In this series of features Nintendo Life contributors will share thoughts on their most memorable games of 2017. This entry by Tony Stephenson – who runs our Facebook page – focuses on the underappreciated 3DS title Ever Oasis. 

It’s been an epic year to be a Nintendo gamer. The launch of the Switch and the subsequent release of some virtually perfect games such as Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2 have made it very memorable already. However, I’ll leave it to others to pick one of those and talk how great they are. 

For me personally, I have decided to a talk about a game that has pretty much gone under the radar for most people, and that game is Ever Oasis. I have been eager to get my hands on it since it was announced last year in a Nintendo Direct. While most were riding the Breath of the Wild bandwagon – don’t get me wrong I do love that as well – I was getting my teeth into the world beneath the sands. 

You play as Tethu, a young seedling, who embarks on creating an Oasis on the eastern side of Qarr Dunes together with the aid of the beautiful water spirit Esna. After learning about the kidnap of your brother and hearing that his own Oasis has fallen into Chaos, you start the journey into building your Oasis and attracting new residents. On the way you explore the world around you, taking on quests – both key to the story and those that residents have requested – venturing into caves and dungeons with unique characteristics. 

Ever Oasis combines two styles of gameplay seamlessly. The first is the Oasis management side of the game. Akin to Animal Crossing, you form relationships with many of the residents, mostly seedlings, who initially setup small businesses known as Bloom Booths along the roads inside the Oasis once you have befriended them. Each of them has particular skills which help aid you later on in the journey. In the early game there is a bit of micro-management as you try and keep the Booths stocked with materials that you gather from exploring in the game; as the Oasis expands the option for macro-management opens up, allowing you to automatically restock, so this does not become a chore. You can also ask residents to tend to the garden – a farming aspect – or send them on quests to gather materials themselves. 

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The second gameplay style is the action-adventure side to the game. As you progress you will explore the world. Initially, it is quite daunting – I remember dying instantly a few times on my first few trips out of the Oasis – but once you level up things become slightly easier. This part of the game has the feel of playing a 3DS Zelda game – which is no surprise as the developer, Grezzo, also worked on the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask 3DS remakes. Many of the dungeons will have some kind of puzzle aspect to solving them, which requires the right team of skills to complete. My only criticism of the game is that sometimes it can be a bit laborious have to travel back to the Oasis to get the right team for the job. Luckily you don’t have to physically traverse back and forth – the use of an Aqua Gate takes you back to the Oasis allowing you to get the right team for the job, and then use the gate again to get back to where you were.

As you progress through the story, which I won’t spoil, you’ll meet three main races who you will befriend to aid with the quests at hand. Once they hear of your Oasis you will see them visiting and even taking up residence, bringing whole new skill sets to use. The story is very sweet and easy to follow, not too ‘wordy’ – which does put me off a few similar lifestyle RPGs like Fantasy Life. However, the battle system is much like Fantasy Life – simple controls, two buttons for differing attacks and a dodge mechanic. You can also switch between characters in your party; while essential for solving some of the puzzles, it’s actually nice if you are getting bored of playing with the same character all the time.

In conclusion, Ever Oasis is a truly stunning game. I won’t lie, I’ve still yet to complete it fully, but for the 30 hours or so I have played I have not once been bored. Progress goes really quickly – I have spent more hours on Breath of the Wild and feel I have achieved far less than I have within Ever Oasis. The controls are nice and simple, the music is very sweet and visually it looks amazing on the small screen of the 3DS. You will find yourself falling in love with Esna, the water spirit, and may get lost many times during the exploration. The difficulty curve ramps up smoothly, too; at no point did I ever feel I had to grind in the game to level up. Yep, there will be occasions when running is the best course of action, but it has only been a handful of times. If you like Monster Hunter, Fantasy Life or any of the 3DS Zelda remakes, you’ll love this game.

For those reasons above, Ever Oasis is my most memorable game of 2017.