Defenders of Oasis, Game Gear

Not to be confused with Beyond Oasis on the Sega Megadrive, Defenders of Oasis is a turn-based Role-Playing Game for the Game Gear that is based on the “One Thousand and One Nights” middle-eastern folk tales, also known as “Arabian Nights“. It was developed and published by Sega in 1992.

In it you play the Prince of Shanadar who must defeat the empire that has attacked his kingdom. Gameplay in Defenders of Oasis is standard turn-based JRPG style, but the game moves at a decent pace, is very absorbing, and has a few surprises up its sleeve. Grinding is kept to a minimum and combat has a good difficulty curve that manages to keep you on your toes as the story progresses.

Within a short period of time you find a magic lamp and add a Genie to the party, which is when things start to become interesting. Although the game doesn’t tell you explicitly at the beginning, using ‘hemp’ and ‘plating’ on the Genie’s lamp makes him more powerful, and you can do this repeatedly throughout the game.

As the story progresses more characters join your party – up to a maximum of four. What is interesting about the combat is that you command each party member at a time, rather than setting commands for the entire party and then just hitting ‘go’. Enemies take their turn in line with every other character, rather than every single turn.

Something else that is different to other RPGs is the way poisoning works. Rather than losing health when poisoned, characters have different stages of being poisoned, and when they reach the maximum poison effect they pass out (and therefore become unavailable in combat, unless they’re revived). So the idea is to keep an eye on the strength of a character’s poisoning (by watching the on-screen messages) and to cure them before they pass out. Enemies that tend to poison you do it over and over, and the more a character is poisoned by enemies the quicker they reach maximum poison effect. It’s also worth noting that poisoning only occurs when in battle. When battle ends the poisoning doesn’t continue. It’s a small detail, but a welcome difference to the norm.

Actually, this game has some really great little touches that I haven’t seen in other RPGs before. Like: in the third act there’s a shopkeeper who runs from counter to counter to serve you weapons, armour, or potions. Each type of shop (in the same room) has a different counter and as you move between them the shopkeeper runs to catch up with you at each. That, to me, is a simple, funny little detail that I don’t think I’ve seen before in an RPG, and it adds serious charm to the game.

Defenders of Oasis is arguably the best level-grinder on the Game Gear. I really enjoyed playing it and am tempted to play it to completion. Which is as good a seal of approval as you’ll get from me.

More: Defenders of Oasis on Wikipedia

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