You need to play Sega's best RPG on Nintendo Switch ASAP
Beyond Oasis is Sega’s answer to The Legend of Zelda.
It’s one of the bitter ironies of video game consoles (at least old ones) that some of the most creative games come near the end of their lifespan. After having years and years to explore a system’s technical limits, programmers have a far greater understanding of what a system can do, only to give it all up in a year or two. Perhaps no console-to-console transition in gaming history has gone as poorly as when Sega was moving from the Genesis to the Saturn. And there’s at least one truly great game that was lost in the shuffle.
Spooked by competition and the coming transition to 3D games, Sega began selling add-ons for the Genesis that confused customers. Meanwhile, it rushed the Saturn to market without a full game library.
Lost in this confusing process were several great games, including developer Ancient's Beyond Oasis from 1995, a gorgeous RPG that’s a lot of fun to experience — and as of September 2022, it’s if you’ve subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
Starring in Beyond Oasis is Prince Ali (this game came out a full three years after Aladdin, so some overlap with one of the movie’s most famous songs is a possibility), who has found an ancient gold armlet that imbues him with magical powers. Upon return to his kingdom, he discovers strange invaders every way he turns. Looking to his father, the king, he discovers four different temples, each housing a spirit he can use to defeat the invaders.
Oasis is not the deepest Genesis RPG ever released — that trophy likely belongs to one of the Shining Force games — but it is one of the most gorgeous. Few top-down RPGs from this era look as good as Oasis, where statues and waterfalls dazzle inside shrines. All the colors are bright and bold, and even today, this is a game best enjoyed on a big screen. The game’s map, which appears in the middle of the screen, is a gorgeous artifact by itself, displaying a wide-ranging world from shorelines to mountains with a helpful flag pointing you in the right direction.
First-time players will notice a few elements quickly when playing Beyond Oasis, like how fast advanced weapons are used up in combat and the variety of challenges awaiting in the shrines. But perhaps even more than the combat, even more than the graphics, the music truly stands out.
Unusually, the score for Beyond Oasis was developed by its producer, Yuzo Koshiro. He came to video games as a composer first, having learned piano at age three and training with Joe Hisaishi, who would go on to write the scores for Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, and several others.
Koshiro brings Hisaishi’s sense of wonder and discovery to the game’s score. Most game soundtracks, particularly in this era, have a repetitive quality to accommodate the prolonged gaming experience. Not so with Beyond Oasis. The score is constantly grabbing your attention, with bombast and new sounds being thrown in like a chef making a perfect stew. The score will move from quiet, tense sounds over to loud explosive blasts on a dime, throwing a player off balance in a delightfully expressive way.
Koshiro’s score elevates Beyond Oasis from a pretty-looking RPG to a full-on sensory experience. While it can be heard on YouTube, there’s something truly special about wandering around a medieval world, battling zombies and ogres, while this absolutely bonkers music plays. It’s a little piece of forgotten video game magic definitely worth checking out via Nintendo Switch Online.