Beyond Oasis

Grade: B+

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 18th

Publisher: Sega

Year: 1994

Genre: Zelda-Envy

Beyond Oasis is the story of Prince Ali (and if you can read that name without automatically saying “mighty is he” to yourself, than I think it’s safe to assume we’re from different generations), who is apparently the sole heir to the Kingdom of Totally Not Giving a Fuck. This is a guy who thinks nothing about going off to explore abandoned caves on long-forgotten islands without telling anyone, and when he finds himself alone and in pursuit of some enemies fleeing by ship, he does what any rational person would do in that situation – he hops on board and starts murdering everyone. Does he know how to sail the ship or even where it was headed? No. But why worry about such trivial things? When the time comes, he’ll just crash the ship into the nearest land mass, assume any nearby structure is an enemy fortress and proceed to kick some more ass. That’s the kind of guy Prince Ali is. Traits like “a reasonable amount of caution” or “forethought” are not among the his best qualities. You can’t help but like the guy. Especially when his game looks like this:

Look at that. Believe it or not, that screenshot is from a Genesis game. The whole game looks this good, if not better. If Beyond Oasis isn’t the best-looking game on the system, it has to be pretty close. It’s as though somebody over at Sega flipped over the Genesis, and found that the “nice graphics” switch  had been set to the off position for the last 5 years. Which, given the way they run things over there, doesn’t seem all that unlikely, actually.

Then again, graphics aren’t supposed to matter, right? Gameplay is supposed to be the only thing that counts. Well, except for those times when we arbitrarily decide that its actually the story that’s important, and gameplay doesn’t matter at all (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy). And in rare occasions, it’s even ok to like a game purely for the soundtrack. But never graphics. Real gamers are above such trivial things. Good graphics are for slack-jawed casual gamers to drool over while playing their games based on the latest Michael Bay movie.

But  that’s complete nonsense. The quality of a game isn’t determined by any single aspect on an all or nothing basis. Gameplay might be the most important part of a game (and by the way, “gameplay” itself is sort of a catch-all of numerous important things, such as control, difficulty, and level design), but the other stuff goes a long way to supplement it, too. A good story can make you more emotionally involved in a game, and provide extra incentive to see what happens next. A game’s music engages a player’s mind, can provide a pleasant distraction through a slow part, and is a surprisingly strong motivation to play through a game again (at this point in my life, I’m pretty sure I keep replaying Megaman 2 purely for the music). And graphics set the mood of a game, as well as help players visualize the things going on in the game, which often can be abstract concepts. Don’t think so? Try to imagine Super Mario Bros. as a text adventure:

 

World 1-1

You are standing on a grassy plain. Off in the distance, large green pipes emerge from the ground, and remnants of a brick wall are floating in the air above you. One of the bricks has a “?” carved into it. A path leads right.

A large turtle is approaching you.

>Jump on turtle

You jump on the turtle, causing it to retreat inside its shell and flip over. You bounce off the turtle shell into the floating “?” brick. Doing so releases a gold coin from the brick, which flies into the air and disappears.

You now have one gold coin.

>Wait, what?

Between the hair, the headband, and the people constantly trying to shoot him with a crossbow, the Prince is actually a lot like me.

Better yet, Beyond Oasis plays nearly as well as it looks. The game is an action RPG cast in the Zelda mold – open world, with lots of sword fighting, exploring dungeons, and solving puzzles. Is it better than the SNES masterpiece The Legend of Zelda 3: A Link to the Past? No, but to be fair, that’s an almost impossible standard. A Link to the Past is probably one of the top ten games of all time. Obviously a game that finished #18 on our list of top Genesis games isn’t going to beat one of the ten best games ever made – for it to do so would defy the principles of mathematics. And we hate it when people go around defying the principles of mathematics – it makes our checkbook so much harder to balance. So no, Beyond Oasis isn’t better than Zelda 3.

Thanks to the advanced graphics of Beyond Oasis, this is the most realistic… whatever the hell it is, that we’ve ever seen in a game.

Even so, it does manage to do a pretty respectable job in a lot of ways, and some aspects of the game, such as the combat, are actually better. Was it enough to satisfy the typical Genesis owner’s raging Zelda-envy? I doubt it, but I think that envy was probably a little misguided anyway. Zelda 3 was arguably the SNES’ best game and, as I said a paragraph ago, one of the best ever made. In fact, at the time it was released, a lot of people probably would have said that it WAS the best game ever made. So while a lot of Genesis owners may have thought what they wanted on their system was a really good action RPG like Zelda, what they really wanted deep down was for the Genesis to have one of the all-time great games… like Zelda.

Those are some pretty unfair expectations for any game to live up to. Instead, appreciate Beyond Oasis for what it is – a great looking, fun action RPG with a main character who kicks ass first and asks questions, well, never.

Availability: Beyond Oasis came out a little late in the Genesis’ life, and was released during the dreaded “red box” era, when Sega switched over to flimsy cardboard boxes instead of the superior plastic ones they had been using. As a result, most of the boxes and instructions for the game were lost or destroyed, making complete copies hard to come by (and expensive) for hardcore collectors. If this is what you’re looking for, expect to pay upwards of $20.

Those of you who just want to play it should be in luck, though. Unlike a lot of later games, this one isn’t too difficult to track down. Cartridge only copies can be found online for around $10, and we’ve seen it in a few used game stores for slightly more than that. Additionally, the game is available for the Wii’s virtual console, and was included in the excellent Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

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