EarthBound: Location, location, location

I will say this about EarthBound, it has no shortage of curveballs and it does take you to some strange locations. In a different role-playing game (RPG), some of the locations may not stand out so much, but given the “suburban” look and feel of most of the game, the more “unique” locales can be filed under What the French Toast?

After leaving the desert, via a yellow submarine (yes), the party comes to a swamp area known as The Deep Darkness.

Now, if the party was one of leather-clad warriors wielding insanely huge swords, then Deep Darkness would not stand out. But, the party in EarthBound is one of suburban kids with baseball bats and frying pans. In this case, trudging through a swamp, beating up baddies with said bats and pans draws attention to the fact this is quirky game and nearly knocks the player out of the game.

You’re thinking “Why am I reading this?” “What?”

Let me explain. Or at least try.

The other RPGs released for Super Nintendo around the time of EarthBound had more of a fantasy look (Final Fantasy II and III, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, etc). In such a setting, a dark swamp filled with strange creatures fits — we expect such a thing, like a spooky dungeon or a strange forest. Such settings are “stock characters” for RPGs because of the “fantasy” setting in which they (usually) take place.

But, when you throw a stock setting like Deep Darkness into a game like EarthBound, it sticks out. Why? Because the characters are different than those in other RPGs of the time.

For example, Crono and the gang fighting their way through a vine-filled, snake-infested swamp fits in Chrono Trigger, because they complement each other. Whereas in EarthBound, the characters are such a contrast to the setting, it nearly knocks the player out of the game. Crono, a talking frog, and a lonely robot traveling through a poor man’s Dagobah? Sure. Gamers buy it. Three suburban teens armed with household items beating up crocodiles? Uhh.

This is why EarthBound is a “love it or hate it” game — it breaks molds and plays with what the player expects from a 1990s RPG.

Is this a bad thing? No. EarthBound is unique, which is why it has legions of fans. If we look at the game as a satire of other RPGs of the time, then all of this makes sense.

I think.

Where You At?: Winters (Stonehenge)
Sanctuary Songs Recorded: 6
Party: Ness, Paula, Jeff, Poo

Daniel J. Hogan is the geek half of Ginger and the Geek. Follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan.

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