Opoona (Wii) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 08.01.2012 3

Review for Opoona on Wii

When speaking of ArtePiazza, the developer behind Opoona, immediately Dragon Quest springs to mind. Indeed, the studio responsible for Dragon Quest VII, as well as loads of Dragon Quest remakes for the past 15 years, has been a force to be reckoned with in the RPG genre. In fact, Opoona would have never made it to store shelves if it wasn't for Dragon Quest series creator, Yuji Horii, who initiated talks between ArtePiazza and its publisher, Koei. The promise of seeing them at work on Wii, on their first big original game instead of working on someone else's IP, was certainly an enticing one. With development kicking off during the summer of 2005, long before the Wii even became available, this makes Opoona one of the earliest RPGs to become available on the system, merely a year after the system launched in Japan. It would eventually take a full year to reach PAL territories though, and miss the opportunity to rack up sales during the harder period that 2007 was, when big releases were few and far between on the system. Instead, it was released at a time when Wii was picking up steam with important software releases in Europe. It didn't get much attention among players and zero commercial push, leading it to fade into obscurity. For good reason or not? Read further to find out...

Designed by Shintaro Majima, a former Enix employee who worked as a designer on severalDragon Quest games in the past, Opoona was made so that it would be a simple RPG, easy to understand even for children, right through to the design of the main character. Opoona is a young boy from planet Tizia, whose design is made easy for children to draw, should they want to: a very round character with an orange solid ball floating above its head, called the energy bonbon (French for “sweets”). Together with his younger brother and sister, Copoona and Poleena, and their parents, the family is aboard its space ship and on a holiday trip to planet Landroll. Opoona's papa belongs to the Cosmo Guards, a line of powerful soldiers who are the guarantors of peace in space. Upon approaching Landroll, they are attacked by Rogues. Before their ship crashes on the planet, the parents send the children down to the planets in escape pods, while the parents remain on-board. Opoona soon wakes up at the Starhouse, an academy for young people to study at, in the city of Tokione. He can't remember who he is and why he's there. He's told that his parents' ship crashed and they were both retrieved badly wounded and sent to another dome so they could be healed.

No one seems to know where Copoona and Poleena are, though. Opoona wants to find out why all this happened and where his relatives are. Here's a nice and unusual premise to a very original story, pretty much unlike any other game in the same genre, which is a good surprise. However, Opoona can't just leave the Tokione dome to search for his family and go wandering the planet freely. Rogues are running loose in the nature and travelling outside the sheltering domes is dangerous. As you wander the exterior environments, battles are triggered randomly, in an old-school fashion. No innovation here, and unfortunately the frequency at which they occur is a bit too high, leading to some frustration sometimes since you're interrupted in the middle of your travels. Thankfully battles are usually short, lasting a mere few seconds.

A countdown starts as soon as a battle in engaged, representing Opoona's bonbon energy, required for battle. The countdown reaching zero equals a defeat. Your main weapon is your floating bonbon, which you must flick at enemies to attack them. Magic also exists in the game, like in other RPG, except it's called Force. That requires Force Points (FP) instead of the traditional MP, but essentially it works the same as with any classic RPG: select them in a menu, and they are used automatically by your character on-screen. The real originality of the battle system comes from the controls.

You throw your bonbon by holding the analogue stick down, charging up energy. The more you charge up your bonbon, the fastest it'll be thrown and the harder it'll hit. Battles are not exactly turn-based though (aside from the fact that you can only control one character's bonbon at a time). Though they occur randomly as you wander around the environment, they are fought in real-time, which means your foes won't just sit there waiting for your unusual weapon to hit them. Sometimes you will throw your bonbon slowly at them and while it's travelling the screen, the enemy will have moved towards you to hit you before returning to its place in the enemy formation, leading to your bonbon missing its target. Timing your attacks, balancing strength and speed, is primordial so that you don't waste too much time charging up energy for nothing. Some battles require fast reactions on your part due to this very nature. You may even succeed at canceling an enemy's attack if you hit it just as it was about to come at you! Controls in battle are some of the easiest to learn out there, but some of the hardest to truly master at the same time. You will die a few times at first, while getting used to them. This will put off the less patient players, and that makes even less sense considering that children, apparently the main target audience for this game, are not the most patient of people in general.

It's worth noting that this is essentially the only game on Wii designed to be controllable using only the Nunchuk. Indeed, you can do every single action, both in and outside battles, by playing with just one hand. Should you prefer a classic controller, the option to use one exists as well. The best control setup in the game seemed to be holding both the Nunchuk and Wii Remote, though, because some very useful shortcuts are assigned to the buttons of the latter. Such shortcuts are displaying the map or getting on and off your hoverboard transport (which lets you move faster, like the shoes or bike in the Pokémon series). However, eating an apple or grabbing your cup of tea while controlling Opoona single-handedly is entirely possible and proves to be comfortable enough, making the game an usually relaxing experience that you can easily tackle while doing something else at the same time. Concentration will truly be required in some of the harder battles though.

Moving around Landroll, travelling between domes using pods (the future equivalent to our aeroplanes) requires that you are in possession of ranger licences. Indeed, only rangers of Landroll may travel freely around the planet, and each dome as its own requirement. Acquiring a licence requires that you fulfill certain quotas: jobs that you need to take on. The main licence is the Landroll Ranger one, which comes in different ranks based on a number of stars. This one is important for the story. The jobs associated to it all advance the game scenario, mainly requiring investigating the origins of the Rogues and fighting them. Other licences of a lot of different kinds exist as well, though. Sweeper, star, fortune teller, farmer, miner, angler, ukulele player... you can be all that at the same time in Opoona! Those licences also come in different ranks, symbolised this time by titles such as Angler Apprentice or Sweeper Master.

Acquiring those licences mostly grants you access to new areas, opening up more new experiences for you. For example, you can't expect to gain access to the TV tower where TV shows are shot unless you're famous enough, or you can't meet the president of the biggest technology making factory unless you have a licence relevant to such important faces. Making friends with influential people will also help you there, and this in turn may also require that you have a certain licence, or that some of your stats are high enough.

The game keeps track of the usual RPG stats, like strength or defence, but also completely unusual ones such as celebrity, integrity, love or arts. Those can't be increased by levelling up your character through battling Rogues, but rather by eating certain kinds of (expensive) food, or completing side-quests, gaining new licences, raising your friendship levels with the right people, etc.. The social system behind Opoona is very intricate and the discovery of new licences, people and thoroughly original quests feels very rewarding. ArtePiazza labeled its game a ‘lifestyle RPG’ for this particular approach to building relationships with non-playable characters.

The problem is, though planet Landroll isn't that vast, keeping track of where everything is located is made harder than necessary by the lack of a good map system. The map available merely displays the rough shape of your direct surroundings, and your position inside the ‘room’ that you're in. It's impossible to display the map for other rooms, other than the general planet map, which is pretty useless. You will spend a lot of time just looking for a certain shop or a person who sent you on a side-quest, etc..

The level design is far too crooked and doesn't make sense half the time, especially in the early stages of the game, which is very off-putting for players new to the game who are thrown in, not really knowing where to go. You get used to it after a while, once you learn where the important things are but, again, this requires patience and makes it even less recommendable for children.

This isn't helped by the visuals either. Don't expect any fancy special effects or even great cinematics and cut-scenes, because Opoona is lacking in those departments. Textures are OK on the whole, for a first generation Wii game, but character models and environments in general are on the low-polygon side. NPCs are bland at best, and even a few of the most important characters to the story are clones or palette swaps of NPCs you meet in every dome. Only some of the major female characters appeared to have the extra little detail to make them look a bit more cute... for very angular representations of the female body, that is. The clean and futuristic overall design, reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online, has a certain appeal, and some specific places, especially indoors, have a nice level of small details, but this is still a bit too little to appeal to the most hard to please RPG audiences. Important cut-scenes have zero cinematic flair and have the exact same look as if you were talking to any random NPC. This reminds more of 16-bit generation RPGs than current-gen ones. You typically have some control still on the position of the camera even during the most important events, but this is usually pointless because finding a good angle to view both character's faces is nearly impossible, but even if you did there's nothing of importance to be seen, except for the odd thoroughly funny expression on Opoona's face.

Those criticisms don't mean everything is grim though. Should you bear with it and overcome the steep learning curve of exploration on Landroll, you're sure to find some enjoyment if you like games that try new things. The experience is supported by a great musical score, lead by Hitoshi Sakimoto of Final Fantasy XII and Vagrant Story fame and the rest of the Basiscape staff. It blends seamlessly synthesised tracks with orchestrated ones, with tracks reminding of a large variety of already existing games. Influences range from Final Fantasy VII to Phantasy Star Online, with the battle theme reminding of some music heard in the Hogwarts scenes in the Harry Potter series of movies. Lack of any voice acting is, again, in line with the poor production values of the rest of the game, which is thoroughly unfortunate.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Opoona is a game meant for children, meaning it lacks that extra depth found in other RPGs that attract older people, but it fails to be recommendable for children in some other key aspects which are accessibility and difficulty. It's rather recommended for patient adults who still manage to appreciate the charm of childish things. While being a lacking experience, for all of its shortcomings, Opoona remains a charming game, with a compelling and original universe. Isn't that what thousands of fans of the JRPG genre are still crying for? It is certain that the execution feels outdated, making the game look more like a product of the nineties. However, if someone would look beyond the crust of outdated graphics and the weak production of the cut-scenes, that person would be certain to be rewarded with one of the most original RPG experiences to grace any current-gen console. The ‘lifestyle RPG’ label truly is no cheap trick to make people think they're up to a new genre of RPG. Planet Landroll's social structure promises that the RPG experience that Opoona provides is like no other on the market. If all you expect from your RPGs is groundbreaking graphics and tear-shedding cinematics, then Opoona is definitely not for you. On the other hand, if you look for a RPG that dares to stray far from the established rules of the genre, then this hidden gem in the Wii library might just be what you need, and is sure to provide loads of enjoyment -- as long as you know that it has some flaws before you jump in.

Developer

Arte Piazza

Publisher

Koei

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's sad this never got the attention it deserved. Artepiazza wanted to do another Opoona, if I recall correctly, but without support from the publisher, now Tecmo Koei, I doubt it'll ever happen Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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Jay (guest) 09.01.2012#2

My 3rd favourite jrpg this gen after Lost Odyssey and Xenoblade. Theres just something about the world and npcs that makes the game feel different. The only thing I really didn't like was the ending, total anticlimax.

Rob (guest) 10.01.2012#3

I have this game, a decent underrated game IMO.

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