Take THQ's Darksiders, which drew incorrect parallels with Sony's franchise and left people disappointed due to wrongful expectations. Yet we've already heard similar parallels drawn between Kratos and Pandora's Tower.
Yet to compare the two is like comparing Zelda and Mass Effect. Gameplay may be similar, but the experience is wholly different.
Pandora's Tower tells the story of Aeron and Elena, a relationship the details of which you need to uncover as you progress through the game. All we initially know is that Elena has been infected with a curse that will slowly engulf her unless Aeron manages to gather flesh from thirteen different monsters in thirteen different towers across the country.
As the game progresses you'll also find out exactly why Elena has been hit by the curse. That reveal, combined with the developing relationships between the protagonists, makes for an engaging story that's hard to put down: just as it should be when it comes to Japanese role-playing adventures.
The task ahead of him seems impossible as - of course - Aeron cannot be labelled a fighter, but there is no alternative. Willingness to help Elena wins through though, and Aeron is soon armed with the weapons and items he needs to take a stand against dubious odds. Between missions it is essential to return to Elena to give her regular doses of meat, and it is in these moments that Pandora's Tower seeks to focus on character building as well as forging links between Aeron, Elena and the player.
How effective a player is in returning to Elena with meat or even gifts has a direct impact on both the relationship between Aeron and Elena and your path towards one of the game's different endings. Yes, there are several, and not every one is positive. Would you sacrifice time to be sociable at the sickbed, or will you spend all your waking moments out on grand adventures? It is an old and proven concept, but one that still works.
The towers which Aeron must visit are far from unimaginative areas filled with assembly lines of monsters to slaughter. The structure is relatively simple, but you are destined to encounter a lot of clever level designs along the way. There is, for example, a bunch of puzzles to solve and secrets to discover, but most of all each tower feels unique, and has its own character. The only common feature between the towers is that you can smash the chains on the door to the boss.
Progress through these towers come with a mix of combat, platforming and puzzle-solving. The Remote is swung to use Aeron's weapon chain - your way to kill monsters, and its multi-direction implementation is nicely wrought. Cut from a certain angle to tie a specific limb of a monster to prevent its movement. With practice, you can even bind enemies together.
One of the things that I especially like in Pandora's Tower is the varied and challenging boss fights. Here comparisons do come to mind again, like Legend of Zelda when it comes to finding a unique spot for each boss. I will not spoil the fun for you by revealing anything, but developer Ganbarion has certainly found a lot of fun challenges and solutions that make Pandora's Tower feel more like an adventure game than a pure RPG.
Also its work on voice work and classical music - which includes Beethoven and Verdi - is top class. The same can be said about the presentation and graphics, though the latter falls just short of stunning. Nintendo's Wii can probably do better, but experience tells me that one should not demand too much of Japanese role-playing titles in regards to the graphics. Even with this in mind, Pandora's Tower is still one of the nicer titles in the genre.
When all the answers as to why the relationship Aeron and Elena is so special, why she suffers from the curse, and why I have been forced to run errands across the country's thirteen towers is revealed, I don't feel that I have experienced a true masterpiece, but certainly an interesting story.
In the end, Pandora's Tower is a laudable title with real depth, perfect for those who want to experience an adventure more accessible than The Last Story or Xenoblade Chronicles.
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