developed by Ancient/published by SEGA/1995.03.15
1 player/SEGA Genesis/Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)
Known as The Story of Thor in Japan and Europe, Ancient’s Beyond Oasis is an action RPG in the vein of The Legend of Zelda. Taking a page from Aladdin, Ali (the game’s protagonist) finds a magical golden armband while exploring some old caverns. The armband speaks to him, telling him he must stop the one who wears the silver bracelet, possessed by the spirit of Agito who wishes to bring chaos to the land of Oasis. Ali dons the armband and begins his quest, thus concluding the cool little intro to the game.
The golden armband governs wild spirits such as water, fire, shadow, and plants – and Ali must use them wisely in order to progress through the game. In order to summon a spirit, Ali must shoot a blast of energy into the desired element, such as into a water droplet or a burning bush. Once summoned, each familiar has 3 functions such as healing, lighting torches, absorbing enemy hits, transportation over gaps, and various elemental attacks. As players explore the dungeons collecting keys, hitting switches, negotiating flying platforms, and defeating enemies, more spirits will be freed and added to Ali’s arsenal.
Ali himself has a number of moves. He can sprint, crouch and crawl, jump, and perform attacks with a wide assortment of weapons (most of which have a limited number of uses) such as crossbows, swords, and bombs. Specialty weapons can be found which are very powerful and – like Ali’s mainstay dagger – have unlimited attacks. By entering Street Fighter-esque commands Ali can perform some flashy special moves for extra damage. All of the controls feel great using the Wii’s classic controller.
Ali doesn’t gain levels like a typical RPG, but by collecting familiar hearts that enemies randomly drop. These hearts increase his maximum HP by 1, so collect them whenever you can. Players are given a rank based on completion time, how many enemies they dispatch, hearts they collect, spirit stones they find, and number of deaths, resulting in a title such as Berserker at the end of the game, but does not affect the ending.
Game play feels like an action-oriented Zelda game, with button-mashing combos tearing through legions of enemy soldiers, knights, trolls, giant rats, snakes, and zombies. Likewise, the dungeons are cleverly designed and entertaining, with fun and interesting puzzles. These can be just as complex as the puzzles in a Zelda game, but the dungeons themselves are usually only one floor. The only downside are the bosses which are far too easy and require little (if any) special strategy to defeat, but like most of the enemies in the game, they at least look cool.
Which brings us to the presentation. Beyond Oasis has great graphics, suffering little despite the Genesis’ limited color palette. The background tilesets maintain stylistic consistency which reminded me of a good Saturday morning cartoon, and there’s a wide variety of locales. The main character, Ali, features an assortment of cool animations (to cover all of his different moves) and his sprite (along with that of enemies) is much bigger and more detailed than in your usual 16-bit action RPGs. This, coupled with the great game play and dungeon design make it almost perfect.
Almost. There’s only one major flaw with Beyond Oasis as far as I’m concerned, and it’s the music. It’s ok at best but usually mediocre. Unfortunately Yuzo Koshiro, who is quite talented, didn’t do much to elicit the same emotional response as a Zelda or Secret of Mana. To make matters worse, he also composed for Legend of Oasis (the Saturn sequel) and once again, prevented that game from being perfect as a result.
Length & Conclusion
For an action RPG, Beyond Oasis is surprisingly short. My first time through took just over 6 hours, and I was being fairly thorough (collecting as many spirit stones as I could find). However, I still ended up missing 16 spirit stones, suggesting there are many secrets left to be uncovered. That 6 hours however was packed with quality game play – you won’t be traversing the world map anywhere near as much as Zelda, and the rest of the time you’ll be in the dungeons.
So all in all, I would highly recommend Beyond Oasis to any and all Wii owners, it’s totally worth the $8 as it really stands the test of time. Don’t hesitate to give it a go (this was my first experience with it and I can assure you my opinion is not based on nostalgia).
- Solid graphics & controls
- Decent variety in puzzles & challenge
- One of the better 16-bit Action RPGs
- Music doesn’t add to the experience
- Surprisingly short
One Sentence Review: If you’re a fan of the genre, don’t hesitate to pick it up.
One Word Review: Fun.