Defenders of Oasis / Shadam Crusader: Harukanaru Oukoku

Defenders of Oasis is a Sega Gamegear RPG.  It came out in Japan and the US in 1992, and is an interesting but flawed little RPG.  Since the Gamegear doesn’t have a ton of classic Dragon Quest style RPGs, any game is interesting on the system, but Defenders of Oasis definitely isn’t an amazing game when compared to RPGs available in 1992.  In Japan, Final Fantasy V is out in 1992, and in the US, Dragon Quest III and IV came out in 1992.  On the Gameboy, you could find a Wizardry port, a couple of quirky RPGs, and Twin all in that year.

In the intro, the hero (in the center of the screen) is brought to talk to his father.

The intro of the game starts with an avalanche of cliches.  Even though the game is set in a generic Middle Eastern country, the plot and the dialogue is intensely familiar. The hero’s a prince, who’s supposed to talk to his dad, but he slept in.  The maid shepherds him (and stops him from sneaking out the front door,) and unsurprisingly, the prince isn’t great at studying or remembering perfect etiquette.  Then, the prince is supposed to escort a visiting princess from the harbor to the castle, but she too slipped away from her maid and got into danger with ruffians!  After a basic fight, the king jokes that the neighboring king has the same concerns of a wild child as other kings and tells you to go to sleep.  However, in the night, war breaks out and you’re forced to flee the castle.  Turns out, there was a traitor who helped betray the kingdom.

I really doubt anyone is surprised that Kohle is the traitor.

Graphically, the game is competent.  There’s heavily dithered sprites, but compared to Traysia, the game feels more like an artstyle choice than a bad spriting choice. The colors are bright and objects and areas are nicely visible.  There’s actually a clever use of dithering with the Princess’ veil (behind the hero as he talks to Kohle.)  By using a checkerboard of white dots against her hair, she looks to have a veil on the back of her head.  The actual layout of the sprites is kind of awkward, since many areas have overly long dead ends or awkward twisty passages to access areas.   Add in a high encounter rate, and the game can get a bit frustrating. However, considering the memory issues in a Gamegear, it is notable that you do have a sense of space in areas and some of the fights are probably intended to add to gameplay time.

The battle system uses flashing colors more than animation to show attacks or damage.

The battle system is a typical Dragon Quest IV like system, with large sprites on a black background.  Later in the game you can have multiple characters.  The difficulty level is cut a little close, since the first battle will likely leave you with under 10 HP.  Grinding, of course, can change that, and for some people that difficulty can be a welcome thing.

While the walking sprite for the hero looks to still have his baby fat, his status portrait actually looks more mature.

Mostly, Defenders of Oasis strikes me as a game that would be a lot more annoying on a less powerful system.  The actual gameplay is a bit tedious (thanks to a lot of walking down long winding paths and battles,) and the plot mostly never leaves the realm of cliches with a bit of Middle Eastern flavoring on them.  However, the music is quite catchy, and the graphics are pleasant enough.  When the first cutscene appears, it’s surprising just to see one, even if the dialogue is a typical “this country may be harder to destroy” conversation.  I suppose a good summing up of the game is that it’s a simple conventional game with an unusual setting.  It has flaws, but if you can put up with them, you may find an addictive little gem of a game.

The mirror, of course, has a ghostly demonic head as the conversation continues.


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