Despite being a huge success, the Nintendo Wii has, in many ways, struggled to cement itself as a hub for role-playing games. And even when such games were being talked about in Japan, Nintendo was reluctant to chance the release of these titles in the West. That was, until there was massive pressure from gamers. This saw Nintendo change its tune and the most recent game to benefit from this is Pandora's Tower, an Action RPG from Ganbarion.
The story focusses around the relationship between Aeron and Elena. Aeron is the hero and he's tasked with trying to rescue Elena from a horrible affliction that's turning her into a weird monster. Naturally, the only way to reverse this curse, is to eat the flesh of twelve guardians that live in a castle.
It's an interesting premise that certainly resonates with some other fantasy tales in recent history, but while Aeron doesn't have a great deal of personality, his tale is a very noble one. And as the game progresses this feeling only grows stronger - you're driven by the objective and the challenge that's ahead.
Each of the twelve towers presents multiple challenges. Of course, there's the guardian you're attempting to slay, but you also have to navigate through the tower itself. This part of the game could have easily been quite boring and mundane, but due to strong controls and the addition of a rather neat chain weapon, things stay pretty fresh as you trek through.
By pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, you're able to aim your chain. And this is where things get rather interesting. If you aim at their face, you'll temporarily blind them; aim at their legs and you'll limit their movement capabilities. Of course, you can also target their arms too, but you also have the option to pull flying enemies down from their advantageous position. In other words, the chain weapon is rather cool and it adds an interesting dimension to what would otherwise have been a rather simple affair.
Aeron can also perform attacks with his sword, but this aspect of the game doesn't feel anywhere near as developed. He can only perform a small amount of moves and it's a shame. Had this part of the game had as much care as the chain, the gameplay in Pandora's Tower would have been much more rewarding.As it is, the chain is rather crucial in the fights against the guardians. Here, you'll need to use the chain to latch onto weak points - the main way you can do damage. Once you've got it locked on, you then need to tighten the chain and yank on it. The longer you yank, the more damage you'll do. However, at the same time, you'll also be vulnerable to your opponent's attacks, so there's a real risk/reward feel to the boss battles.
Where Pandora's Tower really excels though, isn't with its gameplay mechanics, it's with the consistency of the story. Elena's condition is constantly worsening and you need to provide her with the flesh of fallen enemies to stop her from dying. When you enter a tower, you're made aware of how much time you have before Elena will succumb and this automatically adds pressure to whatever you're doing. Time becomes a precious commodity and you need to make sure you use it wisely.
Each trip you make to a tower needs to see some benefit, even if it's just from the farming of flesh from normal enemies. You may not have enough time to tackle the boss itself, but that doesn't mean it's a wasted journey as Elena's life is spared for another length of time.
It shows a great care was taken with the planning of almost every aspect of the game. It's just a shame that this same level of care couldn't have been witnessed with each of the gameplay elements.
When it comes to presentation, Pandora's Tower has a few oddities. The first, is that the developers decided to opt for a fixed camera. It's easy to see why, but it still doesn't stop the game from suffering sometimes as a result. There are still some instances where the view gets obscured and you'll end up cursing the game as a result. The game's graphics are also not the best, and it does cause some problems when you aren't quite sure what something is.
Pandora's Tower goes some way towards continuing the Nintendo Wii's recent strength when it comes to RPGs, but it's held back by some poorly designed elements. While the chain makes the combat feel fresh and full of substance, the sword combat feels tired and a bit monotonous. Likewise, the game's graphics and other presentation elements bring things down a peg. But don't let that stand in your way, because behind these frailties lies a game with a very strong story to tell and some mechanics that will leave a lasting impression.
|The chain weapon adds some real depth.|
|Elena's predicament and its integration into the story is strong.|
|Time becomes rather important.|
|The sword-play isn't that great.|
|Fixed cameras always come with the same problems.|
|There are some graphical issues.|