Beyond Oasis ReviewJoe Shaffer
Beyond Oasis is a trickster. "I'm a Zelda clone. Really!" it seems to say to you as you plug it into your Genesis. Its presentation belies as much, anyway, as you guide a blade-wielding young man through a fantastical (Arabian-themed) world, shown in an overhead view. There's even a wealth of basic swordplay, dungeon delving, and a light amount of exploring to be had in the game's early chapters. However, the further you advance into its campaign, the more apparent it becomes that Beyond Oasis is not a Zelda knockoff, but a beat 'em up masquerading as one. Depending on how much you enjoy brawlers, this revelation may either influence you to shelf the title indefinitely or appreciate it all the more. Eons ago, when I first played the game, I fell into the latter category.
Initially, I believed it was this fusion of genres that made Beyond Oasis a worthwhile addition to my Genesis library. However, a recent replay of this adventure title taught me otherwise. As it turns out, the game is still entertaining and charming, but it's stretched a little thin by intertwining two genres without playing as much to their strengths as it should.
Take its adventure components, for instance. Does the game include a wondrous world packed with magic and legendary beings? Certainly. Not only do you battle fantastical beasties, like dragons, ogres, slimes, and zombies, but you can summon spirits to aid you in combat and lend a hand when solving puzzles. The water spirit Dytto, for example, can extinguish flames with a blast of her bubbly projectiles, while Efreet lights torches and smashes pillars of ice.
What's more is that these puzzles inhabit very well designed, complex dungeons that require intellect in addition to brawn. Some stages will have you experimenting with numerous switches in order to open a proper sequence of doors leading to an exit. Another level presents you with a locked door and no obvious clues as to how to breach it. A little examination reveals unlit braziers, signifying that you must ignite every quenched torch found throughout the dungeon.
I wish I could continue to banter about the greatness of Beyond Oasis's adventure elements, but sadly I've run out of steam. Where most of its ilk benefit from featuring fair-sized worlds that facilitate exploration, decked out with enough nooks, crannies, and secrets to keep you busy for ages, Beyond Oasis abides a mostly straightforward rail. Sure, the opening phases of the campaign feature a couple of ounces of exploration, but that peters out once you stow away on a ship. From there, the game is pretty linear and only features a few minute branches. Even nowadays when I return to games like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Alundra, I tend to find a handful secrets I was unaware of back in the day. When I revisited Beyond Oasis, though, I only found a frustrating hundred-level dungeon (that rewards you with an unnecessary super-weapon*) and a couple of secret islands.
Although I just praised the hell out of the game's dungeons, there are a couple of segments that really grind my gears, both of which involve platforming. There's one scene in particular in which you must negotiate a series of moving platforms whilst avoiding projectile shots fired by appearing-disappearing mages. Suffer a blow and you'll lose more than mere hit points; you'll fall off of the platform, forcing you to take the sequence from the top. Killing the mages is imperative, but doing so is a lengthy endeavor, especially when you consider that A) the platforms move very slowly, B) the wizards vanish the instant you slice them, and C) your attacks only deal so much damage to them. Suffice it to say that annihilating even one spell-slinger is quite the task, especially without suffering much damage yourself. Thankfully, Beyond Oasis platforming scenes are very few and far between.
You could dismiss the game's linearity by saying it was meant to be more of a brawler. That doesn't excuse its piss-poor attempt at platforming, of course, but I digress... Beyond Oasis delivers the brawler goods in the early outs, pitting you against scores of evil knights and various other humanoid villains. Better than that, you can execute them with some slick moves. Aside from your basic combo (which is just a repeated series of kicks), you can also kick your opponents in the face, perform a spinning slash that nails surrounding foes, and pull off a sweet back flip just before delivering a crippling slice to your adversaries.
All of above would be great if the game's rogues gallery weren't so lackluster. For the most part, you battle the same enemies ad nauseam. It may seem like a fair variety at first, but most of the fools you blast are recolored versions of cronies from earlier phases of the campaign. In terms of beat 'em ups, it's a far cry from games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage 2, both of which featured a pretty crazy array of enemies. Yeah, yeah, they recolored foes in those games as well, but even then both games featured more variety in terms of enemies than Beyond Oasis. That's pretty much what I expect from any good beat 'em up.
...but Beyond Oasis does have Velociraptors. I will give it that!
Bottom line: Beyond Oasis is still a fun adventure, but it's flaws are not negligible. Its dungeons, with the exception of a couple of poorly implemented platformer sequences, are worthwhile, its challenge factor is on the tough side, and it's an action-packed thrill ride. Despite the lack of exploration and weak cast of villains, I would say it plays well enough to receive my approval. It's just not the awesome Zelda-killer I once took it to be.
*Honestly, if you're a good enough player to complete the 100-level dungeon, then the final shebang should be a cakewalk for you, even without the ultimate weapon.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.