Beyond Oasis Retroview
Prince Ali, Fabulous He
While treasure-hunting on a small mysterious island, Prince Ali discovers a strange golden armlet. The prince, who proudly bears blonde hair and blue eyes despite supposedly being Middle-Eastern, just smiles and nods as the armlet starts telling him the tale of an ancient duel between two wizards who bore matching armlets, Gold and Silver. Silver Armlet tried to destroy the land, but Gold protected it with the power of the four elemental spirits. Unfortunately, Silver has possessed a new host, and Gold Armlet feels obligated to protect the world again. Ali, being the princely guy he is, takes up with Gold Armlet and together they head back to his homeland, the island of Oasis, where they must stop Silver Armlet and protect the land from monsters, even if it takes them… dun dun dun… Beyond Oasis.
As the dexterous prince of Oasis, Ali has a number of skills available that was unprecedented in action-RPGs at the time. There are myriad combos that Ali can perform, ranging from an aerial somersault to a charging stab and a Zelda-like spin attack. Ali also has to deal with geographic limitations, crouching to kill snakes and jumping to slaughter bats and other flying animals. However, because of the poor setup of the Genesis controller, some of Ali’s attacks are hard to pull off, and players will often see the prince get damaged in the middle of a button sequence. Transitioning fighting game mechanics to an action-RPG is rather difficult, and Beyond Oasis pulls it off, even if just barely. In addition to these combos, Ali can also use a multitude of other weapons that he finds throughout the land, ranging from swords to bows and bombs.
The main gimmick of Beyond Oasis is of course the golden armlet, which allows Ali to fire a ball of energy from his arm. This does nothing at first, but as Prince Ali gradually acquires the help of the four elemental spirits from across the land, he can use that ball of energy to summon a spirit from its appropriate source. For example, targeting a body of water will summon Dytto the water elemental, while plants will grant Ali the power of Bow, a man-eating plant. Occasionally things that should give powers don’t, but overall the system is pretty good, and it forces the player to think about the possible elementals they can summon in order to solve relevant puzzles. Each elemental has its own set of powers, activated by tapping the A button once, tapping it twice, or holding it down until the elemental glows and then releasing it. Some of the elemental abilities are useless, but every elemental is required to solve puzzles in innovative and entertaining ways, such as Shade the shadow elemental allowing Ali to hook-shot across a gap, or Efreet the fire elemental beating up icicles that block passage.
The worst part of Beyond Oasis without a doubt is the flat, hollow dialogue and weak story. Granted, with a few exceptions, Genesis games were never the most story-centric, but Beyond Oasis suffers pretty terribly in that regard. It’s not clear whether conversations are so wooden because they’re poorly translated or just awfully written, but when the one main plot twist is laughable due to the weak dialogue and severe lack of character development, the story detracts from the game. Ali doesn’t say much of anything, and townspeople often repeat the same few lines of garbled nonsense, rendering characters lifeless and uninteresting.
Sound effects in Beyond Oasis, as in a lot of other Genesis games, are repetitive and annoying, particularly when you hear Ali’s pained grunt for the thousandth time. Some tunes are catchy, but nothing is exceptionally memorable. The graphics are decent for a Genesis game, with detailed terrains and a variety of environments. Most monster and townsperson sprites use generic palette swaps, but bosses look very good and usually take up most of the screen, some even ranging far beyond Ali’s point of view.
Beyond Oasis has its challenges, in the form of some difficult bosses and some hard puzzles. Overall, however, the game is pretty easy, especially considering a near unlimited supply of healing items; just set rodents on fire to collect and eat the meat they leave behind, or collect fish after they wash up and die for a free health-replenishing snack. Players should be able to make their way through the game in about ten hours, maybe fifteen if they take time to explore and find all of the Elemental Gems, infinite weapons, and other secrets hidden throughout the island of Oasis.
Beyond Oasis is definitely a unique game with some innovative features, but at the end of the day it turns out to be just an average hack-n-slash action-RPG. It’s definitely worth playing, but because of the poor story, clumsy controller, and choppy dialogue, its overall experience is just above average.