Ever Oasis is an upcoming action-RPG whose adventurous spirit is bedecked in unabashed whimsy. Part town management, part wide-world adventure, its bright and breezy aesthetic looks to frame a comprehensive set of RPG systems.
That's not altogether surprising, as developer Grezzo is the team responsible for recreating numerous 3DS iterations of The Legend of Zelda, including Triforce Heroes, Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time. Studio head Koichi Ishii is also the man responsible for the creation of one of the 16-bit eras finest RPGs, The Secret of Mana.
Like that title, Ever Oasis sees a party of three embark on adventure. Direct control can be assumed of any one of the band and swapped on the fly, leaving the other two under non-programmable AI control, with character classes ranging from the standard Warrior and Healer through to the more esoteric Collector.
Party members are recruited from the gaggle of friendly oddballs who have made a home of the titular oasis, a town hub of bustling activity of which you, as protagonist-cum-landlord, oversee. When you're not out adventuring, you're ensuring that the oasis is an attractive to visitors by establishing shops (or Bloom Booths) that trade in your absence, bringing in both money and shoppers from out of town. Such visitors may, if they're sufficiently impressed by your set-up, have a direct request to ask of you or a rumour to share. Sort things out for them and they may take up permanent residence, further boosting the attractiveness of your oasis and becoming available to accompany you out into the wild.
Many of these companions have an inherent skill that can be applied to challenges encountered on the road. During my 90 minute session with Ever Oasis a friendly NPC named Jasper with a penchant for weaving sashes lamented the loss of his crafting tools at the hands of some aggressive Spikeydillos. An excursion to the last known location of his possessions was followed by a tough fight with the offending beasts and Jasper, delighted by my can-do attitude, decided to make my oasis his home. His digging ability came in handy the next time I ventured out and stumbled across a cave that had hidden goodies, and a clue to follow to another, optional quest thread.
The potential for these random discoveries is one of the things that makes Ever Oasis intriguing. With dozens of skills slots and character class combinations, attracting a mix of residents to your oasis by way of canny town-planning offers the chance of finding a future party member who can unlock a new area or follow-up on a snippet of rumour. Chasing down new opportunities across what appears to be a generous free-roaming desert map stuffed full of secrets also requires manipulation of the environment to solve physical puzzles. It's clear from the brief demo that Ever Oasis' many systems have strong potential for cross-pollination. Combat requires a mix of dodges, magic, ranged and melee attacks using weapons crafted from a long list of potential recipes for equipment and items, the materials for which can be obtained by unlocking areas with your companions' skills. While the need to restock the shops of your oasis with items that you find on your travels directly informs the happiness of your residents, which in turn affects HP bonuses for your party and can result in your oasis bestowing upon you something spectacularly twee called Rainbow Protection.
Ever Oasis' appeal is as a fully-featured pocket RPG with a great deal of content wrapped up in a cute but quirky wrapper. I have no idea how well it will all hang together longer term but the 90 minutes of play, combined with the developer's heritage, makes me want to find out.