Earthbound: The things we carry
Part of me wants to start this column by saying that I’ve played a lot of RPGs, but that’s probably not objectively true. It would be far more accurate to say that I’ve played a lot of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. So while the item management system in EarthBound feels revolutionary, I don’t have much ground on which to assert that it’s that far outside the norm.
The men with boxes come tomorrow. They will take my possessions and start packing. It’s an incredible luxury, and I’m incredibly unsettled. We’re going to spend at least five days with only what we can carry in our car.
In most of the RPGs I’m used to, the only practical limit on the healing items you can carry is what you can afford to buy. In Final Fantasy, each different healing item takes up a slot in your inventory, but you can carry up to 99 of most items in a single inventory slot. Not so in EarthBound. At this point in the game, Ness has 14 inventory slots, several of which are taken up by his weapons, armor and essential, non-negotiable items like the ATM card and the Sound Stone. Every hamburger takes up a separate inventory slot. There’s not much you can carry.
I like to think that with just my laptop I’m pretty self-sufficient. I can live without my books. I’ve already sold almost all of my CDs. Clothes are clothes. I can live with just what I’d take to a hotel, right? Except that isn’t the plan. We’re going to be in an empty house with no things, no beds, no wi-fi. Only the things that we can carry.
Fighting is hard in EarthBound. You’re limited by your PSI points, which at this point allow me to heal 11 times, or attack 5. I can carry two, maybe three hamburgers. Or, as you can see, a couple of teddy bears, which other than making me feel less alone, take the brunt of most attacks until they’re destroyed.
Which leads me to the other difference between EarthBound and most other RPGs I’ve played. I die a lot in EarthBound. As in many RPGs, it’s part of the exploration process. In most RPGs, death is a big setback, sending you back to your last save. You lose all the experience, items, and cash you’ve gained since then, and all your storyline progress is lost. (Normally, you get a big ugly “Game Over” screen.)
In EarthBound, however, dying isn’t that big of a deal. Which is good, because it appears to be structured as a basic part of the grinding process.
The things we carry are not all that we are. I am still exploring, and starting over.
Where You At?: Peaceful Rest Valley
Sanctuary Songs Recorded: 1 of 8
Party: Ness and a teddy bear or two
Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.