Earthbound. A game that for many is a fond, but distant memory. A game that did so much and (used to) receive so little recognition. A game that upon a distant glance doesn’t look like its anything special, but provides a fun, deep, and rewarding experience. Earthbound is one of the best SNES RPGs in existence, providing a quirky, surreal experience to all who would frequent it.
I’m guessing you’re reading this because either you’ve never played Earthbound but you’re interested or because you HAVE and would like to know what I think. Well, Earthbound is not a game that can be summed up in one mere article, so I will simply attempt to tell you what I remember, what sells the game well, and what should keep you going regardless of where you’re at in the game.
First off, Earthbound is not an easy game and it’s highly recommended you play with either the original strategy guide or an FAQ. See, the original game actually CAME with a strategy guide, that’s why the box was so ginormous. And really, you kind of need one. The game is rife with puns and often it’s not clear where to go next.
As a result, an FAQ of some sort is a must. Now normally this wouldn’t be much of a selling point. Most RPGs around this time period where very linear and explained exactly where to go and what to do next. Earthbound is linear, but it doesn’t do a very good job explaining exactly what needs done. This could be because of a bad translation or because of the constant puns.
For example, there’s a point at which you find a pencil statue that’s blocking your path. If you have the pencil eraser, you can get rid of it. Yes, it’s a horrible pun, but that’s exactly what you should expect from the game. Earthbound starts off simply enough with you sleeping soundly during a seemingly typical night in your hometown of Onett, which kind of reminded me of where I grew up in that it was a very laidback, low population, backwater, country kind of town.
Suddenly a UFO crashes and you go to investigate. One thing leads to another and you develop psychic powers and are thrust into a quest to go across the globe seeking out companions that will aid you in the fight against alien forces and even have you travelling time in some parts. In other words, think Final Fantasy, but modern day and dealing with aliens, psychic powers, puns, and insanely quirky shit.
I can’t begin to count the number of times you eat something weird that transports you to an odd dimension of hallucination or in general experience something bizarre you wouldn’t expect to find in an RPG. Really, if there’s any one thing I’d crack on the game for, it’d be the graphics. This is mostly because it’s very cartoony and most RPGs of the time were striving for more realism, higher detailed portraits, or what have you.
Earthbound decided to go against the grain and shoot for something that looked more Kirby-esque, which makes sense as it was headed by HAL, who made the Kirby games. I think one major selling point of Earthbound, however, is how it will make you feel. Earthbound is a true feel good experience. It can be tough at times, often demanding you to grind quite a bit and having difficult bosses, but also highly rewarding in its music, atmosphere, situations, and overall feel.
It’s a game that’s very hard to describe exactly why you love it so much, but you just keep playing. Now no, I don’t mean it’s addictive for whatever reason and it sneaks up no you. What I mean is it’s a genuinely fun experience rife with all kinds of weird stuff and you can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner. Will there be more zombies? Will there be more barf monsters?
What will become of Threed? Will the Runaway Five ever be truly out of debt? What about the blue blue cult? Can I survive this meditation? Bad morning to you? Ultimately, Earthbound will keep you going all the while learning about core RPG gameplay that will help you with other RPGs. Yes, I’m saying that Earthbound is also a great starter RPG if you’ve never really gotten into them.
It’s very forgiving offering the ability to take you to your last savepoint if you die, continuously scrolling HP (I’ll explain in a sec), the ability to sneak up on monsters (and vice versa), the ability to see monsters before they see you and avoid them if you can, and far more. As far as the scrolling HP, let’s say an enemy dishes out what would normally be a fatal strike.
Well, in most RPGs, that’s it, you’re dead. In Earthbound, your HP number rapidly drops and if you can hurry up and heal or wrap up combat before it hits zero, you’re saved! There are also a lot of modern aspects such as the ability to order pizza, call a delivery man for storage, calling from a phone to save, accessing an ATM to withdraw or deposit funds, taking the bus, and a whole lot more.
Earthbound will touch every last gamer a little differently. For me, anytime I think Earthbound, the first thing I think is the music, all eclective and great, then the different scenarios that I loved, the overall feel to the game, and how I now desperately want to load it back in just to play a few parts. It’s a game you can enjoy again and again and I highly recommend it to any RPGer or would be RPGer.