Saturday, August 05, 2017

A few thoughts on Opoona (Wii) now that I've finally played it for a couple of hours

Although I've owned a copy of this unique RPG for years now, its disc hadn't seen the innards of my Wii until a week ago.

What prompted me to get off my lazy butt and (finally) start playing Opoona? One of the first things I did after getting settled into our new home was hook up my Wii (mainly to see if it still worked), which in turn pushed me to unpack and organize all of my games.

Looking through my collection of Wii titles made me realize just how many of them I'd never even booted up. So, I decided then and there to free a few from their plastic prisons--beginning with this ArtePiazza-made oddity and Namco's similarly weird Tabemon. (Don't worry, I'll share impressions of the latter in an upcoming post.)

Since then, I've put approximately six hours into the former. That's an accomplishment worth crowing about, if you ask me. After all, Opoona's first hour or two are the definition of challenging. Not because its random battles are overly tough, mind you; rather, it's because the game takes its sweet time in telling you the protagonist's backstory and introducing you to the game's world. Also, the first area ("dome," actually) it drops you into is a real bitch to navigate.

Thankfully, things pick up a great deal once you're allowed to do as you please--which in Opoona generally means trying out a number of curious "jobs" and tackling the various quests that are associated with them.

The first job you're given is called "ranger." Sounds intriguing, I know, but in reality the ranger job is similar to the generic "fighter" role offered up by any other JRPG that's ever seen the light of day.

So, early on in Opoona, you accept a few tasks that force you into the forest that surrounds the opening dome (more become available in time) to fight alien-looking baddies using the titular character's "bon-bon."

Speaking of Opoona's bon-bon, it's the game's main claim to fame--and for good reason. For the unaware: the bon-bon is your main weapon while playing Opoona. It's controlled using the analog stick on the Wii nunchuck peripheral. While in battle, you pull back on the stick (or push it forward, or to the side) and then let it flick in the opposite direction to send your bon-bon careening toward one or more of the enemies that stand before you, à la Dragon Quest.

That's related to another of Opoona's selling points, by the way. If you want, you can play it one-handed, using only the Wii nunchuck. Personally, I prefer using the Wii remote as well, but I like that the game's developers included such an accessible control option.

Anyway, back to Opoona's job and quest system. I only have experience with the ranger and attendant jobs so far, but that's enough for me to guess the game is going to take me in some strange directions between now and whenever I'm finished with it.

Why? Take the attendant job. The first few quests or tasks you're given upon accepting that occupation have you filling orders at an intergalactic fast-food joint and delivering room service at a bustling hotel.

Admittedly, tackling those tasks is a lot less enjoyable than taking out baddies with the rubber-ball-esque bon-bon, but it's a nice change of pace nonetheless.

Given the above, it should be pretty clear that Opoona isn't your typical console RPG. For the most part, I've found that to be a good thing during my six-hour playthrough. I like its characters, I like its sci-fi setting, I like its snappy battles, I like its breezy soundtrack, and I like its overall aesthetic.

On the other hand, traversing the game's (unquestionably beautiful) environments veers between semi-tedious and tortuous. The huge domes that serve as its hubs are especially enraging. The game fails to provide you with a useful map, so when an NPC says something like, "go ask Mary in the library about this," you invariably spend a good 10 or 15 minutes (if not more) trying to find said location.

The fields outside Opoona's domes are less aggravating in terms of their layouts, but that doesn't mean they're without fault. My main knock against them at the moment: although you can move the camera while wandering around the game's interior spaces, you lose that freedom while outdoors. As a result, it's not unusual to find yourself in awkward positions that make it difficult to parse exactly where you are or where you're going.

Those gripes currently keep from flat-out recommending Opoona, but they aren't keeping me from continuing through its adventure. The bulk of it interests me to the point that the aforementioned niggles are fairly, but not entirely, easy to ignore.

Who knows if that will hold true until I encounter its credit roll, or until I prematurely walk away from the game--whichever happens first. I hope it will, though, as I'd really like to see Opoona through to the end.

In the meantime, have any of you played this Koei-published Wii title? If so, what's your opinion of it?

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