Video Game Retrospective: Earthbound

Super Smash Bros, as a series, celebrated Nintendo’s rich history of great games and characters will always be cherished for honoring our beloved heroes and shining a light on new ones. In 1999, I played the first entry in the series and loved seeing Kirby, Link, Pikachu, and Samus battle it out. But did I know who Captain Falcon and Ness were when I unlocked them? No. Looking up Earthbound on the internet at the time, it was hard to find a new copy, let alone a good used one, as Earthbound included a player guide in its original box.

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Fast-forward to July 2013 when the game was rereleased on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. With no expectations of than the game is an RPG, I’m a complete blank slate when I jump into this game. Well, as they say in the business:

Here We Go!
Here We Go!

I Can’t Stop Laughing

With any RPG, there’s bound to be heaps of dialogue. While this is expected, the humor completely took me off guard, as Earthbound’s timeless characters had me laughing time and time again.

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Bizarre, self-referential, timely, and sometimes informative just to add detail, every character has a set of dialogue that makes talking to NPCs (non-playable characters) worthwhile. On top of that, there are plenty of occasions where the thing you run into are simply bizarre. Some of Ness’s enemies are random people, stray animals, and inanimate objects come to life. One of Ness’s early adventures leads him to a town corrupted by a cult leader that makes everything blue.

 

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LET’S FIGHT!

In the overworld, you travel mostly on foot and fight enemies as they approach you. Depending on if you surprise them or they run behind you and get the jump on you, you receive various advantages and disadvantages. Actual battle will remind players of Dragon Quest, in which you view enemies up front, but do not view your own party members.

Screenshot from Dragon Quest VIII
Screenshot from Dragon Quest VIII
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Typical Battle in Earthbound

Earthbound’s battles aren’t terribly complicated or complex, but the enemies, moves, and items are creatively original. Using ordinary items, status ailments that are seemingly reasonable, and increasing stats that are simple to understand, the game is increasingly approachable in comparison to more fantastical and classically inspired RPGs that precede it. You use items like bats, toys, household items, and outside of the telekinetic powers, your party consists of ordinary kids doing the extraordinary. The primary thing about this RPG is the level of difficulty. Enemies hit hard, drain your magic, and make you use items. There’s no holding back and any seemingly harmless battle can become your last. Oftentimes, enemies call in backup or attacks miss and the odds can seem unfavorable. The wins outlast the loses however; when you are high level and encounter enemies that are lower, you instantly defeat them without having to battle. It’s incredibly satisfying, especially if those enemies used to take you down with ease before.

I’m still a bit early on in the game, but I’m surprised at the big and little moments in the game. Ness’s whole family being a part of the game (his dad is hilarious to talk with via telephone), traveling from different cities by tour bus, and interacting with all sorts of strange characters. The charm of the game never ceases to go hand in hand with the serious difficulty, always keeping me on my toes.

The game is the Wii U’s virtual console, or if you can find it, also on the Super Nintendo. If you’ve ever wanted to jump into the world of Earthbound, let us know your experiences with the game in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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