Review by CyosisCMR
"A Surprisingly Great and Relatively Unknown Gem"
Many of us that were born in the early 80's probably had or at least heard of the GameGear by the early 90's. The unsuccessful competitor to the weak, yet superior Game Boy. The reasons for this being was that the GameGear was notorious for not releasing many quality games and having a weak battery life. Trust me, I remember very well. But even on a somewhat poor system there would still be a few gems that unfortunately would be forgotten in the annals of time. Defenders of Oasis is one of those such games. A rare RPG for the GameGear because only a handful of them were made for the system and only about two of them were actually released in the states. That doesn't cover the more recent fan translations of Phantasy Star Gaiden or Lunar: Walking School, but I digress. DoO was lucky enough to be released in the states and it was probably the best of the RPGs made for the GameGear.
Storyline (8): The evil wizard Ahriman was sealed in the Other World by the great young warrior Jamseed using the three rings given to him by the Wizard of Light. After a thousand years of peace Ahriman's powers have grown strong enough to control an empire bent on finding the three rings that sealed Ahriman so that they can destroy them and unseal the evil wizard. There first destination is the peaceful kingdom of Shanadar where one of the rings is said to have been stored. What they didn't count on was the determination of a group of young warriors and a Genie of the Lamp.
Ok, the storyline is a bit cliche, along with its characters. But that never made me feel that the storyline was bad. The characters, although not as fleshed out as they could have been, are at least distinct enough to be somewhat likable. The player assumes the role of the Prince of Shanadar. He is simply known as Prince and we never discover his actual name, oddly enough. Prince is a typical young man that doesn't want to except much responsibility and is a constant disappointment to his royal father. As well, the townsfolk don't think very highly of him either. He only excepts responsibility when his kingdom is savaged and his father murdered. The next character is the Genie. The Genie is never given much dialog. Actually, he only has a few lines throughout the game and is the only character that is never given any personality, aside from being a Genie. At least he doesn't act like the Genie from Disney's Aladdin... Shaleem is the actual second character gained and he plays the son of a sailor. He is determined to help the Prince after the evil empire murders his father as well. And the last character gained is Agmar, a thief and treasure hunter that seems to be notorious for getting himself caught in traps. He is sort of cowardly and also is the character with the most personality.
So yes, the characters and story aren't all that original, but there is enough twists in the storyline and enough dialog to make things continue to be interesting to the end. As well, keep in mind that the game came out in 1992. Even Final Fantasy games were still in the early years of truly fleshing out non-cliche characters.
Gameplay (9): Surprisingly, for a Dragon Quest clone, this is one of the few that actually stand far enough out from the crowd. So far out from the crowd that after a few hours of play it felt very different from your standard DQ clone. The game does play, though, as a traditional RPG. You take control of the Prince and can talk to townspeople by pressing the B button. You examine objects by pressing the B button. You open treasure by pressing the B button. I think you get the picture. As well, you explore towns, castles, dungeons, and caves in your traditional overhead style. Surprisingly, there is no specific overhead world where towns and dungeons are represented as small icons. Instead, the main way to transport about is either to warp to a town or dungeon, or walk there ala Seiken Densetsu style. It's kind of a welcome change from the usual DQ or FF RPG.
Battles are the most similar to the Dragon Quest franchise. You only see the enemies in a first person view with a grey background. Only three enemies can fill the screen at a time as well against your four characters. You will choose from a number of options as each character has a distinct option unto themselves. The regular options for all characters are your standard fight, item, and parry (defend) options. The options specifically for each character are as follows: Prince is the only character with the run option. Which means obviously that he is the only one that can get the group to run from a battle. The Genie has spell option as he is the only character in the game that can use magic. Saleem can use the dance option which acts as "attack-all" enemies but with the exception of the attack being weaker than his regular attack. Agmar has a useful option called hide that allows him to hide from the battle. When his turn comes around again he is given the secondary option to strike the enemy with twice the force of his regular attack. It's one of the most useful options in the game when facing a boss fight. As well in battle, the player doesn't just set up all the characters at once to attack the enemy. According to how fast the character is will determine who goes first in battle. Let me see if I can explain in better detail. Unlike a typical RPG where there are "rounds" for battle, there are no specific rounds. You take control of a single character and pick what option you decide. Depending on how quick another character is or how quick an enemy is will play the factor in who goes next. It's not complicated but a lot better than the usual round per round battle system that was present in most of the earlier Final Fantasy games.
As far as the games complexity goes, it goes from medium to viciously hard by the end. The player does have to gain experience from battles in order to get stronger. As a result, level grinding is a must in this game. If you don't like to take an hour here and there to grind a few levels than you probably won't enjoy this game. Having said that, I never got bored with taking the time to grind. There is one unique character that does not follow the norm of gaining levels, and that is the Genie. To make the Genie stronger you will have to find or purchase items that, when used on the Genie, will raise his stats. This is imperative to playing the game as the Genie is the most important character to survival. Also, aside from grinding levels, you will have to grind for money as most weapons or Genie upgrades cost a ton of money. Again, I liked this element but I could see how it might be a turnoff to people that aren't familiar with more old school RPGs.
One more thing I want to touch on about the difficulty curve that was briefly mentioned in the paragraph above. That being the complexity of dungeons and boss battles. The dungeons are usually filled with treasure to explore. Most of which are imperative to the quest as the Genie can only learn spells from the ones found in dungeons. Dungeons themselves are somewhat maze-like but are never all that difficult to figure out. As in most RPGs of this era, at the end of the dungeon is the traditional boss fight. Boss fights were never that big of a deal as long as you gained the proper levels and bought the proper equipment. For the most part, the difficulty was simply at a medium pace throughout. That is until the final dungeon known as The Other World. I am a sucker for RPGs with monstrous and complex final dungeons and this game delivers better than most of it's era. Nothing in the game can quite prepare the player for The Other World as there are puzzles left and right, constantly strong/powerful enemies that never cease and boss battle after boss battle after boss battle with no way of replenishing the Genies magic aside from a spell that allows the Genie to remove himself from battle to recover a few magic points. It's truly grueling and will satisfy any hardcore RPG fan looking for a major challenge.
Graphics (9): For an 8 bit game for the GameGear I was really surprised by the amount of detail that went into this game. Aside from most towns looking similar, all the sprites in the game look fantastically detailed. This maybe one of the best looking games on the GameGear and one of the better looking 8 bit RPGs of its time. As well, you can see that most of the time went into creating the maze-like dungeons which were very fun to explore. Enemy in-battle sprites were nicely drawn but were limited to non movement. But that is forgivable in my opinion. Boss monsters were creative and the final bosses you fight almost have you gulping when you see them. I suppose my only issue with a lot of the regular monsters were that they were the same designs just with a different color palette. But that can also be forgivable seeing that the game probably had its limitations.
Music (9): Once again, this game surprised me. The music is great for this game! Even with the limitations of the sound card for the GameGear the tunes in this game are memorable and better yet, fitting for the environment. Also, there is quite a few tunes in this game. There were two towns themes, one castle theme, four dungeon themes (maybe one more), two desert/forest themes, and three battle themes. I was actually really impressed with the variety and the quality. As well, the music is very appropriate for an Arabian based RPG. The towns music was satisfactory and not obnoxious as in some RPGs. Dungeon themes were very good and atmospheric adding to the treasure hunting themes. The only dungeon theme I felt could have been better was The Other Worlds theme. It was kind of boring and anti-final dungeon. Battle themes were excellent. The regular battle theme was very fun to listen to and never got boring or too repetitive. The best was the boss theme though. Very upbeat and the most Arabian sounding theme in the whole game.
Overall (9): This game was nearly excellent for a system that was just not very good. The graphics and music being the major highlight. And although the rest of the game is somewhat pedestrian, it was still incredibly fun and unforgettable and should never be just lumped in as another Dragon Quest clone. Of all the games that should get remade for a modern handheld system, this game should be it. You can still easily purchase a used copy of the game for varying expensive prices or purchase a legit download of the game as finding a decent working GameGear is rather hard to find at this point. I highly recommend this game to any old school RPGer that may have missed out on this forgotten gem.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/12
Game Release: Defenders of Oasis (US, 1992)
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