Videogame RPGs come in a variety of colors and models. On one side of the spectrum you’ve got your hardcore battle mode grinders, often with serious storylines, and then on the other you have the lighter, less intense and usually more kid friendly ones. Koei’s “Opoona” definitely falls on the latter side of the scale. A port from Japan, the strangely named Opoona is the eldest sibling of a starfaring race called the Tizans. Orange-colored Opoona and his mother, father, brother and sister are headed off to vacation on a faraway planet called Landroll when their spaceship is attacked. Mom and Dad manage to get the kids into escape pods and send them safely planetside. Opoona is rescued and informed that his siblings are being cared for in other cities on the planet while his critically injured parents need a certain amount of a magical force to be healed. So what else is Opoona to do but find himself enrolled in the local Ranger school and take odd jobs to be reunited with his family. They sure like to make those wards of the state work for their room and board on Landroll, don’t they?
If you haven’t figured it out by now it’s supposed to be a very cute game, and by very cute I mean like Hello Kitty or that scene in “Shrek 2” when Puss-n-Boots makes its sad puppy dog eyes at the green ogre; so cute that if you’re diabetic you may need a shot of insulin before firing this one up on your Wii. Now loads of cute isn’t necessarily a bad thing and “Opoona” tries to break the norm for most RPGs by playing up the social interaction factor. Throughout the game you will have to do standard RPG things like talk to people, make friends and assemble a party to do battle with the evil Rogues that terrorize the land outside of Landroll’s cities but there are also a lot of other tasks to perform. Some of them add greater depth to the world like the ability to get new jobs so Opoona can earn more money (which you can invest at your local bank to earn interest on). Unfortunately there are some aspects of this social interaction that I could have done without, like the need for Opoona to have a license to be a Ranger or do any of the many jobs he can find along the way. I hate paperwork enough in real life that the idea of having to talk to a clerk to get the necessary license to get a job in a game seems too much reality for me to deal with.
After you get past the first 40-or-so minutes of the game you start to get into combat situations. Like all Tizans Opoona is outfitted with something called an energy bonbon, a sphere that floats above his head that he can send out to smash into bad guys. You get to do that when you’ve been made a Ranger and from there on there are plenty of opportunities to fight. Getting used to using the fighting controls is picked up pretty fast; if you can play a baseball game on the Wii, you’re ready to smash the strange looking creatures that inhabit Landfall’s wild zones when you power up your bonbon using the nunchuk’s analog stick and throw it out there. There is a time limit that factors into the battles; since using their bonbon takes a lot out of a Tizan you’ve got just two minutes to do your thing before time’s up. If you don’t finish the fight then you reappear back at the last saved point. Death, where is thy sweet sting? Not on Landroll it would seem.
The world of “Opoona” is full of bright colors and cartoony people; in fact, it’s kind of weird how the Tizans look like the kind of characters seen on really early CG cartoons for kids while the Landfall people have a more traditional anime appearance. There’s no voice acting to be found in the game at all; all of your interaction is done by text, which can get annoying when you want to do something and get to another meatier part of the game. A standout facet of the game is the score by “Final Fantasy Tactics” composer Hitoshi Sakimoto which is rich, colorful and befitting of a child’s sense of adventure.
It’s hard for me to say precisely what kind of gamer “Opoona” is aimed at. Younger players under the age of ten may be bored by the lengthy dialogue and so the early parts of the game may wear at their patience level. Older players might be turned off by the game’s too cutesy world and the sometimes distracting Japanese-to-English translations. The execution of the storyline could have been better but that doesn’t invalidate that there is a decent enough family friendly RPG at the heart of the game. “Opoona” doesn’t have the same complexity as a Final Fantasy but it does offer that broader sense of getting to explore and become a part of a society, in a weird sort of Dinsey Channel meets “Animal Crossing” kind of way.