Decent RPGs on the Wii are not exactly a common feature, virtual console aside for the moment. In fact, your options in the UK are largely limited to the likes of Fire Emblem, Tales of Symphonia, the Final Fantasy titles & other oddballs such as Alien Syndrome. There are a few good apples out there, though not exactly a marketplace of choice. In truth though, RPGs have long since been threatened by multi user experiences such as MMO games. Many gamers prefer to take that type of gaming online, where ‘it matters’. On your own little Wii, in a sense nothing matters in your gaming choice if a title is just a single player RPG/adventure game. So how does Opoona from Koei (Dynasty Warriors ahoy) fit into this slightly narrowband universe?
Developed by Artepiazza (the team behind four of the Dragonquest RPGs) and including composition from one of the men responsible for the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, expectation was certainly present as I tore the wrapper off. Staying in trend with other Wii titles and the current ‘casual and cute’ look that seems to be cropping up more and more are the cell shaded graphics; perfectly acceptable but nothing groundshaking. Movement in game is cute and ‘chibi’, with limited movement on your charecter itself. To put it in street terminology, the game looks childish. Not that it looks bad mind you, but that’s just telling it like it is. If that’s going to bother you, don’t go any further with this game.
Opoona features very relaxing background music, by and large helpful to the flow of the game. I’ll make an exception for battle music, which annoyingly cuts in to the otherwise chilled out string of scenic pieces and isn’t at all varied or interesting. It makes you feel abit stuck in the 90s, in fact. But other than that small glitch, I found the sound to be quiet and a background affair that’s all together pleseant.
The actual storyline is wedged firmly into the ‘cute & amusing’ bracket. You play a character from an alien world called Tizia, one of a family of wobblemen like Tizians who are well-known space guardians and warriors. Due to certain events, your ship crashes onto a planet called Landroll, which resembles earth in many ways. You are a young Tizian with sibblings along for the ride. Your parents are given really original names (Dadeena?!), and the most disturbing aspect of the game is the Tizian genetic trick of having balls (or a ball) attatched to their head somehow. These are called Bonbons and you hit things with them to attack. Yes…that’s what I thought, too. However, it’s really easy to do this in battle.
Opoona‘s designers have chosen a frustrating option for battle – they’ve opted to use the invisible random battle generator rather than the ‘fields of bad guys’ option, which is flexible and in my view, far superior since you can set certain bad guys to agressive and others to be passive depending on the difficulty of the field you’re in. Opoona doesn’t allow any of this and instead forces you to run as fast as you can through area after area out of doors, hoping to get back to your current questing area or battle without facing too many of these randomly generated invisible battles. In case you’ve not experienced what I’m describing, picture your charecter running through an outdoor field area in the game, trying to get from A to B. Suddenly the scene freezes and fades to black, the music changes to a semi-dramatic mantra and then the screen fades back in, this time positioning you in an outdoor scene which is the same for every single fight you get into. Every single time, I’m not kidding. Each time you’ll face a randomly selected set of enemies from a difficulty-generated code in the background that ensures you don’t meet a level 100 villian on your first go or one level 2 bad guy when you’re about to complete the game. That’s at least nice, but some fields are forever full of basic bad guys that later on you’ll just want to avoid and wish you could run through. There’s no indication when you’re running through a field as to when you’re about to get into one of these fights, or what it’ll be with. This is an incredibly basic stab at battle programming, and I really wish they’d not used it.
Although most off the in game questing isn’t that fascinating, it is passable and will keep new comers to RPG gaming very busy for some time. One of the downsides to the game is the slightly dodgy translation though – other reviewers brought out this point and I also experienced confusing directions at times, and unclear objectives. There is also no easy way to check what your next objective is.
On the positive side, Opoona is probably the only Wii game I know of that uses only the nunchuk for everything in game, and does so well without handling difficulties. This is a very fresh approach to RPG/adventure gaming and brings it into the realms of the casual gamer or the new gamer who isn’t interested in a diehard MMO experience where they have a whole keyboard of entry commands, function buttons reassigned 10 times over and having to stay up until 3am to get good ‘party action’ with American gamers online. If this is you and you’re more interested in simple controls and fun than grinding out your levelling, living in the EST timezone and finding rare items that you can brag about on forums filled with people just like you, then Opoona is probably a Wii game that you’ll enjoy. There isn’t a lot of Wii RPG/adventure choice out there for the casual gamer and Opoona is certainly the lesser of many evils.