Beyond Oasis, Ancient (1995) Sega Genesis

beyond-oasis-cover

Called The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light in Europe, but as there is no mention of anybody, or anything named Thor, we’ll break from tradition and call this game by the American title, and feature the American Box art.

The important question is can an almost Zelda Clone be a good game?

Story

You take on the role of Prince Ali, the wearer of the Golden Armlet. On the day you find the Golden Armlet, your Kingdom is attacked by an evil wizard wielding the Silver Amulet. You are then tasked with finding the 4 spirits of Oasis (Water, Fire, Shadow and a plant), in order to defeat the evildoera.

There are a couple of twists, but nothing too stupid meaning the story keeps ticking along nicely.

EU boxart

EU boxart

Gameplay

Beyond Oasis is a Zelda-like dungeon exploration Action RPG. You travel the overworld, from clue to clue which eventually lead to dungeons. Complete a dungeon and you unlock the Spirit of that Dungeon. The Spirit is then summoned to aide progress.

Unlike Zelda, you don’t get an “item” per dungeon, instead the magic spirit serves this purpose. If you use your Golden Armlet on Water you’ll summon the Water Spirit (Dytto), aiming at fire will give you Efreet, at a shadow crystal powers you with Shade, and finally shooting at a little plant will give you Bow.

The game looks GOOD.

The game looks GOOD.

Each spirit has 3 different abilities too, it makes them much more useful than just a grappling hook, and means the Megadrive pad is managing to squeeze a lot out of its three buttons as each spirit attack is used by pressing the special button in different ways (tap, hold, double tap).

  • Dytto: Can extinguish fire, this is usually to unblock on a door, but also attacks enemies. She can heal you, and also unleashes a powerful tornado that’ll hurt most things in the room.
  • Efreet: Shoots a flame, this will melt a block of ice blocking your path, or again, hurt an enemy. He can also shoot across the screen as a fireball. Finally, holding the attack button will unleash his fury, where he erupts like a volcano.
  • Shade: Acts as the utility character. The standard move is a grappling hook, that’ll traverse gaps, or bring out of reach items to you. Another ability is to create a doppelganger, which will allow you to activate two switches. Finally, Shade is a protective shield, with Shade activate you won’t take damage, instead you’ll lose magic power. Lose all magic, and you lose your shield.
  • Bow: Is a plant, and looks like a piranha plant from Super Mario. Bow’s primary purpose is to eat green gates, he also has a stun move that is used for one puzzle. You get him last, and you barely need to use him.
Getting Shade, oh yeah!

Getting Shade, oh yeah!

These moves can also be used to aide you in combat, I especially love Efreet running around throwing haymakers and killing zombies in one. I would use Dytoo a lot too, as her healing is somewhat useful in dungeons!

The main use of the Spirits though, is to complete puzzles, and you can’t always summon the one you want when you want to. It means you have to scour the dungeon looking for the place where you can summon a specific spirit. Obviously people who know the game can plan ahead, but it adds a nice dimension for learning the game. It means you’ll tend to find some of the secrets, as if you don’t have the right spirit at the right time, you have to explore. It means that like Link to the Past ,exploration is rewarded, and that you don’t have to go in every room just for  checkboxing. Exploration itself is a reward.

Some items are totally OP

Some items are totally OP

Puzzles

As this is a dungeon crawler there are a lot of puzzles. I am not the biggest fan of box pushing puzzles, but Beyond Oasis tends to do it well, as it doesn’t always rely on simple puzzles. The Spirits are intuitive, and combine well with the puzzles in a number of innovative ways to make Beyond Oasis’s puzzles a little bit more interesting.

The platforming sections are probably the weakest aspect of the game. It isn’t broken, and certainly doesn’t ruin the game like in Double Dragon II, but the platforming can be very frustrating at first. It isn’t until the 2nd Spirit shrine that you have to start platforming, and until you get used to the perspective of the jumps, you’ll fall off ledges a lot.

This bit was somewhat vexing

This bit was somewhat vexing

The bosses are all suitably epic, and Beyond Oasis might have my favourite final boss, Agito. I really enjoyed the sprite for the last boss in Shining Force, and Kefka is a beast with the best music in Final Fantasy VI, but the final boss here is pretty epic. I won’t spoil the fight though, go play it.

Negatives

The most frustrating part in the game in the Forrest Shrine boss, this was a combination of fiddly platforming and constantly getting knocked off the platforms.Thankfully, falling off a platform isn’t instadeath, you just respawn near by, with slightly less health.

If you die in a dungeon you have to repeat the whole dungeon again. You don’t start at the beginning with your progress saved, like Zelda. Instead, you have to rerun the whole thing. This can be a little frustrating, but it doesn’t actually take you long to get back to where you were. Each dungeon will take you 40-60 minutes, but if you die, you’ll be able to clear it in 10-20 minutes. It means that while the death is frustrating, you never feel like you’re being overly punished.

I fell off a lot here. Side note: Cheat, and you the bow and arrow

I fell off a lot here.
Side note: Cheat, and you the bow and arrow

I guess one criticism is that the dungeons are really small, you don’t get a map or compass specific to the dungeon, and that speaks volumes. The dungeons are well layed out, but there are probably less than 20 rooms in each dungeon. It means that it is almost impossible to get lost.

The combat is a little awkward, movement and combat is pretty much gridbased, but you and enemies can be in half in one grid, and half the other, it means that while it looks like you should be hitting the enemy you’re swinging wildly and missing. This happens on the blob enemies due to perspective, but it also happens to the human enemies, it is doubly frustrating when they’re able to hit you and you can hit them.

The final boss is pretty bad ass

The final boss is pretty bad ass

Conclusion

I loved Beyond Oasis, and as  “Zelda clones” go, this is spot on. It took the right cues from Link to the Past and it added it’s own clever spins. At 5-8 hours for a first playthrough, or under 1 hour for a speedrun, the game isn’t THAT large, and the lack of proper RPG elements will put the more hardcore off. Having said that, there are a lot of secrets, giving you plenty of reasons to replay the game.

The issues I have in the platforming are remedied by having a fair punishment. The small environment encourages exploration and the combat does make sense. So overall what you have here is a solid Action RPG that almost matches Link to the Past in terms of quality, but not scope.

Beyond Oasis is without a doubt one of my favourite Megadrive games.

Pros: Fun, short, plenty of depth, replayability, the graphics are sumptuous, the final boss is awesome

Cons: Nothing called Thor in Western Release

90%

Back in the day

Beyond Oasis tended to score late 80s scores and was praised for it’s “vast game world” and “shocking plot twists”

The boss is awesome!

The bosses are awesome!

My stats in super blur-o-vision

My stats in super blur-o-vision

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3 thoughts on “Beyond Oasis, Ancient (1995) Sega Genesis

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