In addition to my hands-on with the New Nintendo 2DS XL, Nintendo took me for a spin on some 3DS titles coming in the near future. Ever Oasis, Miitopia, and Hey! Pikmin represent further growth of the 3DS' already impressive software library. Does Nintendo have more winners on its hands?
Surprisingly, Ever Oasis was the title I was looking forward to the most, but it's also the one that landed a bit hard for me. This is an action-adventure title from Japanese developer Grezzo, not Nintendo's internal team. After working on a number of The Legend of Zelda ports and spin-offs on 3DS, I figured Ever Oasis was a chance for Grezzo to shine on its own product. What's on display here is fine, but not spectacular and I'd hazard that's down to the time I had to play it.
The demo we were given starts you off as Tethu, the chieftain of the eponymous oasis. The small town living in the oasis was in its early stages, with only a few shops and villagers to keep me company. One the villagers, Jasper, had a problem: he lost his bag out in the desert. He's a bit of a bum, so he tasked the village chieftain with recovering his wares. The things we have to do to grow our fiefdom.
When you head out of town in Ever Oasis, you form a party from your available villagers. Each villager has their own role, with varying basic attacks and strengths over certain types of enemies. My team in the demo included Miura, a spear-wielding warrior who's great against snakes, and Roto, a ranged healer who throws a wicked chakra that can cut scorpions down to size. Tethu is a straightforward hero, brandishing a scimitar to cut down beasts.
In combat, you can fight with Tethu and the AI will take over the other two characters. You can also switch between your party on the fly if you need to access a specific weapon or ability directly. For example, Tethu's Wind ability can summon a tiny hurricane, which can stun flying enemies, but Roto's ranged attacks might be the key to victory.
Unfortunately, Ever Oasis' combat is its weakest aspect. It's not bad, but it's not great either. Combat is rather simple, with weak and strong attacks, a dodge roll, and Z-targeting like you'd expect from a Zelda-style game. It doesn't feel particularly fast or dynamic though, at least not at the stage I was at in the demo. Even the small boss I fought against was easy to take down: dodge the charge and punish. In combat, Ever Oasis is Baby's First Zelda. (This is borne out in the enemies. When you defeat them, they revert to their smaller original forms and scurry away. You don't kill anything, which is kinda cute.)
Ever Oasis stands up a bit better in the exploration. Each party member comes with two out of combat abilities. Miura can dig in certain spots and her spear can be used as leverage to flip over certain structures. Roto's active ability allows him to roll up in a ball and power himself forward through small holes. The first puzzle in the Rubble Tunnel area I explored required me to use both abilities to get Roto into the next locked room. Miura's ability was used to flip over broken pots to guide Roto's ball form into the right slots, like a giant arcane pinball machine.
The exploratory core of Ever Oasis is very much in the Zelda style. You can think of your party members as living avatars of Link's equipment abilities. Instead of a Hookshot or Boomerang that you carry with you, you have a potential party member who has those abilities inherently. Every time you head out, you have to choose the correct party from your available villagers in order to move forward. Likely, you'll see things that you can't access because you lack the right party member; I found several veins of rock that needed the Mining ability to access, but no one in my current party had it.
Choose the right party, explore, find new villagers while exploring, use those villager to open up more of the world. I found another three villagers during my short time with Ever Oasis: the mysterious Saeed, Carlotta, who could use certain flowers like a tiny helicopter, and Levi, who could smash boulders with his mighty hammer.
I feel like my short demo was missing the full Ever Oasis experience though. I wish I could've seen more of the village building. Giving Jasper his bag fulfills his desires and by fulfilling a villager, it'll open up new shops and structures in your oasis town.
Added to the exploration loop and I could see this as the satisfying core of Ever Oasis: deciding which villagers to take into the field and which structures will most benefit you and your oasis. Shops and structures give you new items, new bonuses, and make certain villagers happier. In a way, it reminds me somewhat of Level-5's Dark Cloud, but in portable form.
So while I walked away from Ever Oasis not as excited as I was when I went into it, I see possibility within the game. I think there's something great in Grezzo's first standalone title, even if it wasn't completely apparent in the time I had with it.
Ever Oasis is coming to 3DS on June 23, 2017.
There's still more impressions from the New Nintendo 2DS XL event!