Arcana of Paradise -The Tower is a real-time roguelike deckbuilding survival adventure published by SHUEISHA GAMES and developed by TASTO ALPHA. Originally set to be released in late 2022 under the title The Tower: To the Bottom, the newly renamed Arcana of Paradise -The Tower is set to be released in April for PC and Nintendo Switch. According to the game’s website, you’ll choose from up to twenty children and perfect your deck as you battle against The Tower’s bizarre inhabitants in real-time. But how does this mysterious journey to the bottom start out?
When the game boots up, you are met with a beautifully drawn title sequence showcasing children at the top of an impending tower as a whale floats in the sky. All of this is scored to a gorgeous music piece that is as comforting as it is foreboding. Who are these children with such unorthodox names? Why are they in this tower that has fallen to ruin, and what exactly is the driving force behind the supernatural occurrences that happen with each passing day? These questions drive the game’s intrigue, and Arcana of Paradise -The Tower excels at its ability to build off of its simplicity.
As you prepare your tasks with each passing day, ration out your food to make sure that all of these adorable children don’t die of starvation, and dive deeper into the tower for the sake of uncovering its mysteries, that intrigue continues to grow. The game seems simple because you’re keeping track of many fundamental things that initially seem manageable. You have a set amount of food that must be saved for all your kids. The game functions on a card-based combat system where you need to draw the ability to swing a sword or regain some health. But you can shuffle your hand whenever you want, so cycling through the main cards you want is easy. The more enemies you defeat, the more you level up and the more cards you can add to your deck. While I started with five children and only got the chance to save two, I can see the potentially limitless options down the road.
The more ground you want to cover, the more simple tasks you need to juggle, and that’s when I began to see the game enthrall me into a false sense of security. What can start as a relatively small group can become a more involved community that needs to be looked after. You have to start weighing options regarding whether or not you play it safe to build what you have, or do you continuously take chances by potentially taking on stronger and more dangerous enemies? When you unlock more options that require bread as payment, do you try to gain the benefits right away or prioritize your characters’ health? This delicate balancing act the game loves to throw you in can be frustrating but in a commendable way. That sense of tension that comes with each new development or feeling of relief with each blessing that comes your way is all extremely natural. For a game with this type of presentation, I wasn’t expecting my intrigue to be gripped so tightly after the first hour.
That isn’t to say that Arcana of Paradise -The Tower has a lackluster presentation, which is far from the truth. If anything, the game’s style remains one of its most defining aspects. The character sprites are beautifully drawn and well-layered onto well-rendered backdrops. The slight motion tweening used for them with their idle animations can come off as mere puppetry, but I found that it matched the art direction very charmingly. The more surreal elements regarding the game’s lore and the tower’s mysteries can draw you in, while the soundtrack is gorgeously atmospheric when a new day starts. There is special attention to the intensity of the soundtrack ramping up as you go deeper into the tower.
The only sour point about the presentation comes down to the character designs themselves. Many of the children and some of the more humanoid-looking enemies can come off as generic and uninspired. That could be part of the appeal when you have one child whose name is based on a cat, and the only thing distinct about her is that she has cat-shaped hair buns. But I hope the game introduces more character designs that match the elaborate detail of the backgrounds and setting. After all, the game can already look so visually distinct despite technically only taking place in one location.
Overall, Arcana of Paradise -The Tower feels like something I want to dive deeper into when it comes out. The visuals are mostly spot on, with an amazing soundtrack that elevates what appears to be a compelling mystery. Gameplay is simple, but it’s all to facilitate that sense of mystery and further expand on that sense of tension as you descend literally and metaphorically. Naturally, we’ll have to see what all this builds to, but if you were looking for something digestible with a solid amount of substance, then I don’t think you could go wrong with Arcana of Paradise -The Tower and its currently modest price point.