Average User Score: 7.9Jul 16, 2012As the Wii approaches its end, original role playing games seem to be landing left and right. Xenoblade has its grand vistas, The Last StoryAs the Wii approaches its end, original role playing games seem to be landing left and right. Xenoblade has its grand vistas, The Last Story has its amazingly natural dialogue, and Pandora's Tower well it has Elena. The aim of the game being to prevent a curse from turning her into a monster. To stop the curse you take control of the semi-silent protagonist Aeron; for the most part he's a bit like Link from the Zelda series or the vault dweller from fallout 3 but in scenes with drama he does talk. It's a nice halfway house that sets out to give you the immersion of playing the part of the character while at the same time allowing for dramatic scenes to feel fluid and not like a series of button prompts. Armed with the mystical oraclos chain, given to you by a creepy old woman named Mavda you are instructed to collect the flesh of beasts from the towers for Elena to chow down on. You soon find out that said beast flesh is only a temporary solution; it only delays the effects of the curse for 30 or 40 minutes. The only way to truly break the curse and save the day is to obtain flesh from the masters lying in wait at the top of each of the thirteen towers.
The aforementioned towers are guarded by enemies and puzzles, in order to reach the final room of each tower the plucky hero must first unseal the rooms containing the dangerous creatures known as the masters. This is achieved by destroying a handful of pedestals which ground the chains barring entrance to the final room of a tower. As you begin scaling the towers you will notice two things, the first is that each tower corresponds to an element a bit like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of time's fire temple, water temple, forest temple etc. This is great for the first five towers as it keeps things fresh both in terms of art direction and game mechanics, the second half of the game isn't quite so interesting due to tower 6 to 10 repeating the themes of 1 to 5. Nobody really wants to go through two water temples. The second thing you will notice about the towers is that you are not going to manage to get through them in 30-40 minutes, most will require at least two trips back to the observatory. This could have easily made the whole experience a lot more tedious, to the developers credit though they have done an amazing job making backtracking bearable. Each tower has shortcuts you can open up in the form of unlocking barricaded doors and dropping down ladders, which make traversing to the top of each tower a quick and painless task. Also included is an item that instantaneously transports you back to the observatory, these are particularly useful in getting the most out of your time in the towers.
The unique concept of having to come back at regular intervals to prevent the damsel in distress from mutating horrifically is quite gripping. On the one hand you want to fully explore the Towers and discover the mysteries behind them but on the other you don't want to watch Elena Gag as she eats raw oozing purple monster flesh. There aren't too many games that make you feel guilty for wanting to explore every nook and cranny. One of the thing the game does really well is make you want to protect Elena and get back before the curse takes hold. There's a kind of morbid curiosity at the start of the game where you want to see what happens when you leave it to the last minute to get back to Elena. Once you've watched that scene once, you will never want to see it again, probably the darkest thing you will ever see in a Nintendo published game.
When you eventually reach one of the towers masters you will immediately be reminded of the colossi from Team Ico's epic shadow of the colossus, in the sense that each of the boss battles feels like a puzzle rather than a challenge of your reflexes or combat proficiency. It feels a lot more brain over brawn. The idea behind these master battles is to hook onto the glowing weak point with the oraclos chain and perform some abrupt, unwanted keyhole surgery. The difficulty comes from trying to figure out how to reveal the masters weak point and get off a fully charged yank. Generally if you impale something with a metal spike, they are not likely to sit there and wait for you to remove their aorta. So before going for their Achilles heel you will need to stun them, figuring out how to stun them is the important bit. It's a really interesting dynamic combined with the constantly draining hourglass, the pressure doesn't come from beating the boss but beating the boss in a timely fashion so as not to see Elena horribly deformed.
These days every JRPG seems to feature a group of seven unlikely heroes saving the world from a generic bad guy on a power trip, it's refreshing to see a developer put some thought and originality into a game's story. It's not perfect by any means but it is memorable, and I'd take one flawed game with with spirit over 50 games that are more of the same but a little better.… Expand