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CONSOLE: Sega Genesis DEVELOPER: Ancient PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 15, 1995 GENRE: Action/Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

Not quite as popular as the band Oasis.

Another day, another game! Today, I'll be popping in Beyond Oasis for the Sega Genesis, a game often overlooked in favour of the more popular titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat II, or Streets of Rage. It's funny because the latter of those popular titles shares some similarities to Beyond Oasis, but because it was released much later in the Genesis' lifespan, perhaps it just didn't grasp that love like earlier titles did.

Known also as "The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light" in Europe and similarly named in Japan, Beyond Oasis was developed by Ancient, known for a variety of games including Streets of Rage 2, ActRaiser 2, and Shenmue. It tells the tale of Prince Ali, who, during a bit of a treasure hunt, uncovers a Gold Armlet whose legend dates back to a war between wizards. The Gold Armlet in question was used to summon djinns of the spirit world, while the opposing Silver Armlet (now held by a dark being) was meant solely for the desecration of the world. Having secured his own fate, Prince Ali now has to hunt down the four spirits of the Gold Armlet and put an end to the curses brought forth by the wearer of the Silver Armlet.

Not to be confused with a Western Armlet. That has peppers.

First thing's first: as soon as I arrived at the file select screen, I knew that this was going to be a truly, TRULY epic journey. When it appears, some of the coolest bass I've ever heard in a video game to date plays. I can thank Yuzo Koshiro, the game's composer (and the composer of many other great game soundtracks), for injecting that into my earholes. The rest of the music is also very orchestral and fitting, but that one bassline just tickles me in a way that I probably should not be tickled. What doesn't tickle me as much? Finding a game from 1995 that doesn't let me input more than three letters in my file name.

Beyond Oasis plays like a combination between an action-RPG and a beat-'em-up. The game takes place in the land of Oasis (where I have yet to find much of an ACTUAL oasis), and you'll be scouring the land and its cavernous castles and dungeons in search of the four spirits: Dytto, the water spirit; Efreet, the flame spirit; Shade, the shadow spirit; and Bow, the plant spirit. Each one boasts their own elemental abilities, although the only way to summon them is by firing a Light Ball at something else that bears their respective element. Want to summon Efreet for some firey goodness? Better find a campfire about town. Need a little moisture? Seek out some wet locales. Controlling their abilities is another issue altogether, as you use them all with the same button; what the spirit does is dependent on how long you hold the button or how many quick taps you input. Too often, however, the game misread my instructions, and the spirit whipped out the wrong ability. You have to be very careful with that thumbery! It's also important to watch your SP meter, because if it runs out, the spirit will bid you adieu and go back to its empyreal futon in the sky.

Prince Ali is no pushover, either: he doesn't always need an ethereal sidekick to get him through tough times. Ali starts out with a small knife that is generally all-purpose for taking out the brigands and the steroid-infused rodentia that plague the serenity of Oasis. Operating on a free plane, Ali will have a large range of space run all over the place and dodge or "beat up" the unwelcome visitors. He can pick up more weapons as well, including full-on swords and bows, but they are typically limited in use, with a number indicating how many hits it can endure before the weapon simply breaks, dissolves, and doesn't call you the next morning. There are mini-games strewn about the world that can earn you infinite use weapons, but to actually get them requires a level of skill I am not interested in ripping my hair out over trying to attain.


Maybe if they HAD hired the band Oasis, this game would have sold 10 million copies.

Now no pun intended, but the game's battle system is hit and miss. The perspective does make it difficult to determine where to swing your knife. Larger enemies, such as classic gruff ogres, are easy enough to hit (they are about six times your size and stick out like the broad side of a barn), but others, like thin serpents or pesky bats, require much more precision, the likes of which I must have lost down a drain pipe or something. He can also jump, but... he doesn't do it that well. There are puzzles that require you to leap onto moving platforms, but it will cause more headaches than happiness with the game's combination of perspective and a jumping mechanic that would make Sam Patch cry with disappointment.

Ali can gain experience, but there is no indicator of how many "experience points" you have earned thus far. The status screen informs you of your "level" (which increases your hit points by a sarcastically whopping TWO), but nothing else. The only way you know you can gain a level is when an enemy drops a giant red heart; picking it up plays a little success jingle, and then it's back to your regularly scheduled ogre beating. I wish the game was a little less transparent like that.

Another issue is the inventory system. You can hold up to sixteen items, which in reality is fairly reasonable given that Ali has limited storage space in those puffy Arabian pants of his. Unfortunately, with so many varieties of items that can be picked up over time, you'll have to shed a tear and leave a few things behind. So don't get too attached to the giant Swiss cheese the mutant rat dropped: there are much more important items to hold.

As a later generation Genesis game, this one looks great (apart from the title screen, which I think looks a tad gristly for its time). Ali has some excellent animations, and although not all enemies share that level of detail, they all bear quality sprites. It's a shame that Beyond Oasis suffers from beyond acceptable levels of palette swapping, instead of more original enemy design. The environments are pretty smooth, and they don't feel overly repetitive either, mostly because each area is relatively small, so you don't see any particular terrain too much.

Beyond Oasis is a game that I will recommend with caution, as this game's seemingly minor can make the game more frustrating than it realistically ought to be at times. I like the game, don't get me wrong, but I believe that with a little bit more polish on the control scheme, we could have had something amazing. As it stands now, Beyond Oasis is worthy of your shelf space, but be prepared to drop a couple of curse words now and then as you brandish your knife and enter a world filled with action, mystique, and a certain degree of desolation.


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