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Hippies? Check. Weapons and psychic powers with which to beat them? Double check.
In the heyday of the Super Nintendo, there were many games that surfaced with the status of a “triple A” title. While there was still a lot of shovel-ware on Nintendo’s second try at a true system it was not to the extent that we have now with the Wii and had with the Gamecube. This also meant, with so many great games coming out so quickly, that if a game was not marketed correctly it would immediately get looked over and tossed into the junk category.
Earthbound truly was one of those poorly marketed games that came and went as a thief in the night. Those who were lucky enough to snag a copy of this gem (and the still foul-smelling Earthbound “Scratch-n-Sniff” strategy guide) were rewarded with a quirky adventure, memorable characters, and oddball humor that just wouldn’t stop. Earthbound was a role playing game for those who wanted something different than the traditional fantasy setting and it delivered in wave after goofy wave.
Released the same year as Chrono Trigger (Squaresoft’s crowned king of RPG goodness that is still to this day usually at the top of almost everyone’s favorite RPG lists), Super Mario World 2, Donkey Kong Country 2, and Killer Instinct Earthbound (released as Mother 2 in Japan and already a top-selling game with its first iteration that came out years before on the NES) had a lot to compete with. Within the states the game was released by a company that was more known for its adventure games than for RPGs within North America (HAL Laboratory, which is famously known for the creation of the Kirby and Adventures of Lolo series of games) and also with very little, if any, of a marketing campaign behind it. The game was released with little gusto and fell towards the wayside, selling less than half a million copies worldwide (compared with Chrono Trigger’s three million plus copies).
The story revolves around hero Ness who, after being warned by a powerful fly from the future named Buzz Buzz that the world is in danger, begins a journey that will take him all across the world in an attempt to stop a hostile alien, Giygas, from taking over and dominating the future. Throughout the game you’ll encounter blues-brother lookalikes, geeky inventors named after fruit, and a cult completely obsessed with the color blue all while forging friendships and developing your psychic powers in order to save the day.
The battle system is a traditional Dragon Quest first-person type experience while the rest of the game is played as a Birds-eye view. The graphics, while slightly dated now, worked wonderfully at its release in 1995 and gave the game a quirky, modern feel to it that is wonderfully strange yet appealing to the eyes. A well-written storyline and constant humor keep the pace of the game lively and will keep you wondering what will come next throughout an adventure that is covered with NPC’s and enemies that will keep you entertained and coming back for more.
That Earthbound has built up a cult following that, to this day, is still fervently loyal to it is a testament to how good the game actually is. At its release it even received nines and tens on multiple publications within North America but the multiple re-releases and the sequel still have yet to reach the states. Many websites have even devoted entire lengths their time and effort to translating the sequel for English-speaking audiences and even constantly petitioning Nintendo of America for an official release here but to no avail. This game is definitely one that should be on anyone’s list who is looking for a good RPG and is definitely worth the effort to find a copy. The game could have had such a better success in the past if not released the same year as one of the most highly anticipated titles on the system as it was most likely one of the diamonds in the rough of the mid-nineties.