Published by: Koei
Developed by: Arte Piazza
Release Date: Out Now
Taking a cursory look at the artwork on the front of the game, you might be tempted to think that Opoona was a game for young children. The screenshots on the back of the box would certainly help to reinforce this way of thinking as you can see simplistically designed characters that kind of look as though they were short and chunky Playmobil figures. Whilst there's no denying that the characters in the game certainly have a cutesy charm about them, Opoona is not a game that's been aimed at children. In fact the game is an enjoyable RPG and on a console that's been starved of RPGs, that's certainly good news.
The story in the game revolves around a young Tizian called Opoona and his family. The family all board their spacecraft and head off on their vacation. Things take a turn for the worse however and they crash land on the Planet Landroll. Thankfully all the members of Opoona's family survive the crash but Opoona learns that his mother and father were hurt during the accident (Opoona and his siblings evacuated the spacecraft in escape pods and were relatively unharmed) and he's unable to see them. To begin with he's also separated from his brother, Copoona and his sister, Poleena although it's not long before he's reunited with both of them. To cut a long story short, and to avoid spoiling anything, Opoona has to do a variety of professions, starting off as a trainee ranger, in order to gain the freedom to move between the various Residential Domes on Landroll and the tasks you have to carry out, along with the combat, form the main chunk of the game-play.
Combat in Opoona is unusual but it's easy to get to grips with and there's a fair bit of strategy involved with it. Opoona has a small sphere, called a Bonbon, which floats above his head. In battle Opoona uses this Bonbon to inflict damage on his opponents. You'll throw the Bonbon by either pulling back on the analogue stick (either the stick on the nunchuk attachment or the right stick of the classic controller) or by pushing it forward and then letting go of it. You can swerve the Bonbon too which can help to navigate around enemies who are rushing toward you, hitting those who are at the rear. You can't simply hurl the Bonbon like crazy however as throwing it uses up energy and you have to wait for the energy meter to refill before you can throw it again. You can increase the strength of the throw by keeping the stick either held back or pushed forward until your energy meter depletes before you let go of the stick. Of course the more energy you use in a throw, the longer the meter will take to replenish. To spice things up a little you can add enhancements to the Bonbon. Opoona's Bonbon has two slots for coating enhancements and three slots for other enhancements that can improve the performance of it. You can also use force abilities during a battle and you can access items that can be used. It's important to point out however, that items have to be moved from your general inventor to your character's pockets in order to be accessed during a battle.
There's more to Opoona than just combat. To move the story forward you'll have to do a variety of professions and to do those professions you'll have to have a licence. Of course you'll have rankings for each of these and the higher the rank you are, the more challenging the job you'll receive. The professions range from being a ranger to a fisherman. Some of these jobs you'll have to do are optional. It's good to have a wide range of professions to undertake but it's not much fun having to obtain the necessary licenses and jobs and it usually involves a lot of travelling back and forth and at times you'll question whether it's worth the effort. Along the way you'll get to strike up some friendships, visit cafes and restaurants, engage in some secret code collection and shopping and banking as you see fit as well as other things. Not all of these activities are essential however. Landroll is an easy on the eyes environment and it's rather pleasant to explore too, although you'll find yourself exploring it when you don't want to thanks to an inadequate map.
There are some problems with Opoona. The map that you can access is pretty much a waste of time and provides no real information at all, particularly when you're inside one of the Domes. It does nothing to help you if you become disorientated. Some of the mission objectives you're given are vague and there are times when you will either be unsure of what you're supposed to be doing or completely baffled, which is unfortunate. The constant pursuit of licences also becomes quite tedious. The licences are effectively barriers that stop you from fully exploring the planet and its numerous facilities, until you're a certain level which is understandable but in the early part of the game you'll be annoyed with how many areas are blocked off to you as it limits your ability to simply explore the game world. When you're outside of the Domes the camera is irritating to say the least. You can't change the camera angle and you're given a side-on view. This can be really annoying when you're searching for items and the fixed camera perspective does not afford you with a view that enables you to see the whole width of the area that you're passing through. This means you'll not only have to go left and right but also up and down in order to fully search the area that you're travelling through. Opoona uses random battles and the battles occur quite frequently. If you are defeated you're simply returned to the last save point and you'll move forward a day. All of the experience and money that you've earned is kept (aside from a small fee that is charged for bringing you back safely). The battles are time limited (the time limit is displayed on the top right of the screen) which seems a little strange. Should the time run out you'll be knocked out. Thankfully you always seem to be given a generous amount of time so it's not a real problem.
As with many Wii games Opoona isn't graphically impressive. That's not to say it's a bad looking game but it's certainly difficult to argue that this game could not have looked just as good on the GameCube or even the PlayStation 2. Everything has been kept simplistic, including the animations. As we said at the beginning of the review, the game does have a certain visual charm despite the lack of graphical display on offer. From a performance perspective, Opoona is certainly impressive. The game has a super smooth frame rate that never falters and the load times are amazingly quick meaning you're never faced with a loading screen when moving from one location to the next.
The dialogue in Opoona is in text only meaning deaf gamers will have absolutely no problems with the game. Not only is the dialogue exclusively in text but you can also read the text at your own pace as a button press is required to move the dialogue forward. All of the information in the game is shown visually, either through text, numbers or icons etc., so deaf gamers will have full access to the information in the game. All of the tutorial information is provided in text too. The manual, 25 pages of which are in English, has been well written and is well presented using screenshots as well as text to enable the reader to learn the basics of the game with just a minimal amount of reading.
There's a lot to like in Opoona and even though it provides a more relaxed experience than most RPGs out there it's still a game that most RPG fans should appreciate. The battle system is rather unusual but it works well and it's good to see that you have a choice of which control method you can use (the options being nunchuk & remote, nunchuk and classic controller). The game could have been better however. Some of the mission objectives could have been clearer and the map for the most part is useless. Problems aside, Opoona is enjoyable. The Wii has been starved of RPGs and for fans of the genre Opoona is well worth a look. The laid-back pace of the game is a little unusual for an RPG and in truth this isn't a typical Japanese RPG experience, it feels like an adventure game at times, but in some ways it's all the more refreshing for it.