As 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 main focus of the combat is not the sword but the chain. Before the game was released, people seemed to believe Pandora's Tower was a Devil May Cry clone. That's a pretty massive misconception, the only thing Pandora's Tower has in common with Devil May Cry is fixed camera angles, which are surprisingly not all that intrusive. The key to success in combat is making good use of the oraclos chain, be it as a projectile, a whip or as a tool for blinding, tripping, throwing, spinning or tethering an enemy. Motion controls are used, but before you grumble they're used well and in intelligent ways.The game play revolves around pointing at enemies though so using the classic controller seems counterproductive. Defeating enemies efficiently comes down to using the chain to hinder enemies and leave them open to sword, swords or scythes.
The story is Ganbarions ace in the hole, as it slowly unravels via reports found in the towers and through the dreams Elena begins to have, you start to question whether everything and everyone is what it seems. There's also a mechanic in the game where you can give Elena gifts to raise her spirits and affinity with Aeron, some of these gifts will result in extra dialogue that often reveals more about their relationship and what happened in the past. It's a nice touch which encourages you to replay the game and buy all the gift items, how many trinkets you give to Elena and how fast you return from a dungeon will also affect which ending you get. The combination of the mystery that is gradually being revealed to you and the many different interactions with Elena, make for some really effective and subtle story progression. The endings themselves are significantly different depending on what you do throughout the game. It's not just a case of max out your affinity and you get the best ending, the other endings are well thought out and some might argue more interesting than the perfect ending.
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. The game play is simple but fun, it's well presented, the bosses are great and the towers are well designed. It's not perfect by any means but it is memorable, and I'd take one flawed game with spirit over 50 games that are more of the same but a little better. If enjoy games like Shadow of the Colossus and Metroid Prime, or if you just enjoy an interesting story pick up Pandora's Tower.