On June 15th, Nintendo released a free demo for their upcoming 3DS title (and new IP) developed by Grezzo, Ever Oasis.
That said, I decided to play through it a couple of times and write down some notes and thoughts on the game based on what the demo had to offer (which isn’t the full experience by the way), which you can find listed below.
- The game’s main objective is to (as Tethu or Tethi) help Esna save the last Oasis of Vistrada, that still hasn’t been destroyed by the corrupting forces of Chaos. This premise lends itself well to future sequels, since it’s not only simple, but Seedlings (Tethu’s tribe) seem to be the most common tribe in the game for various reasons. However, there are also some factors that might make that complicated to pull off, since Esna is the last Water Spirit, and only Tethu (and probably other Chief Seedlings) can see her. So if they ever get to the point of wanting to do a sequel, then they will need to either change worlds or expand the current one, or find a way to create more Water Spirit characters that can work with other Seedlings to create other Oases somewhere in the world. Or you know, change the gameplay, or pretend this game never happened by destroying everything again, but that would be kind of sad to do.
- Some of the game’s themes seem to be conveyed via opposites or counterparts, since you have the light of the rainbow, which is colorful and connected to the Great Tree, that brings order and protection to the Oasis, and is contrasting with the forces of Chaos, wich is described as being formless and erratic, and brings about darkness and destruction. I think it’s also worth pointing out that Tethu seems to be a male counterpart to Esna, which is female, and that their “union” could be seen as a coming together of the Earth and Water elements, all of which is often used in combination to represent new life, growth and fertility, which is exactly what is being done here. New Seedling residents can also create Bloom Booths from the seed in their hearts, which further supports that type of idea.
- Like Koichi Ishii, the game’s director and producer, has stated, the game is indeed full of “Nintendo-isms” and “Square-ism”. I think the Nintendo influence is mostly noticeable in the game’s mechanics and dungeon design, while the Square influence becomes visible in the art style, character design, and music of the game, most of the time. Overall, you can tell the team was pulling some ideas from the Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Mana series, which Ishii worked on before. I also think music might be one of the strongest points of this game, and some aspects of it reminded me of Final Fantasy music sometimes.
- Mechanically, the game seems to relly on micro and macro management systems, which seem to cycle and intertwine together, influencing each other as you complete various tasks. For example, the game’s big cycle starts by receiving a visiting traveller, which then will bring about a rumour or request that can be fulfilled by exploring at least one of the various desert areas. After completing this request, the traveller might become a new Oasis resident, allowing you to build a new Bloom Booth if it’s a Seedling, which in turn might attract more visiting travellers. If it isn’t a Seedling, at least the new resident might contribute with new tribe specific skills, therefore opening up access to new areas for you to explore. There are also other minor systems which depend on and influence the main cycle. This includes, for example, the correct placement of Bloom Booths to maximize earnings, or restocking them to keep stores from closing and increase the owner’s Smile Meter, which also contributes to boosting your Rainbow Protection, which grants more HP to party members and prevents Chaos Plants from growing in the Oasis. There’s also the synthesis system, which ties in with recipes, that allows you to create new equipment, and then there’s the gardening system, which lets you plant and grow seeds to obtain fruit you can’t collect in the desert. All of these system are connected to items, which you will need to explore the desert to obtain for the most part, once again feeding into the game’s big cycle. I also noticed that the Fruit Shop, one of the Bloom Booths, could change colors among four options, something I think could be used to attract Noot visitors of a specific color, and somewhat proves this game has much more depth than it lets on at first.
- The mechanics mentioned above, because of the way they are constructed, might even minimize or make irrelevant some of the things that might be perceived as problems initially. For example, you can only change your party’s equipment at Tethu’s home or Shakuro’s Counter, which might seem limiting, but since the cycle incites you to return to the Oasis after completing each request, and you can only synthesize new equipment there, this becomes almost irrelevant, since you will want to change your equipment once you are back and you will want to properly prepare for that next specific request before leaving. You also can’t directly sell your items or equipment (at least in the demo) for extra Dewadems (the in-game currency), but you can trade materials (most of the items are these) for others you might need more, and use those or your own materials to restock your booths, for example, which will eventually convert them into more Dewadems. So in essence, you don’t need to directly sell items, since you will eventually profit from them anyways, but selling equipment would have been nice, if it isn’t part of the final game. Finally, you can only save the game by sleeping in Tethu’s hammock, which also brings about the morning of the next day and makes your garden plants grow, or by using a warp point, but the game’s areas don’t seem to be that big, which might minimize this problem depending on the placement and amount of existing warp points in the final version.
- When it comes to tribes, the game has five of them: Seedlings, Drauk, Serkah, Lagora, and Noot. Since the Noot only buy things and don’t seem to become residents of your Oasis, they also can’t become party members. Putting that together with the game’s Register, and taking into account that Miura seems to be the first Drauk to join you, the demo implies that there should be a total of 62 potential residents, 38 of which would be Seedlings, while the other 24 might be equitatively divided among the other three playable tribes, with that making 8 residents of each one of them. The number of Seedlings is probably much bigger because the creation of Bloom Booths rellies of their ability to plant the seed in their hearts to make them appear.
- Characters are overall simple, but varied, displaying their own identities. Most of their names seem to come from an Egyptian, Arabic or Indian origin, helping to play up the desert theme. This is easily noticeable by paying attention to Esna, which is the name of an Egyptian city near the Nile, and her little helper, Kephri, which is the name of an Egyptian scarab god. Also, the fact that each potential party member has its own class and skills, means that each character will likely have moments where it will be more useful than others. For example, even though Roto, Lili, and Sasha are all Seedlings of the Healer class, which has an ability to heal over time, each one of them contributes to the party with different skills or weapons. Both Lili and Sasha use swords, but Roto uses bolas instead. Meanwhile, Roto has the Pellet skill, which is needed to explore certain areas, while Sasha has the mining skill, which is necessary to mine certain materials, and finally Lili has the Beast Defense + and Scaled Defense + skills, which reduces damage taken from those types of monsters, making it safer to farm them for material drops. Each Seedling also owns it’s own Bloom Booth, which adds even more variety to characters of that specific tribe. This might make it seem like Seedlings are more important, but you must remember that there are certain field actions that only members of the other tribes can pull off. This includes the Drauk’s ability to pull levers and turn objects upside down with their lance, the Serkah’s ability to smash rocks using their hammers, and the Lagora’s ability to cut down spider webs with their twin swords, among other things that make them as valuable as the Seedlings under the right circumstances.
- The desert area outside the Oasis, the Qarr Dunes, seems to have six dungeon areas accessible from it, at least in the demo, but you obviously can’t progress very far in any of them because this is a demo. Three or four of those dungeons seem like they could lead to other areas in the game, possibly where the settlements of the other tribes would be. Taking into account there are four tribes besides the Seedlings, and that the first area has six dungeons, it seems like the game could have a reasonble number of dungeons and areas to explore. These other areas also seem to be visible in the world map, but it’s hard to gauge how big they could actually be just from that. The game’s world might not be that big though, since Ishii has stated that he sees Vistrada as just a part of the world he really wanted to create. That said, it’s possible that if this game is successful and ends up getting a sequel or spiritual successor, we might be able to see the rest of that world he imagined. Although it’s a bit worrying at first glance, I think that if we take into account the game’s systems, cutscenes, number of Oasis residents, etc., we might still be looking at a solid 30-40 hour game.
- The battle system seems to be quite simplistic, but still has a bit of depth to it. Monsters can have at least up to two attributes out of seven, which make them weak or strong against certain weapons, making it important to have a varied party and to plan for situations you expect to encounter before leaving the Oasis. You can fight and explore with your various party members, which is a welcome change of pace from just using Tethu in the Oasis, and adds some diversity to how you can personally fight monsters. Moreover, like in most 3D Zelda games, you can press the L button to focus the camera on an enemy or reposition it behind your character, but unlike in Zelda you still need to position yourself properly next to a monster before attacking. I think this might have been done intentionally to add a bit of depth and difficulty to battles, instead of making them just about auto-locking into monsters, since you need to be constantly aware of your surroudings and position in relation to monsters and your party members, or things can get ugly fast, especially against big numbers of monsters or monsters that half-hide themselves when attacking, like sand vipers who hide in the sand for example. There’s also a roll dodge you can perform by pressing the B button, but it’s a bit slow and short, so it only becomes useful when you start to predict a monster’s attack pattern and are aware of your position and that you should keep your distance sometimes. You also can’t abuse it to move around faster by rolling like in Zelda, but the walking speed is good, so that isn’t a problem here.
And I think that’s about it. Overall, based on the demo, the game looks like it will be a solid and enjoyable experience, and I would play it just for the music and art style alone, to be honest. Hopefully gamers can overlook the fact this is coming out near the end of the 3DS’ lifespan and will give it a chance. After all, this is Grezzo’s first true work for Nintendo, since everything they have done so far has either been some sort of minor game, like Line Attack Heroes and StreetPass Garden, or a collaboration with someone else, like the various Zelda games they have helped Nintendo with and FuRyu’s The Legend of Legacy. So if you want Nintendo to accept more original titles pitched by them instead of just having them collaborate on random projects, now is the time to show your support, I guess. Here’s to the success of Ever Oasis!
Finally, if you have any questions or want to ask me something, I will eventually answer to the best of my ability and knowledge, so leave me a comment below or hit me up in one of the social media accounts.