There have been a lot of talk lately in the videogame world about the trope of the Damsel in Distress….thanks to certain people whom I shall not discuss here. (Seriously guys, if you gave money to that kickstarter you got scammed. The fourth episode will never get completed let alone the thirteen episodes that were promised.)
This is the third and final game to be released thanks to the ‘Operation Rainfall’ efforts. This was an endeavor by the fans of these games to get XenoBlade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower released to the rest of the world.
I was thinking of saying that Pandora’s Tower is good despite using that trope, but in reality its amazing because of how it uses the trope.
In Pandora’s Tower you play as a soldier named Aeron who is on the run from the royal army with his love Elena. Why are they on the run? Aeron is a soldier from a different country, and Elena has a curse that will rapid metamorphosis her into a flesh eating monster. Their only hope is for Aeron to climb thirteen towers and defeat the monsters on each of them called ‘Masters’, rip out a hunch of their flesh and feed it to Elena before time runs out. Only then will the curse be lifted.
I judge horror games by how well it gets a physical reaction from me. (heart rate, nervousness, etc etc.) This isn’t a horror game, but it is using an element from horror that is played exceptionally well. “Body Horror” in which the primary element of the horror is the destruction, deterioration, or transformation of the body. As you play the game you are actually on a timer and if that timer drops to zero, Elena fully transforms and it’s game over. Extra time can be earned by feeding her the flesh of the ordinary beasts you fight.
The big focus of this game is the interaction between the two characters, and the game borrows heavily from a Japanese genre of games surprisingly well. Ever hear of those old dating sim style games? It becomes obvious when you go to talk to Elena and the camera is fixed in front of her and there is a dialogue box below with various options of what you have to say.
This game does a great job at pulling on your heart strings. Even if a bit of it can seem cheap. I’ll never forget beating the second master with only a tiny bit left on the timer. I booked it back to the empty tower they’d set up as a base, only to see her gone. A trail of purple ooze leading down into the basement, where I found a Thing, wrapped in a cloak, hiding in a corner, screaming to not be looked at. That was a powerful moment.
The dating sim elements are even more apparent when you can bring her gifts. Which tightens the bond between the two. There is some depth to this though. Not only does it effect things later in the game, but she will even fill their little ‘base’ with the flowers, rugs, and curtains. It gives you this feeling that Elena is doing something while you’re out slaying monsters. She’s honestly putting in all her effort doing what shes capable of. I remember feeling a pang of guilt when she commented how she couldn’t get the disgusting purple ooze stain out of the floor.
The actual combat and exploration is solid. Even though you are on a timer, the timer isn’t painfully fast and every level has this ‘looping’ element to it with short cuts back to the entrance. I have never hit a game-over because of the timer. My strategy was always to run back when the timer was about halfway, refill the timer, and then go back and beat the tower.
The item crafting system was similar to the ones I hate, but as you play you will learn different ways to create the same item. I can see how some players could get hooked on always upgrading your weaponry and armor.
The boss battles are unique and rely heavily on the main characters magical chain, instead of his weapon to defeat. I was never bored in those boss fights, they definitely took a page out of Shadow of the Colossus’s book when it came to these bosses. Just don’t expect them to be as enormous as they were in that game.
All in all, if you are a fan of Xseed games then you either already have this game or are kicking yourself for not grabbing it. If you had heard about Operation Rainfall but hadn’t played any of the three games I highly recommend you play them all. They are all wonderful games for there own reasons.
WARNING: Although I have not encountered it, there is a bug near the end of the game that can freeze when you try to backtrack. It wont ruin your game and there is a work around. Just make sure to save when you can, and if you encounter it, just Google it and you will be fine.