Opoona describes itself as a "lifestyle RPG." Like most marketing terms, it's a vapid locution that doesn't mean anything to consumers. Really, the game is a pretty traditional Japanese role-playing game for younger gamers. It lacks the depth and challenge of many of its peers, but the blooming adventurer will find a lot to like. Opoona looks nice, is charming, and is generally pleasant to play.
Players control the titular character, a rotund young boy in command of a powerful ball that eternally floats above his head. After a disaster befalls his family while on vacation, Opoona is separated from his kin and must make his way on his own in a new society. The "lifestyle" aspects of the game come from making friends and finding employment. Increasing your friends list and broadening your resume leads to new opportunities. But jobs are really just quests, and friends don't have a big affect on gameplay, so it's really not venturing into any new territory.
Visually, Opoona doesn't look half bad. The world of Landroll, where our hero crash lands, is colorful and cartoonish, with kind of a cel-shaded look. Lighting is uneven. At times it is impressive, such as when exploring indoor environments and hues are realistically reflected off our hero's bald head. But outside Opoona strolls through puddles of light beneath a canopy of trees and is unaffected by the shadows, as though he were in full sunlight.
Characters don't boast much animation, resulting in a rather robotic society. Opoona doesn't even have a turn animation, meaning he instantaneously does a 180 when you change direction. There also isn't any voice acting -- a disappointing flaw for a modern RPG. These may be nit picky remarks, but it's these details that sell a game's environment and personalities.
The text and dialogue is poorly translated, speckled with typos. Sometimes characters give unhelpful advice, suggesting you take "that road" when you're standing at a four-way intersection. Dialogue trees occasionally require you to answer an unrelated question a certain way before an NPC will give you the info you need or let you pass. Overall, the translation is just sloppy. There is no option to speed through or cancel a conversation, so if you mistakenly talk to someone twice you have to sit through their whole spiel again.
Publisher Koei points out it is possible to play Opoona one-handed with just the Nunchuk. Of course, it needs to be connected to the Wii Remote, so you still need to have two controllers sitting in your lap. While strolling through buildings the game grants us camera control with either the D-pad or by holding down C and spinning the analog stick. However, bafflingly, the ability to look at our environment is taken away from us when we venture outside. There are many instances when Opoona needs to find items hidden in the countryside. Not being able to swing the camera around means he has to trek over every square foot of land, pulling the stationary camera with him. There is a map, but it isn't very detailed and you can't view any area other than the one you are currently in.
What makes matters worse is the game uses the archaic RPG mechanic of random battles. It's bad enough when you're trying to get from point A to point B and every few steps you're taken out of the moment and thrown into combat. Here, you're constantly being interrupted while trying to map every single inch of the countryside looking for quest items, all because we can't move the camera. Luckily, the outside areas aren't very big.
Combat revolves around Opoona's magic ball, called a Bonbon. Battle is in real time, and players use the analog stick to toss the bonbon at enemies. There is a little bit of strategy involved, as you can finesse your pitch with different flicks of the stick. For instance, you can throw a curveball around a foreground enemy to hit something behind. But for the most part, battle is a breeze, making the game better suited for the younger gamer. There is a time limit in fights, but for most of the game you'll handily defeat the enemy with plenty of time to spare.
In spite of these complaints, Opoona is not without merit. It's really not a difficult game, so the random battles are a manageable nuisance. If you do fall in combat you'll wake up in your own bed, health restored. The developers have created a large world with lots to do. There are many different job titles to be earned that result in a nice variety of gameplay. When you tire of fighting cute monsters, you can take a part-time job slinging sushi in a fast food restaurant.
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