Available On: Nintendo 3DS
Ever Oasis was a surprise announcement at E3 2016, an entirely new IP on the Nintendo 3DS. Though it presents a unique new desert world, Ever Oasis borrows all of its gameplay elements from other successful Nintendo franchises, such as Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Metroid.
The result is a satisfying though at times tedious adventure that brings a fun mix of party-based combat with maintaining a thriving refuge in a dangerous world.
We Built This City
The story of Ever Oasis reeks of the lamest bits of Nintendo fluff. A generic evil “Chaos” force plagues the desert land, manifesting as giant purple trees and transforming animals like snakes and beetles into large, dangerous enemies. The intro forces your cherubic, customizable Seedling out into the desert. You meet Esna, a water spirit at a tiny oasis and quickly set up shop.
Building up your oasis hub town is a major part of the game. New residents can be found throughout the world, and Seedlings can set up Bloom Booths. These shops sell goods to the bird-like Noots that visit your oasis every day. You have to provide raw materials to the shops by adventuring out in the desert, and in turn the sales reward you with Dewadems, the currency of Ever Oasis.
Each seedling has its own unique Bloom Booth type, from fashion to food. Shops can level up, upgrade, and give out quests, and you can control where and which booths to place. As you gain new residents your oasis will level up and expand, giving you more room for more booths.
It’s rewarding to watch your oasis grow from its humble beginnings into a large strip mall with dozens of residents. It can get tedious to run through and collect Dewadems, restock shops, gain stamps, and chat with shop owners for quests. A few welcome improvements help streamline the process, such as being able to talk to a single NPC and restock everything in your oasis. But expect to take frequent breaks from your adventuring to tend to your oasis, which unfortunately leans more toward rote maintenance than creative growth.
Chaos in the Desert
In order to recruit potential oasis residents and harvest materials for your shops you’ll need to venture outside. The desert theme gives the world a unique vibe over the usual pastoral or wooded landscapes of Adventure RPGs and farming sims. You’ll traverse large sand dunes, cross ruin-filled canyons, and explore dark caves. Adventuring is broken up between outdoor zones full of monsters as well as dungeons, both small and large.
If you’ve played a handheld Zelda game you’ll feel right at home with the dungeon-delving and combat in Ever Oasis. You have a strong and weak attack and a few combos you can unleash. You can target enemies with the L button to focus your fire, and different weapons vary your attacks and determine which foes you are strong against.
Unlike the solo adventures of Link, here you can form a party of up to two other residents from your oasis. Each resident has their own stats, equipment, and special abilities. Abilities range from special combat moves to utility assets that help you reach new places in dungeons or uncover treasure or materials.
That’s a neat idea but party members can only be changed out in the oasis, and you’ll frequently run into several different nodes or blocked paths within a single dungeon. You might need a pellet ability to roll into a Metroid-like ball to get past a door, then a paraflower to reach a treasure chest. Later you’ll need someone with a hammer to destroy a rock, and a friend with the digging skill to harvest the ground beneath.
Thankfully you can fast travel any time by simply clicking the Aqua Gate button, and warp points are decently frequent throughout the world. But it can be tiresome to constantly warp and swap out party members as you need them. Though being able to control different party members and cover strengths and weakness is enjoyable and helps make finding, recruiting, and leveling up new residents a lot more meaningful.
Ever Oasis is rated E for Everyone. Combat is a major part of the game but there’s no blood and violence is minimal. Characters are cute and earnest and the overall story is a child-like fairy tale with nice themes of uniting people of various races together. There’s no voice acting and lots of reading required, like a Pokémon game.
None of Ever Oasis’ gameplay mechanics are particularly innovative or unique. The sum of their parts is uneven and even a bit messy at times, sometimes recalling the more tedious aspects of mobile games. But I still had a lot fun with its Zelda-like exploration and party-based combat. The UI does a great job keeping track of your various side quests and tasks, and I enjoyed always having multiple tasks to accomplish.
Don’t go in expecting a compelling story or challenging combat, but explore its fun desert world for a cheery, light-hearted quest of building and adventure.