Ever since it was revealed during Nintendo Treehouse Live at E3 2016, Ever Oasis seems to have gone under the radar, with little anticipation noticeable among the Nintendo fandom. Nevertheless, Ever Oasis remained one of my most anticipated Nintendo games this year. The title looked like a unique mix of city building and Zelda-esque action adventure gameplay and it has all with the charm of Secret of Mana — a point that makes sense given that this game was made by the director of that famous SNES title: Koichi Ishii.
My anticipation was well placed, as Ever Oasis is one of the best 3DS games I have played recently, blending multiple well-developed mechanics together to make tending to and defending Tethu’s Oasis an engaging and fun experience for fans of both genres.
The backstory of Ever Oasis is fairly simple. The world used to be lush and green, as the Water Spirits worked with Seedlings, humanoid plant-people. One day Chaos came and enveloped the land, but a Seedling from the “Great Tree” was able to step up and stop him.
As the years passed, Chaos returned and most of the land became a giant desert. Some special seedlings with powers from the Great Tree partnered with Water Spirits to form oases for refugees of their world, but these oases have slowly started to diminish.
Players start the game as customizable character whose default name is Tethu, living in an oasis with his/her brother. After Chaos destroys that Oasis, players meet up with the Water Spirit Esna, and decide to start a oasis together.
From there, the story covers Tethu’s quest to rid the land of Chaos while also building up his oasis. It is a very simple and feelgood story for most part, but it is well-written, giving players a good reason to care for Tethu and the oasis and watch them both grow throughout the adventure.
Before I get into gameplay, I want to state one place where Ever Oasis excels: its graphics and soundtrack. The game is one of the best looking 3DS games that I have played. I chock this up to the development team being able to craft a vibrant and colorful setting with interesting and varied character designs without looking budgeted.
While many of the environments heavily feature sand, they don’t get repetitive due to the developers taking advantages of all the different colors of the desert. Sand may be tan, or possibly more white, and turns into a beautiful shade of greenish-blue at night.
Tethu is also super cute, and the enemy designs are creative and varied. Ever Oasis takes advantage of creatures that may or may not usually be associated with the desert, and makes them work throughout the game.
The world is large and pretty, but its atmosphere is also bolstered by the amazing soundtrack, whose large scale always sets the tone for whatever environment the player is in. It is one of my favorite soundtracks so far this year, and is definitely up there with other great 3DS tunes.
Performance wise, it was stable for the most part on my New Nintendo 3DS, although I did see it chug a few time during some of the more graphically intensive moments on-screen. Luckily, these small performance issues are currently overshadowed by the rest of Ever Oasis’ presentation, and could be fixed through updates in the future.
There are two main types of gameplay spearheaded in Ever Oasis: a third-person action-adventure RPG experience not to far off from titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and oasis building and micromanagement. These two systems work well in tandem, and neither feels underdeveloped, making this standout game on 3DS for both genres.
The cycle starts with a character, who could be another seedling or another creature indigenous to this world, arriving at the oasis. As soon as they do, Tethu can go talk to them.
Some characters will immediately decide to live in the oasis, while the player main goes on a quest or finds certain items for other characters in order to convince them to stay. If they are a seedling, you can decide to have them grow a Bloom Booth, which will sell a predetermined good. These Booths are where the meat of micromanaging in Ever Oasis comes in.
The oasis has pre-allocated space for Bloom Booths, which can increase by leveling up one’s Oasis by getting more people to live there. You can choose where to set each booth up, which adds a neat feeling similar to that found in city building games, as one can customize their Oasis to be their own.
Every day, new characters you meet in the outside world and cute owl-like creatures called Noots purchase goods from each booth with with Dewadems, the main currency in the world of Ever Oasis.
Dewadems are the lifeblood of most things in Ever Oasis, they are used to do things like craft and place Bloom Booths, buy items from merchants, and craft different items and gear at Tethu’s house. Booths can run out of stock though, so the player must go out into the world and find the required items in order to keep the booths running and get more Dewadems.
Booths can also be leveled up by chatting with their owners constantly restocking the Booth. Leveled up Bloom Booths sell more and make more Dewadems, making them a necessity for a successful oasis in the late game.
Each resident also has a smile meter, meaning they can be happy or sad depending on how much attention Tethu pays to them; whether that be through going on an adventure with him or restocking their booth. The oasis also has a “Rainbow Protection” meter that players must make sure stays as full as possible, as it strengthens the rainbow that covers the oasis, protecting it from Chaos while also giving adventurers a slight boost in the field.
There is a lot to micromanage in the oasis, but luckily it never becomes overwhelming. The menus are very straightforward, and as you progress through the game and get more booths, you see visible improvements and also gain access to shortcuts that allow one to restock booths quickly. I spent nearly as much time in my oasis as I did outside of it adventuring, and it never became frustrating or obtrusive for me.
Aside from the main quest, residents of one’s oasis will occasionally give hints of where new residents may be or will give Tethu a new sidequest all together. These force the player to venture out into the world.
Combat is pretty simple; players can lock on to enemies and have a light and strong attack. These can be strung together to create combos. Tethu also has his Green Gale, a special wind ability that allows him to clear piles of sand and rid the world of some chaos. There is also a dodge roll that players must time right in order to stay alive.
Button mashing doesn’t work in Ever Oasis, you actually have to put thought into when to make each blow. The combat is great for the most part, although I did have some problems with the lock on features — it would occasionally not register or instead center the camera behind Tethu, leading to some unfair hits in an otherwise fair game. That being said, this problem only popped up occasionally.
Partway through the game, you are able to establish a booth where you can change your characters’ equipment and restructure your party of three. Other residents who can work alongside you have special abilities, like being able to roll into a seed or use their large spear to pull down certain switches or flip over objects. These abilities are necessary in many of the game’s dungeons, which deliver a Zelda-esque experience with a nice mix of combat and puzzle solving.
Every time you return to the oasis, each character gains experience and can level up. The three-person party mechanic works well once you are in the field, evoking Secret of Mana memories, but it can be a bit frustrating to set up. Returning to the oasis and constructing the party and equipping gear through a booth at the oasis takes up too much time, occasionally killing the pace of the adventure.
Luckily, it is very easy to teleport to and from the oasis, which offsets some problems. However, it still feels like an unnecessary step in the process, especially when there is an in game menu that already lets you view your characters. This part of the game is well bit otherwise, making Ever Oasis one of the best 3D action adventure games on the 3DS.
Ever Oasis was able to blend two very different genres together well, surpassing my expectations to create one of my favorite 3DS titles in recent memory. While a few small problems did get in the way sometimes, both the oasis building and world exploring work really well.
Ever Oasis proves that the six year old handheld still has the potential to pump out some great content, while also being one of Koishi Ishii’s best works. Even if you haven’t heard of the game befor3 this review, I urge you to check Ever Oasis out, especially if you are a fan of city builders or Zelda-style games.