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Beyond Oasis (Genesis) artwork

Beyond Oasis (Genesis) review


"It's not the Zelda killer I remember, but it still packs a decent punch."


Beyond Oasis (Genesis) image

Beyond Oasis is a trickster. "I'm a Zelda clone, really!" it says to you as you plug it into your Genesis. Or at least its presentation tells you as much, as you guide a blade-wielding young man through a fantastical, Arabian-inspired world that is displayed from an overhead view. Even basic swordplay, dungeon delving and exploration pop up in early chapters. However, it becomes apparent as you advance that Oasis is not a mere Zelda knockoff, but a beat 'em up masquerading as one. This revelation will either repulse you or compel you to keep playing.

Eons ago, when I first played this game, I fell into the latter category. I originally believed the fusion of genres inherently made it a worthwhile addition to my Genesis library. I rethought that stance, though, when I recently replayed it. Yeah, it's still a somewhat entertaining adventure-brawler, but the finished product doesn't play to the strengths of either category as much as it should.

Take its adventure components, for instance. The game includes a wondrous world packed with magic and legendary beings, as it should. Dragons, ogres, slimes and zombies creep out of every corner, joining the standard thugs and thieves you occasionally bash and slash. To top it all off, you receive spirits who aid you in combat and help you solve puzzles. Dytto, for one, extinguishes flames with a blast from her bubbly projectiles, and her buddy Efreet lights torches and smashes ice pillars.

Beyond Oasis (Genesis) image

Puzzle-filled dungeons also await you, aiming to test your brain in addition to your brawn. Between tough battles, you occasionally happen upon locked doors and obstructions that offer no clues in regards to clearing them. One such barricade requires you to experiment with numerous switches until you've discovered the proper sequence in which to throw them. Another test later appears to have no discernible mechanism attached to it. Careful examination reveals unlit braziers all around the stage, waiting for you to get them burning again.

I wish I could continue to outline the greatness of Oasis's adventure elements, but sadly I've run out of steam. Where most of its ilk benefit from fair-sized worlds that facilitate exploration, this one abides a mostly straightforward rail. Sure, the opening phases of the campaign provide you with a few acres to search and hidden goodies to uncover, but the game's exploration elements peter out once you stow away on a ship. From there, your quest remains pretty linear, only throwing a few branching paths and secrets your way. Even nowadays when I return to games like Alundra, I tend to find a handful secrets I was unaware of back in the day. When I revisited Oasis, though, I only found a frustrating hundred-level dungeon (that rewards you with an unnecessary super-weapon) and a couple of secluded islands.

Linearity isn't Oasis' major drawback, though. The tiny overworld is a letdown, to be sure, but that doesn't compare to one menace that crops up in some dungeons: platforming. One scene in particular nearly drove me to rage quit my replay. I had to negotiate a series of moving platforms whilst avoiding projectiles fired by vanishing mages. Whenever I suffered a blow, I fell into off the platform and lost some of my hit points. I then reappeared right back at the beginning of the sequence. Bear in mind that I had a hell of a time sizing up my jumps because of the game's overhead perspective, which is not conducive to solid platforming. On top of that, I had to worry about dispatching the mages, but that feat proved to be a lengthy one to accomplish because A) the platforms moved very slowly, B) the wizards disappeared the instant I sliced them, and C) my attacks only dealt so much damage. After a long bout of swearing and trying not to die, I eventually defeated the magicians and advanced. Thankfully, platforming segments are few and far between, but all it takes is a couple of rotten segments to spoil the mood.

Beyond Oasis (Genesis) image

"But this game is a beat 'em up!" you scream at your screen, as if that somehow erases every instance of bad platforming. Well, the good news is that Oasis delivers terrific action in its early phases, as it pits you against loads of evil knights and various other humanoids to slap around. Our hero is quite skilled in combat, and executes slick moves like flying kicks, a Chun Li-style repeated kick, spinning slashes and a sweet back flip into a powerful slice.

However, you only get to test out your smooth moves on a limited bestiary. For the most part, you battle a lot of the same foes repeatedly. Oasis pulls that old brawler nonsense of recoloring cronies and repackaging them as new threats. Plenty of other beat 'em ups utilize this strategy, but superior examples also feature a fairly diverse range of unique enemy types. Streets of Rage 2 comes to mind, as it not only offers a good array of unique foes, but also offers foes that are just plain crazy. Oasis, on the other hand, sticks to mostly stock enemies and creatures you find in almost any high fantasy title. Granted, Oasis' dearth of enemy types isn't a huge flaw, but an improved rogues gallery would've bumped the awesome factor up a few notches.

At least Oasis has Velociraptors. That's a huge plus!

Beyond Oasis (Genesis) image

Bosses help make up for the slightly disappointing enemy lineup. These encounters show off not only the game's mechanical versatility, but its visual power. Nearly every creature you fight is a massive, impressively designed, well detailed monstrosity. One standout moment places you against an angry red dragon, complete with blue tufts of hair and tense, scaly musculature standing out in ribbons on his body. Prior to that, you race down a tunnel while fending off the head of a giant turtle. Occasionally, the beast opens its mouth and lets a secondary head pop out for a quick chomp, similar to the xenomorph in "Alien." Moments like these provide a much needed boost to this aging adventure.

Bottom line: Beyond Oasis remains a decent video game, but it's aged to the point that its flaws are more apparent. It's worth a revisit for old fogies like myself, who've built up a tolerance to nonsense like broken platforming and weak enemy lineups. Although you'll find some great boss encounters, action-packed battles and terrific brain teasers, you'll also run afoul of unwarranted frustration and an underwhelming world. I hate to say it, but Beyond Oasis isn't the fantasy epic I remember.

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 04, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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