Imagine a game developed by the makers of the Dragon Quest series.. set in outer space and the lead characters don't have spiky hair. Welcome to Opoona, a Japanese RPG for the Nintendo Wii.
Opoona, much like many JPG starts out with Opoona (the main character , the chubby bald headed kid with the orange ball on top of his head) sleeping in. He wakes up, his ship gets attacked and gets separated from his family and has to find them on the alien planet known as Landroll. Landroll, according to lore was hit by a meteorite awhile back and now the planet is split in half, a inhabitable side and a dark side.
The game takes a few cues from the Metroid Prime franchise with this plot device, but never gets very far with it. Sadly with no voice acting and only ONE CGI cut scene the story is made out through dialog boxes, long boring ones if that. And it's sad to say that Opoona did not get the best translation job out there. Things may have been taken too literal and sometimes leaves players wondering where to go and what to do? But then again the first dome (city) Tokione is such a mess of a design that it's easy to get frustrated trying to find a certain shop or even the exits! Whoever designed that city needs to be kicked in the balls, repeatedly. Thankfully the city designs are much more functional once you get to the next domes.
While getting frustrated with the city lay out and how the 'life style' part of this 'life style RPG' game works made me wonder about it even further. The game allows you to get jobs and make friends. In fact if you want to get outside of the first city you have to find a teacher to allow you to get a lice sense to be a Ranger, go the Admin office, get a license, then exit the building. If you want to upgrade your hover board transportation you get, you have to work fast food and get a mining license, then you can go face the second boss. At times I think the game is commenting on the bureaucracy of other games with job systems or society itself. But much like other JPGs and their ham fisted environmental message it comes off as annoying and leaves the player frustrated, especially when you have to do multiple 'side quests' just so you can reach the final boss's lair.
But let's talk about some more positive aspects of the game. The graphics and look of the game fit very well. Some of the domes look beautiful and have a real theme to them. Sometimes I wonder if the art team got their way on everything. The game heavily features variety of art work on display from paintings to sculptures to new age installation pieces. The character designs of the main characters work well, the cell shaded visuals of the characters make them look more childish and innocent. Some of the other characters are so oddly designed you wonder what kind of sick plastic surgeon the world of Landroll has, some women have beaks! Later in the game you come across some giants in an ancient forest, you’d swear they were created by a guy who just got his 3D modeling program the week before. Once you get out of the domes you can see some wonderful photo like sky boxes, which kind of clash with the cell shaded main characters.
The music of the game offers some short tunes, no 5 minute epics here. Most are over and done and repeating within a minute and a half, which isn't bad for some songs like the third battle theme or the final baddie lair music. But some of the cities have quite annoying songs to them (Bravo Company!).
The box of the game says it's one handed controls, only using the Nunchuck controller to do everything. I tried that, then picked up the Wii-Mote after 10 minutes and didn't put the Wii-Mote. It also supports the Classic Controller, didn't play with that.
The controls work well. 'A' To action things, 'B' to cancel things, etc, etc. In battle it's push the analog stick back, forward or sideways to direct your balls in battle and attack. Sure there's magical abilities which speak of angles and such (but never given any insight into how these abilities come to be, could be called Healing Spell 1, 2, 3 really.) As you progress through the game you'll find more and more attachments to your ball and gives your characters a bit more flare.
In the end you control 4 people over all. Only 3 at a time. The 4th is only momentarily during a part during the story. The three, Opoona, Copoona and Poleena have slightly different abilities. Copoona is more of a magic user, Opoona is the muscle and Poleena is the middle ground. But there isn't much difference between the three.
If you can make it to the second dome (Life Born) then you're going to be in for an RPG that will last 25- 40 hours, depending on your play style. The game has an odd quirky and cute charm that people have compared to the Super Nintendo cult classic Earthbound. I haven't played Earthbound yet, but Opoona has cult classic written all over it. Pick it up, give it a shot. It's most likely in a discount bin somewhere wanting you to play with its balls.