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!
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!