Video Game: Pandora's Tower
aka: Pandoras Tower Until I Return To Your Side
, known in Japan as Pandora no Tō: Kimi no Moto e Kaeru Made
a.k.a. Pandora's Tower: Until I Return to Your Side
, is a Wii-exclusive JRPG
developed by Ganbarion and published by Nintendo
It tells the tale of a young couple, Aeron and Elena (Ende and Seres in the Japanese version), and Aeron's quest to remove the curse
on Elena. Elena is suffering from the Curse of the Beast, which causes her to transform into a hideous monster
over time, which must be temporarily quelled by feeding her the flesh of the beasts that dwell within the thirteen Towers. Equipped with the Oraclcos chain
, his sword, and not much else, he ventures into the Towers to gather the meat of the beasts, and ultimately the fleshy cores of the twelve Aruji (Master), biological weapons that serve as the guardians of each of the towers in order to permanently remove Elena's curse and keep her human.
Pandora's Tower is an Action RPG
that combines elements from God of War
, Shadow of the Colossus
, and a Dating Sim
The European release date was April 13th, 2012.
The North American release was a year later on April 16th, 2013.
This game includes examples of:
- Adorkable: It rapidly becomes clear that Aeron's an ace at navigating dungeons, but doesn't really know how to speak to girls.
- After Boss Recovery: After obtaining a piece of Master Flesh, you're forced to give it to Elena. The pieces restore her curse gauge to full.
- Anime Hair: Both Aeron and Elena sport very unique hairstyles.
- An Interior Designer Is You: Aeron can find and purchase various materials, seeds, seedlings, and other things to gift to Elena to improve his relationship with her. She in turns uses them to make things for the tower they reside in, such as tablecloths, bedsheets, and potted houseplants. And upon clearing the game, some extra home decor items are added to the shopping list: A grandfather clock, a landscape painting, and various carpets/floor mats.
- Ascended To Carnivorism: Elena, as she was initially a Miko (priestess) of a religion that forbids the consumption of meat; the very thought of it makes her nauseous and she starts to vomit. However, because of her curse, she doesn't really have much of a choice. Later on, as the game progresses, she seems to enjoy eating the meat a bit more than normal. It's kind of creepy. Also, if you let her transformation get dangerously close to complete, you get to see her eating a bird.
- The Atoner: Mavda and her husband, the old Vestra man she carries on her back.
- Badass Normal: Aeron. He takes down thirteen mighty war machines armed with nothing but a handful of weapons and a chain which is literally fueled by The Power of Love.
- Battle Theme Music: The bosses fought in towers 1 to 5 have a battle theme sung by male musicians, which is remixed to a female version for the bosses fought in towers 6 to 10, then once again with singers of both sexes for the Dual Boss in towers 11 and 12.
- Big Bad: It turns out that Elena's curse is an attempted Demonic Possession by a Psycho Prototype Super Soldier, Zeron. Needless to say, she's the final boss. In addition, she reveals in the A Ending that she was the one who caused the Catastrophe five decades ago when the Elyrian army attempted to replicate the experiments from 500 years ago, the same experiments that turned her into what she is.
- BFS: Aeron's default weapon is a two-handed broad sword.
- Boss Remix: The theme for the Final Boss is a battle version of the song Elena frequently practices with.
- Black Out Basement: A couple of the towers have this gimmick, but strangely enough, neither is the darkness-themed one.
- Body Horror: The entire game is about fighting off a slowly encroaching transformation from human to purple beast.
- Boss Battle: The Masters of each of the 12 Towers are far tougher than the normal monsters Aeron finds.
- Boss Remix: The battle theme of the Final Boss is a combat version of the melody Elena sung the day she started suffering by her curse, and still sings in certain moments of the game.
- Breakable Weapons: Several equippable items, from the main weapon chosen to the add-on items that enable various different attributes, to even normal collectibles destined to be used for Item Crafting, are susceptible to being broken by extremely strong attacks. However, it's possible to repair them all by paying a small price apiece to Mavda in the Observatory.
- Building Swing: The Orichalcos chain is used in this way to get Aeron from place to place in some of the towers.
- Chain Pain: The chain also proves to be a more effective weapon on some enemies compared to Aeron's regular melee weapons. Considering it can be used for both melee and distance attacks, this is a good thing.
- Chains Of Love: In a symbolic fashion, as the chain serves as the connection between Elena and Aeron. It also contains a lock of Elena's hair, which allows Aeron to check up on her and determine her location if he needs to find her.
- Charged Attack: Multiple levels of them as you level up and upgrade.
- Convection Schmocvection: Aeron can hang around Crimson Keep and Blazing Citadel without being harmed by the lava's heat. Touching lava or fire will still hurt him.
- The Corruption: Although it's not the Aeron who's got it; but his girlfriend.
- Cool Sword: The various weapons Aeron finds in treasure chests littered in the various towers. His starting sword is the Year 60 style Athosian Military sword.
- Cute but Cacophonic: "GOOD MORNING AERON!"
- Cutscene: It is a JRPG, after all.
- Dark Fantasy: With gory elements, in addition.
- Dark Reprise: The observatory's theme is a peaceful piano theme at first, but as Elena's condition worsens the theme becomes more and more wistful, eventually becoming a quiet and mournful organ. If you fall for the Non-Standard Game Over, the music cuts entirely.
- Dark World/Dual-World Gameplay: Simulated with the Dawn and Dusk Towers. Both towers are physically in the same dimension, but are near-identical in terms of design and structure. Aeron has to frequently warp from one tower to another by activating certain dimensional rifts with Light Stones or Dark Stones (depending on the color of the rift). And to fight the bosses, the chains in both towers must be broken as well.
- Dating Sim: Aeron can speak with Elena, give her presents, and interact with her in various ways to build up his relationship with her.
- Destroyable Items: And the nasty things in the towers will break your items if you let them. If you have the coins, you can get them repaired, or you can use them anyway if you do not mind a reduced effect.
- Die, Chair! Die!: Breaking open boxes littered in the towers is one way to find money and items.
- Do Not Drop Your Weapon: Fairly normal with Aeron, he always has his hands on whatever he's equipped with unless otherwise occupied by swinging around on his chain. Some enemies, on the other hand, can be disarmed.
- Door to Before: The towers are riddled with them. Unlocking them forms a sort of improvised checkpoint, allowing you to leave and feed Elena and then get back to where you were in a timely manner.
- Downer Ending: A number of the endings if the requirements for the Best Ending aren't met.
- Down the Drain: Wellspring Steeple and Torrent Peak. In both towers, Aeron has to make use of a giant waterwheel and its attached hooks to reach hard-to-access areas. Both towers also have a room where a big body of water is rising upward.
- Dual Boss: The two bosses in the Dawn and Dusk Towers are fought at the same time.
- Dual Wielding:
- The first weapon that Aeron finds in a treasure chest in one of the towers is a pair of daggers: the Year 56 style twin daggers, also known as the Twinblade.
- To an extent, Aeron is always doing this, since he can use the Orichalcos chain to great effect regardless of which primary weapon he has equipped.
- Dub Name Change: In the English dub, the names change from Seres to Elena, Ende to Aeron, and Graiai to Mavda.
- Empathic Environment: The plantlife outside the observatory begins to die as Elena's curse worsens, becoming completely dead and barren if she fully transforms.
- Escape Sequence: If you are on the track to the S ending, this will let you know it.
- Eternal Engine: Ironclad Turret and Truegold Tower. The towers operate under machinery that is as ancient as the birth of the Final Boss (500 years). The mobility of many platforms depends on the proper functionality of these machines.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: See Grievous Harm With a Body entry, though it can be applied to some non-living things as well.
- Expy: Elena has a remarkable resemblance to Rei Ayanami.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Elena. When you talk to her during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Aeron can comment on her cooking. The three options you have aren't exactly very positive, though. However, if you eat her food often enough, she'll eventually play this straight.
- Fertile Feet: Every step of the treetop tower master makes plants grow.
- Fixed Camera: Present in all rooms and corners. In some cases, this prevents the player from spotting elements or paths that would make exploration much easier, and thus won't get to discover until resorting to obscure methods.
- Flashback: What happens when Elena chomps into the flesh of a Master; it revisits a series of events that occurred fifty years in the past.
- Forbidden Zone: The Thirteen Towers, where the bulk of the game occurs, are suspended above The Scar, a giant crack in the earth thousands of miles wide that was created by the Catastrophe that occurred 50 years ago. Ever since then, the whole area has been sealed off and abandoned by the Elyrian military, which also makes it an ideal place for Aeron, Elena, and Mavda to hide from them.
- Forever War: The continent of Imperia has been constantly wracked by endless wars, particularly between the kingdoms of Elyria and Athos. It is only recently that the land is at peace, but it is a fragile truce that could end at a moment's notice.
- Genre-Busting: In this case, it's an action RPG with several elements of Dating Sim and Dungeon Crawling.
- Girl in the Tower: Elena lives with Aeron in the Observatory, which serves more as a place for her to hide from the army than a prison.
- Grappling-Hook Pistol: The Orichalcos chain that Aeron has serves as a medieval/ancient version of this.
- Grid Inventory: While Aeron can only have one primary weapon and one set of clothes equipped, he can equip as many other trinkets and accessories as can be crammed into an equipment grip. Increasing the size of said grid is one way leveling up makes you stronger.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Using the chain, Aeron can grab hold of certain enemies and swing them around to bludgeon other monsters in the room to death. He can also grab and throw monsters at each other, and into walls.
- Hammer Space: Aeron's ability to stow away his weapons when shimmying along narrow platforms, or when swinging around with his chain.
- Hard Mode Filler: Five of the later towers, namely from the sixth to the tenth, are thematically (and, to a major extent, structurally) modeled after the first five towers. In fact, whereas the first towers give tribute to the gods of wood, earth, water, fire and metal, respectively, the subsequent five give tribute to the goddesses of those same elements. But as expected, the latter ones have tougher enemies and bosses, and some of the puzzles are more convoluted as well.note The bosses are all different, however.
- Healing Spring: Each tower has a fountain (or two) which Aeron can use to restore his Hit Points.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Aeron's starting weapon. He later upgrades to dual knives and a scythe.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In all but the best ending, one of these is necessary to give the Orichalcos Chain the final push it needs to seal the Scar for good. Elena goes alone in Ending B, and Elena and Aeron go together in Ending A. In Ending S, the chain is strong enough to seal the Scar on its own, but Mavda stays behind to pull the Scar shut, and presumably dies in the resulting earthquake.
- Horror Hunger: Inversion of the usual: human needs to eat disgusting monster flesh to stay human.
- Idle Animation: Aeron will do different things depending on what he's holding at the moment if you don't do anything.
- I'm Okay: All of the heart-wrenching cutscenes that occur if Aeron visits Elena when her health is between the blue and the red marks have her assuring him she's okay, despite being obviously in pain. A particular one has her attempt to clean the floor from the purple blood she is still gushing out, and weakly warn Aeron: "The floor is slippery, mind you don't fall".
- In Medias Res: The opening cutscene is very disjointed and confusing and provides almost no information on what has happened before throwing you into the thick of things in gameplay. Cutscenes further in the game clarify exactly what happened.
- Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Averted with the Crimson Key, which can open each and every red door in the towers without a waste. The only downside is that it's only obtainable during the New Game+, so the locked rooms will remain that way during the first playthrough.
- In-Universe Game Clock: Time passes as Aeron spends time exploring the towers. This is important because as the clock ticks, Elena's curse will progress. When time runs out, things get ugly. On the other hand, if you waste time in the tower where Aeron and Elena are staying in, her condition will remain the same and it allows for various events between the two of them to occur.
- Informed Equipment: Aside from the weapons Aeron is carrying, any armor or accessories he's equipped with don't show up on his character model. Ironically, Elena will be seen with the accessories you give her.
- Insurmountable Waist High Fence: A lot of these in the towers.
- Item Crafting: Scattered through the first twelve towers are numerous objects, spoils and treasures that can be given to Mavda so she can upgrade the weapons Aeron finds, including the secret fourth weapon that can be found during the New Game+. Uniquely, the upgrade requirements can be chosen accordingly to the items gathered, though all of them will be necessary if the player seeks to completely empower the weapons. As far as money goes, the upgrades are all free. Also, ingredients can be given to Elena to cook.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mavda. She may seem indifferent to the critical situation of Aeron and Elena, but she actually cares a lot about them.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Collecting and translating the many journals and notes in the Thirteen Towers provides further backstory and how it relates to the current plot.
- Jousting Lance: Wielded by a highly damaging enemy type.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Aeron, to Elena.
- Lethal Lava Land: Crimson Keep and Blazing Citadel. They're ancient foundries where the molten metal is processed to make new weapons and armor. Historically, that weaponry was used by the conflicting kingdoms that surround the continent.
- Level Up Fill Up: Aeron's Hit Points are restored when he levels up.
- Limited Wardrobe: Aeron. Elena, on the other hand, has outfits that can be purchased/found for her. However, during cut-scenes, her clothing reverts to her default outfit.
- Living Weapon: The Masters of the Towers were created by the Elyrian army to be used in the war against Athos.
- Locked Door: The Red doors that need to be revisited during a New Game+; other doors require some puzzle solving to open.
- Lost Woods: Treetop and Arcadian Towers are a building version of this. Within their central hall, there's a tree that got to grow so much that its roots are present in many other rooms.
- Made of Iron: Aeron, despite dropping into a pit of molten lava, doesn't so much die horribly; instead, he will take heavy damage, and respawn at the entrance of the room he fell in.
- Miko: Elena, despite taking place in a world inspired by Greek Mythology.
- Mood Whiplash/Soundtrack Dissonance: The final boss theme is a waltz performed like an opera, and its lyrics are about love — all of this in the absolute happiest way possible.
- Multiple Endings:
- S is a Golden Ending: Aeron defeats Zeron, saves Elena from the Curse, and the Scar is closed as they both return to her village. Mavda writes to the King of Elyria of what has transpired, which prompts the king to make a full public disclosure of the military's horrific experiments in the Thirteen Towers, and Elyria and Athos eventually sue for peace. The credits even then turn this into a bittersweet end for Zeron herself, as it is revealed that she was pregnant when she began her transformation, showing that the gods of Aios had indeed answered her prayers.
- A is the Bittersweet Ending: Aeron defeats Zeron, but Elena is still cursed, so he and Elena sacrifice themselves to close the Scar, and their efforts are forgotten by all but the Vestra. Despite all this, peace continues to elude the kingdom of Elyria as border clashes persist.
- B is yet another Bittersweet Ending, more on the bitter side. Zeron still dwells within Elena's body, so she jumps into the Scar to seal her and the Curse. Aeron disappears and is never heard from again.
- C is a mostly Downer Ending. Mavda realizes that the chain doesn't have enough power to close the Scar, so she alerts the Elyrian army to where they are. The Elyrian army captures Elena, now transformed into Zeron, and uses her as leverage to blackmail Aeron into service with the military. Aeron is forced to betray and destroy his homeland by using his ability to influence Elena/Zeron to lead the Towers' Masters against the kingdom of Athos. With the might of the Masters, Elyria easily destroys Athos and becomes a powerful empire holding dominion over the continent.
- D is a Nonstandard Game Over, as it is simply the different outcome of a cutscene that happens just before the Shadelight towers. Still, it does count as an ending. Elena begins her transformation and begs Aeron to kill her. When he can't do it, she grabs his hand and forces him to shoot her in the heart with the Orichalcos chain. Years later, the curse continues to persist, and Mavda continues the cycle of bringing those cursed to the Thirteen Towers.
- Mysterious Backer: Mavda clearly knows a lot more about the curse and the entire situation Elena and Aeron are in than she's letting on, but when pressed, refuses to elaborate or claims not to know much at all. Though she seems genuine in also wanting Aeron to dispel Elena's curse.
- Names to Know in Anime:
- Nail 'Em: A New Game+ weapon found in one of the earlier towers is reminiscent of a large nail gun. The rough translation of its Japanese name is the: Exploding Style Siege Stake. Upon maxing out the upgrades for this weapon, its charge attack involves driving an exploding stake into an enemy's body and detonating a few seconds later, inflicting a lot of damage.
- New Game+: Once the game is completed (regardless of the ending triggered), it's possible to not only restart a new playthrough on the same file, but also choose from which part of the game to do so. The first option is the beginning, the second starts with the sixth tower, the third starts with the eleventh and the fourth and last starts with the finale (but since Elena is taken by force right after the completion of the 12th tower, it won't be possible to get a different, thus better, ending to that gotten in the first playthrough, so this last option is pointless unless the Golden Ending was already unlocked). In addition, Mavda will put into sale numerous new items, including gifts to keep increasing the affection with Elena, as well as a special key that can open all of those red doors in the towers that could never be opened in the first playthrough, giving access to rooms with unique treasures.
- Notice This: Almost everything you can interact with is marked with a sparkle. If you don't know what to do, start looking for them.
- Official Couple: The main objective of the game is that Aeron has to find a way to dispel Elena's curse so they can spend the rest of their lives together.
- OOC Is Serious Business: When Elena begins enjoying eating the Master Flesh, red flags should start going off.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The boss themes are a great example of this.
- One-Winged Angel: In the S ending, after the curse has disappeared from Elena's body, Zeron manifests herself as an enormous beast and pursues Aeron, Elena, and Mavda down the Centrum Tower.
- Only Smart People May Pass: Some of the 'puzzles' that require solving in order to move on to higher floors.
- Our Centaurs Are Different: The Master of the Ironclad Turret is a armored centaur holding two BFS and is prone to overheating if it's hit too much and/or fights for too long.
- Parental Abandonment: Averted with Elena: she may mention her parents and siblings when you talk to her in the house and also worries about them. Played straight with Aeron, though being a (mostly) Heroic Mime, it's not surprising.
- Pimped-Out Dress: At least in the opening scene, Elena wears a blue-green dress with lots of gold decoration.
- Planimal: Some enemies in the Treetop and Arcadian Towers. In the Dawn and Dusk Towers, a flying enemy with tree branches as wings that is this as well.
- Proud Merchant Race: The Dvelge (Doverugu) tribe that Mavda and Jii-chan come from. Mavda serves as the only 'shop' in-game where Aeron can stock up on supplies and presents for Elena, transmute items into new things, make repairs, upgrade his weapons, and so on. The English translation calls them the Vestra tribe.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Dies Irae is used as a basis for the song itself, but the lyrics are not the same.
- Purple Is The New Black: Of the darkness-themed tower.
- Puzzle Boss: The Masters in each tower have different weaknesses that must be found in order to damage them with the Orichalcos chain. Some are harder to find than others.
- The Quiet One: Aeron's word are limited to 'Elena' and a few short sentences. He does have dialogue, but is usually only voiced in the cutscenes and not often at that.
- Rank Inflation: The endings are labeled (from worst to best) D, C, B, A, and S.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Elena has red pupils, and considering her condition, this isn't too far off from being a warning. Aeron himself has red pupils as well.
- Relationship Values: Represented by a symbolic chain on the screen that shows how well Aeron and Elena get along. This is important, as it determines which ending you will get.
- Run Don't Walk: Aeron's default speed is 'sort of' fast. Then again, considering the importance of his mission, this is a good thing. Even if you never use them in combat, the daggers will earn their keep for granting increased movement speed.
- Sanity Slippage: The stronger Aeron and Elena's connection by the finale, the more demented and incoherent Zeron becomes in her desire to reunite with Aeron. In Ending C she barely considers him; in endings B and A she calmly delivers some background exposition before fighting; and in Ending S she's unable to do anything more but scream out her love for him, leaving Elena and Mavda to explain what the heck her deal was.
- Save Point: The desk where Aeron keeps his journal.
- The main 'theme' song that plays as well as the song that Elena sings/hums is Liebesträume by Franz Liszt.
- Leaving Elena alone for too long until you get an eventual game over screen is very similar to Ico.
- Shy Blue-Haired Girl: Elena, most of the time.
- Sinister Scythe: The second weapon Aeron finds is a large scythe, the Military Scythe.
- Sliding Scale Of Linearity Versus Openness: the game starts in a linear fashion as you clear the towers one by one, but after the first five you're invited to complete the following five in any order; this allows you to get certain collectible items earlier to upgrade more often your weapons and tools, as well as bring gifts to Elena to increase the affection status between her and Aeron. When they're all cleared, two more towers open and require to be beaten simultaneously, but the ability to warp between them means that the order of going through the rooms is up to the player. And then there's the final level.
- Smashing Survival: Some enemies/bosses will grab Aeron, requiring some button mashing to break free and not get eaten.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Aeron and Elena's relationship got off to a pretty rough start: Elena was shunned by most of her home village and even her family for being the only person willing to treat Aeron's wounds, since he was an enemy soldier from Athos and the country was at war at the time. After his recovery, it's implied it's rather difficult for them to even see each other: in the intro cutscene at the Harvest Festival, Aeron has to disguise himself to avoid being pegged as an Athosian. Played straight in all endings (their relationship is doomed) except for the S ending.
- Stationary Boss: The master of the Crimsom Keep fits the bill.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Much of the wonders inside the thirteen towers, especially the inhabitants of them, were the products of extensive research, which was abandoned after the failure of experiment Zero, which it was all leading up to.
- Super Drowning Skills: Aeron cannot swim; falling into water in some of the towers means he has to respawn at the entrance.
- Team Mom: Elena to an extent, as she takes care of all the domestic tasks in the tower, such as cooking and cleaning. While Aeron is out slaying monsters and gathering meat, she's at home doing housework.
- Variable-Length Chain: The Orichalcos chain that Aeron uses to gather meat and kill monsters with. What can't it do?
- Variable Mix: The final boss's theme is gradually replaced by Elena singing as Zeron's cores are destroyed.
- Vendor Trash: "Reading Material" beyond fleshing out the setting and sometimes having hints to upcoming obstacles is useless. Beast flesh is important, but it is easy to end up with far more of it than you can use before it goes bad.
- Underground Level: Inverted with the Sheerdrop Spire and the Rockshard Rampart. Their layouts, structures, puzzles and overall atmosphere are themed around mineral caverns; the inversion is because they're towers, so the placement of the cavernal rooms aren't underground but upward.
- The Unintelligible: The old Vestra man Mavda carries on her back only "speaks" in random mumbles.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: The third boss is a surprisingly difficult one. He's the first boss that moves his flesh very fast across his body, despite having a mostly stationary body. What makes him hard is that it shoots jetstreams capable of dealing massive damage while you are trying to hit his flesh. He also has other countermeasures, one of which are Combat Tentacles.
- War Is Hell: Mostly played from the perspective of civilians feeling the indirect effects of the conflict as it drains the economy.
- Was Once a Man: Most of the tower beasts were created from animals. The masters used to be people, as did Zeron.
- Water Is Air: Some rooms give the illusion of being flooded but do not affect Aeron in anyway, besides making him have to deal with things that swim through the "water" as if they were flying.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The A Ending reveals that Zeron caused the Catastrophe 50 years ago to prevent the Elyrian army from repeating the experiments that created her, which would have given them bioweapons to start a new war, and that if she does not unite with Aeron, the world will never know peace, only more pointless suffering in war. Ending C proves that she is correct.
- Whip It Good: The chain can be used as a whip-projectile, where Aeron can 'shoot' it at flying monsters, and can link attacks if properly timed.
- World-Healing Wave: In three out of five endings, the Scar is closed by one.
- Yandere: Zeron in endings A and S. The reason why she takes Elena with her is to lure Aeron to her whereabouts.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Elena has a powder-blue hue to her hair.