Author Topic: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower  (Read 14959 times)

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Offline Jonnyboy117

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RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« on: August 02, 2013, 01:56:53 PM »
Please use this thread to discuss Pandora's Tower, available worldwide on Wii. Posts from this thread may be quoted on a future episode of Radio Free Nintendo, when the RFN crew discuss the game for the next big RetroActive feature.
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Offline Oblivion

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2013, 02:03:31 PM »
Both this and The Last Story were huge disappointments to me after playing through Xenoblade Chronicles.

Offline Gwellin

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2013, 06:14:21 PM »
Both this and The Last Story were huge disappointments to me after playing through Xenoblade Chronicles.
I'd have to agree that they both paled compared to Xenoblade, however they all had their charm.

Pandora's Tower does have the feel of a 3D Castlevania. The timer added a lot of stress to the game, until I realized that all I need to do is find a good place to get meat, then focus on opening shortcuts. After that I wasn't so worried about it. Also, leaving her long enough to transform was a good way to grind affinity, by repairing broken necklaces and arm bands, then regifting them.

A warning to those who encounter the NA freezing issue when loading towers: It is possible to continue, but you may need to try repeatedly, and take a detour to another tower.

Offline ejamer

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2013, 06:15:30 AM »
...
A warning to those who encounter the NA freezing issue when loading towers: It is possible to continue, but you may need to try repeatedly, and take a detour to another tower.


I imported well before the North American release was announced - well before the NFR announcement that we should import because it'll never get released in North America - and later replaced my import copy with the local version.  The intent was to sell off my extra PAL copy; who knew that I'd be better off keeping the PAL version anyway!


Did many other North American gamers here import, or did the majority wait for an official release?
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Offline Pixelated Pixies

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2013, 08:17:04 AM »
I'll be sitting this one out unfortunately. Although I'm somewhat intrigued by the game, I can't really justify the purchase right now (especially because everything I've heard about the game leads me to believe that I might not enjoy it). I am very interested to hear what everyone else thinks about it though. So I'll try to pop in now and again to stoke the discussion with some questions if I have them.
 
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Offline leahsdad

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2013, 01:10:17 AM »
Thankfully, I had already picked this up--  being a DS owner made me VERY paranoid about not getting Xseed games right away.  I wasn't planning on playing this until I finished the Last Story, but....

So I just played through what I'm guessing is most of the first tower, the Treetop Tower.   My initial thoughts:

1.   This game is reminding me a whole lot of the first Devil May Cry back on the PS2, and I don't think that's a good thing.   The look of the tower, the empty dreariness, the combat (replace the chain with the sawed off shotgun).   I'm not happy about that.   

2.  Mavda (the old lady) -- With a little audacity tweaking, that could be Bane, flat out.   Geezus.

3.  I hate the controls.   Classic controller is available, but there seems to be some pointer aiming involved, which is ridiculous with the Left Analog.  So you basically have to choose Wiimote and Nunchuck.  Now, that isn't horrible, at least, not on other games, but in this game, it makes no sense.  Why force me to target with the pointer?   Just lash out at the nearest enemy.  Why do I have to press a seperate action button just to pick up stuff on the ground?   Why not just map that to the attack button, like every other game does?   Or better yet, just let me pick it up automatically, without a button press, if I just walk over it.   

It's not a horrible game, but it isn't particularly special.    I'll keep playing it, but I hope it gets better.
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Offline deadeyes

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2013, 07:08:15 PM »
Anyone else having any trouble finding the game? All the local Gamestops in LA don't carry it since they lowered the price to $19.99, and Amazon is shipping the game in 1-3 weeks. I tell you - a retroactive comes along and it flies off the shelves!

Offline Shaymin

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2013, 03:40:08 AM »
Best bet is the XSEED store - $30 for Pandora's Tower.
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Offline Chuckles

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2013, 11:27:27 PM »
Howdy, all,


First RetroActive and first post, heh. I got lucky and my GameStop had it for $20.


I've played through the first two towers so far, so these are just some initial thoughts:


Overall the presentation is pretty nice. I like the art style and character design (except Aeron, who looks like a complete tool. (And acts like one.)) That opera piece that plays throughout is great, and the final boss variation (which I heard before ever playing the game) makes me want to pick up the score.


The controls are a bit clunky. For some reason it really bugs me that you can't jump, even though I'm fine with that in Zelda. Using the C button to pick up items is annoying, and sometimes I end up having to press it two times to get it to actually pick up my five Leots. Also, I wish the dodge maneuver was a bit faster. It always seems to take longer to start than it should and he just leisurely jumps aside when a quick roll would feel much better. There have already been a few times when the camera suddenly switched views on me during a battle and screwed me up.


The scenes with Elena eating are quite disgusting and a little disturbing. Add in her moaning during the transformation scenes and you've got some major creep-factor going on. Pervy wanker stuff aside, it is, at least, an interesting premise.


I like the structure of the game so far. Kind of Zelda meets Shadow of the Colossus. Although the first two bosses were very easy, and not particularly interesting to fight. Hopefully that timer doesn't end up biting me at some point. I despise timers in games and was a bit hesitant to pick this up because of it.


I'm enjoying it so far, but I think I'm going to have to play it in a very piecemeal fashion. It doesn't seem to hold my attention for very long.

Offline Oblivion

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2013, 12:11:14 AM »
The only one making it pervy is you, buddy.

Offline Jonnyboy117

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2013, 07:25:24 AM »
I finally got a chance to start playing yesterday, except I wasn't playing much because the cut-scenes are pretty heavy in that first half-hour. I was actually surprised at the lack of jumping -- that's a sure-fire way to draw Zelda comparisons, which is either a sign of great confidence or foolishness from the developers!
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Offline Enner

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2013, 03:07:47 PM »
Ah, my first RetroActive that I am participating in!
I'm about 15 hours and 8 towers in Pandora's Tower. Currently, I am enjoying the game.

Graphically, the game tries very hard to have a detailed world on a grand scale. This flies in the face of the Wii's technical capabilities and often times the Wii wins in that confrontation. The small details of the towers and the characters are muddied by the textures. However, the low-res don't bother me much. While the game has a realistic tilt to its look and the towers employ their themes strongly (i.e. forest tower, rock tower, water tower, fire tower), I find that all the towers I've ascended make good use of color and structural variety. One of the rock towers, for example, opens up from the dreary bottom floors to a grand hall of colorful crystals. The automated camera is scripted well to show the player eye-catching angles. Sadly, the camera commits the common third-person action game fault of showing angles that encumber the playing experience.

The game is a bit light on music. Most of my time in the towers is accompanied by the grunts of Aeron and the ambient noise. This is punctuated by momentary swells upon opening a door and entering an important area, the one theme of enemy encounters, or the one boss theme. The place where the music is strongest is at the Observatory where Elena and Mavda reside. Many variations of the game's main theme is played in the Observatory, so it's a good thing that the main theme is nice to listen to. The Observatory music gives a strong sense of homely love and warmth (or struggle and tragedy) which is what it should be.

As for the sounds of the game, Ganbarion did really well in making the act of eating raw beast flesh sound disgusting. The sounds of Aeron running around the towers and slashing with his weapons sound as they should. The ambiance of the towers is realized by the sounds of wind drafts and falling debris. Ripping an embedded, fully-charged Oraclos chain off a tower's master has the right violent and sadistic sound to it. Sadly, some of the levels or mixing of the English voice acting can be off. I've noticed Elena (who certainly has most of the lines of the game, though Mavda is quite a talker) has some lines sounding crisp while others being oddly muffled.

I'll be sure to share more thoughts as I near the end of the game. For now, a few things that might make your tower climbing easier:

* The Oraclos chain is not only your all-purpose tool but also your most powerful offensive tool. There is no good reason not to use constantly in enemy encounters. A quick double tap on a larger foe can leave it immobile long enough to charge a powerful weapon strike combination. The multiple weapon strikes will usually be enough to floor the enemy which gives you ample opportunity to chain the enemy again. Against multiple enemies, the chain can throw enemies far away,  allowing Aeron to divide and conquer. Heavy use of the Oraclos chain will make most, if not all, enemy encounters trivial affairs. In this game, the chain is mightier than the sword!

* Adding to the above, all of the boss fights I've played so far (the first 8) revolve around the Oraclos chain being the only way to deal damage. Any use of bladed weapons are to stun the boss or create an opening for the Oraclos chain. Some bosses have you not using your sword at all!

* There are boxes in the boss room that contain a piece of unreadable text. Be sure to get them as they flesh out the game's lore and can be sold to Mavda for a good amount of Leots. Speak to Elena to translate the texts. Also, do visit the cellar of the Observatory after defeating each tower's master as texts and books do make their way there.

* Crafting gives you cool stuff in this game. The most valuable crafting material is mercury. Mercury is used many times to upgrade your weapons as well as in crafting useful armor and accessories. If you find a reliable spot to farm mercury, make sure to make note of it.

* The 5,000 Leot Tactical Manual is just a dump of EXP that can be used during a tower (oddly, you can't use it in the observatory). Unless you really need to level up, those Leots are better used for crafting materials or giving Elena a new dress.
     ! - About Elena's gift dresses, they have a 1,250 Leot repair bill if they are broken by the curses's transformation. If you don't want to bear that cost, either don't give her new clothes or make sure to feed her beast flesh before the timer passes the 2/3rds mark.

* Every morning, the birds at the fountain will drop a Dryad berry if you shoo them away. The dryad berry can be gifted to Elena to make the Homemade Cake healing item. At night, there is a bird's nest at the top of the Observatory that you can disturb for an item.

Offline Evan_B

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2013, 03:38:09 PM »
I know I wrote into RFN about how Zelda could take cues from the Last Story once, but I also feel that observing Pandora's Tower would be a good idea, as well.

I beat the game about a month or so ago, and I really loved it. I'm not the kind of person that has their experience soured by other RPGs- I think that's a shallow way to enjoy video games, especially when all three of the Rainfall titles have something unique to offer.

When I first started playing the game, I was strictly focused on beating it as fast as possible, because of the time limit and for my own reviewing purposes. But as I progressed, I found myself so intrigued by the lore that I took about an hour or so to read up on all the material I had skipped over. Not only does it shed a good deal of light on the story going on, but it also provides a very rich history of the world- so rich, that even being confined to only one area in this game's world I still loved the entire setting. I think Pandora's Tower utilizes a system quite similar to Metroid Prime's lore, in that it exists if you want to read it, and you'll love the game even more if you do take the time to skim through.

The gameplay is a tough sell for me, because I enjoyed the boss combat so much and I really wish that feeling of intense one-on-one combat was present in other areas of the game, but almost everything outside of those battles either feels bland or cheap. One minute, I'm cutting through enemy after enemy and the next, I'm being pummeled by smaller creatures that I can barely recover from. However, the variety of combat options is really great and I feel it justifies this as an Action RPG. The stat system is basic, but it is augmented by the equipment and the active combat systems so much that it feels more like a action game than anything.

I am not really a fan of the expanding equip space in this game, as it limits what you can put on yourself for so long, especially since the solid equipment is quite large in both shape and spacial relevance. But I can get past it if only because the game balances out the later areas with more of a reliance on the equipment system, and I think the slow expansion gets you more used to the concept before you're given the opportunity to experiment more freely.

I think that Pandora's Tower is a great example of smart game design. Some complain about its reuse of environments halfway through the story, but I think it allows the player the ability to approach the new puzzles in a different way because they have had past experience with the mechanics. While its backtracking is a necessary evil because of the mechanics in place, discovering and exploiting shortcuts during your first and second run of each tower is crucial and it engages players on a more intellectual level than killrooms and linear design. The puzzles are fantastic and interesting, the atmosphere is moody without being overly violent, and the story and additional mechanics just breathe more depth into an already complex title. Best of all, the game allows you the opportunity to timeskip upon beating it, which opens up the ability to obtain all the endings far more easily than a new game plus would have. The music is mediocre, but when it needs to be heart-pounding, it certainly sells it.

I really like Pandora's Tower.
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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2013, 09:39:56 PM »
I took advantage of the Gamestop deal as well, and the game just showed up today.

I'm about 2 hours in right now, and I've finished the first 2 towers. I like that the game is briskly paced so far, a welcome change from Zelda games of late. The story is pretty throwaway, and the voice acting kind of bothers me.

A pet peeve of mine is when voice actors deliver their lines in such a limp and feeble way that I can only tell what they're saying because of the subtitles. This is exacerbated by the lack of lip syncing as well, and it really breaks the illusion that it's actually the character talking. Mavda doesn't have that problem, but the stereotypical old lady voice gets pretty tedious to sit through.  I'm usually the type of person who will always sit through the voice acting, even if I can read the text faster, but I find myself skipping through a lot of that in this game.

The scenes where Elena is transforming into the monster and has to eat the beast flesh are very unsettling, and I felt uncomfortable watching them. But I think that's exactly what they were going for, so I feel they succeeded in that regard.



As for the gameplay, I am very pleasantly surprised. I wasn't expecting much from this game, and back when The Last Story was announced for localization, I remember telling my friend: "The Wii library is now complete as far as I'm concerned, because I really couldn't care less about Pandora's Tower." I'm glad I gave it a chance, though, because I'm having a good time with it so far.

I have some more specific thoughts about the gameplay and controls, but I want to get a bit farther into the game before I comment on those, so I'll come back soon when I've played a bit more.

Offline Xquester

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2013, 05:48:40 PM »
I finished three towers so far and I am absolutely loving this game.  The controls were intimidating at first, but now I'm wielding the chain like a pro.  This is my first Retroactive participation, too, which adds some enjoyment.

Offline Enner

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2013, 12:40:49 AM »
And right after I wrote that using the chain will make enemy encounters trivial, I enter a room with a difficult mix of servant beasts. Thankfully, enemies are easily avoided if you already have high-quality beast flesh or are not in a kill room.

The story has taken a predictable twist and turn as I near the end of the game. At this point, I think it was a mistake to have Aeron be a nearly-silent character. The story is Elena's and Aeron's with the player as the guide. It doesn't make sense to me to have Aeron be a player cipher. Then again, having more spoken lines from Aeron would slow the game's conversations.

I looked in the Wii activity log as I played through the latter towers. I was surprised to see that conquering a tower can take a little more than two hours. I had it in my mind that conquering a tower would take an hour tops. That may have been true for the earlier towers, but not in the latter ones where the count of the chains of Aios increase.

Offline KisakiProject

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2013, 05:58:06 AM »
I emailed RFN but my thoughts were fairly positive:

I loved this game.  I know it has its flaws but I absolutely loved it.  Picked it up back in May to complete my rainfall trilogy.  Just want to thank those guys for helping bring some of my most played Wii game to the US!!!
 
 So the reason I loved this game are as follows;
 
 1) The non-intrusive motion controls.  The pointer worked fine.
 2) The awesome puzzle driven Zelda-esque dungeons.
 3) The boss fights were amazing.  They required a lot of thought and were riveting every time.  Several I just barely made it and the emotional pay off for that was amazing.
 4) The grim story.  Minor Spoiler  I particularly liked how I got the 2nd to best ending and it was still bleak and melodramatic.
 5) The girl really managed to be a sympathetic and real character for me.  Coming back to her half transformed was always frustrating.  I rushed through dungeons and frequently returned to avoid seeing her as such.  Too bad Aeron was boring and lifeless.
 
 The game has its problems.  Notably the reused dungeon themes.  And the final dungeon glitch was a bummer because it was a great set of puzzles.  I however used a let's play to walk me through it to avoid the bug.  Wish I didn't have to.
 
 Overall I found the game a fusion of melodrama and Zelda that I couldn't help but love. The atmosphere just spoke to me.  Everything was calculatingly dark. I feel that anyone who likes Zelda and owns a Wii owes it to themselves to spend the $20 on this.
 

Offline Enner

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2013, 01:30:40 AM »
The loading glitch of the final two towers didn't stop me from reaching Ending A of Pandora's Tower in 23 hours and 59 minutes. I don't intend to stop there as there is still a lore percentage to fill and weapons to upgrade. Also, different endings.

It is such a shame that the glitch affects the North American release of the game. The final two towers have the trickiest navigation puzzles of the game, but I had to cycle the power of my Wii at least half a dozen times to see them through. What seemed to alleviate the problem was resting on the bed in the Observatory for an hour before trying to load on of the final two towers.

The final stretch of the story left me a bit disappointed. Perhaps I will think of it better once I find more pieces of the back story, but I feel unfulfilled for now. The last half hour had a predictable twist, a hasty exposition dump, and a rush to the melodramatic conclusion. While I'm familiar with how a lot of Japanese stories tilt towards the ambiguous or opaque, my ending to Pandora's Tower felt under-explained and unearned. I didn't want the game to teach me Curse Dynamics 101, but it could have built towards its conclusion better.

As for the game systems and mechanics, my biggest complaint on the combat is that the chain is overused. For all the great bosses of the game, the chain feels as if it is the only weapon in the game. To be fair, the chain has a ranged attack and a pick-up-&-throw attack in inclusion to grappling and tearing. Also, the bladed weapons do come in to play to expose vulnerabilities or destroy obstacles. Still, the game is in love with grappling and tearing and the appeal wears out in the end. Hmm, maybe I'm just sad that the second to last boss was a more clever fight than the last boss. Disappointingly, the last boss is an exercise in attack pattern recognition and correctly choosing the moments to chain and tear (which is the only way to do damage, to my knowledge).

I'll be sure to write more as I wrap up the game. Also, I'll make sure they are more positive.

Offline Enner

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #18 on: August 28, 2013, 12:49:39 AM »
I went back in the towers for six more hours (for a total of 30 hours) to unlock red doors, give Elena more gifts, and raise the bond to it's maximum level. The extra time led to Ending S which addressed a lot of my gripes with Ending A and was a better ending for me.

Whichever ending you end up getting, I recommend spending the extra time to get Ending S. The generous New Game + options make it easy to raise the bond to its maximum. A large amount of documents are available in the Observatory and the cellar which can be sold. The funds from all those documents will buy many gifts for Elena. Also, a few of the crimson doors in the towers hide some nice gifts. While it's not a gift, I recommend unlocking the red doors in Sheerdrop Tower first to get something special to start off New Game +.

As if the game knew my frustrations with Ending A, Ending S explains much of game's story. Actually, it might be explaining too much. There is a ridiculous, literally-last-minute plot twist/reveal that explains a major foundation of Pandora's Tower's story; it was bewildering and kind of sweet (as far as melodrama goes).

One bad thing that bears mentioning: The sound mastering for the English voice overs is poor for some characters as I was playing through Ending S.

A nice touch that Pandora's Tower shares with The Last Story is a changing title screen. After finishing Ending S, the slightly changed title screen provided a pleasant coda.

There are still three endings I haven't unlocked that I'm not sure I want to put the effort for. Also, I know I have untouched crimson doors in the glitched towers. And Elena hasn't translated all the texts I brought to her. There is still a bit more for me to play.

Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2013, 04:02:20 PM »
I just finished off the ninth Master, and the dungeons are beginning to feel a bit like a chore.  The Master fights are a real payoff, though, and I am eager to discover the fate of poor Elena and Aeron.
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Offline Gwellin

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2013, 06:08:11 PM »
I went back in the towers for six more hours (for a total of 30 hours) to unlock red doors…

I didn't actually go back for the New Game +, but I did get the S ending anyway. Is there much point to going back for a quick replay?

Also, how are the red doors handed? What do you have to do to open them?

Offline Chuckles

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2013, 06:26:24 PM »
Aaaaaaand done! I clocked in right around 20 hours and got the B ending. I was just a couple dresses away from the A ending, but I was at the end of the Dawn/Dusk tower and had no desire to grind affinity. After I finished the game I watched the S ending on YouTube. Gotta say, I liked the darker ending I got better, heh.

I had a lot of fun playing this, and I'm glad this RetroActive pushed me into playing it. That being said, one game design sin holds it back from being truly great: it's lazy. Dungeons are my favorite part of Zelda games, so a game basically consisting of only dungeons got me really excited! Then I realized that 5 of the dungeons were just retreads of the first 5, the next two were just mirrored versions of one another and the final was just a boss battle... Excitement deflating. Then add the fact that, outside of the New Game + key, you start the game with every ability needed to solve every puzzle in the game. This made me appreciate Zelda dungeons even more. Seeing an area you can't reach and then coming back to it with new abilities in tow is an almost unparalleled feeling in games, and the lack of this sense of growth in Pandora's is quite jarring. Sure there are new weapons and equipment, but nothing that drastically alters the gameplay.

I agree with The Cowabunga Kid and KisakiProject that the high points are the boss battles. Each one had its own clever hook. This is vital considering you're largely doing the same thing to attack each one. Easiest boss: The scorpion that you ride on top of. It barely ever hit me. Hardest boss: For some reason I really struggled with the water guy that had the master flesh riding around on a track. Looking back it doesn't seem that tough, but the jerk kept spraying me!

Some other observations:

I used the sword throughout. It was the perfect middle ground.

The combat got much better when I realized you could charge up your attack and move at the same time. I guess games have conditioned me into standing still while charging up so I didn't even consider it an option for a while.

Speaking of combat, I was surprised that random enemies wandering about the dungeon gave me more trouble than the bosses. Even those little flea guys can take off a healthy chunk of, well... health. And don't get me started on that fire moth that shot out the flaming bats. *shudder*

The endgame bug got me twice. I restarted and slept for 4 or 5 hours and that did the trick.

I hate having to scour every inch of a game to find journal entries. Don't hide the story.

The final boss was boring and took too long, but I love that music!

A fun game overall, but at this point in my life I'll take the polished 10 hour experience over the bloated 20+ hour experience any day. Looking forward to the next RetroActive!

Offline Evan_B

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2013, 03:46:02 PM »
I don't understand the issue with the reuse of dungeon design, especially when it works from a story standpoint and the puzzles aren't similar at all. In fact, if the Dawn/Dusk towers hadn't been the same thing, they would have been extremely aggravating.
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Offline Chuckles

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2013, 06:26:30 PM »
That's great if you liked the reused dungeons. More power to you. To me it felt like they wanted to hit the benchmark of 20+ hours of gameplay and didn't have the time, manpower or wherewithal to produce original content so they had to repurpose existing assets. Going through those repurposed dungeons just felt like more of the same. If you can't show me anything new just cut it out. Always better to leave them wanting more than be bored.


I get what you're saying about the Dawn/Dusk towers. I think it was more just my expectations that caused the problem. I was excited by the prospect of two more original towers, and instead got one larger tower. Not a big deal.

Offline Enner

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Re: RFN RetroActive #28: Pandora's Tower
« Reply #24 on: August 30, 2013, 11:03:36 PM »
I went back in the towers for six more hours (for a total of 30 hours) to unlock red doors…

I didn't actually go back for the New Game +, but I did get the S ending anyway. Is there much point to going back for a quick replay?

Also, how are the red doors handed? What do you have to do to open them?

If you already got Ending S, I don't think there's much point in going back unless you want to acquire and read all the back story material.

The red doors are unlocked with the Crimson Key you can buy from Mavda in New Game +.


As for the repeated tower motifs in the second half of the game. It is hard to not see the reuse and repurposing of the environment assets as lazy. The "dark side" towers are good remixes and rearrangements of the "light side" towers and have some visual differences, but it's hard to shake the feeling that you playing the game over again.

I found the dark side towers different and unique enough to not be bothered by any thoughts of crying, "recycled content." But I can see some players becoming tired and bored. At that point in the game, nearly all the mechanics have been shown to the player so the dark side towers comes off as a review or test. I enjoyed them the same; I can see others crying foul.

P.S.
Reading about watching the other endings on Youtube makes me sad (though I have done the same and can understand and appreciate it). I guess I'm old fashioned and have way to much time on my hands.