Opoona - Staff Review  

Landroll Idol Finalist
by Sean Kepper

Click here for game information
Easy to Moderate
Around 30-40 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Koei's Opoona is the newest RPG for the Wii. It is a unique experience that has never really been seen before. With cutesy characters and a somewhat fun set of mini-games, there is something for everyone here.

   The game starts off with Opoona aboard his father's ship. His whole family is there: his parents (Dadeena and Mameena), his younger brother (Copoona), and his sister (Poleena). They are Tizians: a race of super-powered aliens with the ability to psychically control mystical bonbons. Bonbons float around the persons of the Tizians and come in all shapes and sizes. By psychically controlling them, bonbons can strike their foes with enough force to break bones. This makes them much feared.

   Soon enough the ship is shot down and the family is forced to evacuate. Shot out in separate escape pods, the family is separated and strewn about Landroll, the planet that they were orbiting. Seeing as how all residents of Landroll must have a job, Opoona is assigned to the Landroll Rangers. As a Ranger he is tasked with completing various missions outside of the domes. He must complete all the tasks assigned to him to be allowed to travel between the different cities in search of his family. Completing these tasks covers the vast majority of the game's thirty hour storyline.

   Like most games, Opoona's story has its ups and downs. It starts off interestingly enough, but there is just not enough there to keep the player going. The major twists and turns are all visible from hours away, and the story fails to be particularly gripping as a result. The ending is also very weak, but at least the opportunity to continue playing after the credits is offered.

   Playable characters are not very well fleshed out; rarely do they have any spoken lines, and when they do their tendency is to always do the "right" thing. All in all, they simply lack personality. Over the course of the story, Opoona has the opportunity to meet many people, some of whom he can be become fast friends with. Friends will test him, ask for gifts, and will just want to talk. Building friendships is necessary to complete the game and can be a lot of fun, as a fair bit can be learned about the world through them.

The ukulele is my life! The ukulele is my life!

   Ranger is not the only job available to Opoona. By meeting people, he can earn licenses that allow him to take on other jobs. The majority of these will take the form of mini-games, such as fishing, sweeping, and fortune-telling. Some of these extra licenses are tied into the main storyline, some are used to promote friendships with some friends, and other are purely optional. Completing the bulk of the side quests really pads the game time. Many of the side quests require Opoona to have certain levels of non-combat stats, such as Love, Integrity, and Fame. These are leveled by completing tasks and becoming friends with the people of Landroll. Towards the end of the game, players are expected to be masters at some of these jobs. Forcing the player to do these repetitive tasks just makes the game drag on.

   While the characters and story are weak, Opoona's strength lies in its combat. Tizians require a lot of power to control their bonbons and can only keep them under control for about two minutes at the start of the game. If this time limit expires, the Tizians fall unconscious and the battle is lost. The battles are extremely fast-paced: the enemies will swarm the party, even when looking through spell lists and items.

   Tizians attack by tilting the analog stick on the Wii nunchuck. Bonbons can be hurled at all sorts of angles and velocities depending on how much and in which direction the control stick is held. This plays heavily into the strategy involved in battle. Some enemies are more easily taken down by shots to the top of their heads, while others are armored by shields on their right sides and cannot be effectively attacked from that direction. There are also many obstacles in the battlefields that must be avoided by attacking around them. When the party grows to the maximum size of three, there is plenty of action, and the game just doesn't give the player the chance to breathe, especially against bosses.

   The combat is really a lot of fun, but it happens way too often due to a nasty encounter rate. Even though most battles are really quick and easy, sometimes Opoona and his siblings must fight off as many as ten enemies at a time, and damage really adds up fast in these situations. Many boss battles feature a steep incline in difficulty, which can result in an ugly shock for some players. Luckily, the game is very forgiving, as death will drop Opoona back to where the game was last saved with all progress intact, less a small amount of cash. Unfortunately, damage dealt to the party is not displayed on the screen but simply removed from the health meters at the bottom of the screen, which adds to the difficulty in more challenging fights.

I wish I was that strong... BOOOOOM! I wish I was that strong... BOOOOOM!

   Not only are some enemies resistant to attacks from certain angles and velocities, but some are also able to catch the bonbons. This disables a character completely, leaving them almost defenseless. All in all, this is an interesting battle system that requires a fair bit of strategy, a lot of quick thinking, and really good reflexes.

   Battle system aside, there are several glaring issues with some of the more basic aspects of the game. First of all, the game claims to be playable with one hand. While this is indeed true, the nunchuck just doesn't have enough buttons to use it comfortably. Luckily, the Wiimote adds some buttons, and it can also be played with the Classic controller as well. Secondly, the camera is annoying. It is hard to control (especially with one hand) and it tends to wander into walls. Lastly, the towns are much too big. It often takes an hour or two to just explore the place, let alone talk to people and make friends. Often the player will be stuck in a town for several hours to complete all the available licenses. This by itself is not very bad, but most cities are spread out on multiple floors. Each floor is connected to the others by elevators, but the elevators themselves are not connected: to go up two floors the player must use two elevators. The option to go up multiple floors at once would have been very welcome, as the load times necessary to explore would be slashed.

   The visuals in Opoona will not impress many people, but at least they are clean. The environments are vibrant and the engine performs well all around. The character models are another story. The monsters are heavily palette swapped, as are some NPCs found wandering in the towns. To make matters worse, a lot of the unique friends that Opoona can make don't even have their own models. And the icing on the cake: Tizians just look stupid.

   The music is decent, but rather forgettable. There is no voice work at all, which saves the world from hearing the Tizians speak, for which thanks should probably be given. The effects are nothing to write home about, and for some queer reason some boss battles seem to be devoid of any sound effects at all.

   Like most RPGs, the difficulty in Opoona is variable. Leveling up the party helps a lot more than modifying their bonbons, so twenty minutes spent grinding is usually enough to overcome any challenge. Couple that with the lack of real penalty for dying, and it makes the game quite easy.

   Opoona is not a game for everyone. Those that want a very addictive and enjoyable battle system will really enjoy this game. Those that are looking for a deep storyline and engaging characters will find nothing of the sort here, which is unfortunate.

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