Jason Cook

Opoona fails as a character because he's a weird little bulbous alien with a pom-pom on his head named Opoona.

Publisher: Koei
Genres: RPG
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Opoona
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Omega Force
US release date: 2008-03-25
Developer website

Do you like trite storylines? How about pointless side and fetch quests? What about overly simple combat systems? Faded pastel colors and last-gen graphics? Fan of typos in your dialogue? What about awkward control schemes? Do you like things with no voice acting and/or memorable music to speak of?

If you answered "yes" to these questions than by all means buy Opoona -- you won't be disappointed. But if you like fully fleshed out games with quality story-telling and nice graphics, you should probably skip this one.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of RPGs. I love games with sweeping storylines, memorable characters and engrossing in-game worlds. I also enjoy building up my characters' stats and finding that awesome piece of equipment. Sadly, Opoona delivers on very few of the pleasures of role-playing gaming.

Opoona is the name of the main character, a descendant of the Cosmo Guards. After being separated from his family during a crash, Opoona sets out to find his family and remember what happened. Sound familiar? Main character is member of some old fraternity with power -- loses family and memory -- sets out to find said family/memory -- makes some friends along the way -- stops some sort of evil in the world -- the end. Opoona's story is forgettable and boring, and the characters in the game are totally uninteresting.

This is further complicated by the tried and true "silent protagonist." Opoona speaks very little in the game, letting the supporting cast do the heavy lifting, dialogue-wise. Successful silent protagonists (gaming giants like Link and Mario) succeed because they are relatable. Opoona fails as a character because he's a weird little bulbous alien with a pom-pom on his head named Opoona.

Speaking of the game's dialogue, it is error-filled. There are a number of typos that must have been lost in translation. While these don't ruin the game, the fact that there are much more than one is cause for concern. One saving grace is that the dialogue is funny at times, with a number of cameo characters delivering humorous lines.

While Opoona is a role-playing game, a lot of what players do in it is similar to that of games like The Sims or even what you do while manicuring your MySpace or Facebook account. You can make friends, become semi-famous, do all sorts of odd-jobs and get licenses in various vocations. Doors of certain areas only open when you are a "level five ranger" or what have you -- driving the player to do this or that to achieve nearly arbitrary goals.

The problem is, much of this is not very fun. Early on you must work at a fast food restaurant serving customers. I went in thinking "OK, there will be some cool nunchuk mini-game where I fling food at someone or something." Nope. Simply memorize the order and pick the correct dishes. Ten times. For no real reason. It was boring, a chore, and worst of all, totally unnecessary.

When it comes to the actual RPG elements, Opoona fares slightly better. Since players only need the nunchuk to control everything in the game, the game manages to streamline what can be contrived control schemes. Players flick the control stick on the nunchuk to fling Opoona's bon-bon at enemies. This comes into play strategically as the game progresses -- with enemies hiding behind one another or ones that need to be hit from the sides instead of straight-forward.

The ugliness of the control scheme shows up outside of combat. Since the game is nunchuk only (classic controller compatible), players are limited to the two buttons and the control stick. Since the two buttons are so close together and one opens the menu while the other closes it, one cancels conversations while the other is "talk," unwanted results were all too common. Navigating menus is a chore, "controlling" the camera (resetting it behind Opoona) is difficult and not having a controller in both hands is just plain weird. The combat control is interesting, but other than that, control can be worse than annoying.

Each non-boss battle is timed for two minutes. The quicker you finish, the better, with failure waiting at the two-minute mark. Critics of RPGs (especially the turn-based variety) say that the combat feels too passive -- with parties waiting for the other to take action. Opoona will not quell those critics. The longer you charge your bon-bon flick (for more power), the longer you must wait to attack again.

For much of the early part of the game, you are Opoona alone, and this recharge system becomes tedious and slow as you wait to kill that fifth plant monster. The battles may be timed for two minutes, but they often seem much longer.

While RPG veterans are used to stats like strength, magic, defense and speed, Opoona throws a bunch of other new terms at gamers. Players need to beef up bon-bon stats like luster, mass and shine. While I commend the game for thinking outside the box, I don't like having to look at the manual to figure out what the hell luster is again.

The graphics of Opoona can be described as cel-shaded pastels. And although it looks fine on the Wii, I expect a little bit more. The spell animations are rudimentary, characters emote little and the menu presentation is bland. Opoona would be one awesome looking GameCube game.

Opoona is too difficult to be a young gamer's first foray into RPGs (despite the cheery presentation and non-violent imagery), but if you've never played an RPG before and consider yourself an experienced gamer, this may be a good place to start. For the RPG expert, however, there is so much wrong with Opoona it is not worth your time. Rent it only if you've absolutely, positively exhausted every other RPG experience on the system and can't find any old GameCube games or virtual console titles to quell your hunger.


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