Format reviewed: SNES
Developer: Ape Studios
Submitted by: Craig Hawkins
What’s your favourite food? Not that I care, but EarthBound does. It asks you at the beginning of the game in the character settings, and whatever you choose, your mom will bake for you. My land, this game is special! I’ll take a Fudgy Pecan Pie, thanks, Mother (2).
EarthBound accommodates traditional RPG conventions in an otherwise unorthodox take on the genre. It’s 199X and you’re an ordinary kid with a nice home, an even nicer dog and a totally rad yo-yo (and perfectly normal psychic powers) in place of the usual angst and mysterious past.
You wake up to a loud noise. A meteorite has crashed on the outskirts of your town. You, Ness, go to investigate but the site is cordoned off. A cosmic bee comes from the future, like they do, to tell you of the evil alien Giygas’ plans to destroy Earth and how you are one of the chosen four destined to stop them.
So far so what. But the game is brought to legendary status by a brilliant script. Sometimes going around and chatting to every NPC in an RPG is a pain, in EarthBound it’s a pleasure. Memorable characters like your cowardly buddy Pokey inhabit the charming town of Onett. The local Sharks gang members are often literally pushovers, coming at you on pogo sticks. There’s also a guy who offers you to see what’s down his basement who most definitely isn’t a paedophile.
Instead of walking into random battles, you see enemies approaching, affording you the opportunity to sneak up on them instead of being snuck up on for a change. Then it’s off to the trippy battle screens and comedy attacks. When your party grows, you can walk into weaker enemies and automatically win a battle without going through the chore of actually fighting – a dig at the genre and a welcome way of relieving the ultimate tedium that is grinding.
What’s your favourite thing? Another question posed for your character profile at the start. By the time you’ve played through Ness’s adventure, the answer is bound to be EarthBound. Or Fudgy Pecan Pie.