Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ever Oasis Impressions

In addition to Final Fantasy 5, my other game for #JRPGJuly is Ever Oasis for 3DS. During last year’s otherwise Zelda-dominated E3, the announcement of Ever Oasis on the Tree House Live stream was a pleasant surprise. Based on the gameplay demonstrated on the stream and the pedigree of the director, Koichi Ishii of Secret of Mana* fame, I knew this had the makings of a game that would have me returning to 3DS after the release of the Switch. Now that I’m about a third of the way through the game, here are some thoughts on what I’ve played so far:
  • I know it’s cliché to use the word “charming” to describe a cartoony Nintendo game, but I really can’t think of a more apt phrase to describe Ever Oasis. The character designs are very cute and the sharply written script injects them with personality. The towns and surrounding wilderness are beautiful and vibrant and look great on the screen of the 3DS XL that I borrowed from my wife.
  • The music is fantastic. The town themes are bright and cheery while the desert music has a grand orchestral sound that gets the player in the mood to explore. There’s also a great sitar piece that plays in the first main dungeon that I really appreciated. In general, it’s some very deserty desert music (you’ll understand what I mean if you listen to it) but it’s very well done. In some ways, the music reminds me of the score of Final Fantasy 12.
  • The gameplay is definitely Zelda meets Harvest Moon. The exploration and combat very much feel like N64-era Zelda, which may seem simplistic compared to Breath of the Wild, but still makes for a fun handheld experience. So far the dungeons and battles have been a little on the easy side, so I’ll have to see if the difficulty ramps up as the game progresses.
  • The Harvest Moon elements come into play when managing your town (aka the oasis). The player recruits NPCs to come to the town to open up shops and the player keeps these shops stocked by providing them with loot dropped from monsters, found in the field, or grown in the oasis garden. I was initially concerned that this aspect of what is otherwise a straightforward action RPG would bog things down with monotonous chores, but these town-building segments are fairly light and directly serve the adventure by providing you with cash, stat bonuses, and new party members. Also, as the town grows, the game introduces various mechanisms to make town upkeep more efficient.
  • I’ve been coming to realize that for some reason I just like games or game levels set in deserts. The only exception is that desert stage in Mario 3 with the angry sun. Screw that guy.
With Final Fantasy 5 currently taking up my primary gaming slot, Ever Oasis has been working out really nicely as my side game (i.e. lunch breaks and before bed). Like with many 3DS games, I’m not sure I’d want to have long gaming sessions with it, but I do find myself tempted to extend my lunch breaks and stay up a little later.

* I've never played Secret of Mana, but I know it's considered one of the all-time great action RPGs. I'm planning on getting to it as part of my "Gaming Shames" project.

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