Ever Oasis 3DS Review

Ever Oasis Review

Ever Oasis is a cute hybrid RPG that attempts to mix Animal Crossing-like town building with an adventure along the lines of The Legend of Zelda. Its compound formula is appealing on paper, but for a while, Ever Oasis falls short of its potential. Its simplistic narrative, cutesy visuals, and basic town-building mechanics test your patience in the beginning. But when its principal ideas are given a chance to take root, it sprouts into a surprisingly absorbing adventure that consistently rewards your time and efforts.

Set in a hostile desert world, you play as a young creature called a Seedling, who with the help of a water spirit, is capable of creating a magical safe haven known as an Oasis. Your adventure begins in ruin as your brother’s Oasis is attacked by Chaos, an evil force that seeks to devastate and corrupt all living things. It lays waste to the area and its inhabitants, but before Chaos can harm you, your brother teleports you to safety in the hopes that you may survive to create a new Oasis and gather up the strength to defeat Chaos.

Ever Oasis’ main story never stretches too far outside its basic premise, rarely expanding upon its rudimentary good-versus-evil dynamic. Despite the stakes set by its grim introduction, it predominantly maintains a happy-go-lucky attitude in the face of conflict, and you seldom get a sense of how Chaos has gripped the land or its people. There are a couple moments where it’s expanded upon, like the plight of the Lagora, a race of squirrel-cats who once cultivated a lush forest to produce water, only for it to be consumed by Chaos. Details like this offer valuable insight into the game’s world, but they’re too few and far between.

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It’s satisfying to build up your Oasis and see it steadily grow more vibrant and lush.

As a result, it isn’t the narrative that pulls you into Ever Oasis. Rather, it’s the slow process of building up your personal desert refuge that proves to be the game’s most rewarding element. You expand your Oasis by convincing travelers to live there. This can be done by fulfilling their requests, which typically range from fetch quests to escort missions. Successfully convincing travelers to become residents of your Oasis feeds into Bloom Booths, which are shops they can run that sell specific wares, such as juice, books, or fabric. Once a booth is built, you supply it with items the owner needs to stock their goods. This in turn attracts visitors who come to your Oasis to shop, racking up money for you to purchase seeds to grow crops, materials for equipment synthesis, or additional Bloom Booths. It takes time to learn these tenets, mostly due to the game’s slow and incessant tutorials, but once you’re given the reins, the loop is quickly rewarding. The wider variety of Bloom Booths your Oasis contains, the more people that come to visit; and the more people that live in your Oasis, the higher its level, thus increasing its size and real-estate space. Your thoughts are always locked on what you can do to maximize your profits and upgrade your Oasis, or how you can entice a specific traveler into visiting. There’s great joy in sorting through and accomplishing the various odd jobs you’re given, but what’s most fulfilling is seeing your Oasis take on new life as it levels up, sprouting lush greenery, paving wider roads, and erecting stone monuments.

While you spend much of your time developing your Oasis, there are occasions when you must venture into the game’s overworld–often to seek out residents or explore nearby caves for materials. Most of the game’s locales are wide-open desert landscapes, which sounds dull aesthetically but is actually pleasing to the eye thanks to the way the game’s day/night cycle changes the world’s color palette. The environments are not as dense as they could be, sometimes coming across as small sandboxes more so than lived-in spaces, but they sport a sense of interconnectedness that remains satisfying to explore.

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The ability to customize a party offers a welcome dose of strategy to combat.

In your trek across the game’s arid deserts, you often fight creatures tainted by Chaos’ presence. Like much of Ever Oasis, combat is rudimentary and tedious at first, boiling down to dodging an attack at the right moment and counterattacking accordingly. But as you obtain more advanced maneuvers and abilities, fights start to become more exciting affairs, especially when you form a party of three of your Oasis’ most formidable residents to accompany you. The ability to customize a party offers a welcome dose of strategy to combat, as utilizing the unique strengths of various characters becomes paramount to your success in the late game’s more difficult fights. While combat can be fulfilling, inconsistent party AI frequently leads to moments of frustration. It’s common to see your companions running headfirst into a brutal attack, and other times skillfully dodging out of harm’s way. The issue is minor, but you’re liable to adopt the habit of bringing extra healing items to accommodate your allies’ sporadic incompetence.

A major highlight of the overworld is its dungeons. Each contains a varied mix of puzzles to solve and enemies to fight. The myriad puzzles you encounter are elaborate, requiring you to utilize the unique abilities of your party. Some characters can, for example, shapeshift. This particular ability comes in handy when you need one ally to become a ball and another to form a wall for the first character to ricochet off of. While none of the ordeals you face are particularly difficult, they’re diverse enough to keep you consistently engaged. However, an issue that detracts from the pacing of dungeons is the constant need to return to your Oasis to change your party members to overcome specific puzzles. Fast-travel alleviates this annoyance to some degree, but the number of times you’re forced to go back and forth breaks up the flow of dungeons, reducing the enjoyment of exploring and overcoming these trials.

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While Ever Oasis is rough in spots, it helps that the game maintains a consistent level of wonder, introducing new types of challenges in step with your acquisition of new tools and abilities. Small quality-of-life adjustments, such as the ability to send out resource-gathering parties and bulk Bloom Booth restocking, are introduced to alleviate the demands of your routine as the game’s scope increases and you’re forced to spend more time exploring. It understands your struggles the moment you experience them, smartly streamlining your ability to accomplish tasks before they can become problematic. But building up your Oasis demands patience, and that can be the most challenging aspect of all. While it’s easy to initially write off the game based on its rudimentary narrative and overtly vibrant visuals, what becomes compelling as you play more is the sense of ownership you start to feel for your Oasis and the bonds you create with your allies.

Ever Oasis’ tight blend of mechanics and activities are bound to keep you coming back for more well after completing it, if only to see what else you can do to develop your desert sanctuary. While the game’s story isn’t particularly moving, the consistent gratification of its incisive design makes it a satisfying adventure. Ever Oasis takes time to grow, but the return is well worth the wait.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Reviews For 3DS

Fire Emblem is a series with a storied history and has transformed dramatically over its nearly 25-year existence. Fire Emblem Echoes, a remake of a very early game in the series–Fire Emblem Gaiden–remains a departure of sorts from what most veteran players might expect. Rather than emphasizing character relationships and story dialogue, Fire Emblem Echoes puts its focus on long- and short-term strategy and strength-building. The end result is a fresh take on Fire Emblem’s strategy-RPG formula, and one that ranks among the best of the 3DS library.

Echoes follows the dual leads of Alm and Celica, a pair of youths that bear a strange crest upon their hands. They bond together as children in a tiny farming village, only to be torn apart by a sudden dramatic event. Many years after the fact, you’re in control of both characters–and their respective armies–in search of a reunion amongst a conflict-ridden yarn spun of large-scale wars, hidden pasts, and shocking truths.

While the story is classic Fire Emblem fare, the emphasis here is centered firmly on the saga of Alm and Celica, with only a few brief interludes that shift focus to other army members. The characters you welcome into your ranks and interact with are a charming and likable bunch with fun, well-written dialogue. Almost all in-game character text is voiced as well, which adds appreciable personality. Players more accustomed to recent Fire Emblem games like Awakening and Fates, however, may feel a bit disappointed in the lack of side character interactions. You don’t “pair off” characters in Echoes as you would in those games–while character-to-character support conversations do still exist here, they’re much shorter and happen strictly during combat. While this may be a disappointment to some, overall, it helps cement the story focus on the two leads and the various warring factions of FE Echoes’ world.

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While most of Echoes takes place on grid-based, turn-driven battlefields, you’ll also spend a lot of time navigating an overworld map with two armies: one led by Alm and the other by Celica, each with a different group of soldiers under their lead. Interactions between the two sets of troops are limited, meaning you’ll have to manage resources, weaponry, and stat-building across two teams. The two take mostly separate paths in their respective campaigns, stopping at towns and dungeons to gather intel, find new recruits, take on side-quests, and discover hidden treasure. Explorable towns, castles, shrines, forts, and dungeons are unique to Echoes, and while interactions with most of areas are somewhat limited–basically restricted to examining environments with a cursor as you would in a point-and-click adventure game–dungeons offer a far more interesting twist for the series.

Dungeons are explored on foot from a third-person perspective. You scout for secret passages and smash pots and crates for loot while avoiding (or seeking out) battles against roaming enemies. Touching a foe takes you to a traditional FE battle, but once you’ve felled your opponents, it’s back to exploring. These areas serve as a great addition that offer variety beyond simply stringing a series of battles together while still keeping the narrative focus on the core story.

Echoes has some crucial differences from other Fire Emblem games that add interesting layers to army management and combat as well. Characters can only carry one item at a time, forcing you to carefully consider if a special weapon, a restorative item, or armaments like a shield or ring would be ideal. Weapon degradation isn’t an issue (similar to Fates), and magic is learned through leveling rather than buying tomes–and uses character HP to cast, making high-powered spells a potentially risky proposition.

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These are all serious deviations from other Fire Emblem installments, and they might take a bit of time to get used to, but they result in a Fire Emblem game that’s both distinct and refreshing.

Combat skills are learned by keeping specific items equipped in battle for long periods of time and are tied to individual pieces of gear, meaning you can’t just learn a skill from a specific shield, then equip a sword and keep using the skill. Stamina wears down as characters fight and take damage, degrading their stats and combat capabilities unless they replenish them with food, medicine, or offerings to the goddess Mila. Finally, the rock-paper-scissors style weapon triangle of modern FE games is gone entirely–swords can now clash with spears on equal footing.

These are all serious deviations from other Fire Emblem installments, and they might take a bit of time to get used to, but they result in a Fire Emblem game that’s both distinct and refreshing. You can’t simply go in with strategies you may have devised in other Fire Emblem titles and expect them to work here; you’ll need to really stop and think about weapon distribution and upgrades, consider how to effectively use certain classes, when to take time with optional fights to build additional character levels, and so on.

The game’s difficulty is high overall, which makes conquering the toughest battles relatively unscathed feel like a real accomplishment. While the difficulty level makes formulating a sound strategy highly rewarding, it can also lead to some cases where you might feel stuck unless you grind out a few more levels or backtrack to the shrine to change classes, especially if you’re playing with permadeath on. But it always feels worth it; when you face a huge armada on a molten lava-covered battlefield, enduring assaults from constantly respawning foes while trying to keep your army’s stamina and health above critical levels, and you somehow manage to pull off a victory with a lucky arrow planted in a wizard’s cranium, pride and elation come in equal measure.

Helping you to secure those feelings is a brilliant new addition to gameplay called Mila’s Turnwheel. Each battle grants you a limited number of uses of the Turnwheel, which effectively acts as a rewind button. Missed several attacks in a row? You can opt to spin back time to a few attacks earlier and attempt them all again, hopefully with better luck. Realize that your brilliant “divide and conquer” strategy is actually going to leave your best soldiers dead? Go back several turns and take a totally new approach–you can rewind time as much or as little as you’d like, provided you still have enough cogs in reserve for that battle. This wonderful system allows players to take back critical combat mistakes without having to reset a long and arduous battle and is a tremendous boon whether you are playing with or without permadeath enabled. Once you run out of cogs, though, you’ll have to restart the level to take back mistakes, adding yet another nice layer of strategy–is it really worth a cog to reroll for a critical hit, or should you save it for when you plan your final assault on the tough-as-nails enemy commander? Only you can make the call.

Fire Emblem Echoes is a fantastic remake and a striking departure from modern Fire Emblem staples. What it lacks in interpersonal character relationships and user-controlled “shipping,” it makes up for in meaty, challenging strategy gameplay, engaging exploration sequences, and a tighter overall narrative. Taken both on its own and as part of the larger Fire Emblem franchise, Echoes’s unique elements help it stand out from its contemporaries. If you feel like you’re up to a lengthy, engaging challenge, then Echoes will satisfy in spades.