Thursday, September 16, 2010

Classic Review: EarthBound (SNES)

The Super Nintendo was a RPG powerhouse. We were given wonderful games like Chrono Trigger, Final 4 and 6, and one other hidden gem. That gem would be the cult hit, EarthBound. These days you will not find it on Virtual Console, and it's awesome sequel was released only in Japan. The only way to (legally) play Earthbound is to track down the cart and pop it in the old SNES. The game is pretty expensive these days as a result. Is it worth the high price eBay dictates?

EarthBound comes from the Mother series of RPGs developed by Nintendo. The first Mother released on the Famicom. An English translation was created, but never officially released due to the dawn of the SNES era. The Super Nintendo would see Mother 2, better known in the US as EarthBound. Mother games all revolve around aliens, psychic powers, and comedy. Another neat attribute of the series is that each is set in a modern world.

EarthBound follows a boy named Ness and his attempt to stop an evil alien from dominating the world. He meets three allies along the way, each with unique attacks and fighting style. The plot sends the player everywhere from a town haunted by zombies to Stonehenge to The Great Pyramind. Each setting is designed wonderfully, and populated with really fun NPCs.

Comedy separates Earthbound from most most RPGs in the West. The writing is very self-aware and intelligent. NPCs in each location are actually fun to talk to unlike most games. I usuallly hate finding a clue in a town, but in this game it is a treat to hear comedy gold from most anyone you talk too (even animals.)

The graphics are simplistic but I think they hold their weight well with modern games. Small objects are very detailed like cars and buses. Elaborate dance animations are giving for musical performers in the game. Also the battles use strange hypnotic coloring for backgrounds. It is trippy! It might not be Chrono Trigger, but for 16 bit it is pretty awesome.

The music is strange. Some tunes are catchy like the Sky Runner theme (a UFO you fly around in), but others like the Dungeon Man Theme are awful. Apparently some bits use samples from Beatles' songs and Monty Python, this is one reason people attribute to the game being unavailable for Virtual Console due to legal issues. The music is honestly, hit or miss.

The game difficulty is also strange. The first couple hours of the game are brutal. Be prepared to grind for boss fights. It gets easier with progress, as new party memebers help balance the scales of power. A few boss fights towards the end are also brutal, but nothing a few good items can't beat. Another quirk is the rare items being very hard to acquire. If you want the only weapon for Poo (yes that's his name), you need to fight a certain enemy that appears briefly, and you have a 1 in 128 chance of getting it from him!

EarthBound is a cult classic. It is very loved by a small hardcore crowd. The weirdness of the game will almost surely draw you in. The difficulty can be a rude awakening, but trust me it is worth sticking through to the end. As for my first question: Is it worth the high price? Absolutely.

This is how a re-make could look on today's systems.

Random Stuff

- Mother 3, this game's sequel, has a great fan translation available. If you like RPGs at all, then you should get it.

- GameReproductions sells the NES version of Mother for 30 dollars. That is pretty cheap for a cool game.

- Ness appears in all three Smash Bros. titles. His Mother 3 counterpart, Lucas, appears in Super Smash Bros Brawl as well.

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