made me want to get it though ha ha.

Come to Americaaaaaa...I need to feed your monster guts to save your life WHY WON'T YOU LET ME!!!!??!!!?!??! T_T

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I'm really sad to see it struggling here in the UK Smilie I know in the past it probably wouldn't have charted at all, but the downward trend from Xeno --> TLS --------------> PT is really sad to see.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

It is, all British people care about is CoD and Fifa. =/ I'm guessing Japanese games aren't well perceived by British gamers anymore. They probably think the protagonists look un-cool. Maybe if Shulk had a shaved head Xenoblade would have sold better.Smilie

Staff Member

Yeah, unfortunately it just can't come close to Xenoblade or The Last Story in sales. Xenoblade had all the hype and critical acclaim going for it and The Last Story had great reviews and Sakaguchi/Uematsu behind it. Pandora's Tower doesn't have anything like that to help with sales and the reviews it got probably didn't help much either. The 7's and even some 6's almost equal the amount of 8's it got and while that still means it's a good game, a lot of people who may have bought Xenoblade and/or The Last Story probably decided to skip it for the very reason mentioned in the summary of the review.

It's really sad because its concept is great and something very different and it has a lot of other qualities as well. I finished it yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. A reader review for it may pop up sooner or later...Smilie

 
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I'm actually surprised to see that the game has been "properly" advertised over here, in French speaking regions. TV ads are aired every single day on a channel whose target audience is anime and video game lovers, and it's been the ONLY game advertised on there lately, giving it the proper exposure on TV it needs for its target audience. Very pleased with Nintendo for that (they already advertised Last Story heavily on the same channel).

I've been asked by people who do not own a Wii but who know it's my main console, and who were interested in the game because of the ads on TV, meaning that they DID get interested at least, even thought most of them probably won't buy a Wii just for that game.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Interesting anecdotal info, Rudy - thanks Smilie I wonder how it's been faring in the charts, though. I stopped checking other European charts a long while back...

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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