• EarthBound


  • JRPG


  • Ape


  • Nintendo

Release Date:

  • June 5 1995 (US)


  • Super NES

Box Art Credit:

  • The Free Cheese Game Club

Systems Used:

  • Mac running Snes9x, then Snes9x on a Wii

Favorite Enemy:

  • Mr. Molecule

On Wikipedia:

Because EarthBound (or Mother 2) has been so mainstreamed (after all, Nintendo of America finally added it to the Wii U Virtual Console), it's difficult to call it a "cult classic" anymore, but that wasn't the case back in the day. Rather than give some sort of review that you've heard elsewhere, it's the year 2015 now and EarthBound was released 20 years ago, I'm going to tell you how it affected me. This review does contain some minor spoilers, but not much.

Nintendo can't count...they weren't named Runaway Five
in the Japanese version. (source)

I first played EarthBound back in late 2004. Now, granted, I did have some cheats in effect to prevent dying (I used an emulator), but even so, it was an amazing and memorable experience, from living marionette dolls in Threed soon segueing into the brief segment of how Jeff escaped from the boarding house and came to join the heroes, and continuing onto Magicant, the world of Ness' past and present, and frankly, I think pajamas over nudity was the better choice. I think that part of what made it appealing in the first place, or maybe was just a coincidence, was that I was about Ness' age at the time. The year "199X" was also cool, although 2004 wasn't in the 1990s anymore, but it influenced me enough to try to solve the "what year is it" problem on school papers with just writing "March 3, 200X" (or whatever the date was) on papers until teachers caught on. I thought it was a pretty swell idea, thinking I wouldn't have to worry about it until the very last part of my high school career. It also contributed to my "Internet mailing address", which I originally used for joining my first forum back in 2005. (At the time, you had to be invited to use Gmail by another Gmail user: a welcome change that filled the iTools-shaped hole in my heart, because we were using the late myrealbox.com at the time). Now, I tried Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI in the same timeframe and those had similar sticking features to me (namely the music and themes, but I never progressed very far at all in either one, the prison and Figaro Castle, respectively), but for EarthBound, man, I was there (including mandatory Starmen.net membership, the site that helped EarthBound rise back to prominence). I mean, I never imported expensive Mr. Saturn plushies from Japan, but EarthBound would remain on my top five for a long period of time.

This game gets VERY weird at times. (Source: starmen.net)

Fast forward five years, and I decide to start playing EarthBound again, but this time on the big screen—a Wii running homebrew! And this time, no cheats! That's when things fell apart. It wasn't the running of the software (there was no way for Virtual Console, of course), which ran admirably, is I had to come to grips how screwy the difficulty was. At times it was ridiculously easy and at times it was crazy difficult. (TVTropes, which I linked to, put it this way: "It starts out fairly challenging, gets extremely easy after Happy Happy, gets hard when you reach the mines and stays hard all the way through Moonside, drops insanely low all the way through Scaraba, gets a bit more challenging in Deep Darkness, and finally gets pretty nasty once you reach Fire Spring through the end.") The final straw came in the last "dungeon", where waves of the most highly-powered Starmen would come in waves to attack you before the final boss. Basically what it amounted to was grinding. Now I've heard some people tell me that "Oh, you just didn't use your PSI attacks more effectively, at your level, you should have wiped 'em out" (those weren't their exact words, but that seemed to be the sentiment), but those attacks were not unlimited and I was trying to save them for the final boss, which I did end up beating for a long and fairly satisfying ending (you actually took Paula home and then returning home yourself instead of just cutting to the credits).

EarthBound ends on a cliffhanger, which would lead to years of frustration by fans (I think I first found about EarthBound in a June 2001 issue of Nintendo Power, where fans sent in a lot of EarthBound fan art that month, probably because the cancellation of EarthBound 64 was fresh on everyone's minds. Anyway, I do hope to intend to sit down and play Mother 3 sometime, EarthBound's sequel, and write a full review, mostly focusing on what could have been for Mother 3.

April 21, 2015