New from GREZZO (makers of Zelda re-makes on 3DS) and produced by Koichi Ishii, and available now, is Ever Oasis. A light-hearted, accessible, town-building ARPG, Ever Oasis offers an appealing, inviting, and enjoyable experience on your 3DS.
The adventure begins by selecting your gender and naming your character, and then you learn about how a once lush and peaceful world was overcome by Chaos, and turned into a desolate desert with flowing sands and dangerous monsters. You are a chief of a tribe known as Seedlings. Furthermore, you have the rare ability to see and speak to water fairies. The water fairies used to be prevalent, and their hive mind very active. With Chaos having spread its influence wide and far now, the number of fairies has greatly reduced. The bond between special Seedlings and fairies is strong, and together, they can form and nurture an an oasis. An oasis in the desert, especially one rife with Chaos, is like a light in the darkness. It’s a place where people can live, work together, and prosper.
Together with a water fairy named Esna, it’s up to you to build and evolve the last oasis. You must grow its population, and keep its residents happy. Fortunately, there’s not a great deal of micro-management involved to do so, but you will take on requests from your residents and need to keep the Bloom Booths stocked. These booths are special shops that produce and sell all kinds of goods, from foods to novelties to toys, blankets, scarfs, and so on. The level of your oasis determines how many Bloom Booths you can build, but to build these you also need residents to run them. Noots, these cute-looking owl creatures, act as ‘filler’ residents, while the key ones have unique names, appearances, fulfillment requirements, and skills. You see, these key residents also make up your party when you go exploring in the desert outside the safety of the oasis.
If I were to guesstimate, I would say about 75% of your play time is likely going to be in the desert exploring dungeons, finding and gathering materials, completing story quests, fighting monsters, and so on. When you return to your oasis — which, thankfully you can fast travel to from anywhere early in the game — you have a variety of tasks to do as well. These include checking on merchants, managing Bloom Booths, talking with wandering residents to get more information about the whereabouts of other potential residents in the desert, synthing stuff in your home, sleeping, talking to Esna, tending to your garden, restocking Booths — such things. As the game goes on, roughly around the halfway point, you find yourself having more to manage and otherwise being increasingly busier. Wisely, the game gives you help by setting up a few key residents as aids so you can streamline your gardening and Booth re-stocking. You still have to tend to these, but instead of having to manage every detail, you speak with these NPCs, give them directives, and move on.
Being in your oasis and watching it expand is satisfying. I never got too attached to any of the residents, and Esna is really generic, but I loved the theme song of the oasis and walking amongst an increasingly flourishing town, or haven really, in the desert. To make any of that happen though requires going into the desert and tackling quests. Combat is easy to get a hang of, and battles are in realtime and not random. You can usually clearly see the enemies in the game world and run to avoid them if you want to. Even better is that when you revisit locations, often times enemies do not respawn. Learning the attack patterns of enemies and their weaknesses is easy enough, but when the going gets tough (which is not common), you can carry a lot of health items to assist. Building your party with different residents gives both customization and flexibility in the desert with varying weapons ranging from spears to boomerangs to hammers, healing abilities, and some with special attacks, as well. You can switch between these characters at your discretion during battle and outside of battle, too. There are a handful of exploration skills that residents have such as mining, digging, rolling into a ball Samus-style, and so on — and these are used to navigate dungeons and solve basic puzzles and gather resources.
Whether in combat or solving puzzles, as well as in management of your oasis, Ever Oasis does a nice job of being accessible yet avoids being shallow. This is not a tough game to learn the mechanics nor is it hard to make steady progress, hour after hour, and that’s a good thing. It provides a charming atmosphere and a pleasant presentation that’s fun to get into and hard to leave. If you’re in the market for that, GREEZO’s Ever Oasis makes a strong case for itself.