EarthBound: All my friends are in there

I decided to try another play-through blog series, and this time it is EarthBound for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (both of my readers will remember my previous adventure, Final Fantasy VII Revisited). I have many, many fond memories of EarthBound. Sure, the graphics may appear very dated by today’s standards, but I am certain the humor and story will hold up pretty well. I first heard about EarthBound via the gaming magazine Nintendo Power — I had a subscription back in those glory days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, all the way through Nintendo 64.

I remember ads for Earthbound in Nintendo Power really grabbing my attention, there was one ad which discussed the effect on players, as if it were a medical study of some sort. One “player” was quoted as saying “all of my friends are in there” (or something close to it) upon being forced to turn the game off.

For some reason, this bit of advertising worked on me. I had to play this game. Any game so addicting must be good, right? EarthBound was released in the states a month and change before my 14th birthday, so once my coffers were laden with birthday cash, I promptly bought the game.

EarthBound was unique in that it came packaged with a player’s guide (which I still have). I don’t know why this was the case, other than perhaps Nintendo felt EarthBound was such a quirky game, they needed to lure folks in with something. EarthBound certainly was quirky for an RPG: it took place in 1990s America, the main characters were all kids, and it was not the typical fantasy setting for most RPGs of the time (you use ATMs for money and could order a pizza delivery over the phone).

And all of these reasons were why I loved EarthBound from the instant I started playing. I grew attached to the four main characters: Ness, Paula, Jeff and Poo. Unlike some other RPGs, you only used these four characters throughout the entire game. Swapping out party members with different abilities gets old for me after awhile, which I talked about at length during my FFVII play-through:

Maybe that is why EarthBound is another of my all time favorite RPGs: you get a set amount of characters and each has their own special ability. It may seem pretty vanilla to some, but it does help one become more attached to the characters (maybe).

Yes, the graphics were “cutesy” and “cartoony,” but it only added to the charm. It certainly complimented the humor, which spent plenty of time poking fun at American culture. But, any game with a Blues Brothers-like band (The Runaway Five) as supporting characters will always have a special place in my heart.

On the game’s humor, from Wikipedia:

Described by Gamasutra as “a warped, confused tribute to American culture, designed by people who’ve only experienced the country through books and movies” the quirky humor of the game is one of the chief reasons for its popularity.

And this:

Amongst the ranks of absurd enemies in the game Ness must face down New Age Retro Hippies, Pogo Punks, Extra Cranky Ladies, and Big Piles of Puke throughout his quest. Much of the dialogue and plot of the game pokes fun at traditional RPG and sci-fi clichés. Even the advertising campaign played off of its humor, with the slogan “This game stinks”, referring to the scratch and sniff stickers that were included in the Player’s Guide.

I remember those scratch and sniff stickers — and some of the humor in the Player’s Guide was just as fun as the game. It made for an entertaining read.

I am ready — and after playing the super-complex Front Mission 4 over the summer, I am eager for a simpler game to occupy my chilly Autumn evenings. It is time for psychic powers, baseball bats, Apple Kid, and Mr. Saturn.

Read Gavin Craig’s week 1 post
Read Andrew Simone’s week 1 post

Daniel J. Hogan is the geek half of Ginger and the Geek. He is also a photoblogger and host of the Magic of Eyri Podcast. He loves that there Ninten-doo. Follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan.

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