We’ve talked about the Genesis getting its own Contra, and its own Castlevania, but we haven’t gotten around to its Zelda yet. Luckily, we of course have Beyond Oasis that fits into that category quite nicely, however I was surprised to find out that the developers of Ranger-X from a previous review actually developed their own Zelda-clone. But it can’t be as surprisingly good as their last game was right?
SURPRISE! It is. In fact, it’s bloody good. You play a 14-year old boy who on the day of his birthday, directly after blowing out his candles, goes through the rite of passage in his village by adventuring off to collect three training medals and earn his hero sword from the King. To do that, he’ll need to develop new techniques like jumping, which will require him to adventure off entirely on his own. To do this he visits a fortune teller in the park near his home, and gains the ability to talk to and learn from the animals of the world.
TWIST! He loses the ability to talk to human beings. Any attempts are met with an apparent language bug, which I honestly thought was my game bugging out until I talked to my pet dog for the first time. Looks like she screwed you over, kid! And thus begins your Zelda-like adventure. You move around on that familiar not-quite-overhead-view swinging a sword with a button and using assigned sub-items with another. Different abilities will also take their place on the controller, like the ability to throw your sword, which is then mapped to holding the attack button.
SUB-ITEMS! To help you get through various dungeons, you can actually use your new found animal-talking-powers to recruit various creature assistants to join you on your quest. These are the ‘sub-items’ I was referring to earlier, and you actually equip them to use their different abilities. The first of which is your pet dog, who can’t sit idly by while his master is in trouble. Coincidentally, his power actually IS to sit idly by and do nothing, but he can actually be used to stop enemies in their tracks for a quick sword throw to the face. All the animals are employed this way, taking a position behind you at all times, curiously floating around in doing so, and each one has an entirely unique ability. Best of all, some abilities are only unlocked by using two different animals at the same time. The main swordplay was a little iffy, with hard to connect wide slashes, and it was this aspect that really kept me coming back to this game.
GORGEOUS! The other reason is that much like Ranger-X, this game is ridiculously pretty, although clearly in an entirely different way. Everything is a wonderful mix of that detailed Secret of Mana look with the large colorful sprites the Genesis is known and loved for. The game in general is just full of really charming design decision, from the grass blowing in the wind, to the fantastic animal designs and fun boss battles. One of the earliest examples is a wolf with a large hammer, who hits himself and then uses the stars and floating birds of his concussion to use as a shield and projectile attack. It’s the silliness of something like Dynamite Headdy in a context that doesn’t usually allow for quite so much playfulness.
SHOCK! It’s also then of great interest that the story is honestly pretty intriguing, especially for a game cloned from the Zelda series. I don’t mean to knock that particular franchise too much, but the narrative is generally a little thin. There’s a big bad, you’ll find out who he is fairly quickly, unless he’s not -the- big bad who’ll be revealed at least once you hit the halfway point. From the moment you lose the ability to talk to any of the human NPCs in the game you know that Centy is going to be different. Once you defeat a large dragon at the half-way point in the game, you start to investigate the nature of the monsters you’ve been fighting themselves, even delving into a little bit of time-travel to find out their origins and discover just how the world as you see it now came to be.
There’s even some dialogue from a certain flower you can talk to, who actually explains that he’s been stealing money from people for cutting swathes through grass for no obvious reason, which is a nice jab at that particular cliche. It’s a refreshingly self-aware game, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with it. It’s not perfect, as a lot of text is limited by the box it has to fit in, so special attack names are truncated to occasional gibberish like OPERATE THE SWORD, for the power to control a sword after its been thrown, but these are really pretty minor concerns. Overall, it’s really disappointing that Beyond Oasis is the zelda-clone everyone remembers instead of Centy, as there is a fully-fledged RPG adventure here just begging to be adored.
Until proven otherwise, this is the best zelda-style adventure game on the system. I also apparently am in love with Gau Entertainment. A