Wii Review Round-Up 61

Pandora’s Tower

This is the third in a trilogy of Japanese RPGs which Nintendo of Europe decided to localise (probably as a bit of market research to see how many so-called “core gamers” were still out there playing Wii).

To be honest I was only moderately curious about this game. The story sounded weird and it seemed like it could be fun or possibly too limited in scope to be of much interest. Both of these things are true, but I bought it mainly to show my support for Nintendo’s efforts in the hopes we might see other games that haven’t been localised like Earth Seeker, Captain Rainbow or even Excite Bots (I can dream, can’t I?).

Well, as I said the premise is pretty weird: you control a dashing young man with cute hair who rescues a princess (some kind of lass of importance) who changes into a monster one day when heading a festival. You flee to a foreboding (forbidden?) part of the world where a bunch of towers on a floating island are apparently holding the crust of the earth together via giant chains. Gameplay consists of daily excursions to nearby ruins to fight monsters and try to find a cure for the princess.

There’s a funky dating-sim element that breaks up the monster-thumping action which comprises the bulk of the game. Your character needs to kill monsters in the towers on the floating island and bring their pulsing flesh back to the maiden for her to eat, lest she turn into a monster forever. The weird crone who has helped you by cluing you into this cure for the maiden’s curse helps you further with upgrades to your weapons (for a price naturally) and recipes for the ingredients you take off your defeated enemies to create other useful items.

The story is intriguing in the way the origin of the curse is revealed, but the gameplay is the big weak point. This is very much an action game: the interludes where you chat with the maiden are the only thing that’s really RPG-like beside stat-levelling. That’s fine because I like 3rd-person action games, but unfortunately the environments aren’t terribly varied and neither is the action. You go through each tower trying to locate and unlock a door to the tower’s “master,” fighting loads of lesser beasts on the way with a meter in the corner counting down the minutes until your fair one turns into a monster herself. The clock runs down sufficiently fast and exploring each tower takes enough time that you’ll need to head back to your base near the towers at least once to give the maiden some ordinary monster flesh to hold off the progression of her curse. Once she’s asleep and her “curse meter” is temporarily reset you return to defeat the boss and then come back for some more chat and gift-giving before moving on to the next tower.

After doing a few of these, I felt I had pretty much seen everything Pandora’s Tower had to offer. The idea of going through a dozen of these towers in two or more trips each fighting the same minor monsters over and over again just didn’t grab me, interesting story or no. I don’t regret the purchase because I do want more Japanese games localised (and I’m getting a groovy complementary coin set for my Nintendo club rewards), but there are better action games with RPG components to be had on the Wii than this.

Pac-Man Party

I’ve been playing Wii more with my daughter so I felt this party game would be a good choice and besides I’d finally get the classic Pac-Man arcade game for my Wii, which is strangely absent from the Virtual Console Arcade. A lot of critics picked on the fact that the mini-games included really don’t have a lot to do with Pac-Man and that’s fair enough, but it’s actually a pretty decent game in the “video board game” mould, so it shouldn’t be completely dismissed.

The object is to travel around the board trying to collect a set number of dots (referred to as “cookies” in-game), building castles as you go (think Monopoly house-building and upgrading). Mini-games are used to work out control over castles when multiple players are on the same “square” or if a player lands on someone else’s castle. There’s co-operative boss fights in each of the “board” variants included to break up the mini-game battles and a couple of special spaces which result in awards or penalties that can turn the tide of the game. There’s a decent amount of movement possible in the scores, so it’s quite possible for a player to start a turn in the lead and reach the end of the board last depending on their fortunes in the mini-game battles.

The biggest attraction for old-school gamers like me is the “arcade” bonus area which contains a choice of three games: Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. The emulation is generally decent (though shockingly this version of Pac-Man lacks the intermissions), but considering Pac-Man Party was released for the 30th anniversary of the original arcade game I really expected something more – like every Pac-Man sequel and variant released in the arcades, maybe? It’s an extra so it’s not worth crying about, but considering Pac-Man is Namco’s corporate mascot, you’d think they’d have made more of an effort.

Pac-Man Party isn’t the most creative use of a license I’ve seen, but it’s pretty fun and a decent representative of the party game genre. As long as you aren’t looking for a classic arcade fix you’ll be fine.

Prince of Persia (Virtual Console SNES)

A classic 8-bit computer game given the Super Nintendo treatment. You’re put in the role of a young prince who must rescue a princess from an evil vizir or king or whatever and must traverse deadly pits and time-based challenges in order to get a sword and defeat the baddie before time runs out and she’s executed or whatever. Ground-breaking in its use of life-like character animation, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who was playing games in the 80s who didn’t at least hear about this game.

The SNES version is true to the computer-based original with a bit more graphical detail and larger colour palette, but it’s just as unforgiving. Players get sent back to the start if they die (if there are checkpoints, they’re pretty widely spread apart) and there’s a fixed time limit. There are unlimited lives, but each attempt will use more of the sand in your hourglass. There is a code system you can use if you need to stop partway through (though with the Virtual Console pause feature you won’t need this), but this is a game that pretty well demands you finish it in one 30min. sitting.

It’s hard to imagine people paying full-retail for this when it first released given the punishing difficulty, but for the low price of 800 Nintendo Points it’s a nice bit of history for old-school platforming fans.