Beyond Oasis (Story of Thor for the EU and Japan) – Why I think It’s So Good
Released in 1994 by Sega (Although Developed by Ancient) Beyond Oasis was a shining example of a 16-bit RPG for the Genesis
The game was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Zelda franchise, with the player controlling a Blonde haired Prince by the name of Ali, as you have been given the task of stopping the Silver Amulet wearing baddie and ultimately save your kingdom. The game features a very impressive (for the time) animated cut-scene, that shows Ali finding the Gold Amulet at the start of his adventures before he sails back to his homeland.
The Golden Amulet isn’t just any ordinary bit of precious metal though, after village you land in comes under attack, after Ali (now under player control) takes care of the baddies (a bunch comprising of amored knights, a giant and rats that walk on two legs) you are sent to see your family, at the kingdoms castle.
Beyond Oasis – The Gold Armlets Power
Magic in Beyond Oasis/Story of Thor is used to power your amulet, which in turn is used to summon and then control four ‘spirits’. The first one you obtain is Dytto, a small fairy like creature that has the power to control water. She can be used to either heal the player, attack the enemy with bubbles or charge up to unleash a swirling vortex of watery destruction upon all who dare oppose you. To get her though, your father gives you a quest to head to her shrine. It’s then you realize that you must prove your worth by conquering the guardians of the shrine to actually obtain the spirit. The first boss is a huge spider guiding Dytto.
Other spirits you’ve access to are (in no order, I do not want to spoil things to much if you are yet to play this gem):
Shade, a spirit who catches you should you fall from a high ledge, can absorb damage, allows you to be in two places at once and grab things from long range.
Efreet, a fiery spirit who resembles genie from Aladdin. He punches his foes (setting them on fire), and can be used as a fire torpedo, fire breath or even a AOE bomb.
Bow, a plant spirit. He can eat various things (including metal) and performs various other important tasks.
Magic in the game is limited, only filling up in the sun (so not doing so in dank dungeons and caves) and of course, using various items to give more. You can dismiss the spirits by mashing A,B,C at the same time.
To call the spirit in question, you must find something that represents them, for example firing your magic at say a spring of water will summon Dytto.
Combat – Impressive for a 16bit Action RPG
Combat in the game is fairly complex, the knife (your standard weapon, and you begin the game with it) is used for the most part. While holding the knife Prince Ali has access to several special moves, including a 360 degree swipe, and knife wielding backflips. You can also do a rapid kick that may remind you of Chun Li’s lightning kicks.
Healing in the game can be taken care of a number of ways (one already mention, Dytto’s healing), the other primary one (aside from being healed at set parts of the games story) is food. This is picked up from the regular chests, and of course, monsters. You access it from a simple overlay grid invetory system and select what you want to use and hear a satisfying sound as your character chows down on the piece of cheese or apple.
What’s an action RPG without weapons?
Weapons in Story of Thor/Legend of Oasis come in a number of flavours, the knife being the standard infinite affair that will typically accompany you. You can also pick up a variety of different bombs, crossbows (including the explosive variety), swords, broadswords and other bits and bobs. These weapons are not unlimited however, and after a set amount of uses will disappear. So you will want to save the really powerful swords and other things for certain instances.
This also reminds me of neat little tricks in the game, such as being able to use the explosion of a bomb to call the fire elemental, Efreet for example.
Story of Thor’s/Beyond Oasis puzzles
The puzzles in Story of Thor/Beyond Oasis are varied, but typically rely on pressing certain levers, switches and so on. With the Astral Projection offered by shade being a solution to a few of the trickier puzzles, where you have to have your body sit on one spot, and have your spirit pull another lever. It is simple, but effective stuff.
There are also a healthy scattering of secrets, encouraging you to explore the world around you. The in-game map is also fairly detailed, and gives you a clear indication of where you have to go next.
Genesis Graphics and Sound were pushed to the limits
Ancient did a pretty remarkable job with the Genesis’ (Mega Drive’s) old sound chip, despite the fact it wasn’t the best in the world, even for the time, the sound track was fairly impressive to say the least. There was not voice acting, of course, apart from the odd yell here and there from either you or your enemies.
Graphics were fairly pretty, with colorful and fairly well animated sprites that looked impressive in combat, with enemies bursting into blames if Efreet decided he didn’t like the look of its face. Also, certain enemies (such as Zombies, which feature in the game in some areas) have a particular weakness to fire, and literally burn up if they take enough damage from your floating friend.
The game was one of the few to feature an inbuilt save system, allowing you a few saved games on the same cartridge. Although it wasn’t the only Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game to feature this, it was still fairly rare.
Story of Thor’s / Beyond Oasis’ Story – a major twist at the end
While now games having bit twists (such as that ‘moment’ in Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic) isn’t anything new, it was a much bigger deal in Beyond Oasis. The ending part where you find out just who you have been fighting all the way through the adventure is pretty damn awesome. I will say though, that the story could have been filled in a bit more in spots, but overall it is a fantastic gaming experience that I would encourage everyone to try out.
The Sega Saturn’s Sequel
A sequel of sorts (technically a prequel) was released for the Saturn, but was not quite so widely acclaimed (mostly due to the console being not as popular as Sega would have hoped). Despite this, the 16 bit version of the game remains a true classic, and a huge shame that it’s so unlikely that they will ever release a sequel or a proper remake for it.