The 'Shroom:Issue XXVII/Non-Mario Review
Two months ago, we took a look at MOTHER3 for GameBoy Advance. Well, this month, we’ll be reviewing the first game of the series -- EarthBound Zero, also known as MOTHER in Japan. I was running out of ideas and figured I should just submit it now. Enjoy!
EB Zero has arguably one of the best storylines on the NES. At the start of the game, you are told about a man and a woman by the names of George and Maria. One day, a dark shadow covered their house and the young couple suddenly vanished. Two years later, George returned. But, he began studying an odd topic -- PSI. 80 years have passed since then, and you now take control of a youth named Ninten as strange occurences happen within your house and your neighborhood. Much about the married couple, who turn out to be Ninten’s great-grandparents, are revealed throughout the course of the game. Your main objective: find the scattered Eight Melodies, eight tunes which will complete a very important song. While we don’t get to see the personalities of characters much (mostly just those within your party), there is still lots of emotion in the plot of the game.
EarthBound Zero broke a lot of ground for most RPG’s at the time, similar to what StarTropics did. Instead of a bunch of generic RPG-style weapons, such as swords, daggers, etc. -- we get psychic powers and baseball bats. The unusual and quirky humor of the game has become a staple of the MOTHER series.
Flawed, but still close to perfection. While you travel about with your two friends (that’s right, only two can be in your party at a time) -- you will randomly encounter enemies. The battles are relatively plain and can most of the time be finished rather quickly. However, the simplicity is a good thing -- random encounter fights can become repetitive if areas are prone to lots of strong opponents. However, the difficulty can become almost ridiculous at times -- Itoi (game designer and director) himself stated that the last portion of the game didn’t have its difficulty tested, and many players gave up. A few select parts also suffer from repetition and almost unbeatably strong enemies. All-in-all however, EB Zero has clever gameplay, but the difficulty has turned some people away from playing it. Which is a shame.
No doubt, the graphics of EB Zero are among the best on NES, along with Kirby’s Adventure (which came out four years later). The landscape feels more cartoony and less realistic like the old Final Fantasy backgrounds. Rivers and oceans look almost like soda with their sparkly, bubbliness. Characters graphics are simple, but they fit in just right with the games’ look. Enemy sprites are all well drawn and stand out from the rest, from the Starman to Wally -- everything just looks flat-out good, especially when you consider the games’ time. It just goes to show you simplicity and heavy details are two totally different styles that can both be enjoyed individually.
The sounds heard in EarthBound Zero are few, just like other NES games because of limited memory, but memorable and have left a remarkable impression on gamers everywhere. Many people know the tune of Pollyanna, or maybe Bein’ Friends and of course the Eight Melodies. All the tracks in the game are good and fit their atmosphere. Various tracks have been remixed years later and some even had words put to them! However, because the towns don’t have their own, unique themes (if you have a friend with you, all towns will play Bein’ Friends), the music can get a bit repetitive sometimes. But even that does not occur too often. Truly EB Zero’s music should live down as a legend.
EarthBound Zero is surprisingly long for an NES game. There are lots of places to see and lots of events that take place, but few boss battles. Because of the length and difficulty, this game is not amazingly fun to replay, but it still entertains. New strategies can be found out, new secrets uncovered, etc. -- the game boasts such an enormous world, you can get lost in exploration easily. It’s even possible to beat the games’ final boss without the help of friends. No matter what you decide to do when you replay EB Zero, you’ll still have fun with it.
In a way, this game could be considered the most contributary to the entire series because it’s the first game. This game is contributary to RPG’s, if not gaming as a whole also. The story is a timeless masterpiece, along with the music. It may not be the best of the MOTHER series, but I can definitely tell you it’s the most overlooked. So look around for this game on the internet for download, if you want!