Review

“GIYGAS INVASION! BIZARRE ALIENS ROAM THE EARTH!!”

 

Publisher: Nintendo + Incredibly funny dialog, 1950′s Sci-Fi feel.
+ Addictive story sends you around the world
+ Great characters & soundtrack
Developer: HAL
Genre: RPG
Released: 06/05/95  
ESRB: K to A

- Came with a Strategy Guide, making it easier.
- Sold poorly + tough to find game = EXPENSIVE!

Platforms: SNES


What’s the story: Welcome back for a very special retro Review. In this retro, we take a look at one of the most loved RPG’s of all time, a game that over the years has gained an almost cult like following - EarthBound for the Super Nintendo. EarthBound is the sequel to “Mother” (released only in Japan), and happens to be one of the rarest games on the used game market. We still have our copy. But is this adventure with Ness and friends worth the high price? Read on to find out!

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Earthbound stars a young boy with psychic powers named Ness and takes place in the year 199X. One summer night in Ness’ home town of Onett, he is awakened by a loud noise. Ness leaves to check it out. Through numerous police roadblocks Ness finds that a meteorite has crashed in the north part of town. At the crash site Ness finds his annoying neighbor Pokey who tells Ness to go home. Shortly after, Ness wakes up to a knock at his door – It’s Pokey. He tells Ness that his little brother, Picky, is missing and asks Ness to help find him. They leave, and find Picky at the meteorite site. At the site, Ness encounters an alien from the future named Buzz Buzz who happens to be in the form of a bee. Buzz Buzz informs Ness that in the future, a hostile alien named Giygas (AKA The Universal Cosmic Destroyer),  dominates the universe. This is where our quest begins. Ness must seek out the 3 other “chosen ones” to give him a hand – Paula, Jeff, and Poo. Together, they need to find 8 “sanctuaries” to unite their powers with the Earth’s and gain the strength required to confront Giygas. Buzz Buzz is later killed by Pokey’s Mon who mistakes him for a dung beetle.

retro_review_earthbound_04 What’s to like: Almost everything is likable in Earthbound, but the most notable (and my personal favorite) aspects are the brilliant scenarios and hysterical dialog. It isn’t often you can say this about a game but both aspects in Earthbound are that incredible, and put most current gen games to shame. Some examples of this; you’ll fight hippies with toothbrushes, free a race of aliens enslaved by a talking pile of vomit, and be taught teleportation by a monkey. As for the dialog there’s too many funny lines to list but one example would be from one of the crazy townsfolk of Onett – the  “treasure hunter extraordinaire” Lier X. Agerate, who repeatedly says he’s making himself stronger by working out and eating garlic. He eventually invites you in to his home to view a treasure he’s dug up. Once in, he says to Ness “Ah! I can tell by the look on your face you don’t want to hang out, do you? After all, we are not even related”. What that means, we have no idea, but its lines like this which give EarthBound its’ outstanding, hilarious style.

retro_review_earthbound_19 The main star of EarthBound is Ness who lives in Onett. Onett is located in the country of Eagleland which (as you may have already guessed) is a hysterical parody of America. There are various towns spread across Eagleland, each with its very own unique personality.Just a few are; Paula’s home town of Twoson (because they weren’t first), Threed, Fourside (EarthBound’s New York), Winters (Jeff’s snowy home town), Summers (a pricey and popular vacation spot on the beach), and Saturn Valley (a hidden village in back of Threed and home of the Mr. Saturns). As you progress, you’ll eventually be able to travel across the ocean. This is where you’ll find Poo, the fourth and last character to join your party. Poo hails from Dalamm, a country in the Far East perched high in the clouds. Across the planet you’ll even find references to real locations like Stonehenge, and The Pyramids of Egypt. Wherever your travels take you, they’ll always stay fresh. And this is what makes Earthbound so great, it was a Breath of Fresh air in a genre surrounded by by the usual swords and dragons and castles.

retro_review_earthbound_22 For instance; Ness and friends use items like baseball bats and yo yos to attack. You’ll battle enemies like the Annoying Old Party Man, an Insane Cultist, and the Trick or Treat Kid. Remember, Giygas is making everything turn evil, even pets and inanimate objects like parking meters have gone insane. Defeat them and they will turn back to normal. As the game progresses, enemies get more traditional and of course, much stronger. Gamplay is similar to many other RPG’s of the era. You’ll gain experience points, and can attack, heal, and use items during battles. Instead of Magic Points or MP, characters have Psychic Points, referred to in the game as PP. Also, there are no random battles in EarthBound – you see enemies and you’ll be able to run from them – most of the time. When you do engage an enemy, regular turn based RPG action begins. Battles are first person with trippy psychedelic backgrounds and sound effects.

retro_review_earthbound_16 Another unique thing about EarthBound are the references it uses towards numerous pop culture icons. Some examples are The Beatles, Monty Python, and even The Blues Brothers. Even the game’s various towns consist of ATMs, Burger Joints, Arcades, Gangs, Hospitals, and Bakerys. You’ll even need to get help from family members by way of using the phone. Again, very rarely were we seeing an RPG make references to people and places in the real world, adding to the magic of EarthBound.

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retro_review_earthbound_01 What’s not to like: If there’s one thing that’s not to like about EarthBound, it would have to be the fact that the game came with a strategy guide. Why Nintendo would do this, I have no idea. Whenever I was stuck on what to do next, I would have to fight the urge to peek in the guide. While not a major negative, I think the guide being separate from the game would have made more sense for this RPG which isn’t overly challenging to begin with.  I must note that included in the back of the guide are nine “scratch and sniff” stickers. This is funny because when the game was released, its’ slogan from Nintendo was “This Game Stinks”. The stickers (and the HUGE box needed to house the guide) add to the game’s uniqueness in my mind. Also, the guide is a nice one, acting almost as an itinerary for your journey.

retro_review_earthbound_17 Besides the game coming with a guide, there’s only two other things that would fall in the negative category for me. The first is of course the game’s price. If you want a complete copy of Earthbound today, be ready to shell out close to $500.00…no joke. The second (and this fact has NEVER bothered me) would be graphics are admittedly very simple looking and plain.  Not quite up to par with the likes of  Final Fantasy III which was released just seven months earlier. However, once you start playing Earthbound, graphics will be the last thing on your mind. After a few hours you’ll see they fit the game perfectly. Below you’ll find roughly the first 15 minutes of the game taken from an ORIGINAL Super Nintendo Entertainment System.


Score
Overall

EarthBound was an underrated gem that wasn’t fully appreciated in 1995. When it was released, it received mixed reviews, came in a giant goofy box, and sold poorly (in America). Despite all that, and like anything truly brilliant, the undeniable genius of EarthBound has more then flourished as the years have passed – and rightfully so. EarthBound is top notch in almost every important RPG category: we get likable characters, unique enemies, a great Sci-Fi story with perfectly matching graphics and sound, and a diverse variety of areas to explore. However, the most important thing about EarthBound its’ hilarious dialog and non-stop humor, something that’s missing in 95% of today’s games. Earthbound is one of the best in the fantastic SNES RPG library and a must play. Let’s hope it gets released on the Wii Virtual Console soon so anyone that’s missed it can experience this one of a kind game, without shelling out a good chunk of cash.


 

   

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