It might seem like blasphemy, given that I’ve been a huge Nintendo fan all my life, but I never knew “Earthbound” existed. I had a VERY small amount of SNES games back in the day and it wasn’t until I played “Super Smash Bros.” for the N64 that I discovered Ness and by proxy the game everyone knew him from. After that, I’d heard plenty of good things about the game, but I never bothered to track down a copy or even watch other people play. With “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam” coming out tomorrow, I decided as part of 2016 to jump into playing more RPGs, whether strategy-based like the Fire Emblem series or just ones I overlooked as a kid. And thanks to the wonders of emulation, I now know the appeal of “Earthbound.”
The basic premise of the game is as follows: You play as a young boy named Ness (or whatever you choose to call him) and come across a sinister alien invasion plot. With the help of your psychic abilities and a few friends, you travel through the world of Eagleland to defeat strange enemies and restore each town. There’s plenty more to the story, but since I’m roughly halfway through the game, I won’t spoil what I’ve personally experienced. Needless to say, the plot’s a bit quirky, but it does a great job at setting up this child-like and yet kinda dark adventure.
I really love the atmosphere in this game. The tone is mostly upbeat, but underneath it is some pretty intense stuff. There are a surprising amount of adult stuff (not TOO adult, mine you) hidden in the dialogue, which people would only discover if they took the time to talk to the NPCs. I personally enjoy exploring in RPGs and doing that sort of thing, even if it does eat up a lot of time. The characters involved have nice touches of personality sprinkled in their dialogue, and while the plot seems simplistic, I’ve already found it takes some interesting turns. The quirky humor the game is known for is also a lot of fun and it’s neat to see all the crazy enemies that pop up with each new area.
One thing I’ve always found tedious about RPGs is grinding for levels, and while “Earthbound” doesn’t quite get away from that, it isn’t as painful as other RPGs tend to feel. However, I do feel this is one game that’s tough to shy away from grinding completely, because the enemies in each area WILL kick your butt if you’re not prepared. You can only hold so many items at a time, so relying on them isn’t always possible and you have limited PP at a time for magic attacks/healing. Even on the area I’m at now, Fourside (or at least the turning point of that “chapter”), has enemies that hit hard despite my guys being around level 35 or so. My gripe with grinding in any RPG is that I’m usually playing the game for the first time and don’t jump into the genre often, so I find it hard to know how much leveling up is enough. Despite that, it’s easy to gain experience, and dying doesn’t penalize you too harshly beyond taking some money, your PP, and sending you back to the nearest phone checkpoint. So, unlike with some RPGs I’ve played, I don’t get as frustrated with it.
I honestly didn’t plan to play “Earthbound” until a later time. I’d mainly been waiting around for “Paper Jam” to be released, but now I almost wanna hold off on playing that once I get it in favor of finishing up “Earthbound.” The game just has a ton of charm and I wish I’d known about it as a kid. Although, given that my first RPG back then was technically “Pokemon Yellow” and I had little concept of grinding levels between characters, I’m not sure I would’ve liked it as much as I do now. I’m glad I decided to give it a chance and can’t wait to play it through to the end.