Ever Oasis, in short, is a complicated experience that takes time to fall in love with. The melding and mixing of genres that makes up the entirety of the game is mostly brilliant, mixed with a dash of disappointment. Grezzo, most likely known as the development team behind the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask ports to the Nintendo 3DS, is back in the handheld world to introduce an exciting hybrid of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Mana, all built into a brand new world and mythos. Influences from each mentioned series are evident, but in a way that feels as if every idea was greenlit without checks and balances. Thankfully, while the game doesn’t entirely live up to its anticipation, it does provide an overall enjoyable ride that introduces an intriguing start to a new franchise, will please many types of players, and hopefully, encourage them to ask for a more precise melding of genres in a sequel.
Ever Oasis throws players into a desert wasteland where they play as Tethu, a young Seedling who is living in an oasis run by his older brother. After the sanctuary is attacked and destroyed by a mystical force known as Chaos, Tethu escapes to partner with the Great Tree and a water spirit, Esna, to create a new oasis to bring safety and stability to the remaining survivors of Chaos’ reign. For such an intense prologue, Ever Oasis never manages to feel darker than it should, with its upbeat and interesting themes of hope and teamwork shining in the forefront. The lore revealed in-game may be minimal, but hints at how the world became a desert overrun by an evil force creates a strong undertone of mystery in a type of game that usually overlooks intrigue in favor of fun. This positive aspect is what keeps the entire experience balanced, as the player will likely cling to wanting to understand more about the history behind your standard good versus evil plot. In turn, Ever Oasis can’t be accused of lacking creativity when it comes to its narrative and visual aesthetic, as they both immediately draw the player into the world with colorful characters and enemies in a story of redemption.
I had an instinctive fear the game would primarily involve building several oases’ around the desolate land, but thankfully that never becomes an issue, as the player has to focus on just the one newly formed oasis to draw in new adventurers and salesman. Within the oasis, is an ever-growing metropolis of shopping, trading, relaxation, and the aforementioned water spirit, Esna, that keeps the sacred area from completely collapsing. It’s up to Tethu as the chief to maintain balance inside the oasis, which is accomplished through keeping the Bloom Booths stocked, Chaos plants out of the roads, completing item searching quests for inhabitants, and throwing gourmet food festivals to keep morale high. The more quests completed and Bloom Booths set up, the higher the level of the oasis goes, which in turn gives strength to a rainbow above the area that provides extra protection against Chaos and even boosts HP as you adventure in typical action-RPG fashion.
What Ever Oasis does fantastically with all of this content is that it slowly doles it out to the player. By the end of the game, there are many tasks to juggle, making it extremely helpful that each of the oasis jobs are introduced at a slow pace. This allows the player to learn about the concept, practice it, and then feel like a master before being handed a new one to add to their list of chores.
While Grezzo’s involvement could conjure up the hopeful idea this will be an immersive adventure experience, the best comparison for this game is to their 2015 work, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes. While not a massive hit, Tri Force Heroes did create a cooperative play experience in the Zelda universe that has an enjoyable “pick up and play” feeling but was lacking in story and large-scale immersion, opting for mediocre team puzzles and quick missions. Ever Oasis suffers from the same middle-tier placement, as the action-adventure portions of the game involve getting from one point of the map to another to grind for an item or rescue a lost traveler, instead of creating diverse and unique areas to feel like the overworld is bigger than just your little haven. In turn, the gameplay turns into one giant grinding mechanic, forcing the player to wake up each day in-game (about 30 minutes of real-world play time) to keep the oasis from spiraling into the control of Chaos.
Even the game’s built-in warping system confirms exploration isn’t the goal, which allows the player to locate the best creature and material spawn areas, journey into them day to day, gain more items to restock your oasis, and keep everything afloat. There is a much-needed remedy to the repetition that comes later in the story, which allows Tethu to delegate item farming, monster hunting, gardening, and store restocking to new inhabitants of the oasis, allowing more time to leave the haven and get more important quests completed. However, by this time only a few more main quests remain, meaning the primary thrust of adventure doesn’t set in until the game’s almost over. Plus, by the time the player gets to explore the areas outside of their oasis, the nagging flaw of the game sets in.
When new areas of the map are uncovered, such as caves or dungeons, they incorporate the need for different skills to traverse, which is where the team building, as well as the most frustrating aspect of the game, comes in. As with any adventure game, abilities and skills are imperative not only to take down the list of enemies the player encounters, but they also allow for expanded exploration. Each resident comes fitted with their own set of stats and equipment to aid Tethu in battle, as well as special abilities that will grant access to new areas Tethu could not reach on his own. For example, residents that wield wands can control glowing crystal formations within dungeons to create bridges or sources of light for the team, others with hammers can smash boulders blocking paths, and some can even transform into tiny pellets to roll into small holes next to locked doors. There are dozens of blockades and puzzles found within each dungeon, forcing the player to remember which oasis dweller should be brought along in each mission.
However, many of the dungeons include more than two, and at times all, of the advancement obstacles, meaning the player will have to return several times to one area with new residents to even move ahead. Only three team members can enter the overworld at a time, with Tethu being a required member no matter what, meaning only two residents can be brought along with one or possibly two abilities to use each. Overall, this concept is not a bad one, as giving every resident a unique ability keeps the theme of teamwork afloat through the whole game, but the execution of how the blockades and puzzles are laid out is downright frustrating. Instead of forcing the player to warp back and forth to pull out the correct team member just to move a block, the game could have been one that challenged us through interesting and thought-provoking puzzles that can be solved multiple ways depending on party composition, and how to solve them coming down to actual puzzle-solving and not just warping.
Strangely, despite its couple of missteps, Ever Oasis still manages to feel like a fun hybrid of Zelda, Mana, and Animal Crossing—just not a perfect one. Even though the concepts pulled from each of those series aren’t fully executed properly, there’s just enough to please different types of players. For those that love grinding and keeping the inhabitants of their oasis happy, the restocking and gardening missions will provide an enjoyable time, while players who just want to hack and slash at enemies will find plenty of them to target outside the oasis’ walls. The different characters, with their quirky and distinct personalities, keep the game from becoming a complete copy of its influences and provide a level of intensity to keep the oasis afloat, as the player grows to care for each person who finds shelter in the haven. Since the flaws rear their heads halfway through the game, Ever Oasis should be thought of more as a promising start to a franchise that could revolutionize genre melding than a lost cause. An Ever Oasis sequel that fine tunes the repetitive mechanics and introduces expansive adventure gameplay could become Nintendo’s next big thing and this is a solid step in that direction.
In Ever Oasis, melding a city-builder with a hack and slash adventure has never looked more adorable. While visually and narratively enticing, the Animal Crossing meets Zelda concept is never fully satisfying, instead giving brief joy to specific types of players, and begging for a sequel to bring every genre together perfectly.
E10+ - Everyone 10+
|Ever Oasis is available on Nintendo 3DS. Primary version played was for 3DS. Product was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|