After having Ever Oasis dropped off in our mailbox for review, I decided to do some digging into Grezzo as I’ve never heard of this studio or who was behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this studio worked on the 3DS ports of Ocarina of Time and Majora’ Mask and that the president in charge of the studio, Koichi Ishii, helped create the iconic Mana series for Square Enix years ago. He left the company in 2007 and has been with Grezzo working on various projects.
Ever Oasis takes the best of the Mana series, the action-RPG elements, but struggles with the new elements like building and managing your Oasis. Spiritually, this is a Mana game at its core and it is good to see these gameplay elements thrive on the 3DS, especially since so many of the same traits of a Mana game have shown up here.
As I mentioned previously, the similarities to the Mana series flow into the characters, too. You play as a seedling that is born from the Great Tree(see?) with a spirit guiding you through the game to save the world! If it sounds familiar to you, then yes, it’s similar to a certain Mana title.
The game begins by introducing you to the world, which is then torn asunder by Chaos, a force that is destroying the world. This force has been destroying many of the oasis’ in the world, and these safe places for humans are no longer able to sustain them, being overrun with monsters. Once you and the water spirit, Esna have decided to help rebuild the Oasis and save the world, it is up to you to go out and explore and recruit people and build a place for these incoming residents; each offering different things such as shops to purchase new items and gear. The more people recruited to your oasis, the better rewards you’ll get with more shops, more travelers and the list goes on. Overpopulate, people!
Another way to unlock more items and content is by venturing out into the desert to fight monsters, you can also break pots, cut cacti and flowers, smash rocks to discover new items for your Oasis, rinse and repeat and you will soon be overloaded with items, you’ll need these though because you’re a landlord now and you need to keep your shops well supplied so they can make money for you.
I’m not the biggest fan of city management systems, but the one found in Ever Oasis is just deep enough to keep you invested and less daunting than say any Animal Crossing title, the biggest draw of creating the best oasis is to get stronger. The more the merrier they saying goes, as the more people you bring to your oasis, the better your stats will be and the more people can come live in your haven; it’s a fun system built into the game.
Combat is a highlight of Ever Oasis, between dodging and striking, dodging attacks feels natural and throughout my 30-hour playthrough I rarely felt like the system was in anyway boring. While your character can only wield swords within the game, by including character swapping you can experiment and learn a variety of weapons that suit your playstyle. Mixing light and heavy attacks are important, and the few combos you have are crucial to the success of rebuilding your oasis.
Puzzles make an appearance in Ever Oasis and many times throughout dungeons you would need to ensure you’re bringing the correct ally help you solve the puzzles you’re faced with, what is upsetting is to swap characters you need to venture out of a dungeon and back into town to be able to swap any character in your party.
Enemies vary and with some cool designs behind them, character models are a bit too much for my preference but the all-around aesthetic fits the general gameplay; the soundtrack, however, is dull and forgettable.
Which plays into the story, chords that have already been struck and notes that have been hit. If it hadn’t been for the city building and combat, the run of the mill story would have felt more bogged down than it felt. Luckily, between the desire to expand my oasis and getting stronger took much of my time early on, which benefited me by the end.
A game like Ever Oasis builds the foundation for bigger and better stories down the line, with half-decent city building, and entertaining combat, Grezzo has a foundation to build a great franchise for themselves on the Nintendo 3DS. Seeing a young studio spread its wings to take off is exciting and allows them to take bigger gambles on themselves; we hope this pays off in the future, it is a great start.