European box art
Pandora's Tower, released in Japan as Pandora no Tō: Kimi no Moto e Kaeru Made (パンドラの塔 君のもとへ帰るまで Pandora’s Tower: Until I Return to Your Side?), is an action role-playing video game developed by Ganbarion and published by Nintendo in Japan, Europe, and Australia, and by Xseed Games in North America, for the Wii video game console. It was released in Japan on May 26, 2011, April 12, 2012 in Australia and April 13, 2012 in Europe, and in North America on April 16, 2013.
In the January 2015 Nintendo Direct, it was announced that Pandora's Tower and other Wii games will be released for download through the Wii U's Nintendo eShop. In Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it has been announced for future availability, but no specific date was provided.
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Pandora's Tower focuses on Aeron's travels into thirteen towers to break a curse on Elena that is transforming her into a beast, using his magical sword and chain. A certain set of these monsters are referred to as beasts, as their flesh can be used to temporarily reverse the effects of the curse. The primary objective of the game is to acquire the "Master Flesh" from each tower's "master beast", as this is the only way to break the curse. Players only have a certain amount of time in the towers before Elena's curse worsens (displayed as a meter on the player's screen), this will force the player to exit the current tower in order to give Elena flesh; thus it is important for the player to take shortcuts in order to progress through each tower.
Relationship with Elena
When the player is not exploring the towers, they may choose to increase Aeron's relationship with Elena, which is pivotal to the game's multiple endings - the stronger the bond, the better the ending will be. The player may talk to her and give her gifts, as well as ask her to translate texts found in the towers. While looking for flesh, the player should take notice of the curse condition, which worsens each second spent in the towers and will start to lower the affinity of the couple after a certain period of time.
The game is set on the continent of Imperia, a land once divided into ten kingdoms (during the course of the game there are nine because one kingdom was taken off its people, the Vestra, by the Elyrian king). It is the year 511 of the Unified Era, which began after the War of Unification ended. A new war, the War of Independence, is occurring between Athos, Certes and Thena against Elyria and the other Kingdoms for independence from Imperia. The game is mainly set in the Wastelands of Okanos in the Kingdom of Elyria. In these Wastelands, there is a large chasm called "The Scar", which is only stopped from growing bigger and engulfing the world by the Thirteen Towers, suspended in the middle of the valley by twelve chains connected to the surrounding cliffs.
The player assumes the role of a 22-year-old protagonist, Aeron (エンデ Ende?, Susumu Chiba/Ryan Philpott), a mostly taciturn former soldier of Athos. Elena (セレス Ceres?, Mamiko Noto/Charlotte Sanderson), an 18-year-old girl who is friends with Aeron and a strong believer of the fictional Aios religion, was cursed when monsters attack the kingdom after she was chosen to sing at the Harvest Festival. Throughout the story, Aeron and Elena were assisted by a Vestra merchant named Mavda (グライアイ Graiai?, Ikuko Tani/Ann Beach) — she gives Aeron the Oraclos Chain needed to lift the curse on Elena.
When developing the characters, director Toru Haga wanted players to feel related to Aeron, and he was developed to become not too outspoken or assertive. Elena was made so that players would genuinely consider wanting to save her and not consider her a burden. Mavda was based on cynical fairy-tale wizards and carries her husband around at all times. The developers decided to focus on these three characters and not expand the protagonists.
The game focuses on Aeron and Elena, who live in the Kingdom of Elyria, located in Imperia. Elena is chosen to sing at the kingdom's Harvest Festival but during her performance, she is suddenly cursed and transforms into a hideous beast. Aeron later finds her, unconscious and returned to human form. With the Elyrian Army searching for them, the two escape the city with the help of a Vestra merchant named Mavda. They travel to a military observation post in the wastelands of Okanos overlooking a fortress known as the Thirteen Towers, suspended over a massive chasm called The Scar via twelve giant chains. Mavda reveals that she has seen Elena's curse before, and that in order to lift it, Aeron must use the Oraclos Chain, a Vestran weapon of great power, to obtain the flesh of the monsters that live in the Thirteen Towers. Although Elena will be returned to human form after eating the flesh of any monster in the tower, Mavda tells them that the only way to truly remove the curse is to retrieve the flesh of the Twelve Masters of the Towers. As Aeron defeats each Master and Elena eats their flesh, she receives visions that detail the origins of the tower, the Masters, and the reason behind her curse.
Over the past five hundred years, religious wars have raged between the kingdom of Elyria and neighboring kingdoms and peoples, including the Vestra. In order to bring an end to the conflict, the Elyrians and Vestra decided to unite the essences of the Laws, the twelve elemental deities of the world, into living beings, the Masters of the Thirteen Towers. To provide balance, a thirteenth vessel was to be created, holding the essences of all the deities. To this end, a husband and wife who lost their son as a result of the war offered themselves as the raw material of the final Master: this endeavor was called Experiment Zero. But the wife was pregnant, causing an imbalance that corrupted the Masters, turning them into monsters. The husband and baby were rescued using the Oraclos Chain, but the wife became Zeron, a dark monster, consumed with a want to reunite with her descendent and bring 'peace' to the land. The Vestra sealed the Masters in the Towers and guarded them, while the wife's child eventually became Aeron's ancestor. The wife's jealous want of her descendants caused her to curse people who grew close to them, with Elena being the latest victim of the curse. The Vestra brought each afflicted person to the Towers in the hopes that the Masters would be destroyed and Experiment Zero ended: Mavda was the latest guardian of the Towers. Four hundred and fifty years later, the Elyrian Army tried to use the Masters as living weapons: without the knowledge and help of the Vestra, the Elyrians instigated a drastic geological upheaval that created the Scar, which acted as a portal to the spiritual world.
Depending on the strength of Aeron's relationship with Elena, the game has six possible endings. In the worst-case scenario, Elena completes her transformation into Zeron's vessel, and when Aeron returns to her, he is forcibly merged with her: the recreated Zeron then sets out to bring all the kingdoms under its dark dominion. In the best ending, after Elena is taken and possessed by Zeron, Aeron and Mavda arrive. Aeron eventually kills Zeron, freeing Elena from its grasp. Now freed from the curse, Elena departs with Aeron, while Mavda stays and sacrifices herself by using the Oraclos Chain to seal the Scar and destroy the Towers, ending all the evils spawned by their existence. In the game's epilogue, it is revealed that the kingdoms manage to end the War of Independence after the closing of the Scar, the Vestra are granted new lands to settle on by Elyria, and Aeron and Elena lived happily together.
Pandora's Tower was first revealed to be in development by Satoru Iwata at Nintendo's third quarter financial meeting in January 2011. Nintendo later set up an official teaser site with a spring 2011 release date for Japan. The site featured a female voice that said, "Dying with beauty, or living with ugliness. Which would you be happier with?" On April 5, 2011, the first trailer was released online. Details on the story and characters were published in the April 6, 2011 issue of Famitsu magazine along with the confirmation of Ganbarion as the developer and a Japanese release date of May 26, 2011. The official website was updated to include the new trailer and confirmed release.
When developing the characters, director Toru Haga wanted players to feel related to Aeron, and he was developed to become not too outspoken or assertive. Elena was made so that players would genuinely consider wanting to save her and not consider her a burden; to further encourage sympathy from the players there are cutscenes showing her painfully eating the meat. Mavda was based on cynical fairy-tale wizards and carries her husband around at all times. The developers decided to focus on these three characters and not expand the protagonists. The idea of Elena having to eat 13 monster hearts came from the idea that eating is an ordinary action for everyone, and thus was an element which players could identify with.
In July 2011, Pandora's Tower was playable at Japan Expo 2011 in Paris, where LiveGen confirmed the European release of the game scheduled for 2012. Nintendo of Europe officially confirmed the release in their region the following month. In November 2011, Nintendo of Europe asked players to vote for their favourite artwork to be included as a reversible cover of Pandora's Tower and The Last Story. The voting was closed on November 15, 2011, with a winning reversible cover of the game selected by Nintendo of Europe.
A fan campaign dubbed Operation Rainfall began on June 24, 2011 to persuade Nintendo of America to localize the game along with Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story. Nintendo of America originally stated on Facebook that "there are no plans to bring these three games [including Pandora's Tower] to [North America] at this time." Operation Rainfall then tried to pitch Pandora's Tower to publishers themselves, asking for and receiving donations from fans in order to make it happen. The Last Story and Pandora's Tower were published by Xseed Games, with Pandora's Tower released in North America on April 16, 2013.
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Japanese magazine Famitsu rated the game 31 out of 40, with scores of 7, 7, 9 and 8 out of 10. Pandora's Tower sold 21,445 units during its release week in Japan, and was the third best-selling game in that week. UK website, Cubed³ rated the game 8/10, stating "Pandora’s Tower certainly can stand proud amongst its fellow genre stablemates." The Guardian wrote that "with visuals that push Nintendo's hardware to its limits and multiple endings to discover, Pandora's Tower is the finest game of its kind this side of Zelda." Eurogamer gave the game an 8/10; while on IGN it scored a 7, saying that "Ganbarion’s game may be no classic[;] but like [the video game] Nier, this is rich enough in ideas and narrative force to potentially become something of a cult favourite in years to come." Nintendo Life gave the game also a 7/10, praising the character relationships but criticizing the technical faults. Game Informer's Kimberly Wallace gave the game a 6/10, writing that "Pandora's Tower has plenty of interesting concepts, but it feels more like a rough cut than a polished game."
Cover art controversy
Pandora's Tower received criticism from fans, sharing concerns that the cover art's depiction of Aeron is copied from pictures of Noctis, protagonist of upcoming action role-playing game Final Fantasy XV (at the time known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII). Comparisons have been made by various press outlets in Japan and overseas.
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