: Defenders of Oasis
: September 1992 (July 1992 JPN)
: Game Gear
- Turn based
|Why do Arabian settings feel less distinct from each other than generic fantasy?|
A battle between light and dark raged for all of history. Then Ahriman, the Wizard of Darkness, was sealed away by Jamseed who had three rings given to him by the Wizard of Light. However, the Snake King Zahhark attacked the kingdom of Shanadar, and killed Jamseed, bringing another age of darkness. 1000 years passed before another champion of light, Fallidoon, defeated Zahhark. History passed into legend, and now the empire of Eflaat threatens the boarders of Shanadar.
Swap out the names, and it's basically like any other high fantasy game, but the Arabian setting is seen as a novelty because few games ever bothered to use or explore the mythology. I'm not sure the setting has enough depth to support more than the handful of games that bothered to utilize it. We were already introduce to many of the cliche elements in Magic of Scheherazade: genies, desert bandits, magic carpets, magic rings, magic lamps, an oasis or twelve, and the standard scimitar. Of those, I think only magic carpets were missing from this game.
|Look, bandits with scimitars|
Defenders of Oasis begins with the prince of Shanadar, only referred to as Prince, welcoming his future bride, the princess of Mahamood. She's assaulted by some uncouth bandits while wandering about, and very grateful for the Prince's timely rescue. That night, the evil empire Eflaat's army attacked Shanadar. The King ordered the prince to escape through a secret passage, and take the princess safely back to her kingdom.
|Oh yeah, and you might as well take this ring, it has the number 1 on it|
However, as they reached the princess' ship, one of the king's trusted generals, Kohle, attacked. Armed with a magic sword provided by Ahriman, Prince was struck down. Rather than reach a game over though, Prince miraculously awakened in the care of resistance fighters. They told of a magic lamp in the king's treasury with the power to protect the wielder from magic swords. With it, I sealed Kohle's magic sword and vanquished him. The Genie inside is a controllable character in battle, and the only magic user who just so happens to have a spell that specifically seals this type of magic sword.
|The game is broken into chapters, although past places are still accessible once transportation is gained|
The game has an odd number of triggers to progress the story. In the second chapter, Prince and Princess escaped on a ship. Saleem, the first mate, accompanied Prince on an island in search of water while Princess waited on the ship (she doesn't participate in battle anyway). While there's no water in the town to gather, returning to the ship triggered the capture of Princess at the hands of Al Karria, the elite royal guard of Eflaat. Saleem's father, the ship's captain, died at his hands, and the party was powerless to stop Al. Stranded on the island, the townspeople helpfully pointed us to a temple that a man had entered and never returned from, a man named Fallidoon.
|Inside was a strange script that I couldn't read|
Reading the unreadable language advanced the plot enough that the mayor remembered I needed a mirror to read it. Asking around town caused the mayor to remember that he had the mirror, and he handed it over. The script was decipherable using the mirror, and throughout the game these messages provided either clues or new spells for Genie. At the end of the temple was the teleportation spell needed to travel to set locations. I took it to Mahamood, and began chapter 3.
|Unlike other characters, Genie's stats increase through the use of special items|
Combat rewards the party with experience and dinars (gold), and levels came frequently. It's a simple game, and I had no trouble getting through. The items needed to increase Genie's stats are overly expensive from the shop, so the majority are gained from random drops after combat or treasure chests. Each human character can equip a weapon, head protection, and armor. Most items are restorative, but some are limited to combat only. Combat two status effects come in two forms: sleep and poison. Unlike other games, poison doesn't drain health; instead it knocks the character unconscious if it is left untreated for five combat rounds.
|One of the few instances where the name of the Wizard of Light is referenced|
Each character can attack, parry, use an item, or use their special move. The Prince can run from battle, the Genie uses spells, Saleem has a move called Dance that hits all enemies (a chance to hit), and Agmar, pictured above, is a thief that can hide. When hidden he's immune to physical attacks, and can strike with an assault move that does 1.5 times normal damage. The Genie is also immune to all status effects (sleep, poison, and KO). Parrying reduces damage by half, but has no other beneficial effect.
|Pictured here are a Kashaf and a Pazuzu an evil wind demon that had a Final Fantasy dragoon's jump attack|
Back to the story, Saleem broke the bad news to his mom in Mahamood. The party then spent some time running around to learn that we should head to Gylan to rescue Princess. We learned that Al was after the rings, and had already stolen Princess' by the time we got to her. Kohle slowed us down a bit, but defeating him was necessary to gain his key. With the princess in tow, the party (now including Agmar) returned to Mahamood. Upon our return, the resident sage told us the third ring was in a tomb near the village of Ulk. The princess also gave us an amulet to put dead spirits to rest. Chapter four then began.
|I'm sure that will not matter at all|
Teleporting to Ulk, we arrived to find the village waylaid by bandits. They had the same ability to hide as Agmar, and provided a small challenge. Once again, in a strange bit of trigger searching, I had to learn the fake password of Open Sesame, attempt to use it at the bandit hideout, then return to town to be given the idea to wait outside and listen in on the bandits as they entered. Even though I had tried to do that exact thing, it only worked after those steps above.
|Seriously, he used his real name while sneaking around inside|
I retrieved the hammer from the thieves, which allowed me to break open the seal of the tomb. Inside the tomb I found the final ring, and a bunch of new spells. Once outside, Genie's lamp was stolen in a strange scene where the evil Al disguised himself as Princess and asked for it. Back in Ulk, we ran into a resistance fighter that requested Prince lead the revolt against the empire's occupation of Shanadar. Although combat was a little more tense without my healing source, it was easy to get inside the castle. We exchanged the rings for the captive king's safety, but we soon found he was nothing more than a zombie, and he held the Genie's lamp. Both fell quickly, and Prince used the amulet to banish the shade of his father forever. I regained the lamp, and prepared to retrieve the rings.
|Yeah, we watched him do it earlier, but the party ran away instead of collecting these ashes earlier|
The final chapter was over a third of the game. We breached the inner chamber of Gylan with a spell picked up in the tomb. There we saw Al burn the rings and release Ahriman. Through a series of conversations, I learned that the ashes still retained the powers of the rings. I collected them, and then went after Ahriman at a tower that rose up out of the desert. I had to defeat Al to gain entrance. Most equipment is purchased from the stores, but finally started finding useful pieces in chests. In what might be the first crafting system, Shanadar had a hilt I could buy, and combined with an F Stone I created a fire sword. I also found a poison sword that worked wonders on the giant Roc that would only take me to the alternate dimension Ahriman was holed up in if I could defeat him. I also found a pillow that had incredible defense, but kept the wearer asleep all battle (with the small advantage of being healed at the end of battle).
|I guess that would be a little too easy|
Ahriman was actually one of six great dark wizards that I needed to defeat. Salwa was by far the most difficult as I needed to fight him four times in a row before he finally perished. Every other boss, including Ahriman, was a pushover by comparison. Agmar's hiding ability was key in the final battle. The Genie went down in a single hit, which had me expecting my first real combat loss of the game. It wouldn't have been much loss though, as the game auto-saves before every battle. The manual boasts that you can turn the game off at any time, and return to the spot you left off. The corollary to this is that it's difficult to experiment with the many items that lack descriptions, in-game or in the manual.
|The Genie reformed the rings and sealed Ahriman|
The Genie then went into a speech: only with my great effort could the rings reform, had I given up the rings would have been lost forever. Saleem and Agmar parted ways as Prince and Princess settled down in Shanadar. Agmar ended up in the same cell in Gylan, and I'm sure Saleem returned to Mahamood. Overall, a rather short adventure that dragged on during the final dungeon.
|They both officially changed their names to King and Queen|
- Combat isn't as impressive when magic is limited. It's not until late into the game that the Genie could restore MP, so I kept his magic use to key points beyond healing. The MP restore can only occur during combat, and requires the Genie to remove himself from combat. The creatures fit the setting really well, and stats factor in heavily. One weird thing about combat was the order characters take actions; it isn't set. I'm not even sure the speed stat factors in.
- Spells are gained by reading messages in dungeons, so they're slightly customized, but there's no downside to learning them all if you can find them. The stat boost items are store bought in the late game. No other character has any customization choices exist.
- There are no puzzles, and a main quest that takes so many triggers that it's sometimes difficult to track the next step when you've already figured out the third one ahead. No side quests, puzzles, or alternative solutions exist.
- The story is rather basic with very little twist and turns. The game hits many of the classic Arabian themes. NPCs offer a few hints, but the majority are there merely for flavor. There are no item descriptions, and many usable items need to be tested to discover their power. I wasted an action trying out a bottle on the final boss (it blew at Ahriman and did nothing). There's no way to influence or alter the story.
- The items in the game world are rather unfamiliar to standard tropes. The only way to truly know what they do is to use them. Barrels heal the whole party as well as talismans. The economy doesn't allow for purchasing all that I could. In fact, there were some bits of armor I couldn't afford even by the end of the game. On top of that, there's the money sink that I could have used to boost the Genie. Inventory is (as far as I could tell) unlimited, but with the economy it's difficult to invest in all the equipment options to test relative strength.
- The world feels a bit limited even though it's mostly open. There are no walls that prevent the party from returning to past areas. Music and graphics are well done, but there's just not much joy in exploring the long and mostly pointless dungeons. Most treasure, except in the final dungeon, is old equipment that's barely worth lugging around for the sell price.
It's hard to say that the game is too long, but a couple of the dungeons and battles really dragged on. Overall, I had fun with the story and setting, but even after two games it feels a lot more similar than any other two fantasy games I've played. We'll see how the setting feels once I get to the Exile games. For a Game Gear title, it's great, and quite possibly the best it has to offer. I won't be playing Shining Force: Sword of Hajya on Game Gear as it's one half of Shining Force CD, so I'll cover it in that port. It's still a few years away.
|The final scene of Shanadar|
Next up is Cosmic Fantasy 2 on the TurboGrafx-CD. Even though I've already played Ys: Book 1 & 2, this will be the first non-port. None of the other Cosmic Fantasy games came to the US, so jumping in and then dropping out of the series feels a bit strange. Hopefully it stands well on its own, but judging by the system it's on it might be another forgettable title.