This is another first-impressions article, not a review. It reflects my opinion on the game based on the hours I have put into it so far. I may still be early in this game, but I have played it enough to get a good handle on the game and know I like it quite a bit.
I have bought a bunch of games in the past few weeks, but of them the one that I have played the most of is probably Ever Oasis for 3DS. Published by Nintendo, and produced and developed by Koichi Ishii, creator of the Mana franchise, and his studio Grezzo, the team behind the two N64-to-3DS Zelda ports of OoT and MM, this game should have been a much bigger deal than it seems to be. Apparently most people don’t care about the 3DS anymore, Pokemon perhaps excepted, so this really good 2017 release and new IP got overlooked. The game has mixed reviews, but some are good, such as an 8.9 from IGN, for example, but I haven’t seen the game talked about nearly as much as it should. New IPs are hard to be successful with indeed, as the stereotype goes; with the Mana name I’m sure this would have gotten more attention.
Anyway, Ever Oasis is a third-person action-RPG with two elements, adventuring in an Arabian desert-themed environment and building the town in your oasis. You are a special Seedling, and can partner with an oasis water spirit to build a small town around the waterhole in this dry expanse. Your goal is to try to stop Chaos and the monsters it has spawned, which have destroyed all of the other oasises in the desert, including the one you are from. You will meet other, regular Seedlings in your oasis town, but they cannot build oasises of their own, only businesses in your town.
Now, in the games’ box and packaging, they only show and mention the male playable character, but in the actual game you can play as either a male or female character. I have no idea why they hid the female character option from almost all of the games’ marketing, but it’s there. You can’t customize your character choice beyond choosing your gender, and both characters are cute little semi-human things, but it works in the games’ nice, cartoony art style.
Indeed, the graphics in general here are really nice, particularly in 3D. This game fully supports 3d, and as someone who always uses their 3DS with the 3d slider set to maximum, that’s awesome. The 3d effect is really nice and adds to the already good graphics. The charming art design fits with the 3DS’s graphics hardware perfectly, and the desert looks great. I like the way the sand glistens.
As a short aside, on a controls note, the New 3DS (or New 2DS) is definitely recommended for this game, as you can use the right stick to move the camera around. You can’t move the camera at all without a New 3DS, so have one for this game. The New 3DS also duplicates some functions onto ZL and ZR that you’d otherwise have to hit the d-pad or touchscreen for, which is handy. The rest of the controls work with either system — you have two attacks, weak and strong; a dodge-roll; a lock-on button; a button to use your tornado ability; and such.
On that note, in Ever Oasis’s gameplay, the Zelda influence is clear, as is the town-building influence from Animal Crossing and such. You are the mayor of your oasis, and also its protector. Most of your time in this game will be spent exploring the world, which is segmented into areas with dungeons underneath them, but you need to regularly return to your town and manage that as well. When you leave town and enter the overworld, you wander around, attack enemies with your weapon, and such. Enemies and plants will drop materials, which you can use to fulfill quests for people in your town, to build new buildings in town that convince visiting Seedlings to stay permanently, and more. By doing quests for visitors in your town you can get them to stay permanently, so that encourages you to explore. Now, as in most gmaes with monster and plant parts, there is crafting here, but it is thankfully very simple. You just collect stuff and return it to shops which need those things to sell, or to Seedlings to complete a quest, or alternately use them in your crafting area to make items for yourself. There is no guesswork involved in that last one here, though, as the game just tells you what you need to make each item, and if you have the materials and money you can make it. This is about as much crafting as I want in a game, so that’s nice.
So yes, you do a lot of fetch quests in this game. You get benefits, though, not only in health from Rainbow Protection, but also financially. See, you pick up stuff, like plant or monster parts, but you can’t just sell it for money, and you’ll need money to build new shops for your residents, synthesize items for yourself (it’s simple crafting, thankfully, you just get the items for the listed formulas and it makes them, no guesswork required), and such. Instead, you get money from revenues from sales at the shops. That is, as shopkeepers sell items to the other people in your oasis, they collect a part of the profits and you can collect those revenues once a shop has sold enough. It’s an interesting mechanic which fits well with the ‘you’re the mayor’ element of this game.
Now, at first this game seems pretty hard, but it gets easier a little ways in. One of my few criticisms of this game would be that I don’t know about having the game seem hard at first only for it to get easier later, but if you stay focused on your quests it works; it’s worse if you try to explore around right at the start without doing the missions. So, at the beginning you start with 10 hit points and die in about two hits. Additionally, in this game you can only save in town, and when you die the game is kind of harsh — you have to go back to your last save. You also can’t warp back to town at the beginning, this is something you unlock later. I don’t have this ability yet where I am in the game, but I wish I had it even now. And last, while this is an RPG with a levelling system, you don’t get experience right when you kill enemies. Instead, you get experience for all enemies you killed in your expedition when you return to town. So, you need to return alive in order to make any progress. Returning to town and seeing that experience bar fill up all at once can be satisfying, though.
As I said, however, once you get going things get easier as you unlock more abilities. If you do the first mission, which is very easy, you get Rainbow Protection, which gives a huge boost to your health (I went from 11 HP to 41), varying based on how happy your oasis’s residents are. Rainbow Protection, which refers to protection from the rainbow that is over your oasis, also allows you to resurrect after dying, once only at first but more time as you progress. This is really important, given how easy it is to die. I spent some time getting frustrated wandering around and dying a lot before doing this quest, but just do it first. You do need to learn to dodge, though. But yes, keeping your little town’s people happy, by doing quests for them and providing them with the stuff they need to sell at their stores, is a key part of this game.
Your character starts with a sword but you eventually get several weapon types. You can also shoot out small tornadoes, which you use to activate switches for dungeon puzzles, blow away small piles of sand that pile up around and often have items in them, and such. And once you get party members you can also switch between them, and they each have their own weapon and ability for use in puzzles. You also eventually get the ability to warp between where you are and town; I don’t have this yet, but it’d be very useful. Overall this isn’t an especially complex game once you get used to it, as most puzzles seem simple and the gameplay is fairly straightforward and repetitive — fight enemies, collect stuff, build town, repeat — but it’s a lot of fun and is a definite challenge. Sure, the game gets a lot easier once you have the Rainbow Protection benefits and party members, but I think there is still definite challenge to be found. Even with boosted health and such, losing a lot of it quickly is easy if you don’t dodge well, and healing items are limited. Losing health is particularly easy in battles against multiple enemies, as dodging all of them is much harder with more than one foe at once.
I mentioned that there are also dungeons beneath the overworld. The first area of the game has three, two small one-room caves and one larger dungeon to explore. Some of this game is predesigned and some is randomly generated, but regardless dungeons are fun to explore and are full of enemies and puzzles, fitting its Zelda influence. The dungeons here are not 3D Zelda game dungeon great and puzzles, at least early on, are very simple and obvious, but even so the dungeons are fun to explore, at least the first time; returning to them over and over for materials may be a pain, but ah well. It’s a good game either way.
So, overall, so far I really like Ever Oasis. The game may get repetitive and I’m not sure of its difficulty balance, but otherwise this is a very good to great game with great graphics for its system, good art design, fun and reasonably challenging gameplay, good Zelda-inspired puzzles, and some decent, if simple, town management as well. All of the elements of this game work together well into a good whole. I’m still early in Ever Oasis, but I’m quite liking it and I hope that more people play the game, it’s well worth it. The 3DS is still a great system and while next year might not have much releasing for it (we’ll see), 2017 was a good year for the platform and this game is one of the reasons why. Anyone with any interest should at least try the Ever Oasis demo, which is free on the eshop. Or just get the game if it sounds good, so far I’d definitely recommend it.