Some people saw that the latest Nintendo console would be called the Wii and thought “wow – that may be one of the worst product names I’ve seen in a long time.” Other people, however, saw that name and thought “I bet I could do worse.” From the minds of the latter comes a new RPG named Opoona.
Opoona tells the story of a family whose spaceship crash lands on a planet they have been travelling to visit. Opoona is the main character, and he is joined later by his creatively named brother Copoona and sister Poleena as they try to raise enough cash to pay for their parents’ (Dadeena and Momeena) medical bills. Toward that goal, they fight baddies and take on a number of side jobs like being a fast food attendant, fishing, cleaning up garbage, and even fortune telling. The dialogue is often poorly translated, to a degree that actually impacts the game, sometimes requiring players to choose answers to questions that are the opposite of what would be expected, and at other times simply keeping the player confused as to what they should do next. There are also some noticeably unenlightened lines that might turn off some players, such as when a female security officer says “because there is little danger and the uniforms are cool, this license is particularly popular among the girls.”
Opoona carries quite a variety of gameplay as you progress through the story. The game requires players to complete very different tasks for each of the “licenses” that they can obtain – the main quest’s ranger license usually gives you jobs that require battle, while the attendant license’s jobs include things like working fast food or giving recommendations at a fashion store. With the exception of the fortune teller job, I had some level of fun in all of them, but all of the side jobs felt unnecessary and pointless. I could make at least as much money doing battle as I could in most of the other licenses’ jobs, and although I completed every job available for at least two licenses, they didn’t get me anything extra like an uber-powerful item.
Although Opoona is billed as an RPG, much of its gameplay might be considered an adventure game. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily a good thing. The requirements for accomplishing jobs and obtaining licenses are often far too obscure – you may be told that you ought to do something, only to find that doing so is impossible unless you happen to have spoken to the correct three or four people in the proper order (a walkthrough is highly recommended). Even so, you may have a difficult time knowing what you really must do in order to proceed, as some things that would normally be deemed “sidequests” are actually required for the story to progress. Not all of them are, but there’s no way to tell the difference, so you may find yourself completing everything you can not because you find it entertaining, but because you feel you have no choice.
When you are outside of town, you can be attacked at any moment, because Opoona’s developers know that everyone loves random battles. Your weapon in combat is Opoona’s “energy bonbon” – the ball that floats over his head. You fling it at enemies using the nunchuck’s analog stick, and the direction you pull the stick determines its path, sort of like a slingshot would. Pull down, and it’ll take the traditional gravity-defined arc up and then back down. Pull to the right, and when you let go, the bonbon will arc around to the left. Holding back the analog stick charges up your attack (although the damage doesn’t usually increase very much) and makes the arc greater. This becomes important later in the game, when you can obtain an item that allows your bonbon to pierce enemies, as you can aim at someone in the back row and damage several other enemies along the way. The battles are based on a sort of active turn-based system, where your turn is reached every time a meter hits 100. That meter is reduced each turn by an amount that depends on the equipment you have on (more powerful = a bigger reduction) and how long you held the analog stick back that turn. You also learn “force” powers as you level up, some of which are offensive, and some of which are defensive. It’s a fairly flexible system with a nice level of complexity, but the fact that there’s no pause in your enemies’ turns as you dig through your powers to find the right one or switch far too slowly to the enemies in the back row may leave you with that nasty “cheap death” feeling far more often than you’d like. You can only save at save stations, but death’s only penalty is a small amount of cash, so even if you die frequently, it doesn’t really stop your progress – it’s just really annoying.
Finally, I should mention that there are some nice touches that aren’t big, but still make a difference in how much you may enjoy the game. One of the side things you can do is to watch for “secret codes” on walls around town. The nice thing is that codes are pink before you find them and blue afterwards, so when you spot one, you never have to wonder whether you’ve already found it. It’s also great that there are no loading times as you move from room to room, both in town and in the wild. Some of the interactions you’ll have with NPCs are also quite funny.
It’s a known quantity that the Wii is not a graphical powerhouse like its competitors, and Opoona does nothing to challenge them. It’s cute, but it’s not going to wow you. On the other hand, I never had a single framerate issue, a problem the PS3 and 360 frequently battle with. Sadly, a clean framerate and cute graphics are the high points. The camera does not follow the character well enough in town, and it is completely uncontrollable in the wild. The running animations are not bad, but if you just walk, the difference between foot movement and the ground you cover makes you look like you’re ice-skating.
In battle, it’s very difficult to tell how well things are going. Enemies don’t have health meters, so although their appearance changes when they’re almost dead, that’s the only clue you get to their status. Far worse, though, is the lack of information about your own status. When there are a number of enemies present, they will frequently attack you simultaneously, and very little is shown to indicate how much each of them are hurting you. It’s easy to focus on the wrong enemy, which can be deadly when you’re facing 6 or 8 enemies at once.
The worst graphical element, though, is the lack of a good map. It’s so difficult to tell where you’re at in town that I had to write a map walkthrough just so that I could write this review. For some reason, the first town is by far the most complicated and requires a lot of backtracking from area to area in order to complete the jobs that will allow you to move on. Add in the aforementioned obscurity of some quest requirements, and you have a recipe for a lot of frustration and wasted time.
Even given those complaints, I do want to compliment the designers on one element of the game: the in-game art. You are given an art catalog at one point, and can go around the game world searching out and looking at pieces of art. Some are paintings, some are sculptures, and some are simply huge, empty frames set in the wild. Stand in front of the frame, and you’ll get a really nice view of the game world. Sure, it’s just calling your attention to something nice the level designer did, but I think most folks would agree that video game level designers don’t get as many kudos as they deserve. Some of the sculptures are very surreal, like an ice cream cone with about 20 feet of ice cream scoops on top, and some are so big you can appreciate them better by looking in the catalog, but they’re all worth looking at.
It’s likely that you’ll want to turn off the sound in this game relatively early. The music ranges from passable to annoying, and it loops far too quickly. Sound effects make sense, but don’t add anything worth listening to the music for. There is no voice acting, which may actually be a shame – bad voice acting and a bad translation could have taken Opoona’s sound around the corner from bad to awfulsome (awesome and awful at the same time).
Even for the Wii, Opoona’s control scheme is unique. Although there are a small number of shortcuts that use the Wiimote, the entire game is meant to be played with just the Nunchuk controller. Walking, menu navigation, and attacks are all handled with the analog stick, and the C and Z buttons take care of selecting and cancelling choices, as well as selecting the enemy you want to attack next in battle. The system works fairly well, and the developers should be applauded for trying something different, but some tweaks to the way enemies are targeted in battle and the ability to set shortcuts to favorite force powers and items would have made a huge difference in the battle system’s fun factor.
Opoona is yet another example of a game where very little is actually broken, but very little is noticeably good, either. A good walkthrough or two could make it worth renting, but is a mediocre game like this really worth that amount of effort? Perhaps, but only if you’re a hardcore RPG fan looking to play everything avavilable for the Wii.