Oh Nintendo. Remember when your consoles used to be inundated with tough, amazing, weird hardcore games? Yeah I know. Feels like so long ago now. Well fear not desperate Nintendo fans. For those of you that bought a Wii U and have exhausted the obligatory Mario and family party games I am very pleased to announce that Earthbound is finally seeing a re-release on Virtual Console.
Many of you will have probably never heard of Earthbound before. To be honest my first encounter with the series was the choice of playing as Ness in the Smash Bros franchise. I clearly remember thinking to myself ‘who the hell is this kid? Why’s he attacking people with a yoyo?! WHY THE HELL IS HE PSYCIC?!!?!?’ and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until last year I managed to obtain a copy after spending a good couple of hours listening to the Retro RPG Podcast wax lyrical about how great and off the wall this game is. And boy oh boy is this forgotten gem worth every bit of cult classic praise that is showered upon it.
I don’t want to delv too much into the story as pretty much everything that happens from the off, narrative and character wise, is a pure treat. But to give you a brief outline you play as a young boy called Ness. You are awoken one night to the sound of a meteor crashing near your house. Being the protagonist of the game it is your sworn duty to investigate the mysterious occurrence and off you go! You find that the meteor is actually the crashed vessel of an advanced Bee called Buzz Buzz who has travelled from the future to warn you that a being from the future called Giygas is going to destroy the world…..yeah I’m not making this up.
You then set out on your quest to save the world. However unlike pretty much every other JRPG nothing and I really mean nothing about this game is conventional. Along your journey you will be fighting hippies, intelligent piles of vomit and many other bizarre and warped creations. The only thing that could be called conventional in this game is the battle system itself. Very much inspired by the Dragon Warrior games of the day, the battles all take place in the first person and can be very tough and very challenging.
The world of Eagleton is a pure unadulterated joy to explore. Using very simple and stylised pixel art (think Pokemon but a bit more 2.5D) the setting of the game, a 1960’s parody of western civilisation, very much compliments the visual style of the game, and visa versa. Indeed when I first booted up the game I was instantly put in the frame of mind that this is what a Peanuts cartoon would have looked like had Hunter S. Thompson written the screenplay for it! You see the themes both on a visual and physical level do get quite dark at times. This can make for quite a sinister experience. However the perfectly written humour never lets up so you are never as depressed as you would be playing, say, a Silent Hill game.
The music is fairly standard. Nothing sticks out in my mind as much as any of the Super Nintendo era Final Fantasy games did. But the overall feel of the score is very upbeat and will definitely have you humming along and tapping the joypad.
In conclusion I can’t recommend this game enough. It is without a doubt one of the best roleplaying games of a generation and one of the best JRPG’s of all time. The only reasons I would suggest you stay away from it would be if a. you don’t like JRPG’s and b. you don’t like hard games. But if you want to see a perfect example of what it used to be like back in the day when developers had a lot more free reign and creativity when it came to physical games this will blow you away. Smart, dark, hard, funny and wacky, Earthbound is one of the best examples of making weird work in the gaming world.
- JRPG Censorship Is Such A Silly Thing (kotaku.com)
- Earthbound rated for Wii U in Australia (joystiq.com)
- Earthbound coming to US Virtual Console this year (gimmegimmegames.com)
- Shigesato Itoi thanks western Earthbound fans for their support (gimmegimmegames.com)
- EarthBound Is Coming to Wii U’s Virtual Console (escapistmagazine.com)
- Earthbound is Coming to Virtual Console (analogaddiction.org)
- Earthbound coming to Wii U Virtual Console (gamesradar.com)
- Holy Crap! Earthbound Is Coming To The North America Virtual Console In 2013 (kotaku.com)
- Earthbound’s Director Thanks Fans For Requesting The Game To Be Localized (mynintendonews.com)
- Earthbound on the Virtual Console (nintychronicle.wordpress.com)