With Pandora's Tower closes a trio of titles, the other members of which are Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, of particular importance for Nintendo Wii and Nintendo in general. With these games, Nintendo of Europe has finally proved more enterprising and courageous than the American subsidiary, deciding to translate and publish the three titles in Europe long before Nintendo of America decided in turn. It was an epochal event that marked the end of the era in which Nintendo's European fans were "Serie B fans", the end of many missed or absurdly delayed localizations, which in 2012 seemed objectively anachronistic. From a point of view more closely linked to the games themselves, the two previous titles have had the opportunity to demonstrate how the genre of JRPG still has a lot to say and how Nintendo Wii is by no means an unsuitable platform for hosting core games, as opposed to as many lazy western software houses have repeated to us in recent years. But let's now analyze this a little more in detail Pandora's Tower.
13 towers and a curse
Pandora's Tower is certainly the most atypical of the three games of the phantom "Operation Rainfall" and the one, perhaps unfairly, with less hype around it. After all, it does not come from noble teams like Mistwalker or Monolith Soft., But from the much more humble Ganbarion. This is the first original title of the development team, known for having previously worked on several video games dedicated to the One Piece manga and above all to Jump Superstars and Jump Ultimate Stars, fighting games for DS released in Japan that provided the most famous characters of the manga published by Shounen Jump magazine, from Dragon Ball to Naruto, from One Piece to Bleach and so on. For their first original title, the guys from Ganbarion opted for a hack 'n' slash with RPG elements, with a completely new setting. The game will put us in the shoes of Aeron, a young soldier from the kingdom of Athos who will face a terrible trial to save a girl named Elena from a terrible fate. In fact, a curse looms over Elena which slowly causes her to transform into a horrible monster, unless she feeds on the meat of 13 fearsome beasts called Magister. Aeron will then have to go inside the 13 fateful towers where the Magisters dwell, face the pitfalls they hide, make his way to the rooms in which they reside and face them in spectacular boss battles. The gameplay is typically hack 'n' slash but with an interesting addition: in addition to edged weapons (we will start with a sword, but over the course of the game we will be able to acquire three more, suitable for specific occasions) we will have a chain in our arsenal. This mystical chain, donated by the old Mavda (who acts as both an advisor and a merchant during the adventure), allows for considerable variety in the approach to combat. By aiming with the WiiMote pointer we will be able to launch it for ranged attacks, bind enemies, tear pieces of armor or weapons from them, tie them together or to elements of the scenario, throw them, spin them and so on. Exploring the possibilities provided by the chain adds a lot of variety to the game's combat, which would otherwise be repetitive. In fact, we are far from the spectacularity of a God of War or a Devil May Cry, and the combat, with a single combo per weapon, is more reminiscent of titles like Rygart or Castlevania for PS2.
Not just fights
The chain is also used intensively for solving various environmental puzzles, hooking onto otherwise unreachable ledges, pulling switches and so on, at times similar to the harpoon in The Legend of Zelda. The towers, each characterized by a very specific element and very different from the others, are scattered with these switches and puzzles and recall the construction of the Zelda dungeons, even if with a strong vertical component and with some important level design features. The more we proceed in the tower, the more we will be able to discover or open shortcuts to shorten the exploration at a later time. This is crucial as the game involves a large amount of backtracking. The curse of Elena is in fact active at all times and next to the bar of our vitality we will also have that of Elena. Only the flesh magistra can stop the girl's transformation, but until we reach the boss's room we must take care to prevent the girl from completely transforming, under penalty of game over. To do this we will often have to return to the observatory, the base of our adventures, and deliver the flesh of common enemies to the girl. This will not be enough to fully restore its vitality but will provide us with enough time to resume exploration. At the observatory we will also be able to manage our inventory, which fills up with objects too quickly, buy and sell objects, or repair or create them, or even upgrade weapons with loot obtained from enemies. It will also be important to maintain a good relationship with Elena: if we bring her meat often, we will talk to her, we will give her gifts, the bar of affinity with the girl will gradually increase, and the ending we can get will depend on this.
Lots of atmosphere and some flaws
From the graphic point of view, the game stands out for its captivating style and for the settings full of charm, even if the technical realization has some flaws. The animations are in fact more woody than you might expect and the textures of the game, especially when using the zoom function of the chain, appear grainy. It is obvious that Nintendo Wii is not the most powerful of the platforms, but perhaps from this point of view something more could be done. The camera also raises some concerns. This is in fact not controllable by the player, but positioned in fixed angles; most of the time the widest possible views are offered but it is not uncommon to find yourself fighting with enemies in a badly framed corner, or on the edge of two different shots, and this can be the face of some frustration also considering the resilience of enemies. A point of merit is instead the design of the enemies, varied, captivating, decidedly monstrous and repellent. In particular, the Magisters look like creatures that came out of HR Giger's sick fantasy, or from manga like Berserk or Claymore. The sound aspect of the game is well cared for, with classic style compositions and good effects, even if you feel a little lack of a real killer song and you notice a certain background repetition. The game, as happened for Xenoblade and The Last Story before it, was entirely voiced with the help of native English speakers, whose distinctly “British” accent is well suited to the atmosphere of the game. Unfortunately, the original Japanese audio track is not present, as was the case on Xenoblade.
Isn't one game enough for you?
Pandora's Tower offers a duration between 12 and 18 hours of play, but thanks to the presence of five different endings and a New Game + mode, it is able to ensure many more hours of fun. In particular if you dive deep into the options for creating items and equipment and if you go in search of all the written notes scattered inside the towers (which provide information on the world of Pandora's Tower and very interesting background, through a storytelling that closely resembles that of Metroid Prime), you will find that the game offers a depth that is difficult to dent for those who will just play as fast as possible. The difficulty is medium and progressively increases in the second half of the game, the enemies require many hits to be killed, and the constant time limit is an opponent to be reckoned with, as well as the long and exhausting battles against the bosses.Verdict 8.5 / 10 Operation Rainfall sleeper hit Comment Pandora's Tower is a title not to be underestimated. It unfairly runs the risk of being overshadowed by Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, but shines with its own light in many situations. The game offers an intriguing plot and setting, a challenging gameplay that uses the WiiMote pointer in an unprecedented way and the time limits offer exciting boss battles. There are undoubtedly some negative aspects such as the non-optimal management of the camera, a certain basic repetition and a graphic aspect that could have been asked for more, but to be the work of an almost "rookie" team, one cannot fail to be satisfied. . This is a work that is still unripe but shows considerable potential for future growth for Ganbarion, and we look forward to hearing from them soon, perhaps with a Wii U project. Pros and Cons ✓ Great atmosphere
✓ Inspiring level design
✓ Epic boss battles x Not perfect camera
x The graphics could have been better
x In the long run repetitive