Review: Pandora's Tower is a great closing curtain for the Wii
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It's funny to think that just a couple of years ago it seemed as though the Wii was pretty much done as far as worthwhile exclusives were concerned. During that time, the idea of getting solid RPGs the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story was practically a pipe dream. Pandora's Tower seemed like an even more unlikely candidate for localization. Sure enough, all three games became available in the North American market, with Pandora's Tower being the last of this Wii RPG trinity of sorts. After so much clamoring from Wii owners, though, it's great to see that it was indeed localized, because it's a damn fine game, the likes of which we should've seen more of on Nintendo's previous console.
The plot follows a young woman named Elena who's suffering from a curse that's slowly turning her into a monster. As the soldier Aeron, it's up to you to venture through 13 towers to recover the only cure: flesh from the master beasts residing within those towers. When Elena eats this flesh, it not only slows her transformation, but it also gets her closer to being freed from the curse.
The story is well written, and there's a grim, dreary tone to the whole thing that's quite refreshing, especially for a Wii game. The characters themselves are also interesting, developing more over time. One character in particular, the old merchant lady Mavda, is especially intriguing, delivering a great performance thanks in part to her mysterious nature.
Combat is largely based around hack-and-slash mechanics, and enemies aren't all that varied. It's actually a bit of a shame that there isn't a much diversity between baddies, and though you do level up as you defeat enemies, the actual act of taking the fight to the towers' beasts is hardly enthralling. As you progress, you obtain new weapons, armor, upgrades, and items. These aid you on your quest and provide you with more of a fighting chance, but they don't do much to differentiate the combat itself, and even brandishing a new type of weapon doesn't change things up significantly.
Despite the lack of wholly original combat, developer Ganbarion was able to add some elements that make Pandora's Tower really cool, even during the not-so-great parts. Aeron possesses a chain that must be utilized throughout the entire adventure. You can grapple enemies and toss them around, tie two beasts together, and pull items or flesh off of them after you've defeated them. This adds a nice little wrinkle to the combat which is otherwise not all that exciting.
What is exciting, however, is navigating the towers. I got a real "Zelda lite" vibe from Pandora's Tower. The locales didn't exactly reach the high difficulty of some of the later dungeons in Nintendo's famed fantasy action-adventure franchise, but they were engaging most of the time. Using Aeron's chain is a must as it sets off levers, raises elevators, and makes climbing a breeze. There are plenty of items scattered throughout, many of which are optional, but seeking them out makes exploring the towers a more enjoyable affair overall. Many times there's a bit of backtracking to be done, but you can usually open up shortcuts to avoid any level fatigue.