Beyond Oasis
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Ancient
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • JP 12/12/1994
    • US 03/15/1995
    • UK March 1995
Score: 85%

This review was published on 11/21/2013.

Beyond Oasis is a 2-D, overhead action adventure game developed by Ancient and originally released for the Sega Genesis. There was a sequel, or rather, prequel later released for the Sega Saturn, titled The Legend of Oasis. Beyond Oasis is a lot like The Legend of Zelda meets Secret of Mana, except with an Arabian theme. The game garnered decent reviews from publications at the time, but like many lost gems on the Genesis, it wasn't very popular. Sega did try pushing this game, as it handled the publishing process. Thankfully, the game now enjoys a stout cult following on the World Wide Web. For a lot of folk, this game's existence didn't become known until the Internet took everyone by storm during the early days of broadband. Many people first discovered Beyond Oasis on retro gaming sites, much like this one. It's a good thing, too, because this game deserves every bit of recognition it gets, and then some. Even though The Legend of Zelda is a fantastic franchise, there aren't too many other games out there that are similar. And that's when Beyond Oasis comes in. Got a craving for a Zelda game, but don't actually want to play one? Then this is your game. If you've never tried Beyond Oasis, then you're beyond the oasis.

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When you turn on the game, you're treated to a marvelous opening cinematic that explains the story. The artwork during these animated sequences is fantastic, featuring tons of large scale sprites that are impressive for Genesis hardware. Ali, an oddly blond haired Arabian adventurer, travels to a distant cave on his ship and discovers a mysterious treasure. The treasure turns out to be a legendary, talking golden armlet. This sacred artifact begins to tell Ali a tale of tales about a pair of armlets; a gold one and a silver one. The two armlets possess tremendous powers, but the catch is that one of them is evil. I'll give you two guesses as to which one it is. The Silver Armlet is in the possession of another, and the evil spirit sealed within the armlet has possessed its wearer. Now the one with the Silver Armlet is off doing evil things in the land of Oasis, because that's just the sort of thing evil entities like to do. Since Ali found the Gold Armlet, he's now tasked with the slightly impossible mission of locating the owner of the Silver Armlet and stopping its evil powers. In order to do this, he must locate a couple of mystical spirits to enhance the power of the Gold Armlet he now wields, so that he would have the power he needs to thwart evil. The way in which the story is presented is neat, but the game kind of overcomplicates what ultimately amounts to a very simple premise. It's a little on the long winded side, too.

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The general flow of the game is similar to Zelda, with a little of Secret of Mana sprinkled on top. There are multiple towns with people to talk to, an expansive overworld to explore, and tons of dungeons. Towns are mostly peaceful places for you to gather information about your next objective, restock on items, and heal your wounds. Oddly enough, there are no shops or currency in this game, so you don't buy stuff. Instead, towns will have random treasure chests laying around with stuff you might need. The treasure chests reappear every so often, which essentially translates into unlimited free stuff. Healing comes in the form of talking to a special character, and it's also absolutely free. Healing outside of towns is not free, but that's another matter entirely. What's really nice about Beyond Oasis is that you can access a handy dandy map at any time during the game, with the next location you need to go to clearly marked on it. The game is pretty straight forward about telling you where to go next, so you'll rarely find yourself lost. Even Zelda games don't always clearly indicate your next destination like this, making Beyond Oasis a step ahead of its competition, at least when it comes to world navigation. It also goes without saying that the environments all look nice, with great graphics and fabulous sprite work. Exploring the world of Beyond Oasis is a treat, especially when you find hidden treats in the environment.

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There are a lot of unique things about this game, and one of those things is the way in which you control Ali. Despite there being some minor RPG elements in the game, like a simple level up mechanic, there are no random encounters or turn based battles. Everything is in real time, much like in Zelda. Unlike Zelda, however, Ali has a fairly complex set of moves he can perform at any time. He can run, jump, duck, and even crawl. Most overhead games of this type don't let you jump at any time, but this game does. The true star of the show here is the in depth combat system. Ali starts the game off with a very tiny, very weak dagger. It's not the size that counts, but how you use it. Pressing the attack button rapidly lets you do a flurry of weak stabs that transition into rapid kicks, whereas holding the button down and releasing it does a powerful horizontal slash that does tons of damage. Double-tapping the directional pad will make Ali run in a given direction, and hitting the attack button during that enables him to do an impressive dash attack. You can also attack while crouching to get at short foes like those blasted snakes. Another cool thing is the Zelda-inspired spin attack, which is done by pressing the directional pad in a circular manner and then pressing the attack button. There are more offensive maneuvers at your disposal beyond these few, resulting in a battle system that puts any Zelda game to shame. It's almost like you're playing a fighting game such as Street Fighter, except you're not. The one downside to this is that the controls take some getting used to, especially moves that change drastically depending on how long the button is held down. For instance, holding the jump button down makes you crouch, but pressing it quickly makes you jump. That can be a little confusing at times. Other than that, the game controls quite well.

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Ali's main objective in Beyond Oasis is to collect four of the elemental spirits, which will give him the power to defeat the big evil doer plaguing the land with evil. Every time Ali gets a new elemental spirit, he gains a bunch of new magical abilities. Magic works a little strange in this game, but it's pretty spiffy. In order to use any spells, Ali must first summon one of the elemental spirits he has in his possession. To do so, he has to shoot out a magical sphere from his Gold Armlet to an object with the needed element. For example, summoning the water spirit requires that you shoot the sphere into a body of water, and summoning the fire spirit necessitates some nearby fire, like a campfire. Once a spirit is summoned, it will slowly drain Ali's magic meter. The magic meter drains faster if you use one of the spirit's many abilities. Magic power automatically restores itself outside of dungeons when a spirit isn't summoned, though there is an item later in the game that changes that. Spirits generally do three different types of attacks, depending on how the button is pressed. A good example would be how the water spirit heals Ali when the button is rapidly pressed, or how it transforms into a water tornado that injures anything in its path when the button is held down for a bit. You can increase the elemental spirits' power by locating colored gems that correspond to a particular element, so these magic attacks will get stronger as time goes on. This is all well and good, but sometimes you'll run into the problem of not finding the necessary thing you need to summon a spirit. Like if you're in an area without any fire, you won't be able to summon the fire spirit. The good news is that the game will usually put what you need when you need it, though that won't always be the case. Besides the combat system, magic is easily one of the most entertaining aspects of this game, as it incorporates the environment in a unique way. It's not without its faults, but it's still pretty awesome.

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Dungeons work like they do in Zelda, except with less emphasis on puzzles and a greater emphasis on combat. You need keys to progress in the dungeons, and keys are usually gotten from enemies, so you kind of have to defeat every enemy you come by. There are also dangerous traps that must be avoided, like retracting wall spears that you must crawl under or jump over. In the rare event that a puzzle is encountered, it's typically pretty simple. Most puzzles involve pushing boulders on top of pressure plates and other things of that nature. Later in the game, puzzles will often require magic, too. An example would be when the way is blocked by ice, requiring Ali to find a nearby torch so he can summon the fire spirit and melt it. Zelda veterans should have no problem with any of these puzzles. At the end of some dungeons is a boss, and if the dungeon is special enough, Ali will get an elemental spirit added to his Gold Armlet. Elemental spirits act as wonderful rewards for besting these dark, dank areas, since they greatly add to Ali's capabilities. There are a fair amount of dungeons in the game, and they're all mostly fun to do. Some of the later dungeons do get quite hard, though, especially if you go in unprepared. Speaking of hard, a few of the later dungeons have sections with large pits and tiny, moving platforms over them that Ali must jump onto to progress. Jumping in an overhead view sucks, big time, making these some of the worst sections in the game. It's a good thing there aren't too many of these dungeons, but even so, this is the game's biggest weakness. Beyond Oasis' dungeons won't make the Zelda designers lose any sleep, but they're solid all the same.

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Items in Beyond Oasis work much like they do in other games, with food items providing restorative effects. Enemies sometimes drop items when defeated, but most of the consumable items you'll be finding in this game come inside of chests, many of which will reappear when revisiting the area. All of this is standard fare, but what's not too standard is the way in which Beyond Oasis handles weapons. Besides Ali's primary weapon, you can pick up a variety of other weapons throughout the game. Pretty much all of them are way better than your basic weapon, but there is a catch; weapons are, like items, consumables. You can only use weapons a certain amount of times before it breaks or runs out of ammo, depending on the type of weapon it is. Some weapons are exempt from this, like the basic dagger Ali starts off with, but most additional weapons you pick up are temporary luxuries. A good strategy is to save your most powerful expendable weapons for bosses, though you do have limited carrying space for stuff, so don't save too much. The different weapons include swords, bows, and bombs. Swords have much longer range and do much more damage than Ali's standard dagger, making quick work of enemies and bosses. Bows and bombs are ranged attacks for when you don't want to get too close. While the limited weapon durability can be annoying, it's easily solved by restocking on weapons any time you enter town. Like other items, they're available at no cost and reappear every time you're around. Minor inconveniences aside, this is an interesting mechanic.

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The Genesis is a console with many lost gems, and Beyond Oasis is one of them. This game is a refreshing oasis hidden deep within a vast desert. The graphics are charming, the soundtrack is soothing, and the game play is solid. Some of its mechanics are a bit on the complicated side, but that's nothing a little experimentation can't solve. The exciting combat system helps keep the game amusing throughout, and the magic system, while complex, is fun. Sadly, the game is much shorter than The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Secret of Mana, the two games it takes after. That in no way blemishes its quality, though. Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go. The only real concrete issue with this game is the horrible platform-to-platform jumping it sometimes makes you do, but I'll let it slide since everything else is so good. Beyond Oasis is well beyond awesome.

Word Count: 2,183

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