Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pandora's Tower: Until I Return To Your Side, first impressions

This game is probably going to be the last Wii release in the US. Wouldn't have been had they taken less time to release it here.
All I have to say about the release date is it's about bloody time, I've been waiting two years for an American release, and I practically gave up until I saw it on the GameStop schedule for April. It's a rare thing that a game gets released in the PAL territories before the NTSC ones. You'd think that when they got it localized for Europe they would have had the North America version close behind (Especially since the PAL version has the option for 50/60Hz), but XSeed and Nintendo must have had something up their sleeve. By now everyone who wanted the game has probably imported a PAL Wii and a PAL copy of the game because everyone has the money to do that except me. Anyways, on to the review. Pandora's Tower is a combination Action-Adventure/Action RPG, and during gameplay it reminds me of The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Castlevania, and Resident Evil of all things. I've heard about gameplay in God of War, and it sounds similar to this, but I've never played God of War so I wouldn't know. The plot is this: You name is Aeron and your girlfriend, Elena is suffering from a curse that is causing her to turn into a beast. You make it to the thirteen towers and, with the help of your sword and a chain-whip, (Which is where I get the Castlevania comparison from) harvest beast-flesh to help break the curse. Now, before I get into the rest of the gameplay I am going to address something: Why is there no GameCube controller support? I know some Wii's don't have to ports but for those of us that DO have them they should have included GC support. The main reason I don't own a Classic Controller Pro is because all the games I would use it on (Goldeneye Reloaded, Super Smash Bros Brawl, etc) use the GameCube controller as well, which I already own three of, so it'd be moot point for me to buy a Classic Controller Pro and exactly the reason why I passed it up the last time the local junk-shop had a few. It's not like the Warm-Swapping for Banjo Kazooie/Tooie on the N64 where certain consoles wouldn't be able to access certain features, or even the psOne which doesn't let you use the system-link cables or the SEGA Genesis Model 3 which removed MegaCD and 32X compatibility, or the GBA Micro which removed native GBC/GB backwards compatibility, or the DS, which did the same, or the 3DS and DSi, which removed GameBoy support all together, we're talking about REMOVING A CONTROLLER PORT here! Come to think of it, they shouldn't have made that particular hardware revision in the first place! This is outrageous, if something uses the Classic Controller it can use the GameCube one, it's as simple as that. Anyways, it doesn't make too extensive use of the motion controls which is fine. They throw it in every once and a while, and it actually flows quite nicely. The controls are unique, and take some getting used to, but after a while it's pretty good. The cutscenes are usually CGI, but for certain ones it's FMV, and it works a whole lot better than the cutscenes for Final Fantasy X, which should have all been FMV. The lip-sync is a bit off at times, but like Metal Gear Solid 2/3, it's not as intrusive as it was in Final Fantasy X. The graphics are beautiful, the areas expansive, and the boss-fights are varied and intense.
Now, let's refer to interactions between Aeron and Elena. You're limited to "Chat", "Give gifts", "Request Translation" "Give Flesh", or "Talk about specific thing that got brought up earlier". Since most of the actual gameplay takes place in the towers your interaction with Elena, while needed and emotionally compelling, will typically fall second to trying to save her from the curse (At least for me anyways). I would have liked to have the options to help her with things around the observatory, (which is where you live) text translation, preparing food, cleaning up, making clothes, harvesting vegetables, staying up late if she wakes up in the night, and even showing her that no matter what happens, you'll still love her. The interaction feels too simplistic, and because of that, a bit of a chore, despite feeling compelled to do so. Like I said, most of your time is spent in the towers, and you have a limited span before you have to return to the observatory and feed Elena servant beast-flesh to postpone the transformation (Which is where I get the Legend of Zelda comparison since this is similar to the time-system in Majora's Mask). Since this is pivotal to the games multiple endings you would think that it would be easy to return to her, but since there's no minimap, only a menu-map, the rooms become a bit hard to navigate, and since they're so huge it takes up a lot of time to get back to the entrance from where you are. There is a way to skip all this, but the means with which to do this are limited, and are best saved for when it's down to the wire for time. Fortunately when you beat a boss it transports you directly to the Observatory, but because of the time-limit and because the longer you spend in the towers affects the couples Affinity eventually you're pressed to complete it quickly and make multiple trips. So far I've mainly finished the towers in two trips, but I'm only on the fourth tower so far. Another comparison to Zelda is the theme of the towers. The first is nature, the second is air, the third is water, and the fourth is fire. Anyone who's played Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, or Skyward Sword can tell you that sounds similar to the themes of the typical dungeons in a Zelda game. Now, I've avoided all plot summaries and everything pertaining to the story of the game so that my reactions can be chronicled in my LP of the game, and to keep the game from being spoiled. My Final Fantasy comparison stems from the camera-system, and that's pretty much it. Now, around the towers you can find text-logs that tell you about the history of the towers and give you hints. Because of those, as well as some other things that will become apparent to those who play the game, I draw comparisons to Resident Evil, which has had those in pretty much every game. I can't go much further without delving into spoilers, which I REALLY don't want to do, since the game should unfold its story for itself. Suffice to say that there's something sinister going on, which anyone can deduce from the fact that the entire plot of the game is you trying to cure your cursed girlfriend and stop her from turning into a beast.
All in all, I really like this game. It's a fitting swan-song for the Wii if it is the last game released for it. The GameCube had Twilight Princess, The Dreamcast had Karou, and the Wii has Pandora's Tower. I'm gonna finish it, but I like to take breaks from games at times. I'm currently re-shooting a playthrough of Sonic Adventure and shooting an Ultimate DooM LP as well, but the back and forth mix of the games helps keep me from getting bored with any one game. See you next week, I finished GTA Chinatown Wars last night, and I'm ready to write down my final thoughts!
Image credit Wikipedia.
One more thing, the release schedule could have been a whole lot closer together if the Wii was region-free like the DS, PS3, PSP, and Xbox 360