Mother 2, Earthbound, a cult classic, a game I had only heard of but never gave it a chance. Earthbound is a 2D roleplaying game for the Super Nintendo and the only game of the series (there are three) to make it to the States. Released in the mid 1990’s, Earthbound was a type of parody on fellow RPG games such as Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, because its theme set was in the 80’s-90’s. Instead of swords, distant lands and kingdoms, you had bats, yo-yo’s, frying bans, hotdogs, hamburgers etc. Other basic RPG elements though were involved such as leveling up, “magic” called PSI, and many more. Let’s break this down RPG style with Story, Over-wold gameplay, Battle Gameplay, Music, and Replayability.
Story: Earthbound tells the story of a young boy named Ness, who is one of the chosen four destined to stop an evil alien named Giygas. The game starts off with a meteorite crashing near Ness’ house who in turns investigates the scene. Upon meeting Buzz Buzz, who tells him the future and Earth is dominated by an evil force called Giygas, Ness runs into his neighbor and “friend” Porky who tells him his brother has gone missing. After learning he must visit eight sanctuaries and record their songs with a Sound Stone, Porky’s mom kills Buzz Buzz, mistaking him for a dung beetle. Now Ness is ready to begin his journey; along the way Ness travels to Onett, Twoson, Threed, and many other locations around the world, meeting various characters such as the Runaway Five, his three destined partner’s Paula, Jeff, and Poo, Apple Kid and the sanctuaries. Ness must fight hoards of zombies, Giygas’ army of Starmen, meet unique character’s called Mr. Saturn, and save the Earth from its predicted demise.
Overworld Gameplay: In Earthbound you control the main character Ness for about 90% (the other 10% is varied between Jeff and Poo). During most of the open-world you can either walk or bike ride, and later on you learn how to teleport from town to town. In each town there is a hospital, a hotel, a store, a hint-store, and random NPC’s that either give you hints or are just useless. Earthbound plays like the RPG of Chrono Trigger in its open-world; there are no random encounters. as you see the monsters at all times in the worlds. To get a preemptive strike you must approach the enemy from behind and the same goes for the enemy approaching yourself. Besides the open-world adventure, there are many unique towns within Earthbound, from cities to villages, to swamps and the desert. One additional fact has to be you are not safe from enemies anywhere, as bad guys lurk the towns as well, so always be on guard!
Battle Gameplay: Earthbound plays like many RPGs, but I feel it closely related to Pokemon. Each of the four characters you control (Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo) all have different charactersistics. Ness is the most balanced and powerful of the four, having the ability to do high damage, and PSI ranging from offensive, defensive, and support. Paula, is a PSI heavy character with the abilities of Fire, Ice, Thunder, like a Black Mage. Jeff is the character who specializes on item attacks and has no PSI powers at all. Poo, is similar to Ness’ character but is able to learn one different move than Ness. While battles are normal RPG command (per turn basis), during battle you may also become poisoned, crystallized, blind (crying), or possessed. Possibly my favorite thing about Earthbound is the AI encounters. If crystallized you are technically “dead” until you are un-crystallized, which you can’t self heal until way later in the game. As I told you before, monsters are in an open-world in this game, but more advanced than Chrono Trigger where it still has some random encounters. Earthbound’s “enemies” only rush you if you A) are weaker than them or B) haven’t cleared the “level” (aka collect the soundstone). Otherwise outside enemies actually run away from you because they know they will lose. In fact, if you are stronger than them by many, they automatically die when you touch them and you gain the experience and a possible random item. The only game I can think of comparsion to that is Xenoblade Chronicles, in which the enemies only ignore you, no automatic deaths; so Earthbound is very advanced in its open-battle world. The reason I compare this RPG to Pokemon is for a couple of reasons. First off, while battles may be turned basis, the main process goes by speed so your character’s attack in almost an unprecedented order, similar to that of Pokemon. another comparison is that when you are poisoned, if you do not heal it, you lose damage per step and when you are at the end of your health you are warned, like Pokemon that you are about to die and need medical attention. The last aspect has to be during battles, enemies sometimes do nothing, or more precisely do some type of useless action, like laughing, sneezing, etc. In Pokemon, some enemies you face may constantly do just a Tail Whip or Growl and that same AI repetitiveness is found in this game.
Music: Earthbound has a pretty good soundtrack, fitting its fun undertone. When the game gets dark or serious, the music is more of a type of “lack” of music, with a somewhat scary motif. Music is somewhat of a big aspect towards the game, because you must collect the song of the sanctuaries to move on with your Soundstone, but hey I think it’s just good not great.
Replayability: Earthbound has around an intermediate replayability level. Many people may be inclined to replay the game, to re-experience the story, or to get items they missed before (like all of Poo’s rare equipment). While there aren’t that many sidequests, compared to most RPG’s, there are still plenty of ways to prolong the experience that is Earthbound.
Overall: 9.4/10 Earthbound is a fantastic game and I am so glad I finally got a chance to play it. The last “RPG” I played was Pokemon White and I needed a refresher with something good and this fit bill. The game with its great battle system, good amount of difficulty (not really the hardest but a real pain, like a more difficult Pokemon), funny one-liners in the script, and of course epic boss battles will make anyone enjoy this game. Also shout out to TardisofHyrule and Mrteagle for watching every stream and helping me out in some parts!
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina