Game:  EarthBoundEarthBound

Genre:  Classic RPG

Developer:  Creatures Inc (Formerly Ape) and HAL Laboratories

Publisher: Nintendo

Original NA Release:   June 5th, 1995

Original Box Price:  $69.95 MSRP

Current NA Platforms:  SNES, Wii U (Virtual Console)

Tongue-in-cheek and tuned to be difficult, EarthBound deserves every bit of adoration it’s garnered since its US release in 1995.  One of my super powers is a near immunity to nostalgia.  Now that I’m all jaded and old does EarthBound (or Mother 2 if you’re a hipster) hold up?

The answer is yes and in Winsomnia’s first ever Retro Review I’ll tell you why.

I have a mini-game I play with old RPGs.  Every character receives a different swearword for their name.  I was able to resist doing that to EarthBound – this was a serious playthrough.  Then I was asked my favorite food and activity.  To which I answered “HUMANS” and “FUCKING.”  Boy did that joke pay off.

Breakfast of Champions

Earthbound (U)_00016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m serious; I laughed my ass off with boyish glee when my mother told me to eat a plate of HUMANS and head to bed.  I instantly realized I was playing the game correctly.  One of the things that makes EarthBound so good, gives it depth 18 years later, is the comedy.  Some of the childish jokes can cause, at the very least, a happy snort while playing.  Other moments – certain villain names or enemy skills – have gotten better with age.  The black humor caused out loud laughing throughout the entire game.  Of course if you have no soul you won’t laugh so what about the rest of the game?

The plot of EarthBound is basic but delivered with style.  You’re a kid named FUCK Ness.  In the middle of the night a meteorite strikes just outside your house.  You go to investigate and a bee named Buzz Buzz appears.  He informs you that he’s from the future where a bad thing named Giygas is fucking shit up.  He informs you that you’re a bad enough dude to save the planet and tells you to go find some friends to help.  Shortly after helping you face the dreaded Starman Junior, tragedy befalls Buzz Buzz and you’re on your own.  Your parents are incredibly supportive.  They frequently transfer money to your bank account or let you call to save your game or offer advice.   It’s quite endearing (suspicious even) that they seem so prepared for you to go out and become a goddamn hero.

The Plot ThickensEarthBound Begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most interaction is done through text windows rather than animations.  Combat is a familiar turn-based style that shows up as a first person view of your enemies.  Actions are selected from a Dragon Quest-esque menu.  Descriptions in and out of combat are flavorful and witty.

Earthbound Menus

Earthbound Combat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enemies are diverse – urban zombies, stray dogs, robots, and sentient piles of puke are all on the villain roster – and combat is difficult despite disarmingly childish themes.  It’s common to go through a pile of consumables out of combat to heal up after non-bossfights.  Luckily there’s no delivery fees for heroes in EarthBound.

Encounters aren’t random.  EarthBound was one of the first games to show enemy encounters on the map as easily avoidable, though mobile, sprites.

Special techniques are called Psi attacks.  Having psychic powers in place of magic (the norm for most other RPGs even today) is a subtle difference that helps build the atmosphere of EarthBound.  This is a cerebral setting and psychic children are what the world needs.

The black comedy prevails through most of the story but can take a backseat to other creepy or strange moments.  EarthBound’s humor is hyperbole; an enhancer to what’s really going on.  I don’t want to spoil anything in case you’ve not yet played this one so I’ll leave it at that.

Eighteen years later EarthBound is still a great game.  Nostalgia isn’t necessary.  It’s a turn-based RPG with a unique twist on setting and protagonist/antagonist.  Whether you’re an old fan that’s let it fade from memory or one of the many that missed it because of its limited US release and high price tag, I highly recommend playing it.  If you don’t feel like dusting off your SNES, don’t worry it’s currently available through the Wii U’s VC for $9.99.