EarthBound (SNES) review
"EarthBound is a turn based RPG that is unlike any RPG of its time. The setting is 1990's America as envisioned in the quirky eye of series creator, Shigesato Itoi. He wanted to make a game that he wanted to play, and with this notion he created the highly adored EarthBound for the Super Nintendo in 1994. To many, what makes EarthBound a unique entity in gaming is its humor, colorful and crisp visuals, numerous American pop-culture references and a funkadelic soundtrack with a feel that has ye..."
EarthBound is a turn based RPG that is unlike any RPG of its time. The setting is 1990's America as envisioned in the quirky eye of series creator, Shigesato Itoi. He wanted to make a game that he wanted to play, and with this notion he created the highly adored EarthBound for the Super Nintendo in 1994. To many, what makes EarthBound a unique entity in gaming is its humor, colorful and crisp visuals, numerous American pop-culture references and a funkadelic soundtrack with a feel that has yet to be recreated in an RPG to this day.
EarthBound is the story of Ness, an average 13 year old boy living in Eagleland who wears a striped shirt, blue jean shorts and totes a bat with him to take care of foes. Ness meets 3 companions through out his journey who are destined to help him in his adventure to stop the cosmic destroyer, Giygas. His first friend is Paula, the deadly yet frail PSI user, then Jeff, the boy genius who’s shy and reckless, then Poo, a mystical warrior from far lands. Through 'courage, friendship and wisdom', they will take on any challenge that finds them. In the beginning of the game, a meteor crashes into a hill right by Ness' home. Upon investigating the meteor and fighting some Coil Snakes, Spiteful Crows and Runaway Dogs; Ness and his brat, neighborhood friend Pokey discover a bee by the name of Buzz Buzz who comes from 10 years in the future. Buzz Buzz explains that Ness is the chosen one, and that he must put a stop to Giygas' plans. At this point in time, Giygas' influence is settling into Ness’ world, and the aforementioned snakes, dogs and crows have began to turn evil, along with humans and natural wildlife.
After an eventful start, EarthBound turns into a carefree adventure for a kid who's just beginning to see the world for himself. Ness meets a variety of strange characters and generally has an odd and delightful adventure. He faces the Carpainter who is obsessed with the color blue, paints his village blue, and has a cult following of happy happiests who unleash paint attacks upon him. He helps out a band baring striking resemblance to the Blues Brothers. He is dropped off into a gloomy town known as Threed, so that he can "bring his own brand of sunshine" to thwart a zombie invasion. He digs in trashcans to find hamburgers, he… Well, I don’t want to spoil the rest! You have to play EarthBound!
Getting to the heart of EarthBound is a matter of playing it, and experiencing it for yourself. The thing about EarthBound is that every NPC has their own story, their own life that they're leading. It's not the same as your common downtrodden NPCs in other RPGs, where they have nothing better to talk about than a military invasion or the current happenings of the world. The NPCs breathe a special life that is unique to the world of EarthBound. So when you play, make an effort to talk to all of the NPCs!
EarthBound has a lot of interesting ideas to it. The battle system is almost an exact clone of the latest Dragon Quest game at the time, however with a distinguishing feature: a rolling HP meter. When taking damage in battle, you will watch your hit points roll down for as much damage you receive. If you receive a mortal hit, you have the time it takes for your HP to roll down to 0 to make a recovery move, whether it be defeating the enemies at hand, running away or healing yourself. This feature adds a bit of intensity to the battles. During battle, enemies will often make frivolous actions, skipping their turn and allowing you to kick their butt. They might laugh hysterically, grin, or even fall off their pogo sticks. Enemies will appear on the overworld so you can choose your encounters. You can surprise attack enemies by approaching them from behind, gaining turn advantage but you can be surprise attacked as well. If your party is strong enough, weak enemies will be defeated instantly upon approaching them. Everyone loves this feature, and surprise attacks will heighten the chance of this happening. All battles are set to a background of psychedelic patterns, and there are 6 different battle themes, and 3 different boss themes. More games need to have varying battle music, don't you get sick of hearing the same crap over and over in most RPGs? The battle music is typically in a swinging electro funk style, and one of the battle themes is a cover of Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B Good'... like when you engage in battle with a New Age Retro Hippie, whoa man! Watch out for his toothbrush!
The status effects are pretty fun. You can be 'mashroomized,' in which your character will have a mushroom planted onto his head. When this occurs, the directions on the d-pad will be shuffled, making it annoying to get around. A healing man with purple hair will buy them from right off your head for $50 bucks! (Unfortunately, this is the main method of getting a mushroom off your head.) Homesickness has a chance to occur after reaching a certain level, in which Ness will skip a turn while he's thinking about Steak, or his dear ole mother. To cure it, you have to call your mom. You can get colds, sunstroke and numbness, along with the cannon poison, diamondization, and sleep effects.
One of the qualms with EarthBound is that you have a limited inventory space. Each character can hold about twenty items at a time, and there are several points in the game where item management must be taken into consideration. To help with this, Ness' sister Tracy works at Escargo Express which is a service that lets you store items. Some key items are re-used while others will become obsolete and worthless. In my opinion, the limited inventory allows the player to set a specific pace depending on how prepared he or she wants to be. Another common qualm are the graphics appearing 'too kiddy' or simply lame compared to games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 3/6. In EarthBound's defense, its graphical appearance is a pure stylistic choice, and is also charming and timeless.
I could rant forever about this game, I love it, I think it’s one of the best games out there. Simply put, EarthBound is a game that can be enjoyed by all ages, male and female. There's always something around the corner to discover, and playing it through, you'll be wishing more games had the heart that EarthBound has. Every year, this game seems to gain more attention from gamers all around the world, and every time I play the game, I learn something new about it or realize something I didn't see before. I implore you, with all my love for games in a world where gaming is yet in its infancy and is mutating into a medium where FPS games occupy the mainstream; that you MUST play this game. You can even play it with one hand! You don't need 2 hands to play EarthBound! The L button is a secondary all purpose confirm button.
So dust off your SNES, invite a friend over, order some pizza, then just relax, take it easy, and enjoy the goodness that is EarthBound.
Community review by Aquas (July 26, 2008)
Aquas is an STG fanatic, score-chaser and arcade lover. He hosts the Shooting Game Weekly on Youtube, a show that goes in depth on various shmups with passionate fans of the genre. Favorite video game: EarthBound.
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