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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Monday, July 8, 2013

"Not So Fresh" Review: Pandora's Tower

It does think outside the box.
I should say yet again that I feel fortunate as a gamer not only to have had my concerns addressed, but to actually have owned and played all three of the "Rainfall" titles- that's something I never thought I'd see happen within the gaming industry and I hope that it helped prove to Nintendo that there is a group that does pine for unique experiences on their consoles.

You know, ones that aren't plaftormers.

Of course, the "Rainfall" titles were a very specific genre of game- the JRPG, a type of title that rears its head rarely on Nintendo home consoles- outside of Japan, that is. Why does Nintendo, or do publishers, rather, think that this style of gameplay isn't well-received in the West? The answer escapes me, because I've had the pleasure of playing Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and finally, Pandora's Tower, experiencing three very unique titles with their own charms, flaws, and awesome gaming experiences. This is the review of last of those three that I tackled- the curious Pandora's Tower.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

PROS:

-This may seem like a strange thing to note, but the concept of an action-RPG/adventure game with a time-based mechanic is handled extremely well in this title. It works without any speed bumps and comes together as an extremely fun game. In the same vein, it is an extremely accessible experience, allowing fast travel through its events during the post-game so that you can unlock ALL of the material that's packed into the title, in addition to some other features.

-Perhaps it's not what is seen, but what is unseen that staggers so greatly in regards to Pandora's Tower. You'll find piles and piles of secret documents and parchments throughout the game, and not only do they serve as a vital source of income, but they also illustrate a lush and colorful world outside of the Scar and the Observatory that you thoroughly comb during your journey. If you appreciate a bit of light reading, you'll discover an alchemical system, the history of a nation and much more.

-Pandora's variety is another key strength- whether it's the four weapon styles, numerous equipment options, additional combat items, or the dungeons itself, there's no shortage of diversity. Pandora's Tower may have some reused art assets, but its teeming with original ideas.

 CONS:

-When designing an ARPG, it's important to have a proper battle system- but if this is the case, why is Pandora's so lacking? Its most basic combos have rewards that make it rarely necessary to explore the combo chaining system any further- and you might not even realize there's a combo chaining system until you accidentally stumble upon it.

-Hate them or... well, hate them, bugs exist in video games. There is a particularly aggravating one that appears in Pandora's Tower towards its endgame. It can be extremely frustrating to work around- since the improper execution usually results in your game freezing with little choice but to restart.

 -While there's a few memorable tracks, especially the observatory/Elena theme, the music is mostly forgettable, coming off as a bit of a generic "epic" feeling.

THOUGHTS:

I had heard, for the longest time, that Pandora's Tower was the weakest of the three titles being pushed for localization. While I agree with that, that does not mean that Pandora's Tower is in any way a bad game. The fresh lore, the interesting mechanics, the variety of objectives available- it all comes together as an extremely fluid experience and one that you won't see all that often in the genre. The leveling system is unobtrusive and enjoyable, the dungeon crawling mechanics are absolutely fantastic, and the affinity system is adorable.

However, a bug as crucial as that of the Dawn and Dusk Towers being such a recurring and major problem as it is, is pretty unacceptable. It feels like the game was lazily localized, if only because it murders the sense of pacing that has been established in the previous ten chapters. It doesn't matter if there is an obtuse, in-game fix, it's annoying that it should even exist in the first place. But that is merely one sixth of mediocrity in a game that is brimming with creativity and individuality.

Pandora's Tower is a rare combination of a number of elements that, given their story justification, just work- plain and simple. Its dungeons feel fresher than Zelda's, with pre-established mechanics working in new and unique ways as you continue to progress as a puzzle solver. The combat is varied and exploitable, but there's plenty of challenge to be had. And so, it becomes a JRPG with quite a bit of heart- if only because it tries something very different and manages to make it work. That would be reason enough to give the game a look, but the fact that it pulls off its concept in fine fashion makes it a must-buy for Wii/Wii U owners- you won't find many other games like it.

Final Verdict: If you're willing to hop online and find the solution to an annoying bug, you'll discover a delightful combination not-often seen in JRPGs- an action-based, time-limited dungeon crawler with puzzles abound. Pandora's Tower may be different from your normal JRPG, but it succeeds in so many ways, it's hard not to appreciate it.

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