Ever Oasis might be a new IP, but it comes from a long and storied pedigree: the brainchild of Secret of Mana creator Koichi Ishii, and developed by Grezzo (of the 3DS Zelda remakes and StreetPass Garden/Flower Town fame), while it certainly reflects the influence of its creators’ earlier works, as a full package it feels fresh and undeniably new. A mix of action-RPG and town-building elements set in a beautifully colourful fantasy interpretation of ancient Egypt, it’s also some of the most fun we’ve had on the 3DS, and comes as a real treat late in the system’s life.
When the curtain rises in Ever Oasis, you’ll find yourself (as fashioned in a gender- and skin-tone-inclusive character generator) in a thriving oasis headed up by your elder brother, the chief. Inside, the oasis is a haven of calm and bustling commerce, but beyond, a force known as Chaos threatens to envelop the desert, turning animals into monsters and ravaging travelers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Chaos to encroach upon the oasis, and as your brother tries his best to hold off the evil, you’re told to flee, wander the desert, find a water spirit, and use your special power — as a Seedling and a Child of the Great Tree — to grow a new oasis.
It’s a relatively simple setup, but we loved learning more about Ever Oasis’ world — the imagination and care that’s gone into the lore at its heart is wonderful to watch unfold. It also feeds into a fantastically fun gameplay loop. Once you do find a friendly water spirit — the charming, Isabelle-like Esna — and use your seed to start a new oasis, you’ll be starting from scratch, and in order to build up your oasis — now the last known refuge in the desert — as best you can, you’ll need to balance town-building and exploration in equal measure.
In terms of the town, that means expanding your population by recruiting new residents, and having them set up shop in Bloom Booths — personalized stores that eventually start to line your main street. These Bloom Booths sell everything from potions and juices to robes and turbans, and you won’t be the only one benefitting from them; other residents, as well as adorable penguin-like creatures called Noots, will gladly buy up stock from the Bloom Booths in town. Once they do, you’re able to take a share of the profits in the form of dewadems (Ever Oasis’ currency of choice), and use that capital in turn to upgrade and expand the oasis. Of course, if you want more shops, you’ll need to recruit more residents, and that’s not all — it’s a dangerous world out there, and your shopkeepers aren’t exactly equipped to go gather the materials they need to sell in the face of Chaos. To solve both of those problems, you’ll have to leave the comfort of your watering hole and venture out in into the desert.
Outside the confines of your oasis, the game’s other side shines: exploration and action-RPG combat. Once you head out, you’ll control your Seedling from behind-the-shoulder perspective, traipsing across the map in search of resources, enemies, recruitable residents, and puzzle-filled dungeons. Exploring feels natural, so that you’ll often pop out after one of those goals and then end up following up with several more; we’d often go to gather a resource for a Bloom Booth product — cactus juice, say — and then end up spending a half-hour getting as far as we could in a newly uncovered dungeon.
Whether you’re extracting cactus juice or cutting down enemies, the controls are easy and smooth: the Circle Pad moves your character, ‘A’ acts as a weak attack, ‘X’ as a stronger follow up, ’B’ performs a dodge, and a tap of the ‘L’ button lets you lock on to a nearby enemy, or switch between targets. ‘Y’ activates your magic — or puts away your weapon so you can run away from foes faster! — and also bears our only real issue with the system; you have to hold ‘Y’ for slightly longer than a normal button press to get magic out, and while it probably has to do with the ability to charge it up and choose a direction to fire, we frequently whiffed the windup. Other than that, however, combat is fast, fluid, and fun, and though it starts out simple, you’ll unlock more combos and moves as you go.
You also won’t be alone for long. As you discover various members of the other tribes in Ever Oasis’ world — the spear-wielding Darkus, the strong, hammer-flinging Serkah, and the Lagora, agile masters of the twin blade — you’ll be able to recruit them to your party, and most likely to come live in your oasis as well. Enemies and dungeon puzzles both make full use of the three-character party, so that certain enemies are weak to spears, or others to swords, and that progressing through parts of dungeons will require a hammer here, or a twin blade there; it’s delightfully Zelda-like.
You can switch between party members with a quick tap of ‘Up’ or ‘Down’ on the D-Pad, with the other two being controlled by the AI, and three feels like a magic number for this; it’s easy to use all three characters, and to exploit their specific strengths, without ever feeling overwhelming or overly complicated. The strength of the three-person system does make us wish there was local multiplayer included in the package — there isn’t — but it’s still a blast as a solo adventure.
The town-building and exploration-action portions of Ever Oasis are both fun systems in their own right, but the game really shines in how they feed into eachother. There are obvious bits of overlap — recruiting new residents so you can both expand your town and have more potential party members for exploring, or the fact that new Bloom Booths will sell items that can make you more powerful in the field — but also some truly thoughtful, on-theme crossovers that contribute to the irresistible forward momentum of the loop.
One of these is your ‘Rainbow Protection’. This power, granted by the rainbow arcing over your oasis, adds a considerable amount of HP to each of your party members when you venture into the desert, and lets you revive where you fall in battle a certain number of times, and its strength is directly proportional to the happiness — as measured by individual ‘Smile Meters’ — of your villagers. Keep your populace happy by providing them with ingredients they need, keeping up with the main street, and making consistent improvements and they’ll reward you with some very real combat advantages.
There’s also the synthesis system, which lets you craft better weapons, gear, and healing items using resources you find in the field. It’s addictive on its own, and we settled into a routine of heading to the Synthesis Tree in our home every time we returned from the desert, but it also represents a nice blending of the two gameplay types, in that new recipes come from expanding your oasis and ticking off To-Do list quests given by residents.
Ever Oasis is built on a wonderfully solid gameplay foundation, then, and it’s absolutely worth playing for that alone — if the explore-build-create-explore loop above sounds appealing, you’ll have a wonderful time here. But Ever Oasis is also worth playing for another reason: the boundless sense of joy that pervades it. In addition to Secret of Mana, producer Koichi Ishii also had a hand in several Final Fantasies, where he created both the Moogle and the Chocobo — and you can see the charming innocence, sweetness, and fun embodied by both those characters alive and well in Ever Oasis. This is a game where defeated enemies shrink down into cuter versions of themselves and run off, reformed; where you can build a ‘Melody Wheel’ in your Oasis just so you can run on top of it and play out a tune; and where you bloom new bodegas by planting and watering a new resident’s seed of hope within their heart. It is, simply put, a joy to play.
A good deal of that comes from the game’s art style and graphics, as well. The colourful, anime-ancient-Egyptian-themed character models are a delight, and their hugely varied outfits set a high bar for in-game fashion in RPGs — not to mention the Noots, which are up there with the aforementioned Moogles as some of the cutest RPG animals in recent memory. The world itself is also as bright and appealing as can be, and it’s impressive from a technical standpoint as well — we loved watching night fall over the desert for the shimmering silver sheen that washes over the sand after dusk. If you’re a fan of the 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D you’ll be well-served here as well; the added depth helps make the world pop, and adds a nice effect to the talking heads cutscenes. Our only issues with the graphics are some occasional lapses in framerate (playing on our old 3DS), and a behind-the-back camera that doesn’t always line up with where we’d like it to be vertically — a problem apparently fixed by the New 3DS’ C-Stick. But those are minor gripes in an overwhelmingly impressive package; Ever Oasis is an explosion of colour from start to finish, and we can’t get enough.
The same can be said for the excellent music, composed by Sebastian Schwartz. It’s a bouncy, orchestral soundtrack with a cinematic feel, that borrows Middle Eastern motifs and instrumentation while foregrounding flute melodies and excitingly varied percussion rhythms. One of the most notable parts about the music in Ever Oasis is how it transitions relatively seamlessly from overworld themes into battle music as soon as you get within range of an enemy — it’s both thematically satisfying and useful, letting you know if something’s sneaking up on you from behind with a martial musical flourish. Our sole disappointment with the sound design is a lack of either voice acting or text-advancing gibberish-voice in cutscenes; it feels fine when there’s music behind, but on the occasions when cutscenes are silent — usually for added emotional effect — the silence can feel distracting.
On a similar topic, it needs to be said that for all its strengths, silence is not one of Ever Oasis’ finer points, especially as regards the extended tutorial that makes up the game’s opening hours. The water spirit Esna acts as your guide to the systems and nuances of the desert world, and while the information is genuinely helpful (and nicely spaced out), seasoned gamers will feel at least a few steps ahead of Esna’s explanations for a while. If ‘Hey, listen!’-style handholding is a turn-off, know that you’ll need to wade through a decent bit to get to freedom, but it’s very much worth it when you do.
Ever Oasis isn’t just a brilliant adventure, it’s also one that’s come at the right place and the right time. For 3DS RPG fans, who’ve had an unthinkably rich array of JRPG greats to choose from over the system’s lifespan, Ever Oasis is a nice reminder that there’s still plenty of room for innovation on the six-year-old handheld. Its addictive main gameplay loop, fun combat, amazing (and truly different) sense of style, and kindhearted nature make it feel like nothing else; though it reminds us of Rune Factory 4, Animal Crossing, Tri Force Heroes, and Final Fantasy Explorers in turn, this really is its own experience, and one we’d recommend to any action-RPG aficionado.
Did not expect it to turn out this good. Sounds like a lovely title.
I was wondering when this review would be up!
I actually picked this game up at launch and would recommend it to everyone, this review reflects my thoughts on the game exactly.
It's interesting how split the reviews on the game are, people seemed to either love it or think the game was rather mediocre.
I liked the demo, but I still need to beat 7th Dragon, go back and beat Stella Glow, and eventually start Bravely Default, so I have enough 3DS RPGs on my plate before I can grab this one.
After that review, you have peaked my interest, will download the demo and give it a whirl, at some point, got too big a back log of games.
I've really been looking forward to this game! Since the Switch has completely taken over my handheld game time, this lovely little game will have to wait. Glad to see a great score!
For whatever reason, this game has never appealed to me. Right from when it was announced and shown off at E3 last year, I thought it looked kinda boring. My thoughts on a game before playing it usually end up pretty spot on with how I feel after playing so I'd probably skip this one even if the Switch wasn't out, but happy to hear it's a good game for those who are interested in it.
I was expecting a score like this.
I had it pegged as an 8/8.5, so this makes me very happy indeed. Will be playing it.
Looks really nice. Might have to pick it up.
Did not want to stop playing it on Saturday! Had to cut myself off in order to do other things lol. Great game! It does remind me of Zelda and Mana but feels unique as well. Highly recommended!
well if only i had more time to play videogames. or any time at all.
If I close my eyes and use my imagination, this is the new "Secret of Mana" we always wanted. Go grab it!
I bought this at launch, and at around ten hours in I can say I love it. Never really been in to town-building games, but the action elements and rewarding gameplay loop have really sucked me in. Also, it's super cute without being saccharine.
Also, the progression is pretty rapid- feels like someone or something is levelling up every five minutes- makes me wonder how long the game can keep going at this pace...
@Shiryu Can always dream I guess. Tried the demo but wasn't for me and I must say that a little part of me are sad that we got this instead of a game more similar to Secret of Mana.
Definitely have to get this one . Excellent review. Felt it would be a good release
Sounds like a game I would appreciate, too bad it comes after Switch, may pick it up in the future.
My 3DS might actually be used again!
Bring this game to Switch please!
After seeing some reviews from other sites, a 9 here was expected. The 3ds continues to be home of an ever expanding list of impressive games. Some say the system's catalog of great games could hold back the success of the Switch. I don't know about that but I'm in no rush to buy a new console as long as games like this keeps getting released.
Just picked my copy up, can't wait to play later today!
Sounds like an awesome game, but it coming out at the right place at the right time? I highly disagree with that. If this came out last year or on the Switch this year, it would be able to find a much larger audience. Still, it seems great and I just might pick it up.
I read a review saying the story was really predictable and nothing new...but then I kinda expected from the style of the game that it would be like that.
I got Fantasy Life and I never finished it (even though it was enjoyable)....so I can't really justify going near this. (especially when I'm saving up for a Switch)
I'm loving this game. A mix of my favorite parts of games. Anyone who thinks this game is mediocre did not find any escape in the little world on offer here, which can happen I guess, but personally I'm charmed by the desert theme and every little touch that adds to its romanticism of it
Just started it last night and it's quite charming. I just wish it was on Switch instead. The 3DS's sandy resolution is almost painful to look at after playing the Switch in handheld mode.
I bought this day one, but I think it is going to struggle due to being a new IP on a waning system with no real promotion. Any sales that it gets will be by word of mouth. Someday Ever Oasis will be regarded as a true hidden gem on the 3DS. It will be one of those games that people spend ridiculous amounts of money to get in mint condition for their collection.
Great review, this was on my radar, but now it really pings.
Was going to get this Day 1, but money got tight (apparently bills and food are important). Thankfully I have a few games to hold me until a later date that is TBD. I'm so glad that this turned out so well! I had a feeling it would be awesome! I look forward to getting around to it one day!
After a few hours in so far, this game has sucked me in like I expected and more. I'm loving it and hope it can do well despite the late timing. It's definitely looking like a twilight gem for the 3DS!
I'll have to pick this up on my next paycheck as an unexpected expense kept me from buying it day 1 like I intended.
Looks decent, but I'm going to skip it. There's plenty of other games I'm eyeing up.
It's truly sad that I've already moved on to Switch. It's painful to go back and play 3ds games at this point. I struggled to finish SMT Apocalypse and couldn't even finish FE Echoes. I'll pass on this gem... Though through no fault of it's own
@OdnetninAges ugh.. Stella Glow is soooo good
Anyway, yeah my backlog is extensive myself but I'm getting this. The demo was quite enjoyable.
@wiggleronacid Nintendo sold 11.4 million of them in 2011, that was six years ago. How exactly does the Switch have a larger audience?
Nice review and nice score. Might buy it someday, though the review still not answers how much dungeoning is in it!
@Henmii: Okay, fine, my prediction for when the review would go up was a bit off, but I was close!
This reads like a game I would really enjoy playing, but I still need to try the demo just to be sure. In any case, my backlog is clogged with RPGs already, so it'll be awhile before I pick this one up.
I've been playing since launch and I love it. The review pretty much summed up the game.
I'm enjoying this game much more than I thought I would! Every issue that I had with the game was fixed with a new feature as soon as it started to get annoying. When constantly stocking stores was getting tedious, the bulk restock option got unlocked. When gardening got too time consuming, assigning gardeners was introduced. When collecting resources to keep up with store stock became too diffult, the exploration team system came along. It's really nice that the developers recognized this and knew when to introduce new features. Also the combat is really rewarding, with unlocking new combos and crafting new weapons. Not to mention the archery weapons are really fun to use. Glad I picked this up!
Haven't even downloaded the demo. This is the sort of game I would only buy if it had robust multiplayer functionality like Fantasy Life. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case, so I'll pass.
I wanted nothing more than to put my 3DS away, and all these great games keep coming out for it. I just couldn't cancel my preorder on this one, it looks too great!
Sadly in addition to arms I decided to get into both Disgaea 5 AND, of all things, DQ7 on my 3DS a few weeks ago. So by the time I'm done the overwhelmingly massiv DQ7....this game will be ancient...and still in shrink wrap...
@Ralizah I really really really really wish it had local multiplayer as well That was my one huge disappointment with it...I had envisioned reliving my Fantasy Life obsession with the local coop.
I was rather impressed with the demo, so I may have to get the game later in the year.
Suddenly I feel all warm and cuddly inside...
Played it and so far it's great, but from what I've heard, it lacks depth, but has tons of good ideas.
Got this pre-order and on it's way soon. Can't wait to try a new IP from the Mana developers, hopefully this is enough confident for Nintendo to start bothering Square Enix about a potential Secret of Mana Collection localization. Seriously I want that compilation for my Switch and soon.
@NEStalgia Yeah, FL was a lot of fun thanks in part to the well-implemented local multiplayer. These cutesy social JRPGs are actually a great tool for getting people into more complex games: it was actually my mother's first RPG. We had a lot of fun exploring dungeons together.
This game just feels gimped in comparison. I know that's unfair to Ever Oasis, which was likely designed as a single-player only game from the beginning, but such is life.
What a lovely review! You really get the feel of how much you enjoyed playing this game and it's a delight to read! Looking forward to playing this game all the more! Thank you!
@Alto name checks out!
But isn't it! Stella Glow is wonderful.
@Ralizah Yeah, ultimately I feel like they're just very different games that happen to make a lot of us think of FL due to the art style. Beyond art style and dungeon crawling the two technically have almost nothing else in common, and party management is a theme in EOa versus FL. But it still would have been so great with it.
Though "cutesy social RPGs" as a tool......did you play the FL post-game? After the expansion DLC? The level of difficulty made me, as an SMT fan, cower in terror.
Wish there was some physical copies here, might have to order online or gfet digitally.
I really need a Gamecation to play all the games I have so I can get more of the new ones I want. This has been added to the list of want.
Wonderful review per usual, and great news as well, @zipmon. Been looking forward to Ever Oasis since its reveal and it's nice to see that we won't be disappointed.
My copy is in the mail and I'll be taking the plunge this week! Woot!
@NEStalgia Origin Island was easy for me. I won't say I 100% completed the game, as I'm sure there was probably some small thing I didn't collect or do somewhere, but I played through the entire game and the DLC.
Tackling some of the late-game monsters with friends and family was a ton of fun. Sort of like a cuter, more casualized Monster Hunter.
I will admit Lord of the Cursed and Pumpking were a bit challenging, though.
@Ralizah Not the campaign part of Origin Island, but the post-game. I forget what monsters it was....if it was the Three Trials bosses, or if it was God-level quests......but those monsters were absurd. I was max leveled on everything and would end up getting destroyed in seconds. I often wonder who actually plays those exercises in suffering.....now I know who...
@NEStalgia Honestly, the worst part of fighting the last few post-game monsters was the fact that you needed to grind like a crazy person to even be able to damage them thanks to the level cap rising to 200.
@Ralizah Yeah I think that was the thing. By that point in the game I'd already been grinding for hundreds of hours leveling up every single class to max (or near max) and I think I was denting those enemies maybe 5HP or so each attack and running to the corners hiding from what amounted to 3hko attacks if I couldn't spam healing non-stop. No way I was going to grind more after that. But I still love the game (up to that point)
I was hoping this was more of that...and it sort of is, but the absence of coop will be felt. Still too great looking to pass up though.
After waiting a year for this game I am enjoying the hell out of it. The story, the gameplay, the art, the colours all make for a very enjoyable package. There is no lag on the N3DS. Did I mention the music? It's lovely.
Just like in Dragon Quest games I don't mind the grinding.
Ever Oasis is a gem.
I've hated the fact this is on 3ds since the first moment I saw it, lol. I was hoping to just focus on switch now and leave my 3ds in the cupboard, but looks like I will be playing my 3ds for a while when I am done with Disgaea. I kinda hope they do a switch eshop port in the future tho to give it more exposure.
Sounds like an interesting combo of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and My Life as a King, both of which I quite enjoyed, but which I always thought would be more fun if combined into a single game in some way.
I still don't have the most recent Fire Emblem, so if I'm picking up a new 3DS RPG, I have some tough decisions to make. I do like to support new Nintendo IPs whenever they come around...
No multiplayer co-op... But I'll buy it anyways in the hopes they make another one that does have it!
I liked the cover mostly because of that snake/lizard girl... Didn't know the game would be that good! Imma try it out
I've had my eye on this, but with so many games coming out it's on hold atm. I think my sister could be interested in this though (along with Miitopia)
Sounds like a game I'd really love but it's hard to go back to my New 3DS now that I'm used to the Switch's screen.
It's a shame but if it was on Switch I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
Ah! A game by Koichi Ishii; the Man behind the Mana! It is a shame that Square Enix pretty much killed the Mana series; I hope this makes for a new generation of Action-RPGs filled with the magic andwonder of those back in the day
Yeah, I personally thought the review would come much later. Maybe not even at all. But I was thinking: If they do a review, they at least give a 8. Well, its a 9!
I tried the demo and liked it. The demo showed all the elements I suppose (management, exploration, battling, and puzzles) but only VERY little. However, it was pretty fun and super-cute. It feels like a very happy fairytale.
Could you tell me if it has serious dungeon-gameplay (with lots of puzzles), not just some 5 minute affairs? That's a dealbreaker to me. If it has some serious puzzle-heavy dungeons a la Zelda, I am eager to pick it up!
Thanks for the answers! 20-30 minutes doesn't sound that long for a dungeon, but as you said they are pretty fun. I think I just have to get the game someday, maybe in a couple of weeks. We'll see!
I just tried the demo and it left me wanting to pick the game. Another reason to buy that new 2DS XL.
I came into the 3DS just recently (never even touched my kids' 3DS until last week!!) but I found out that it has several games that I really want to play (chief among them are Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Metroid: Samus Returns)
@Henmii This game has plenty of dungeon crawling. Some of the dungeons are quite extensive and require finding keys to open doors, solving puzzles to get chests, using the various abilities of characters to solve environmental puzzles, lots of enemies and some cool boss fights. There's lots of exploration and you'll be revisiting these caves and dungeons as you gain abilities that open up areas that were previously inaccessible.
Sounds good! I might buy it someday.
Just picked Ever Oasis up after trying the demo. Instantly addicted. I play it nonstop even though I also just got a Switch for Christmas. It shows how good this game is that I pulled out my 3DS for it even with a Switch. I love the cute art style, the approachable, yet interesting story, the fun characters like Esna, the beautiful soundtrack and the simple, but addicting combat! I really hope we get a sequel or even a port on the Switch! I definitely will support it.
This game deserves another chance. If it doesn't, well then I'll take matters into my own hands and port it to Wii with my own 2 hands. /hj
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