(Wii)

Opoona (Wii)

Game Review

Opoona Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

Stranger in a strange land...

Would you like to hear a story? Good! This is a story about Opoona and his family: his daddy is a famous Cosmo Guard -- that's right, Opoona and his family are from the planet Tizia. In fact, Opoona's daddy is one of the most famous Cosmo Guards ever! He was recently awarded the title of Startizian -- a rank only a few in thousands of years have achieved -- so he was given the use of a space ship to take Opoona, Copoona, Poleena and their mummy off on holiday to the famous world of Landroll. I'm sure you've heard of it: Landroll is the planet where centuries ago a Dark Force comet struck and threatened to consume the planet, until a mysterious beam of light divided the world into two halves of eternal daylight and undending darkness. Anyway, Opoona's family were getting ready to land when suddenly something struck their ship and caused it to crash! Just before impact Opoona's mummy and daddy hurried him and his brother and sister to the escape pods and sent them off to safety. Opoona awoke to find his parents were injured and recovering in hospital. Alone and separated from his brother and sister he found he had to make his way alone in an alien world...

Thus is the stage set for the latest RPG from Koei, a company that is best known for creating detail-oriented historic wargames and simulations. Whilst Opoona's sci-fi theme may be a bit of a departure for the veteran publisher/developer, Koei's simulation experience is put to good use in creating an interesting and believable world with endearing characters which should appeal to gamers who like a good story -- whether you've played RPGs or not.

If you have played role-playing games before, Opoona will come off as a mix of old and new. The environments are 3D and frequently have animated objects and people in them, but this is not an action-adventure game and a lot of time is spent going from place to place conversing with various characters in-between battling the agents of the Dark Force called "rogues." Landroll is a meritocracy where everyone is believed to have a role to play in society. As a result Opoona is expected to make a contribution -- despite being an alien -- whilst he waits for his parents to recuperate. Given his Cosmo Guard heritage it's suggested he join the Landroll Rangers, a group of soldiers who protect the domes Lanrollians have been forced to live in due to roaming rogues that have gradually crossed over from the dark side of the planet.

Landroll Ranger is just one of the jobs that Opoona will have in the course of his adventures, but it's the main one he'll be undertaking thoughout the game. Progressing through the ranks of the Landroll Rangers and other jobs will mean travel between the many domes of Landroll, each of which has its own unique features and inhabitants. By taking on various jobs you'll be given access to new areas and equipment as well as rewarded with the energy called matia, which is used as currency on Landroll for buying various items such as food and drink to restore health, offensive weapons to use against enemies or to save for hastening Opoona's parents' recovery. Though there are many jobs to perform in the domes many of them are optional. Through encounters with the elemental spirits of Landroll it quickly becomes apparent to Opoona that he's destined to help save the planet from the rogues and bring happiness to the people. Making friends is an important part of this so talking to people is something you'll do a lot of. The more you interact with Landroll's inhabitants the better your friendships will become, and ultimately you'll need a lot of friends in order to save the world so be friendly and do a good job!

Opoona resembles a children's story in tone and execution. The human characters are represented with distinctive physical characteristics like large noses or crazy hair and everything is overlaid with a subtle cell-shaded look. There are some unique characters like Serge the concierge, or Goldy, the head of the Landroll Rangers, but unfortunately model re-use is common and you'll often find yourself chatting up someone thinking it's a character you've met before only to have it turn out to be some generic person that happens to look like their twin. Opoona and the other Tizians look like they were designed by Fisher-Price and have faces that appear to be drawn on their smooth, round heads with markers. Despite the simple design they're quite expressive and Opoona's reactions are a delight to behold, wonderfully conveying his openness and innocence. The domes largely consist of rooms connected by bland corridors, but each dome is given plenty of personality to set it apart from the others with large indoor and outdoor areas for parks, fields and water features. There's a lot of sculpture and art installations to view, many of which are animated. These and other details abound which bring the domes to life and make the world real.

Being a Landroll Ranger often involves roaming outside the domes to fight rogues. Unlike the dome interiors where you can move the camera about as you please, outside the domes you're limited to a simple up/down tilt and mostly follow a fixed path littered with random rogue battles and treasure boxes that contain special items or matia. It's a bit of a shame as many of the areas outside the domes are as nicely detailed as the interiors with lava and water effects on display. Throughout the game Hitoshi Sakamoto's excellent soundtrack is there to motivate and entertain you (regrettably this has not been released separately on CD); marking another excellent effort from the composer of other well-regarded game soundtracks such as Gradius V and Final Fantasy XII.

Random encounters with rogues serve to increase Opoona's level to the point where he can go toe to toe with the next level of enemies and bosses. Though the battles aren't terribly lengthy, having a random encounter literally every 2-4 seconds can get tiresome; especially after 10+ hours of play! Thankfully there is an item you can purchase to avoid them for a limited time and the battles themselves are interesting due to Opoona's rather novel control system. You can choose to play using the Classic Controller or the Remote and Nunchuk, but the game works very well using the Nunchuk alone -- an unusual choice, but one recommended in the manual and referenced throughout the game as the default control method. No motions are used at all, and since Opoona doesn't do any jumping the controls are fairly basic: when roaming use the (STICK) alone to move Opoona, press and hold (C) to change the camera angle with the (STICK), press (C) to speak to people or interact with objects, press and hold (C) and (Z) to reset the camera behind Opoona and press (Z) to bring up the OMP.

The OMP is the game's in-game inventory system: conceptually a PDA which not only has your stats, but contains all your equipment, lists your jobs (and licenses required to perform them), allows you to buy certain items and contains "TV programmes" which tell stories that expose you to more Landrollian culture (programmes change from dome to dome). Whilst the OMP acts as your hub and in-game menu, it doesn't allow you to save progress: for that you need to activate one of the pink save terminals that litter the game like parking meters.

Battles work much like a realtime version of those found in old turn-based RPGs: there's no running or jumping action, but you do need to use items and carry out attacks against enemies that will be attacking you at the same time. Being a Tizian, Opoona's primary weapon is the Energy Bonbon: a sphere which is constantly floating above his head. Attacking is via the (STICK): holding it in various directions charges the Bonbon with energy from a reserve and controls the direction it travels in after you release the (STICK) to launch it at the currently targeted enemy. Every launch requires waiting for your energy to recharge to full capacity before you can take another action so there's a trade-off between using only a small amount of energy; therefore allowing more frequent, but slower, less-powerful attacks and using more energy for a less-frequent, but more powerful and faster attack. Pressing (C) and using the (STICK) allows you to change targets between attacks; if you're charging up your Bonbon and need to swap targets you can press (Z) to toggle through them. Pressing (Z) between attacks brings up a menu where you can choose to use items (only items that you've moved into your "pocket" via the OMP prior to battle are available for use), change your Bonbon add-ons (upgrades to enhance offensive or defensive capabilities that are purchased or acquired through various means in the course of the game) or use "Force Powers" -- magic abilities that have offensive or defensive properties.

Early in the game battles aren't too tough and you'll only face a few enemies at a time, but later on it can get quite frantic with multiple enemies attacking you at once. You only have two minutes to complete any given battle (otherwise you run out of energy and collapse) so there is some strategy involved in determining which enemies to take down first and via what means. If you fail and are defeated by rogues you'll awaken near the closest save station restored to minimal health with the explanation that you've been rescued by sages -- they'll also deduct some matia for the favour. Whilst it's nice not to have to restore from a previous save, having to trek through underground caves and numerous random encounters to get back to a boss fight can be slightly annoying after the 3rd or 4th attempt!

If you don't enjoy the battle system you're going to have a big problem because it features heavily in the game even when you're not outside patrolling. Healing the sick or fixing computer bugs involves fighting "virtual rogues" which are synthesised by sages (mystics and healers on Landroll and Tizia) or computer systems to represent human or computer maladies. This conceit seems a bit lazy; even moreso when you go fishing and find yourself using the same battle system to "catch" fish -- only your fishing rod has a Bonbon! There are plenty of jobs which don't involve the battle system though many of these involve collecting things by touching them and pressing (C). Thankfully very few of these activities are so challenging they drag the game down overmuch and there's more to the game than fighting and doing chores!

Exploration is something you'll need to enjoy if you're going to get the most out of Opoona as you can expect to do quite a bit of roaming as you try to learn your way around the domes. Whilst your OMP does contain a GPS, it only shows you a map and your location; without a legend to indicate what the map is actually showing it's not terribly useful. There are usually signs to indicate general areas, but the game doesn't hold your hand with any on-screen indicator of where you should go. You'll need to have a good memory and learn your way around or take notes along the way when you're told where to report for your next assignment. Don't forget that the OMP will show you information about your current jobs and remember to talk to friends who can lead you to new people and places which will advance the story. It's not too demanding, but this definitely isn't a game you can put down for an extended period of time and expect to be able to pick up again easily!

Conclusion

Opoona should appeal to a broad range of ages with its unique visuals and heartfelt story. Whilst there is a bit of repetition in the battle system the game world and its characters are endearing enough that anyone looking for a good story-based game to play would be advised to give it a look.

Note: This review only describes a portion of the game story to avoid spoilers for those who haven't played it yet. We hope our readers will respect this when making comments below.

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User Comments (27)

grenworthshero

#1

grenworthshero said:

7/10 is a pretty legitimate score for a game that has as many little quirks and flaws as this one, but to some (like me) that's what gives the game its personality and draws one into its unique world. For those who haven't played this game, it requires a certain degree of patience, but if you persevere, the end is a most rewarding outcome.

primeris

#2

primeris said:

This came out in the US in March? How come I hadn't heard of it? Well, I'm a fan of stories, might just pick this up :)

Firefly

#3

Firefly said:

I bought this game a month ago for 10€ in a store...and I saw it lying there for 2 months...
well...it wasn't that bad...I completed it in a week

SwerdMurd

#4

SwerdMurd said:

paid full-price for this game when it came out....I should really go back and beat it--it was fun, just didn't invest enough time to get hooked.

Stuffgamer1

#5

Stuffgamer1 said:

Nice review! I recently noticed this game sitting in GameStop for $10, and was wondering if I should give it a shot. I think I might just do so now.
I do have a question about the review, or more accurately, about the screenshots that accompany it. Why are they all in Japanese?
Okay, a question about the game, too: I read in another review that the game had some translation issues, including some characters' names changing completely partway through the game. Know anything about that?

Cowlord

#6

Cowlord said:

Thank you so much for reviewing this. Now the haters that haven't played it will quiet down.

@ Primeris: I'm pretty sure it came out March 2008.

Edit: Wow, I forgot it says right here on the page.

KnucklesSonic8

#7

KnucklesSonic8 said:

Excellent review! Very informative and I agree with some of the complaints you addressed. I find myself hard to get "hooked" into the game, personally after more than two hours of play.

Sean_Aaron

#8

Sean_Aaron said:

Cheers for the kudos fellahs. You could really do a review based around the design in the game alone. Arte Piazza did a fantastic job with the enemies, people and objects such that despite random encounters being annoying it was kind of interesting to see what new monsters were coming next.

@Stuffgamer1: I'm not sure why the editors chose screens from the Japanese version of the game, but I can assure you that other than the box cover and the end credits there's no Japanese text to be found (well, maybe some background art in one of the temple areas). Some of the translation is a bit ropey; there's places where you're asked a question and it's hard to say from the phrasing whether or not a Yes or No is appropriate, but you can repeat the conversation so it's not a big deal if you give the "wrong" answer. I cannot say I saw anyone's name change, but like I say in the review, there's model re-use in the game so it's possible whomever did that review encountered an example of this. Most of the "special" characters have a unique appearance, but not all of them.

@KS8: I think the fact that I never played more than 2hrs. in a single sitting probably helped. It's a pretty long game so breaking it up into smaller chunks worked well for me. Save points are plentiful which helps. As much as I felt ready to move on to other games I will miss my daily trip to Landroll!

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#10

Philip_J_Reed said:

Wow, Sean, awesome review. For $10 this sounds like a no-brainer. If only I didn't have Fallout 3, MPT and Little King's Story fighting for my attention.

Guess I'll have to do some reorganizing...

Stuffgamer1

#12

Stuffgamer1 said:

@Sean Aaron: I knew there wouldn't be Japanese text in the English version of the game...which is why I asked why the review used those screenshots. Very odd, especially that you don't know why either. Maybe they just weren't paying very much attention (not to insult anybody or anything...just thinking up possible explanations here)?

It had occured to me after reading your review that the "changed names" thing could be due to the reused character models (which the review I read made no mention of, making this explanation probable). The other translation problems don't sound TOO bad the way you put it, either. I think I will give this game a try, if only so I can explain it if a customer asks for a cheap game.

Sean_Aaron

#13

Sean_Aaron said:

It is fun and a nice change of pace from the usual fantasy setting. If the character designs and the music weren't as good my opinion would be a little harsher though!

JayArr

#15

JayArr said:

Nice review. I'm sold. I really appreciate the no spoilers too.

d-( ' , ' )-b

EdEN

#16

EdEN said:

It came out in march... of 2008. I bought the game shortly after launch and it was a fun and looong game that made me laugh during it's duration.

Great buy at Gamestop for $9.99 NEW.

grenworthshero

#17

grenworthshero said:

actually, Stuffgamer, the "change of names" they're talking about is near the midpoint of the game, and when you're talking to one of the NPCs there's a serious typo for just one phrase, during which they get his name wrong in the quote. It's not a problem, but it's noticeable. The translation is a little funny, but it's not too hard to understand. The only problem is when you are asked a question, the answers are almost always "yes" or "no" and sometimes it's a little hard to figure out. It's kind of like "how is your day? yes or no"

WolfRamHeart

#18

WolfRamHeart said:

Great work Sean Aaron! I applaud you for taking the time and putting together such an informative and thorough review on a game that most people probably never even heard of before. I am still having trouble tracking down a copy of this game. Most places in my area never got it to begin with. I was planning on getting this game at launch but I could never find it. I hope that one day I will be able to find it so I can experience it for myself. It sounds like an underappreciated gem to me.:)

Sean_Aaron

#19

Sean_Aaron said:

@grenworthshero: I honestly don't remember it happening, but yes the "yes," "no" stuff wasn't done too well in parts.

@WolfRamHeart: Well that's why I picked it up. grensworthshero and zane were singing the praises and it was so cheap I decided to give it a go. I had been curious before, but the IGN and Eurogamer reviews put me off a bit; if I had gone into the future and read my own review I would have bought it at launch!

Taya

#20

Taya said:

I only got to the second dome in Opoona. The style and the vastness of the world was awesome but I hated the battle system. I may try to keep playing sometime but I don't know if I can get past the battle system.

Sean_Aaron

#21

Sean_Aaron said:

If you hate the battle system then, wow, you'll have a hard time getting through this game!

Stuffgamer1

#22

Stuffgamer1 said:

Well, I just picked this up yesterday. I wound up so engrossed, I never even got around to putting it down to play Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days! DEFINITELY worth ten bucks. :D

Fujin

#24

Fujin said:

I would get it but finding out about the 2 minute time limit in the battle system scares me about ever finishing it if I get it.

Sean_Aaron

#25

Sean_Aaron said:

Most of the battles aren't that hard if you're well-prepared and use some good strategy. I think I only lost because I ran out of time in a battle on a handful of occasions.

ejamer

#27

ejamer said:

Finally grabbed this game and can't wait to start playing. I'm not expecting a mind-blowing experience, but if this game is as charming and unique as some Nintendo Life members have advertised then it should be fun.
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