"Are you like married to this girl?" she asked while watching me playing Pandora’s Tower. "Not exactly," I replied, "you’re sort of courting her by making sure she doesn’t turn into a slime monster." I probably should’ve explained the game better that time, so let me give it a second shot here…
Pandora’s Tower is an action RPG-meets-dating sim. Building the relationship between Aeron and Elena is really the heart of Jump Ultimate Stars developer Ganbarion’s game. In the beginning, Elena is cursed after singing at the Harvest Festival and Aeron has to venture through Thirteen Towers with purple meat in hand to stop her from transforming into a monster.
Pandora’s Tower is played on a clock and if you don’t periodically return, Elena will sprout slimy appendages. Eating monster meat changes her back, but being late deteriorates your relationship.
While you’re whipping monsters, Elena plays the role of a homemaker. She lives on her own schedule cooking breakfast in the morning and sweeping in the afternoon. Sometimes, you’ll see her singing outside or wiping ooze off the floor (if she starts to transform). You can sit down and have a meal with Elena or bring her items from the dungeon as gifts. For instance, she’s fond of a kind of fruit you can get by defeating monsters, but don’t try to give her a wolf pelt. (Note to self: no bloody wolf pelts for Valentine’s Day…) As your relationship grows, Elena expresses concern for Aeron’s journey. She’ll look worried before you run on a giant chain towards the towers and later she may even make you HP restoring candy. If you arrive home late at night, Elena will get out of bed to see how you’re doing.
The fastest way to Elena’s heart is through homemade gifts. Mavda, a creepy merchant living in your closet, will make bracelets and sell you flower bouquets. How does Mavda get these items when she never leaves? Who knows. Elena will decorate the house with these items like placing a tablecloth. The catch is you need materials to make items and Aeron can only carry so much stuff. I found myself siding towards Elena dropping materials to upgrade Aeron’s weapons so I could return with pendant parts. All of these little gifts and chats ultimately change Pandora’s Tower’s ending.
"You have to bring her food, you buy her gifts, and she waits for you to get home. You’re pretty much married." She had a point, even though Elena and Aeron are "getting to know each other" in the game. They have a connection, but I won’t say anymore about that.
As charming as watching their relationship develop is, Aeron has to delve into dungeons otherwise the two of them will face an unhappy ending. Armed with a chain and a sword, Pandora’s Tower has a unique control scheme where you press a button to slash with your sword and point at the screen to aim a chain. It’s a novel set up that adds in light gun mechanics with swordplay, although a bit tricky to get used to at first. One neat trick is you can tie monsters together by firing the chain at one creature and then pointing at a different monster. Aeron can also pull armor off some enemies and rip out meat for Elena.
Even though Aeron picks up new weapons, Pandora’s Tower gives you the core tools for all of the boss fights in the beginning of the game. Similar to Shadow of the Colossus, boss fights are puzzles that have players use the chain in different ways. Probably the toughest part about each battle is the clock, which is usually about to run out if this is your first time reaching the boss’ lair.
And you’re going to want to get back quickly because Elena is anxiously awaiting your return—not for a piece of vile meat, but to see Aeron safe and sound.