For those of you (all of you) who never played Earthbound, let me give you a quick summary. It’s an RPG that came out in the mid-90s for the Super Nintendo, and it’s since gained a big following. It has all the makings of a role-playing game; leveling up characters, item inventories, turn-based fighting system. But that’s pretty much where it stops being typical and starts getting weird.
I’ve never had patience for RPGs. They take a level of dedication that a person who plays video games on a one hour basis just can’t handle. Earthbound, though? Earthbound is different. You really have no problem going through the grind of gaining levels and fighting battles because everything is so ridiculously weird. All of the towns you roll through are a hodge-podge of pure 90s insanity. And the enemies! With names like “Annoying Old Party Man” and “Struttin’ Evil Mushroom,” it’s almost okay when you do end up losing. It’s one thing to get killed by a solider or warrior, but who’s going to be mad after getting mowed down by a Ranboob?
Thanks to my fiancee Caitlin, sister Jessica and brother-in-law Cliff, I recently came into possession of the actual game. It’s fairly rare, ranging in prices upwards of $200. After putting the cartridge into my SNES with the same care one normally reserves for venomous snakes, we were off and running. This is the kind of game that showers you in nostalgia, even if you didn’t play it in its heyday.
Despite adult life being fairly hectic, even limited time spent playing a game like this can bring you back to your favorite summers. Bike rides, all day football games that end in fistfights, and then inside for bouts of Mortal Kombat that also end in fistfights. I didn’t play Earthbound in the mid-90s, but every time I load it up now it feels like the world is wearing one giant pair of Zubaz.
One of the best things about the experience is the ambiance. From the non-playable characters to the unique towns, no area seems generic or a copy of another. One thing that’s crucial to any playthrough is the exploration of your surroundings. You really do need to talk to everybody you see- not just for hints and clues as to where you’re supposed to go next, but for the game’s much-lauded humor. This is an RPG that does not take itself seriously. You probably figured that out back at the Ranboob, but the speeches that the townsfolk give are just so weirdly wonderful. That’s the highest compliment I give to things, so you can take that to the BANK or whatever.
The story is great, too. Not going to go into any details, because it’s my hope that this convinces at least one other person to try it out. I will say, though, that it involves the classic story of a band of kids going up against an all-consuming evil. The fate of the world is in your hands, and you go about saving it by hitting things with yo-yos and eating cheeseburgers out of the trashcan. You ain’t accomplished nothin’ til you rescue humanity fueled by garbage.
I convinced one of my roommates, Chris, to start a game at the same time, so that we could see who got farther the quickest. As I also had an internet acquaintance and Caitlin racing me in separate games, I rapidly became in danger of losing to three people at once. My friends have a lot more gaming experience than me, and I regularly get trounced by ants in battles. The odds were not in my favor, but thanks to a marathon session yesterday, I now have a giant safety buffer on Chris’s game. Oh, and my online friend had to stop for now because his computer crapped out. I don’t know anything about that, and I defy you to find concrete evidence that I was involved
I think it’d be a lot of fun to chronicle my progress in this game, but I again don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. Also, there is the matter of pictures. There are so many amazing things to see in Earthbound- colorful and vibrate things. Great music to hear, dialogue to read, and drugged coffee to drink. You really need to experience it for yourself. And I’m just not going to crouch over the TV screen with my phone taking shitty photos for you.
Okay, just one