EarthBound Review (dedicated to Satoru Iwata)
The year is 199X and the life of a young boy in Onett, a small town in Eagleland, is about to dramatically change. The name of this young boy is Ness and the change in his life begins when he is suddenly awoken in the middle of the night by a loud crash. As he explores the hills outside his home he discovers a glowing meteorite and hears a peculiar buzzing sound coming from within it.
The strange buzzing is emitted from a small bee-like creature named Buzz Buzz who tells Ness about his destiny to save the world from an entity of unbridled evil known as Giygas. This moment concludes the prologue of EarthBound and marks the beginning of Ness’s epic journey. EarthBound is a game that takes the typical tropes of fantasy RPGs and dresses them up with urban flair. For example, instead of swords, bows, and armor the player equips baseball bats, slingshots, and toys to protect themselves. Furthermore, EarthBound‘s plot ends up taking many twists and turns that intertwines Ness’s fate with that of the Earth itself in special areas called “Your Sanctuary” which are used to kindle his power against the evil influences of Giygas.
One of the best parts of the game is its simple, turn-based combat system that indicates and executes all actions with text boxes, similar to the Dragon Quest series. EarthBound‘s turn-based combat allows players to create strategies accordingly in order to find the best means to dispatch foes. The only things that occupy the screen are bright illustrations of the enemies and text boxes that display the status of Ness and his friends. How often you attack and your enemies attack and score critical hits or “SSMAAAAASSSHHHH” attacks is largely dependent on the Speed and Guts attribute, but relying on brute strength only does so much unless you use it in combination with PSI. PSI assumes the role of magic and contains some of the most devastating attacks in the game and using it effectively with standard bash attacks will ensure your survival in combat.
EarthBound‘s vibrant art style and upbeat music gives the game its own distinct charm and innocence that makes it look unique compared to other turn-based RPGs. EarthBound‘s art style and music are complemented by its quirky sense of humor that manifests itself in NPC dialogue and the ludicrous enemies you face like aging hippies and mad taxis. The game even goes to so far to break the fourth wall on many occasions, making the game’s focus on the insignificant all the more hilarious.
Some minor nitpicks with game is that there is no run feature to allow faster travel while on foot, which was an option in Mother 1 and Mother 3. Moreover, enemy’s having turn priority over your party can be frustrating at times and the constant flurries of text can slow the pace of the game even more so be sure to set the text speed to fast if your an impatient player. Inventory space can fill up real quickly, so constantly shuffling through the inventory of the entire party to figure what should be dropped and what should be switched can get tedious real quickly.
Aside from its small flaws, EarthBound manages to hold up its identity after nearly two decades since its release on the Super Nintendo and is mandatory game to play if you are fan of Nintendo, RPGs, or any combination of the two and will be be a memorable experience that you will not soon forget. The game is available on the Wii U eshop.