The 'Shroom:Issue XXIX/Non-Mario Review
You must have been thinking every other month we'd be reviewing a MOTHER game, right? Well, sort of... for the month of August, we will be covering EarthBound for SNES, also known as MOTHER2, the final game in the MOTHER series to review.
In 1995, the Super Nintendo was on the edge of its lifespan. Then, suddenly, there came a rather unusual game -- EarthBound. A quirky RPG set in the 1990's, it stars an average teenage boy by the name of Ness, who just so happens to be destined to save the Earth. The game begins when Ness is sleeping, then suddenly hears something strike the Earth. Naturally, he gets up to go investigate. Atop a nearby hill in the peaceful town of Onett is a meteorite, containing a tiny bee-like creature: Buzz-Buzz, who informs Ness of the evil cosmic destroyer Giygas. "In the future, all is devastation!" he says. “There are three other chosen ones who must save the Earth. Find them, and record the Eight Melodies.”
A good thing about EarthBound is that one can't simply nail it as any one genre. EarthBound covers sci-fi, romance, fantasy -- and of course, there's plenty of comedy. It is also easily one of the silliest and most humorous games I have ever played. NPCs don't just recycle boring, tired phrases; they really talk about themselves and their lives. It invites you to the world, it doesn't just feel like you're controlling it from the outside. There are lots of references to pop culture and real-life things and situations too.
Your allies, while they don't say much, are always there for you, and have their own special skills in battle. Ness, Paula and Poo can all learn PSI, a special power that can be used for battle. It can also heal, form shields, make your team stronger, etc.
The battle system is very simple and mostly text-based. While some may complain that it is outdated and unadvanced, it works perfectly for the game, and is pretty funny in itself sometimes. "The Unassuming Local Guy edged closer to Ness! Ness felt uncomfortable." A new feature is the rolling HP meter, which allows you to heal yourself before your hit points roll all the way down if an enemies smashes you hard (which a lot of them will do).
EarthBound is all about the scenery. From the average hometown of Onett to the swampy Deep Darkness, to the odd village of Saturn Valley to the dreamy mind-world of Magicant. You will visit dozens of scenic areas in the game, all of which are crucial to the plot in some way. The game is also fairly non-linear.
The music is easily the closest thing to the music your parents listen to in their car I've ever heard on the SNES. Every song has a certain character to it that is never repetitive when looped. There's also quite a variety -- the music of the game takes up a good deal of the cartridge space.
The graphics of EarthBound are relatively undetailed. Colors bring certain characters and objects out, and the overall setting looks more like a pixelated cartoon than an attempt at being realistic. Everything fits in with the world. Animation isn't the smoothest either -- but still, for such a huge game memory-wise, it's best this way.
Because of the modern setting and relatable characters, the player can connect with EarthBound more than most RPGs. That is an element not often present in most modern games. There’s a certain charm to the game that’s pure, silly, fun, and touching.