The Legend of Oasis or The Story of Thor 2 as it is known in Europe, is a prequel to a little known but much respected Genesis Action Adventure game, Beyond Oasis, which was especially lauded for its clear and crisp sprite work and animation in a previous era.
Immediately after the release of that game, this prequel was planned to be released for the ill-fated 32X add-on to the Genesis. However, those plans were shelved and production moved to the Saturn. Most probably, this is the reason that the game retained the original vision of being a simple upgrade to its wonderful predecessor instead of becoming a bastardized early 3D abomination.
For better or worse, The Legend of Oasis is a simple follow up to a 16bit Genesis game.
38: The Legend of Oasis:
Year: 1996 in NA and Japan.
Genre: Action Adventure.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste.
"Young warrior, who inherit my will... A dark, evil shadow is about to appear, somewhere in Oasis"
If you played the first game, you would recognize the world of Oasis as one borne out of the fight between two God-like beings, each wearing a special armlet. In that game, the golden armlet of the good God found its way to the fated hand of the hero just in time to save the kingdom of Oasis from turmoil.
The prequel doesn't do anything different, except the fact that the kingdom of Oasis was not yet established, and the story expanded just a little with more characters and scope.
As Leon, the fated "King of Spirits", you must protect your village by acquiring the power of the six spirits (expanded fro the four in the first game) and defeat the evil Agito. NPCs provide some coloring by changing dialogue as the story progresses, and there is some basic dramatic build-up regarding a mentor character and a girl who may or may not be the embodiment of evil.
Not this guy, who is clearly very evil
Similar to the first game, there is a lack of character building in the world itself. No other villages that you visit or interesting NPCs that you interact with. This makes it more an Action game than an Action Adventure in some regards.
When compared to some of its peers, like Dark Savior for instance, it lacks a certain depth to its story and world-building that would have served to elaborate an otherwise very basic story.
"You are a young and inexperienced 'King of Spirits", protector of this world. So you must discover your powers to overcome all obstacles"
At least one area where you don't need much elaboration is in directions. Clearly, Leon must travel around the game's top-down world to find the Spirits, and it is almost always clear where you need to go.
Nominally an open-world, the power of each Spirit is needed to access previously inaccessible areas, not unlike a Zelda game. Traversing the game world is the bulk of the gameplay, especially inside the dungeon areas which are filled with both enemies and puzzles to solve.
One thing that is both enjoyable and confusing is that there is no hard boundary between the dungeons and the overworld, as everything is connected to each other in an organic matter. Hell, one dungeon in the clouds do not have bottomless pits, but instead, you fall down to the overworld below whenever you mess-up (this may sound nightmarish, but there are portals that your progressively unlock throughout that dungeon so that falls don't become insanely punishing).
And also the narrative tool that will justify scouring the land for Spirits
This encompasses the entire feedback loop for the game. Going into dungeons to retrieve Spirits, which you can then use to access other dungeons to retrieve other Spirits. It's a basic, but very satisfying gameplay loop, with a few annoyances.
First, the fact that there is no overworld map to work with, and as such must struggle to remember where everything is, which is a special pain when you need to go back for a previously inaccessible power-up.
Second, the fact that much of the open world may feel like padding since you ultimately go into a linear path of progression. This latter point is especially noticeable since the world does not have the characterization of other Action Adventure titles.
"Leon, you must destroy the evil by all means. Only you can defend Oasis from Agito's will"
With the basic gameplay loop established, let us talk about the mechanics of the game.
Leon is a surprisingly mobile hero who can run fast and jump long distances. Even in combat, he is able to do some basic combos as well as more complicated special moves. This basic combat and movement options are quite serviceable, but they are not the differentiators for The Legend of Oasis.
The entire gameplay structure hinges on the Spirits that you eventually control. They and their method of utilization is easily the most unique thing about the game.
These Spirits are useful in combat, but their main use is in solving the game's many environmental puzzles. These puzzles are usually simple. For example, freeze water fountains to create ice steps, or turn on some fire lamps. For the first puzzle, you will need the water spirit, and for the second one, you will need the fire spirit. As you can see, these are pretty easy puzzles.
Not as easy as fighting zombies
However, the extra element that the game adds is that invoking the correct spirit can sometimes be its own puzzle. You see, summoning a spirit is not a simple matter of pressing a button. No, you must invoke the spirit from its own element. For example, you must have a fire source nearby to invoke the fire spirit, or a darkness source to invoke the shadow spirit.
As such, the game's puzzles have two elements. One if the actual solution of the puzzle itself, and the other being the solution of how to invoke the correct spirit. The best puzzles are where you need the power of multiple spirits to solve a single puzzle, which makes the latter dungeons particularly devious.
Using these spirits in both traversing the game's world and in combat is fun, especially against some really cool boss battles. Even when minor annoyances creep up, such as dismissing Spirits by mistake and having to backtrack to a suitable elemental source to summon them again, the game's relative speed makes sure little time is wasted.
"You look torn Spirit King. Though I have been looking forward to seeing you squirm"
One of the residual aspects of being originally developed for the Genesis 32X is that there was no illusion of it ever being made with polygonal 3D graphics. Instead, this was the natural evolution of the crisp 2D graphics and animations of Beyond Oasis. At the time, this was considered backward's thinking, and the game even suffered critically for not having cutting edge graphics.
Now that we all know better, it is clear that The Legend of Oasis's beautifully drawn sprites has survived the test of time and still look good today. There is no doubt that is a graphically beautiful game, with lush environments and a clear artistically consistent style that permeates all through the environment and creature designs.
Sure, the design may not appeal to everyone, with its 90's cartoon aesthetics, but it cannot be said that it is not well executed or ugly.
Except for this flower which has BEES inside of its petals. KILLITWITHFIRE
Carrying on with the same musical style as Beyond Oasis which I criticized previously, the game's soundtrack is a mixture of ambient sound effects and a background orchestral arrangement that reminds me of the epic movies of the 50s and 60s.
In concept, this may sound nice, and Yuzo Koshiro is not an unknown composer (he is also the producer of the game). However, in practice, this leads to a soundtrack with many similar tunes and a difficulty in asserting itself over the various actions on-screen.
Like with the first game, but with a better sound chip, the orchestral arrangements of the land of Oasis fail to implant themselves in my memory.
Clearly, the most obvious thing to say about this game is that if you liked Beyond Oasis, then you will like this game.
However, it goes beyond fans of the original game, as this is a really good Action Adventure with some unique elements that help make it stand out, even if it does not quite reach the heights of some of its best peers.
It lacks some world-building elements, and some may be lukewarm on the music just as I was. Certainly, the game may even lack a certain thrust that keeps propelling you forward. Still, you can appreciate the purity of its gameplay and the beauty of its 2D graphics.
This is sequel baiting for a game that was already released
1- Search around for power-ups to your spirits and scrolls.
2- Each weapon has some special combos that are very useful.
3- Spirits super attack (holding down the A button) are also very useful.
4- Personally, the water spirit is the one I use most when facing bosses.
5- If you need a certain spirit to solve a puzzle or get a power-up item, the means to summon them will be nearby.
6- For example, if you need the Shadow spirit, then one way to summon him is by freezing a water fountain source (so that it becomes a "dark" crystal).
7- Bombs are a way to easily summon the fire spirit.
8- Bombing water puddles allow you to summon the wind spirit from the resulting steam.
9- If you see a dark crustal by itself in a room or something, then it is likely that you should summon the Shadow spirit and use his special ability to see hidden things.
For those reading one of my Saturn review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now to review Generation 5 consoles; starting with the Sega Saturn. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this top 100 games list from Retro Sanctuary.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
I bet Dytoo (the Water Spirit) is jealous in this situation
It's great to have another game I enjoyed in this list. The Legend of Oasis is the kind of game I do these lists for, unknown games that are really fun to play and experience.
Next on the list is another report of the games from 40 to 31 in the Retro Sanctuary list. Originally, I was going to play and review Metal Slug. However, it was only released in Japan and never ported west on the Saturn.
For Previous Saturn game Reviews:
For More Screenshots: