Earthbound - Review

Earthbound - The Breakfast of Champions

By: Zachary Keller

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 10
   Plot 7
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

15-30 Hours


Earthbound Title Screen

   Ah Earthbound, the mighty contender in the early SNES RPG race... Nintendo and Enix's killer app for the genre. This was a time before Final Fantasy VI and VII. Before the graphics of Super Mario RPG and the immersion of Chrono Trigger; a revolution was needed, and they pulled it off. The year is 1995. The setting: cutsie graphics and a tale of a lowly preteen who sets out of his home with his trusty baseball bat to save the world... in a title RPGamers of all ages can enjoy.

   The first think one notices about any game is the battle system. This was probably the least revolutionary thing about the game. There they are: the enemies on screen with your allies names, HP and MP totals on the bottom - commands at the top. Text based mostly, with nothing but flashes appearing as graphics, save the beautiful... and not so beautiful, baddies. What makes this stand out, however, is the pace of the battles, and the backgrounds. The battles go along smoothly; you never know what to expect next. There is no clutter like some others, no timing frustrations, just raw commands. We'd never seen anything else on this shore. The last part that stands out is the backgrounds in the fights... absolutely stunning. Which I'll get into later.

   The interface comes next, with an edgy, but still deserved eight. As you move around the world, you feel involved. It's really quite detailed. Granted, without the bicycle (90% of the game) movement is a bit slow... although I still get a thrill every time the characters spin around and teleport to another town. There was no graphics at all in the menus; again, everything is text-based, with an easily understandable and no nonsense interface.

Kick his butt!  

    If you look around the world, music isn't the same from place to place... the same is true in Earthbound. Music sets the mood, tone, and lots of other synonyms for the same thing. From the Asian scales in Dalaam to the crickets chirping on a warm summer's night, the sound in this game is memorable for years. The emotion... the feeling in the depth of one's soul just to hear that fiery beat! Woo! Gotta love the music!

   Originality. I wish I could give this greater than a 10. But alas, Paws would get ticked, so I'll just have to explain myself in such a limited number... Wow. This was the first game to take place in the current time period. No game before and very few since have done this; you know you're in for a treat as the title screen reads "199X". They don't venture into sci-fi, or dwell in the past, they set it here and now, with baseball bats, yo-yos, and frying pans as weapons. Arcades taken over by street gangs; giant... um... slime-things! The most original game I've ever played in many regards.

   As one progresses through the story, you can really relate to the things characters go through. As in any RPG, the plot thickens from something small in the beginning to trying to save the world, but this does it in style! Predictability is gone, the plot ties into itself very well, and with just a bit more hanky-panky, would be a novel worth reading. It manages, however, to stay a bit too simple. As I stated, with gamers of all ages, a 10-year old could understand this plot line with ease. Through the game it's just a bit too simple and easy, with few moments to make you laugh and cry, but plenty to keep you playing until the very end.

The City of Townsville  

   This game was originally called Mother 2 in Japan; Mother 1 having been released on the SNES and only in Japanese. But you could have fooled almost anyone. The translation is flawless. When Earthbound came out, it had the most text of any console RPG ever - all perfectly translated. No "off course" or bad grammar, this game came tailored to an American audience, quite well at that.

   I played Earthbound through so many times. Not to say there's secrets galore or a hundred and nine characters, but it just kept me coming back for more. It just grabs a hold and doesn't let go. I haven't touched it in a couple years, due to Xenogears and the Final Fantasies; but it still has fond memories.

   Before FMV and 3D acceleration, there were Sprites. Little 2D guys running all around the screen. They could face left, right, up, down, and *gasp* the diagonals! And move anywhere on the screen! This was a revolution for the day! Final Fantasy IV has just been brought out, in all it's block-by-block glory. Earthbound changed that. The battle scenes - as mentioned earlier, were mostly text based, with large sprites in the middle of the field, and flowing, fractal backgrounds that would make an acid fiend proud. Some of the graphics, admittedly, were butt ugly, but on the whole, the graphics were good for the day. Everything seemed a bit cartoony, which is certainly what the designers were going for. They made it work - most of the time.

Buy this game and you can ride Tessie!  

   On top of everything, Earthbound was EASY. It defined easy. one could go through the game without saving and have a pretty good chance. It's hard enough to drive the 8 year olds away, but not much else. If you're looking for a puzzle/thinking man's game, this is not for you. Truly thirty hours maximum the first run through; 15 on the 3rd or so.

   Earthbound was released with no ads, no fuss, and no attention. However, it could have sold more copies. It could have guided more people to the genre. It could have been a contender; to some extent, it was. This game changed the face of gaming for me; not as my first RPG, but as the first game to really interest me. Everyone should play it some time in their career. People say this is a game for kids - I see it as a gaming sculpture everyone can enjoy.

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