Back when the SNES launched there was a game called Actraiser that got some attention; the fact that it was one of the first games you could pick up for your super new console certainly didn’t hurt on that front. It was a combination of city planner and platformer, where your success in the city sim would provide increased health and weaponry to use during the (very difficult) platforming segments.
Sadly, there haven’t been too many games like that since the heady days of 1990, so it’s interesting to see similar elements return in the new 3DS city sim/action-rpg/adventure game Ever Oasis.
The good news: you’ve been appointed chief of your own oasis! You’ll head up and manage the latest vacation spot in the middle of the desert, and you’ll even have help, like the friendly water spirit Esna. As your oasis grows, more people will want to check out the newest and hippest warm-weather retreat, and that means you can open new shops, earn more money, and recruit more people to go on desert adventures with you.
The bad news: life as an oasis chief isn’t solely about lazing by the water, sipping cactus juice while being fanned with a palm leaf. Chaos is afoot, and it’s out to ruin paradise! Chaos typically takes the form of nasty purple weeds; while you can wipe out the smaller plants with a chiefly tornado, larger ones are going to take a little more effort. What’s more, Chaos has a tendency to take over the local wildlife, turning it feral and aggressive. Part of your job as chief will be finding out why the chaos is spreading and how to stop it on top of keeping your oasis safe and happy.
The dual responsibilities of adventurer and landowner serve as the majority of Ever Oasis’ gameplay. The oasis is largely a sort of bazaar where characters come to visit and shop; if they especially like the place, such as if the chief is willing to do a sidequest for them (hint hint), they’ll stick around and open up their own booth. You’ll then stock up all your booths with whatever materials they need to craft their products; those products are sold, often to adorable little shopaholic bird-creatures called Noots that come to visit your oasis on the regular, and you get a cut of the profits to spend on more booths, gear crafting, farming and so on.
Those materials won’t collect themselves, though, and naturally you’ll need to go out to explore and find people to inhabit your oasis as well. That means forming a party of three and heading out to fight baddies, explore dungeons, solve puzzles and collect tons of items. You’ll need to think ahead when you’re creating your team, since different characters can help out in different ways; not only do enemies resist different weapons so you’ll have to match the right fighter to the right foe, but different puzzle mechanics require different puzzle solvers. Early examples include switches that your vertically-challenged hero can’t reach which require a tall snake-person to unlock, or blooms that allow a seed-person to turn into a rolling seed to access new areas. If you’ve played Secret of Mana, which shared some team members with Ever Oasis, the way weapons were used to solve puzzles in that game is similar to some degree.
All in all it’s a pretty interesting combination of management sim and action-RPG, though both aspects tend to be a bit on the easy side. Early on it might seem like the combat is going to be rough and require some forethought, but after the first hour or so your character is able to utilize the love of their oasis residents as a shield, massively boosting their hp and making them much more resilient. The game becomes a lot easier at that point and doesn’t really grow much more difficult so long as you’ve got a basic grasp on dodging and switching characters to hit weaknesses. Given the game’s endearing and colorful presentation and optimistic message, this seems to be an ARPG intended for younger or more casual players, and it might lose the attention of someone looking for a more difficult title.
With that in mind, though, Ever Oasis does what it sets out to do and does it well. Fans of Animal Crossing and the like are bound to love the city management, while RPG fans who aren’t too demanding should have a good time with the combat and adventuring on offer. The balance between the two is what makes Ever Oasis interesting, though, and if you take both halves as a whole it makes for a unique combination of these genres.