Today, as we celebrate Mother's Day, it's only fitting to review a classic game that holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers - "EarthBound". In Japan, its series is affectionately known as "Mother", a title that perfectly encapsulates the nurturing spirit and warmth that the game extends to its players.
"EarthBound", a role-playing game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1995, broke new ground with its unique setting, incredible music, and off-beat humor. A stark departure from the conventional fantasy-based RPGs of the time, "EarthBound" was set in a universe that, at least initially, closely resembled the real world. This created an immediate connection with its audience and lent the game an idiosyncratic charm.
In the development process, the creators aimed to make the game a fusion of pop culture, Japanese tradition, and a dash of the Western world. Shigesato Itoi, the game's lead designer, once said in an interview with Nintendo Dream magazine:
"I wanted to convey real emotions, but within a setting that is utterly out of the ordinary. It's why 'EarthBound' feels so much like a twisted sitcom."
(Nintendo Dream, Issue 36)
The game's soundtrack is a testament to the genius of its creators, managing to evoke a broad spectrum of emotions. Whether it's the upbeat tunes of Onett, the eerie melodies of Threed, or the charming jingles of the Saturn Valley, the music in "EarthBound" is as memorable as the game itself.
Upon its release, "EarthBound" received a lukewarm reception. Critics and audiences found the graphics and gameplay mechanics unconventional. Its unique turn-based combat system and the game's peculiar brand of humor weren't immediately appreciated. However, as time passed, "EarthBound" gained a cult following and is now considered a classic.
Today, it is one of the most sought-after SNES games, with cartridges fetching hefty sums in the hundreds of dollars and up realm on the collector's market... and for complete compies with box and strategy guide, you're looking deep into the THOUSANDS of dollars, depending on condition.
Despite its initial reception, "EarthBound" endures as one of the greatest games of all time. Its zany graphics, unique battle mechanics, and engaging storyline make it a standout title in the SNES library, and indeed, in the broader world of gaming. Its real-world setting, coupled with a sprinkling of surreal elements, created a game world that players could both recognize and be surprised by.
A notable feature of the game was the strategy guide included with each copy. The guide, alongside scratch-and-sniff stickers that captured the game's quirky charm, was an imaginative addition that further enriched the "EarthBound" experience. The guide offered players a helping hand through the game's wild worlds, from the suburban streets of Onett to the neon lights of Fourside.
One of the most remarkable aspects of "EarthBound" is its expertly crafted narrative, which skillfully blends everyday life with a surreal, fantastical world. You play as Ness, a young boy from Onett, who embarks on a journey after a meteorite lands near his home. What follows is a story that is both humorously absurd and heartwarmingly earnest. EarthBound's story, filled with psychic powers, time travel, and otherworldly enemies, was a far cry from the swords and sorcery typically associated with RPGs, and it's this uniqueness that has endeared it to players for decades.
The game's characters are a significant part of its enduring charm. Ness and his friends Paula, Jeff, and Poo each have their own quirks and abilities, making them a memorable team. Even the non-playable characters, from the enigmatic Mr. Saturns to the Photo-Man who pops up unexpectedly to snap your picture, contribute to the game's distinct flavor.
The game's visual style is another aspect worth mentioning. "EarthBound" features graphics that, while simple by today's standards, are bursting with personality. Its colorful, cartoonish style perfectly complements the game's quirky humor and imaginative world design.
The battle system in "EarthBound" also deserves a nod. It is a unique take on the turn-based combat typical of RPGs. Enemies are visible in the game world, allowing players to approach or avoid combat based on their preference. This, coupled with the "rolling HP meter" mechanic, where a character's health decreases gradually, allowing for last-second saves, added a strategic depth to the combat that set it apart from its contemporaries.
As a game, "EarthBound" is a celebration of the unusual and the extraordinary. It is a journey through a world that is at once familiar and strange, filled with laughter, tears, and moments of genuine surprise.
Its blend of real-world aesthetics with elements of science fiction and fantasy created a uniquely appealing universe that continues to captivate gamers to this day. It is a testament to the game's enduring quality that, despite its initial lukewarm reception, it has since become a beloved classic and a high-point of the SNES library.
This Mother's Day, celebrate "EarthBound" - the best "Mother" game of all time. Its legacy is a testament to the beauty of embracing unconventionality, and a reminder that sometimes, the things we initially understand the least end up being the ones we cherish the most. So here's to "EarthBound", a game that truly embodies the spirit of love, adventure, and the enduring power of motherhood.