Category Archives: 2017 Posts

Pokemon Pinball (GBC)

Prediction

The year is coming to an end, and admittedly it hasn’t been a very productive year for the site. Only two articles and not a single 30 minute review. I would feel guilty if i left it like that, so here we are pushing out one more article while we still can.

For today’s 30 minute review, I thought it would be nice to check in on an old favorite of mine, Pokémon Pinball. One of the earliest spin off titles for the series, Pokémon Pinball brings all the thrills of catching them all and converts them over to a pinball machine setting. It’s been a while since I last played, so I don’t remember many of the details, but I know you could catch or evolve all 150 of the original Pokémon in this game, though doing so is quite the challenge. But let’s not wonder about it, let’s just dive in and see how well Pokémon Pinball holds up today!

Gameplay

Just like with the original game set, Pokémon Pinball offers up two different Fields to play on, a Red Field and a Blue Field. The layouts of the Fields are slightly different, but more importantly, each Field has different Pokémon you are capable of catching. For no reason other than the fact it’s on the left, we’re going to check out the Red Field first.

When the Field first loads up, the screen in the center of the table will start to cycle through the different areas of the world. This will determine what Pokémon are available for you to catch during this playthrough. I happened to start my game in Lavender Town.

Now it’s time to get the obvious observations out of the way. The table is pretty bare for a pinball machine. The top half of the machine has a set of three Voltorbs acting as bumpers. There is also a Bellsprout that will swallow your Pokéball and spit it back out. Then there’s a Ditto in the top corner blocking a secret hole. I believe this is related to evolution, but I never managed to get him to move. The bottom half of the screen doesn’t really have much at all to interact with. There are the flippers of course, but other than that there’s really only the two Digletts poking out of the side walls to interact with.

Eventually a Pokémon will appear and you’ll be able to start catching it. I’d like to comment on what actually triggers the Pokémon to appear, but I didn’t notice it. Anyway, once a Pokémon does appear, you have only 2 minutes to aim your Pokéball up to the Voltorb bumpers to gradually uncover what Pokémon you have the chance to catch.

Once you uncover all the tiles, the Pokémon will finally be catchable. In my case, we get a chance to catch a Magnemite. To catch it, all you have to do it hit it a few times with the Pokéball. Each time you hit it, the word “CATCH!” will be spelled out below it. Manage to spell out the whole word and one more hit is all you’ll need to finally catch it. One Pokémon down, 149 left to go!

After you successfully catch the Pokémon, a nice bonus slot will appear. The hole has a bit of suction to it, so it’s not that hard to get the ball into it. As soon as you do, the various Bonus rewards will start to cycle until it finally lands on one. I happened to get Pika Power, which causes the Pikachu at the bottom to rapidly jump between the sides and help keep the Pokéball in play.

Before we leave the Red Field, there’s one last discovery I want to mention. If you manage to light up all three of the lights above the Voltorbs it will actually upgrade your Pokéball to the next powerful Pokéball. Now I have a Great Ball. My understanding is that the stronger balls will cause “CATCH!” to spell out faster. Unfortunately I never get to test that out as I lose my last ball shortly after this.

So that’s enough time for the Red Field. Let’s Move on to the Blue Field for a while. Right away you’ll notice that the Blue Field is nearly as simplistic as the Red Field, just with a bit more of a water typing to it. The Voltorbs have been replaced with Shellders, Bellsprout with Cloyster, and Digletts with either a Poliwag or a Psyduck.

One notable difference however is the blue arrow on the top half of the Field. This arrow has a gravitational nature to it, attracting the Pokéball to it and propelling it in the direction the arrow is facing. This makes it much easier in my opinion to actually get the ball up into the bumpers and special areas. It is also a contributing factor in making this Field feel easier and therefor more fun to play on.

I think partially because of this, I managed to not only catch a Pidgey, but actually evolve it too. That’s right! You can actually evolve the Pokémon you catch. Assuming you can keep the ball going long enough. Evolution in the game is actually fairly easy. After activating Evolution mode, which in the Blue Field is triggered by Slowpoke, you have to hit one of the various bumpers and switches marked around the Field.

Once you do, an EXP will appear randomly somewhere on the Field that you need to collect. After collecting 3 EXP, all you have to do is knock the Pokéball into the hole and like magic your Pokémon has evolved. I’m now the proud owner of a Pidgeotto!

After evolving my Pidgey into Pidgeotto, I apparently unlocked a Bonus Stage. Unfortunately, I lost the ball shortly after this and got a game over. So I guess I’ll simply never know what the Bonus Stage looks like.

That’s pretty much all there is to show you for this game. Two Fields where you play pinball and try to catch all 150 original Pokémon. The only other thing I want to point out is the fact that there is a Pokédex on the main menu that will let you see all the Pokémon you’ve managed to capture during your various play times.

Verdict

Price – $9.97

I still have my original cartridge for this one, but a quick searched says you can find the game pretty easily for under $10. It’s a great game, especially for the price, and any Pokémon fan should have it in their collection.

Play Again? – Probably

I’m not good at pinball games. At this point I’m pretty sure it’s obvious I’m not very good at any games, but pinball I feel I’m especially not good at. However, this has a very fun and unique gimmick to it that goes beyond the traditional pinball table. For that alone I’d probably come back to this on occasion.

Total Deaths – You don’t die playing pinball (I hope)

You don’t exactly die playing pinball, but I did go through about 6 full games in just my 30 minute play time. I remember being able to keep a single game going for nearly an hour back when I played more frequently, but my skills have clearly rusted over time.

Fun Rating – 7 / 10

Pinball I think is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it, and there really isn’t a whole lot of grey area in between. The two Fields are rather simplistic, and on their own would get boring very quickly. It also might just be me, but the Red Field seems much harder and less fun than the Blue Field. In this regard, the game isn’t really anything special and probably wouldn’t even earn a second glance. However, the ability to catch and evolve your Pokémon while playing is what really makes the game stand out. It’s still not a particularly deep mechanic, but with 150 Pokémon to catch, it’s a great incentive to play again and again. In the end, it might be just an average Pinball game at best, but it’s a very fun Pokémon Spin-off.

My high score for the new year!

 

I hope you enjoyed this 30 Minute Review of Pokémon Pinball. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Kirby’s Dream Land (GB)

I know I’m a little late to the party, but here it goes anyway. HAPPY 25TH BIRTHDAY KIRBY!!! That’s right! This year marks the 25th anniversary of everyone’s favorite pink puffball, Kirby. Sorry Jigglypuff, we love you too.

Anyway, Kirby’s Dream Land for the Original Game Boy was released on April 27th, 1992 in japan and August 1st, 1992 here in the USA. It marked the first appearance of the now iconic character known as Kirby. However, he was a somewhat different character in his first appearance than what he is now. Sure, his appearance was still the same, and he could still run and jump, and inflate himself like a balloon. He could even swallow enemies up whole and spit them back out like projectiles. So you may be wondering, what could possibly be missing if he can do all that? The answer is his copy ability! In his first outing, Kirby did not yet possess his now character defining ability to copy his opponent’s powers. He was also white instead of pink, but that’s a limitation of the system more than anything. So with that in mind, and in celebration of his 25th birthday, let’s head off to Dream Land and see how well the game has aged!

Gameplay

The game starts you out in Green Greens with no introduction, so let me fill you in on the backstory according to the Instruction Manual. On a distant star, there is a place known as Dream Land. There, the Dream Landers use their magical Sparkling Stars to work and play and create food. One night, King Dedede and his band of thieves came down from Mt. Dedede, ate all of the food in Dream Land, and stole the Sparkling Stars. Without the Sparkling Stars, the Dream Landers can’t make any more food and soon became very hungry. That’s when Kirby showed up, and took it upon himself to get the Sparkling Stars back from King Dedede!

With that out of the way, let’s get right into the actual game. Even without his copy ability, the gameplay itself still feels very familiar. Kirby can still inhale his enemies and shoot them back as projectiles. He can also inflate himself and fly around the world with ease.

There is also a decent sense of exploration in the game, with Kirby being able to enter various buildings along the way, usually with goodies inside. And of course, there are the warp stars half way through most of the levels that will bring you to the other areas.

After taking the warp star, Kirby finds himself in his first mid-boss battle with Poppy Bros. Sr. This enemy generally keeps its distance and will throws bombs at our hero. This makes him a relatively easy boss to defeat. Just suck up the bombs and spit them back at him. Before you know it he’ll be defeated and Kirby will be on his way.

That won’t be the last time we’ll be seeing the Poppy Bros though. During the rest of the stage we’ll see several Poppy Bros. Jr. Often times they’ll even be riding on the back of a Grizzo giving them a slight height advantage over little Kirby.

As we progress through the stage, Kirby’s flying ability really starts to come in handy as we need to fly to the top of a hollowed out tree. You have to be careful though, because there are quite a few enemies that seem to call this hollow tree home.

Shortly after making it through the hollow tree, Kirby will find himself falling right in front of the game’s first boss, Whispy Woods. Since his first appearance here in Kirby’s Dream Land, Whispy Woods has become a highly recognizable recurring boss in the series. He usually shows up as the first boss, since he is in fact very easy to beat.

As you can see, he is a sentient tree, so he really can’t move at all. What he can do though is drop apples from up above in hopes of hitting Kirby on the head. There is usually plenty of time for Kirby to get out of the way, and now he has a projectile to shoot back at the massive enemy.

Other than that, the only other attack Whispy Woods seems to have is to blow little puffs of air in hopes of making Kirby go away. That of course doesn’t work, and Kirby makes short work of the tree, causing it to start crying and handing over the first of the Sparkling Stars.

After a quick victory dance, we find ourselves in Stage 2 – Castle Lololo. If you don’t know, this castle is named after another Hal Laboratory character, Lolo, from the Adventures of Lolo Series. Unlike Kirby, The Lolo games are puzzle games which I find very fun, and hope to someday review on this site.

The journey through the castle is quite different from what we faced in Green Greens. For starters, it feels like there are a lot more enemies in this area. It is also a bit more maze like in its layout, forcing you to swim through some tight spaces.

Thankfully, there is a nice invincibility lollypop just lying around at one point. This lets Kirby just fly right though the swarms of enemies without a care in the world. Of course, this effect is only short lived, but it serves its purpose well and helps Kirby reach the Warp Star of this stage.

This brings us face to face with Lololo himself, acting as the midboss for the stage. This is another incredibly easy fight. The whole time, Lololo is just pushing boxes out in front of himself which Kirby can suck up and spit back at him. After a few hits Lololo is defeated and we can continue on our adventure.

After the midboss fight, there really isn’t a whole lot left to the castle. All you have to do is float up a tower avoiding the spiky Gordo enemies as well as a few others. Then easily take care of the group of enemies on the roof. After that, the boss battle is straight through the door at the top of the castle.

In this fight you once again fight against Lololo, this time accompanied by his girlfriend Lalala. Their battle strategy, if you can even call it a battle strategy, is much the same as the previous battle with Lololo. They will simply appear from the doors pushing boxes and walk across their platforms.

Death Count: 1

While not a very difficult boss in general, the tight spaces can make it hard to get out of their way. Eventually this became too much for me and I died. It’s shameful, I know, but look at this whole site, it’s a shrine to my pathetically shameful deaths.

Anyway, after that first attempt, I learned quite a bit about what I’m supposed to do in this battle. The second attempt went much better. This time, Lololo was the first to be defeated, having only shaved a single hit point off of Kirby so far. With the battle now one-on-one, Lalala was no match for Kirby and was also quickly defeated.

And with that, Kirby collects his second Sparkling Star, does another victory dance, and we’re off to Stage 3. This time we’ll be heading to Float Island. From the title card, it looks like we’ll be in for another open area like Green Greens.

Just as expected, we are outside again, but it’s quickly apparent that this is a much different area compared to Green Greens. For starters, there are a lot of environmental hazards you need to be aware of here. The Palm trees in the background for example will actually drop their coconuts on Kirby’s head as he walks under them. Then for some reason there are several canons hiding in the water ready to shoot our hero as he flies over.

After avoiding all those hazards, Kirby finds himself in a rather dangerous looking cave system. Just look at those stalactites hanging there! They’re easily sharp enough to rip our little hero to shreds. There are also strange floating heads called Kabu which seems to be able to fade in and out of existence, making them somewhat more difficult that other enemies.

We do however find a very helpful secret. Hidden in this mass of blocks is a secret door. Once you pass through this door, you’ll find yourself in a small path of star water, at the end of which is a much appreciated 1up.

We continue our journey and eventually make our way out of the cave and quickly find ourselves on a large boat. It’s here that we find one of the rare power-ups in this game. Eating a plate of spicy curry will grant Kirby the temporary ability to breathe fire at his enemies. It’s not quite the same as Kirby’s signature copy ability, but it’s as close as this game is going to come.

From here, it’s just a short distance more before we find the Warp Star, making the midway point of the level. However, there is no Midboss this time. Instead Kirby find himself stuck in the blowhole of a rather large whale. The whale of course isn’t too happy to have Kirby there and quickly blasts him out and up into the sky.

Rather than flying off into the distance, Kirby actually manages to land on the clouds themselves. Of course, he’s not alone up here in the sky. There are actually a few enemies here already. They don’t pose much of a threat however. What’s curious is that there is a Mint Leaf up here as well. At least, I’m being told it’s a mint leaf. It looks more like a lemon that any type of leaf I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, eating the mint leaf will give Kirby “Minty Fresh Breath” which means he can puff out an unlimited number of air bullets. He’s going to need that too as the next boss battle will take place entirely in the air against the blimp boss Kabula.

Due to the flying nature of this battle, it takes on a very classic side scrolling shooter feel to it. Kabula will be flying around shooting randomly in every direction. All you have to do is avoid those shots and pretty much never stop shooting air bullets. Occasionally Kabula will actually try to ram Kirby, but this is also fairly easy to avoid.

Before long, Kabula will explode, releasing the 3rd Sparkling Star, and marking the end of this stage. Once again Kirby will do his victory dance, and we move onto the next area. It would appear Kirby never does manage to get out of the clouds, as the next area is Bubbly Clouds. Curiously, we see a whole army of Kirby popping out of the one cloud during the title card sequence. I wonder what that could mean.

Bubbly Clouds is home to some rather unusual new enemies. The first of which is Scarfy, which at first glance looks like a fairly normal cute floating ball with cat-like ears. However, these enemies cannot be inhaled like other enemies. Attempting to do so will only make them mad and transform in the Mutated Scarfy. Once mutated, they will chase after Kirby and explode on contact. It would be best to simply avoid these guys whenever possible.

There are also strange demon heads called Kookler floating about. They appear to have a somewhat gelatinous body texture, as they seem to squish and contort themselves as they move around. Otherwise, they aren’t much of a threat.

Continuing forward, we eventually make our way to a castle in the clouds, and our first introduction to the Sir Kibble enemies. These guys are one of my personal favorites because they would normally give you the Cutter ability, which lets you throw a rather large boomerang like projectile. Unfortunately, Kirby lacks the copy ability in this game, and so Sir Kibble is simply another enemy to destroy in this game.

Death Count: 3

Shortly after passing through the castle, we find ourselves in a rather tight cloud maze full of enemies. Sad to say, this ended up being too much for me, and I died a few times while trying to pass through here. The maze itself isn’t very difficult to navigate however, and we soon find our way to the exit.

Unfortunately, this brings us face to face with the midboss of this stage, Kracko Jr. Kracko Jr is actually one of the more disturbing looking enemies you encounter in the whole game, as it’s simple a giant floating eye surrounded by 4 small orbs. Curiously, Kracko Jr is capable of spawning enemies to attack Kirby with. This of course backfires as those enemies quickly become projectiles for Kirby to fight with.

Kracko Jr. will also occasionally throw out several small black orbs as well as attempt to dive bomb Kirby. Both of these attacks are fairly easy to avoid, and Kracko Jr will quickly be defeated. Unlike other stages where the warp star brings you TO the midboss, defeating Kracko Jr will actually produce the warp star and allow you to continue to the rest of the stage.

After flying high up into the stars, we quickly find another mint leaf. However, this isn’t to be used in another boss battle. Instead you use it to break your way through a rather large wall. If you do it strategically, you can even pick up a few goodies along the way.

Shortly after this you find a plate of curry with lets you clear out a long corridor of blocks. Just be careful you don’t accidentally fall down any of the holes in the floor.

Following the long corridor, all that’s left of this stage is a flight straight up through the stars, all the while trying not to be damaged by the many enemies you encounter along the way. Waiting for you at the top of the stars is a small doorway. Just pass through it and get ready for this stage’s Boss fight.

It would seem Kracko has done some growing up since we last saw him. Instead of simply being a floating eyeball, he now has a much puffier appearance. Now he looks more like a large cloud…with a massive eyeball stuck in it… it’s still kind of disturbing you matter how you look at it.

Death Count: 4

Anyway, the battle doesn’t exactly go well for us. Kracko is regularly dive bombing Kirby, which with its larger body is now much harder to avoid. Not only that, but it now has a double beam attack which covers a large area of the screen. Needless to say, Kirby was dead before any damage could even be done to the boss.

The second attempt goes much better than the first did. Now that I’ve seen the attacks, I have at least some idea of how to avoid them. During the battle, Kracko once again spawns enemies which Kirby can shoot back as projectiles. The battle was pretty well balance between the two of them, but Kirby ultimately won out in the end.

This gives us the 4th Sparkling Star and yet another victory dance. With all the bosses defeated, we finally make our way to the castle atop Mt. Dedede to face off against King Dedede himself.

We crash through the walls of the castle and right into the main chamber where we find 4 doors. If you look, you can see they all represent the 4 bosses we’ve already defeated. But there’s no door to fight King Dedede himself. It looks like we’re going to have to boss run all four bosses in a row before victory will be ours.

We start things off easy by getting Whispy Woods out of the way first. Surprisingly, there actually is a short level before the boss fight itself. At the end of the level it took me a second to figure out how to get through the doorway. For some reason there was a Gordo floating right in the doorway. The only way to get rid of this was to touch the impostor Kirby that was standing behind it.

This brings us once again to our battle with Whispy Woods. He is much more powerful this time around, but his attacks haven’t changed much, and he is still incredibly easy to defeat. Just launch a few apples at him, and before long he’ll be crying for mercy.

After this I thought it would be fun to fight Kabula next rather than fighting them in the original order. Just like with Whispy Woods, the battle with Kabula hasn’t changed much. Kabula does seem to be moving and shooting much faster this time around, which does make this a little bit difficult, but nothing we can’t handle. After an intense battle, Kabula once again explodes, and we’re half way through our boss run.

Following that battle, we head over to fight Lololo and Lalala again. Their battle seems almost identical to the first time we fought them. They might be moving a little faster than before, but if they are it’s not a noticeable improvement. Without much trouble they too are defeated.

Death Count: 5

This leaves only Kracko left for us to battle, and only a single hit point to do it in. This of course proved to be impossible. We only managed to get one good hit on Kracko before getting hit ourselves and dying. Thankfully, you progress through the boss run is saved, and we still only have to fight Kracko.

Our second attempt at Kracko goes much better. Well, we win the battle at least, but we took a pathetic amount of damage in the process. Just like the other bosses, Kracko seems to move a bit faster, and attacks more aggressively. We win in the end, but we are left with only 2 hits and a single life going into the final battle with King Dedede.

Death Count: 6

And so we fly into the center portrait of King Dedede and almost immediately die. We barely had a chance to learn anything at all about his attack pattern before we died. Thankfully, that wasn’t actually our last life. We get one more chance at it before it’s over.

Even with another attempt, we don’t make much progress. King Dedede just has too many attacks and not enough openings. It actually took me a while to figure out how to attack him since he doesn’t seem to produce anything to be used as projectiles. Equipped with his giant mallet, he will regularly come running at Kirby and swing it hard enough to produce stars on impact.

Not only that, but King Dedede seems to have the same inhaling ability Kirby does. If you get too close, he might just swallow up little Kirby whole and spit him back out like a projectile himself.

The air isn’t safe either as Kind Dedede, despite being a penguin, has remarkably powerful legs which allow him to jump incredibly high into the air. So high in fact that he lands hard enough to produce two stars around him on impact.

As it turns out, these stars are actually the key to victory. They are the only things to appear during this battle which can be inhaled and shot back at him. But they disappear so quickly that you’re going to have to stick close to him if you want a chance to swallow them up in the first place.

Death Count: 7

Unfortunately, it took me too long to come to this realization and we once again die. Since it was our last life, that of course means a game over for us. All the inhabitants of Dream Land are doomed to starve to death now. Or they would be if it weren’t for the continue we have. Thank the gaming gods for continues!

Death Count: 8

With a full new set of lives, we head back into the ring with King Dedede. We’ve made improvements, that’s for sure, but still not enough to win. King Dedede apparently also had a few extra moves hidden under his sleeves that we hadn’t seen yet. The first is mostly useless as he’ll occasionally run straight at you and fall on his face. The second however is the one which killed me. Apparently if you’re flying above him, he’ll occasionally jump straight up at you and swat you out of the sky with his giant mallet. These are good things to know.

It’s once more into the ring for our hero Kirby. Using everything we’ve learned over the past few battles, it looks like we can finally win this one. We take a few hits, but we deal them right back out. And just when King Dedede thinks he has Kirby cornered, we knock him flying right out of the ring!

As King Dedede goes flying off into the distance, Kirby remains back in the ring doing his victory dance. We now have all of the Sparkling Stars and the day is saved.

And so, Kirby inflates himself larger than ever before, turning himself into basically a hot air balloon. One large enough to carry the whole castle off the mountain top and let it rain food down on all the Dream Landers. They’ll never have to worry about food again.

As a reward for beating the game, you are presented with the secret button combination needed to play the “Extra Game”. I’m not going to play this, but from what I understand, it’s basically a hard mode for the game. If you want to give it a try, good luck, but that’s all you’ll be seeing from me, Thanks for reading.

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

Without his copy ability, the game did feel a bit bland. However, it was still a very fun and enjoyable game with a lot of character.

Graphics – 9 / 10

I really like the graphics in this game, and the fact that it’s an original Game Boy game just makes it all the more impressive. Really it deserves a perfect score, because there isn’t much more you can get out of the limited system. But I’m going to take one point off simply on the technicality of Kirby’s design. While he may be an iconic Nintendo character now, I can’t overlook the fact that he was originally intended to be a place holder for a real character to be designed later. He’s still rather expressive and charming despite this, but he is without question one of the most simplistically designed characters ever.

Audio – 10 / 10

The Kirby soundtrack has a very unique sound to it which works perfectly with the game. It has a very upbeat and cute feel while still keeping the fast pace action energy of the game. Again, the fact that this is coming from a Game Boy, you really can’t ask for anything more.

Story – 2 / 10

In game, there is really no mention of any kind of story at all. Had I not tracked down a copy of the manual I would have had no idea why I was doing anything I was doing. I know most old games were like this, but this is definitely at the extreme end of the spectrum for lack of story. It only gets any score at all because it at least had something in the manual.

Total Playtime – 0h 36m

It’s a REALLY short game. Had I not died it probably wouldn’t have broken half an hour. While that is very short there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is a Gameboy game, so it’s almost intended to be played in a short burst. Also, there are a lot of areas for exploration, as well as the whole “Extra Game” to offer a bit of replayability. Then the general simplicity of the game as well as the short length would probably make this a good title for speed runners.

Total Deaths – 8 Deaths

All in all, I’m not too upset with that death count. I managed to make it all the way to the final boss before I had to use a continue. Even before that I didn’t die for the first time until almost half way through the game. In general it’s a fairly easy game to play. King Dedede is really the only “Hard” enemy you face.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

Even without his copy ability, this is still a very solid and enjoyable game. It’s short, and fairly easy, but it’s also incredibly charming. Since it’s the first game in the long series, it’s hard not to compare it to the later games and their improvements. But at the same time, there never would have been later games if the first one wasn’t already a masterpiece of its own. You don’t get the strategy or customization options you see in later games, but you still get a very enjoyable adventure with Kirby. Considering you can pick up a used copy of the game for generally less than $15, there’s no reason you shouldn’t add this classic to your collection.

Looking forward to another 25 years Kirby!

 

I hope you enjoyed Kirby’s Dream Land. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Earthbound – Week 01

It’s been a long break from writing for me, but I’m finally back at it. I’m going to be doing things a bit differently this time. Instead of the weekly full articles, I’m going to try a more average blog posting style with this game. I’ll be playing for maybe 30 minutes a day, and posting daily updates as I play. I’m hoping that will be a bit more manageable and I’ll have more fun doing it. For the first game with this new posting structure, I thought I’d go full out and play the cult classic Earthbound!

Before we get into the game, let’s start with a brief history. Earthbound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, was first released for the SNES in 1994. It’s the sequel to Mother for the NES, another great game which unfortunately never found its way out of Japan until 2015 when it was released on the Wii U Shop as “Earthbound Beginnings”. During its original US release, it sadly received little praise from reviewers and was somewhat overlooked. However, Ness’ inclusion in the Super Smash Brothers Series brought renewed interest into the game, and Earthbound became the cult classic it is today. Now it seems to pop up within the top 5 games on every “Best of the SNES” lists I ever happen to see. It was also a key inspiration for Undertale, one of the most well received indie games in recent years.

One final note before we get started. I refuse to review games that I don’t physically own, but the average $300 price tag on Earthbound has put it a little out of my reach at the moment. I do however own a Rom Cartridge of the fan version “Earthbound Uncut”. So likewise, I will not be playing the official US version of Earthbound for this playthrough. Instead I will be playing a fan hack known as “Maternalbound” which is the closest equivalent to Earthbound Uncut. The differences between Maternalbound and Earthbound are minor, and aim to make the game closer to the original Mother 2 release. It removes much of the North American cencership and restores the game to what it was supposed to be. So the basic game will be the same, but there will be a few subtle sprite and dialogue changes compared to the official Earthbound release.

Now that that’s all out of the way, lets dive into this SNES classic, and see what I have been missing all my life!

–DAY 01–

In typical RPG fashion, the game starts with you naming your characters. Less typical however is stating your favorite food and thing. I picked Pizza, because pizza is delicious, and you can have infinite different kinds of pizza, making it the best food ever. Then of course my favorite thing is gaming. For the characters themselves however, I left them all at their default names. Maybe if I knew something about them first I would have customized their names. But I think their default names are fine.

The year is 199X, and something big is going to happen in the small town of Onett. One night, young Ness is startled awake from a loud noise outside. Naturally, that means our young hero must go investigate the disturbance.

Amazingly, the police have already arrived and set up road blocks throughout the town. While that would be inconvenient for the residents, it does make it easy to not get lost this early in the game. After talking with a few of the police officers, we discover the origin of the noise. It would appear a meteorite has crash landed just outside town. Also the town is apparently infested with sharks?

With no other path to follow, we venture up the hills outside of town until we’re almost at the peak. Unfortunately, the police have blocked off the final stretch to the top. It would seem we won’t be able to get any closer to the meteorite after all. We are however introduced to our neighbor Porky, who I believe is named Pokey in the official release.

Even from just the brief interaction I had with him, he comes across as the brown nosing weasel type character. I don’t think I’ll be able to trust him. Also, can we take a second to look at his character sprite? I’m sure the intent was that his eyes are hidden in his hair, but it looks like he’s some kind of Cyclops. Anyway, he also seems to be annoying the police officers at the hilltop and they wish I’d do something about him.

With nothing else to do since the roads are closed off, I’m forced to simply go back home without starting some grand adventure. Or so I thought. Shortly after returning to bed, there is a loud frantic knock at the door. Maybe we’ll have an adventure tonight after all.

It’s Porky. Apparently the police suddenly left the site of the meteorite to deal with the Sharks going wild in town. He also clears up that the sharks are a gang, not actual sharks. Anyway, in the confusion, his little brother Picky has gone missing and he needs my help finding him. If anything happens to Picky, their father is going to spank him 100 times! As much as I feel like I can’t trust him, I’m willing to help him find his little brother.

At my mother’s request, I take the dog with me to search for Picky. Now that I have some backup, the game allows me to actually enter combat, and I love the way it is handled in this game. Rather than using the typical random encounters of most RPGS, it utilized monster in the world map that you could avoid if you so desired, but would enter combat with if you came in contact with them.

I also love the humor present during the battles. The enemies are very fun looking, and all have their own distinct personalities. Even if it’s just subtle changes to the dialogue, they enemies aren’t just “Attacking”. The Runaway Dog will make a loud piercing howl, or the Spiteful Crow will peck at your eyes. Your own party as well can have some humorous actions, like when Porky plays dead, or uses Ness as a shield. I knew I couldn’t trust him.

Turns out, I also shouldn’t have trusted the dog. No sooner do we make it to the top of the hill does the coward run off on us. But that’s ok, we found Picky alive and well. He was napping behind a tree, tired out from searching for Porky. According to Picky, it was Porky who went missing after the police left, and not the other way around. Whichever story is the truth doesn’t really matter, either way we now need to make our way home before their parents notice they’re missing.

We don’t make it far before Porky starts to hear a buzzing noise. The source of which is a small bee like creature sent from 10 years in the future, a future where Giygas has sent the world into the horror of eternal darkness. However, there is a well known legend handed down from ancient times about a boy who will shatter the nightmare and restore the light. The bee believes this boy to be Ness, and thus my quest to save the world officially begins.

And so, Buzz Buzz joins our party as we make our way home. However, we are quickly stopped by one of Giygas’ henchmen, The Starman Junior. From the sounds of it, Buzz Buzz was once a hero who opposed Giygas Now that he’s only an insect, the Starman Junior plans to get rid of him once and for all.

Even as an insect, Buzz Buzz proved to be exceptionally powerful, at least in comparison to Ness. He cast powerful shields around the party to protect us from the Starman Junior’s PSI attacks. He was also doing 125 damage with his attacks, compared to Ness’ 9 damage. Our victory against the Starman Junior was really all the work of Buzz Buzz.

There’s no way I would have been able to defeat the Starman Junior on my own. But we have a long road ahead of us now. Giygas will surely send more henchmen after us. On top of that, Buzz Buzz warns that Giygas’ influence will drive both people and animals crazy, so we’ll have to fight them as well. We’ll have to get stronger quickly if we plan to survive.

So thank you for reading so far, and be sure to check in on my progress as I defend the world from Giygas’ evil!

–Day 02–

With the Starman Junior defeated, there’s nothing left to do now but guide Porky and Picky home. If we’re lucky, we’ll get them home before their parents notice they were gone. Sadly, that is not the case. Both their parents are home and OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER FACE?!?!

Ahem, anyway, their dad seems normal enough. He apologizes for the trouble his kids have caused and warns them that they’re going to “get it now”. Both children run off upstairs to their room, quickly followed by dear old dad. Then WHAM! They get it. I guess Porky was serious when he said his dad would spank him if he found out they were out so late.

It’s amazing how quickly the tone changed after that. No sooner does their father come back downstairs is he asking me to leave. Not just the house, which would be reasonable considering the time of night. No, he’s asking me to leave town forever, me and my whole family. Apparently he has loaned my father quite a bit of money, possibly $100,000 by now. It might have been less, but either way, the loan is what is causing them to live in poverty now.

To this, his wife interjects about how he is much too lenient with the children. Too lenient? He just followed them to their room and beat them for being out at night. Should he have killed them instead? Buzz Buzz clearly has the same thought process as I do, and he quickly attacks her after hearing such an insane comment. On top of being insane, she’s also very stupid, mistaking Buzz Buzz for a dung beetle of all things. How do you mistake a bee for a dung beetle?

Without warning, she strike Buzz Buzz down with such swiftness that it puts the Starman Junior to shame. Clearly she is the true agent of Giygas! Poor Buzz Buzz. I was just getting to know him, and already he is struck down.

With the last of his strength, he tries to relay his final words of wisdom to young Ness. He tells that Ness must unite his power with that of the Earth, letting the planet channel and multiply it to defeat Giygas.

To do this, we must visit eight points around the world and make them my own, whatever that means. One of the locations is actually near Onett. It’s called “Giant Step” and it’s going to be our first stop towards saving the world. With these words of advice given, he dies, leaving us alone on our quest.

Or not, he apparently has more to give us. This time it’s a present, the Sound Stone. With this, we can record the melodies from the eight locations we have to visit. I’m not sure what good that is going to do, but as the first key item in the game, tradition dictates this will be the most important item I will receive throughout the entire playthrough. So I shall cherish it always.

With those final words, Buzz Buzz fades from existence, and the quest to save the world is truly underway. Before we leave, I thought it would be best to check in on Porky and Picky upstairs. Sure enough their father beat them good. They don’t even want to sit down their butts hurt so much.

Upon leaving their house, we found that it is already morning. Before we can even set out on our adventure some guy in a top hat and suit literally falls out of the sky to talk to me. He is apparently a photographer and wants to take my picture, which he does. Then as quickly as he came, he vanishes once again into the sky. That’s apparently the type of game we’re embarking on here.

Now that the police barricades are gone, we can finally head down into Onett. We could, but I have some exploring I would like to do first. For example, there is a house up on the hill towards the meteorite where some weird treasure hunter guy lives. He mentioned last night that he wanted to talk to me in private, so what better time to check in with him than now.

The treasure hunter has dug quite the elaborate tunnel underneath his house. After following him to the deepest part of the cave, he shows me a life size golden statue that he has unearthed. Interacting with it reveals that it is “glowing strangely”, however that is the only information I can gather at the moment. I’ll have to make a mental note of this however. I’m sure it will become important in the future.

After a bit of training against the random animals on the hill, it’s time to head down into the city. The first stop is the library. I’m very happy to have stopped in here, because the receptionist is handing out maps of the town. Now I won’t have to worry about getting lost.

The people in the library were also all very informative, and gave out some helpful advice for my quest. Um, everyone except this guy in the mask… he’s just creepy… Anyway, the other more helpful people told me about, among other things, the location of the Giant Step. It’s in the North West corner of town.

Knowing this information, it’s my job as the savior of the world to go absolutely everywhere there is to go in town before even considering going to the Giant Step. Visit every house, talk to every person, and search every garbage can for food. Don’t judge me! I’m a young child setting out on my own. I need to take food from wherever I can get it.

After searching a few houses, it’s time to settle in for the night at the hotel. But a room costs $35 for the night, and I’m not exactly desperate for health at the moment. Instead I think we’ll just use the complementary desk phone to call dad and have him record our progress. Oh yeah, that’s how you save in this game, you have to call your dad.

Join me again next time as we continue exploring the town. We might even head up to Giant Step if there’s time.

–Day 03–

After the call to dad, I leave the hotel to continue exploring the town. It isn’t long before I encounter some suspicious looking people who end up chasing after young Ness. Sure enough, these are members of the Sharks Gang I’ve heard people talking about. I thought maybe I could handle them, but I was wrong, so very VERY wrong. Even just that single gang member was more than poor Ness could handle.

Death Count: 1

And so it would seem young Ness has died. We barely even started our adventure. I guess I should be glad that I literally just saved my progress and haven’t even had a chance to do anything yet. How about we start over and try that one again.

So obviously I’m nowhere near ready to try fighting the Sharks, which means I’m DEFINITELY not ready to try to fight whatever boss might be waiting up at the Giant Step. I guess the best thing I can do is try to level grind a bit against some of the random animals running around town.

Naturally, all that fighting really works up an appetite. Maybe we can get something at the bakery. I’m hearing good things about this Lucky Sandwich. Apparently it’s similar to a fortune cookie, except the fortune is a prize, and it’s a sandwich instead of a cookie… Ok, so it’s not really anything like a fortune cookie. And at $128.00 each, I doubt I’ll be trying one any time soon. Who has money to spend $128.00 on a sandwich?! Even a $7.00 cookie is expensive. Unless it’s one of those giant 12” cookies you see at the mall. Guess I’ll just buy a skip sandwich for $38.00. Honestly, this better be one amazing sandwich.

Maybe I can find something cheaper at the Burger shop to snack on after that sandwich, even if it’s just something off the dollar menu. Sadly, we’re not going to be getting any cheap food here either. How can they even think to charge $14.00 for a hamburger? Now I’m glad I found that discarded one in the trash the other day. Poor Ness is going to be bankrupted just trying to feed himself in this world.

Not that I seem to have money anyway, but we might as well check out the selection at the drug store as well. In this game, the drug store apparently doubles as the weapon & armor shop. They have a decent collection of items, though I’m not really sure what the stats are on anything. I’ll have to collect some money and come back to buy one of each item.

On the plus side, I haven’t really gone that far yet. I can simply run home and have Mom make me some Pizza whenever I’m in need of healing. No reason to throw money away this early in the game if I don’t have to. Thanks Mom, you’re the best.

In between battles with the local wildlife, I finish exploring the rest of town. That is, all except for the area around the arcade where the Sharks are hanging out. Apparently I’m not the only one frustrated with the Sharks. The police officers at the station seem to have their hands full just trying to deal with them. A quick stop to the Town Hall reveals that even the mayor is looking for someone to put a stop to them.

If only there were some place I could go and just relax for a while. Luckily there is! Just to the west of town is a small cottage for sale overlooking the ocean. It’s even very reasonably priced at a mere $7500.00. That’s of course out of my price range at the moment, but it’s not an unobtainable amount. I’ll have to come back here later in the game and see if I really am allowed to buy it. I hope I can. I love when you get to buy your own house in games.

Only one more stop in town to look into, and that is the hospital. Considering the beating I took from the sharks already, I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time in the hospital. To my surprise, there also seem to be magical healers in each of the hospitals for any sickness or condition that can’t be cured normally by the hospital. Conditions like being “Diamondized”, where your head gets as hard a diamond, or “Mushroomized”, where you grow mushrooms on your head.

I foresee myself becoming sick often in this game, so for my own mental health it’s best to stop now. Join me next time as Ness trains hard in an attempt to rid the town of the Sharks!

–Day 04–

With the town thoroughly explored, it’s time to really get serious about training. I need to get stronger, and I need better equipment if I’m going to ever hope to defeat the Sharks. So for now, I think it would be best to head back home and train in the hills for a while.

Along the way, I happened to find something interesting. There was a “Magical Butterfly” that made Ness relax. There was someone in the library that mentioned magical butterflies, but even after encountering one, I’m not really sure what they do. It wasn’t an enemy, and the message simply said Ness relaxed. But I don’t really notice anything different. Maybe this will become clearer as we get deeper into the game.

While training I started to notice a rather unique game feature that is actually very much appreciated. As Ness gets stronger, it’s eventually obvious to everyone that he’s going to just destroy the weaker enemies. So rather than bore the player to death with the random encounters with weak enemies, you just skip the battle entirely. Upon encountering a sufficiently weak enemy, the game will simply declare you the winning and award you the appropriate amount of experience. Honestly I’m surprised more games don’t have a system like this.

Another interesting feature to this game is the method by which you actually gain money. Normally you would fight enemies and after the battle you would be rewarded with experience and money. It’s such a common mechanic that no one really ever questions WHY the random stray dog was somehow carrying around $12 for you to collect after killing taming it. In this game however, you are still rewarded with money for every battle you win, just not directly. Instead, you need to call your dad and he will deposit money into your bank account based on how many enemies you’ve defeated. Then whenever you want it you can go withdraw the money from an ATM. It’s a small change, but it adds a nice touch of realism, which is actually ironic in this otherwise surreal game.

After a bit of training, Ness has leveled and is now level 5. Likewise, Dad has rewarded all my training with quite a bit of money. I can actually afford some of the equipment back at the drug store. I think it’s time for me to head back to town and upgrade all my equipment.

I manage to buy nearly everything at the store. The Cheap Bracelet and Baseball Cap both add quite a bit of defense to Ness, raising his pathetic 4 defense all the way up to an impressive 14. Likewise the upgrade from the Cracked Bat to the Tee Ball Bat raises Ness’s attack from 12 to a respectable 16. Now that Ness is properly equipped, I think it’s time to test our new strength against those Sharks.

This time around however, we get a little unlucky. When I engaged in battle with one of the Sharks, it seemed like a second one decided to join the battle. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be taking on two of them at once. Thankfully, my new equipment is better than I thought. The Sharks’ attacks are practically bouncing right off of Ness now, and it doesn’t take long before I defeat them both.

Not only does Ness win the fight, but we were rewarded with a hamburger that one of the Sharks was holding. It looks like we’ve finally discovered a good source for food. Why should I be spending $14 buying my own burgers when I can just beat up some punks and take theirs?

It’s getting late, so how about just one more before we quit. Interestingly, this one seems to be special. Rather than attacking me, I had to actually initiate conversation with them to start the battle. But who is Frank, and why would he want to beat me up? I guess we won’t be getting any answers today, because these punks are dead tamed, and it’s time to stop for the day.

So join me next time. Will we find out who Frank is? Will we rid the town of the sharks? Will we make it to the Giant Step? Only time will tell! See you next time.

–Day 05–

Now that I know I can beat the Shark Punks walking around the streets, I think it’s about time I help clean up this town. A task that is easier said than done. There are actually quite a few Sharks roaming around the streets. Not only that, but every time I fight one of them, they seem to just call in more reinforcements. Eventually it felt like I was fighting the entire gang all at once.

It took longer than I expected, but I finally cleaned the streets of all the Sharks. However, they aren’t completely eliminated. They still have their base inside the local arcade. Naturally, there are quite a few of them inside just waiting to avenge their fallen brethren.

Unfortunately for the sharks, the members in the arcade aren’t any stronger than the ones out in the streets. Ness on the other hand is getting stronger with every fight, eventually leveling all the way up to level 7. How can they even hope to beat Ness now?

The Sharks on the second floor of the arcade have a bit more confidence than the first floor, but they don’t put up much more of a fight. Really, all that’s left now is their boss Frank. But that will have to wait for another day.

Will Ness be able to beat Frank and put an end to the Sharks? You’ll just have to come back next time to find out. Thanks for reading.