Release date: June 23, 2017
At E3 last year, Nintendo showcased a brand new 3DS game from Grezzo. An action RPG curated by the team that gave us the Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask remakes, Ever Oasis gives us a look into the developer’s own original ideas and concepts and very much showcases what they can do. Is this creative idea enough to revive life into the 3DS, or should everybody find their own oasis back on the Switch?
Ever Oasis presents itself within a cut-scene right off the bat, telling us the world is made up of Oases and when people who inhabit their oasis’ aren’t pleased, Chaos will reign. Here we’re also introduced to core mechanics of the game, which mainly fall into two categories. You’ll either be out and about scavenging materials and exploring the desert, or spend your time inside your Oasis doing a plethora of tasks to maintain happiness and make it the best it can be.
One of the biggest takeaways from Ever Oasis’ initial hours is its ridiculous hand holding and slow pacing. Even as an RPG that could be tailored to younger audiences, it should not take upwards of an hour and half for the player to be introduced to the core mechanics – especially when the title is on a handheld system, meaning extended play sessions may not be as frequent. It only worsens the blow when taken into consideration how simple the situation is to eradicate. An example is during a quest I ran into about two hours into my playtime. A young villager named Pami visited my Oasis and I needed to speak to her, so I traveled to where she was. As soon as I arrived, a cut-scene was initiated that had the camera zoom in on Pami and the speech bubble floating above her head. After the cut-scene, the camera cut to a shot where they once again showed Pami with her bubble before panning back over to me. Finally, I was returned to regular control over my character only to be immediately interrupted by my partner telling me “Hey! You should talk to Pami!”.
Looking past the hand holding and very sluggish start, however, we are greeted with a much prettier view on the horizon. Right from the get-go, you’re taught how to manage your Oasis, and there are a wide collection of tasks and duties at hand to keep things growing. You’ll be establishing and stocking stores, maintaining the happiness of residents through quests, and inviting and making room for new villagers.
These work in tandem with the other half of gameplay, where as soon as you step out of the confines of your home you’re whisked away into a sizeable world filled with monsters and dungeons to tackle. Out here is where you’ll gather everything necessary to keep the Oasis as vast as can be. Your party used for exploration starts with just a member of one, but as you advance farther in the mainline of the game, your group can grow and have members with all kinds of different abilities. Some members have staffs perfect for flipping switches, others are just the right size for fitting through small crevices in the walls, and some have magical abilities that are the only solution to thwarting evil – all of which are useful as you progress through dungeons and explore the world.
Going back to previously-explored dungeons with a new arsenal of members to grant yourself access to areas you couldn’t before is a nice, although generally a surface level feature. In fact, most of the exploration in this game feels like it falls into that trap. There are nice ideas that in execution fail to provide enough depth to make trekking through for a round two all worth it. The real rewards come in the form of your Oasis itself.
There may not be a lot of surprises to unearth when exploring the world outside, but the feeling you get seeing the Oasis gates rise and greet you after a tumultuous journey is nothing short of comforting and nostalgic, and then being able to exchange all your findings into happier villagers is just so satisfying it’s hard to refute doing it. Watching as the numbers of residents increase and the selection and variety of faces and shops make you forget all the time you spent unearthing and solving the same secrets time and time again.
Another peaceful distraction of the game’s shortcomings is the world itself. The world on a visual level is so whimsical and cheery it’s genuinely difficult not to fall in love with everything you come across. Though light on lore, the landscapes looming in the distance still had me intrigued enough to travel over there and see what it’s made of, and the cute villagers who visit and eventually inhabit your Oasis are precious like no other. It’s impressive that to the bright color palette and those aforementioned landscapes, Grezzo was able to make a world that takes place exclusively in the desert or in dank caves still look visually interesting. The great soundtrack also helps here and absolutely took me by surprise. There are some incredible pieces of music that definitely weren’t expected from a title like this.
Ever Oasis is very clearly a project brimming with passion and love, but unfortunately still failed to hit some of the marks for me. In some ways, it feels almost like a picture book. The pictures may be beautiful and done very well, but without all the other pieces that make a book so captivating are absent, it’s not as desirable a product. The highs are certainly some highs, but with too many lows found within the gameplay it doesn’t quite make that perfect blend, and at the end of my experience I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied with the time I put into it.
While it’s definitely not the title 3DS needs to keep it afloat, Ever Oasis is a valiant and respectable effort and an interesting first look at Grezzo’s first solo ventures. If you’re looking for an RPG that’ll whisk your summer hours away, this might not be quite the title for you. As it stands, Ever Oasis is a game that has some shortcomings that prevent it from keeping up with the current competition the system has to offer. It could be worth the pickup for enthusiasts of the genre, but unless you’re dying to spend time looking at cute things or with your 3DS, there are other options to consider.
Ever Oasis review copy provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.