(Originally published at Sega-16.com)
It’s been almost a quarter-century since The Story of Thor released in Japan as part of Sega’s Mega RPG Project – a strategy conceived in the final round of the Mega Drive’s bout with the Super Famicom. It’s assumed Sega hoped a quick shot of RPGs would help its weary 16-bit mauler finish strong. That’s just speculation, but it’s a fact Sega abandoned its Mega RPG Project after less than a year. Japanese fans walked away with seven RPGs and some dandy enamel pins.
Americans didn’t get the pins, but they did get The Story of Thor (localized as Beyond Oasis) in March of 1995, just two months ahead of the Saturn’s surprise launch. Gaming magazines found it to be a graphically lush adventure, too brief but with plenty of secrets and a tightly tuned combat system. Since then, Sega has trotted out Beyond Oasis for a few different collections. Under consideration today is the Sega Forever release, available now on iOS and Android devices. (The Android version is reviewed here.)
The game looks and sounds great on mobile. The colors are as richly saturated as in one’s memory, and a solid emulation of Ancient’s music driver delivers an accurate reproduction of Koshiro’s Wagnerian soundtrack. Performance leaves something to be desired, though your experience may vary depending on your device’s spec. This reviewer observed frame-skipping even in relatively quiet areas near the beginning of the game.
The virtual controls are customizable. Still, it’s not easy to find a layout that meets the challenges offered by the game’s jumping puzzles and fighting system. A HID-compatible controller is recommended. Unfortunately, neither the on-screen controls nor the HID controller configurations support the MODE button. That means no weapon swap shortcut or area select cheat. Another omission is the game’s built-in SRAM backup feature. You must use the app’s save-state feature instead, which in the free version means thirty-second ads on every save and load. But Sega has included localizations from the EU version, which will be a welcome feature for many.
Beyond Oasis has the potential to be an excellent mobile game as long as the emulation works with, and not against, that potential. Our wish list: instant-on save states to allow for drop-in, drop-out gaming; a hand-tuned virtual game pad that does justice to Ancient’s responsive controls; and a solid sixty hertz refresh rate. The current Sega Forever release is lacking, but it’s still getting patches and has improved dramatically since the initial release. The paid version speeds up saving and loading and is priced to be an impulse purchase.
Now, if we can just get a reissue of those pins…