TGS '07: Opoona Hands-On

With both energy bon-bons blazing, we jump into this cute sci-fi RPG for the Wii.

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He's short, he's round, he's got a floating energy ball above his head. He's Opoona, the star of Koei's upcoming sci-fi role-playing game for the Nintendo Wii. We had a chance to play with this family-friendly game and chat with a couple of the game's producers to learn a bit about the game's backstory and development.

Before we talk origins, however, let's talk control. Opoona might be the only Nintendo Wii game out there that is controlled entirely with the Wii's Nunchuck accessory. Everything from moving your players around the game world, to attacking your enemies can be pulled off simply by moving the analog stick in one direction or another. On a console that's known for its elegant simplicity, that puts Opoona right up there with the easiest of the bunch.

That said, a simple control scheme doesn't mean that Opoona is a shallow game. Indeed, judging by the game's plot, there'll be plenty to do. As the game opens, Opoona and his siblings are on board their parents' spaceship, happily traveling the stars together. It isn't too long before their ship runs into trouble (though exactly what kind of trouble remains a mystery until later in the game). With virtually no warning Opoona's parents are forced to evacuate their children from the ship. Eventually the escape pods, and the ship itself, crash-land on a nearby planet. As the game opens up, Opoona will first need to round up his siblings before learning where his lost parents have gone.

The planet that serves as Opoona's backdrop has plenty of mysteries all its own. For one thing, half of the planet seems to have been completely drained of life, for reasons that aren't immediately clear. As a result, traveling outside of the comforts of Opoona's biodome can mean trouble in the form of random encounters with a bevy of different monsters. During our time with the game, limited though it was, we took on bulbous looking insect creatures, long- and lean-looking bad guys, even a giant beehive that was much tougher than we initially thought.

Opoona and his siblings fight by tossing the so-called "energy bon-bons" that float above their heads at their foes. To do so, you simply pull back on the Nunchuck's analog stick and then move the stick forward to fire. The longer your hold the stick back, the more power you'll put behind your shot, and an onscreen energy meter for Opoona (or whatever character you are controlling at the time) will show exactly how much energy he or she has remaining. More powerful shots will require the character to recharge for a longer time, but they'll also do more damage. In addition, producers explained to us that you'll be able to use different attacks by changing the properties of your energy bon-bons (in one instance, one of Opoona's siblings had transformed his normally round pair of bon-bons into a couple of flaming spiked bon-bons). In addition, pushing the stick forward in different directions will result in different attacks against your enemies.

As Opoona finds his siblings over the course of the game's 40-hour length, you'll add those siblings to your party. You'll periodically also run into NPC characters for your party. During our demo with the version of Opoona on the TGS show floor, for example, we were accompanied by a sword-wielding young lady who turned out to be a lot of help in more than a few of the encounters we faced. Producers weren't saying exactly who that little girl was, but did mention that the game will feature an ally system that will let you enlist the help of characters you've become friendly with along the way.

Another interesting aspect of Opoona is the job system. Now this isn't the Wii equivalent to a Final Fantasy Tactics-like job system; instead, a job in Opoona is literally that: a way to make money. Opoona will then use the cash he's earned to buy new items that can help him track down his family members. Jobs range from the relatively mundane--such as mining engineer (involving lots of time breaking apart rocks) to more outlandish career choices such as hotel manager and fortune teller. We didn't get a chance to try out many of the jobs but we do know that you can have many different jobs at once; it seems like you can spend just as much of your time fishing in Opoona as you will battling it out with monsters, if you like.

With exotic locations to adventure in, including volcanoes, jungle, deserts, and underwater scenarios--and an attractive, cel-shaded look that brings to mind a lighthearted cartoon look, Opoona's got a lot going for it. It remains to be seen whether or not the simple controls will end up becoming mundane after too much time, but we're hoping the storyline and the action prevents that from happening. Stay tuned for more on the game in the coming months.

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