Saturday, July 21, 2012


EarthBound is a 1994 (1995 in America) SNES RPG. It's so popular that I probably don't have to say much about it; few games achieve the kind of cult classic obsession as this original masterpiece. Known as Mother 2 in Japan, the game tell the story of a young psychic 13-year-old boy and his friends who travel across the globe fighting monsters and entering various hallucinogenic states.

Simply put, you have to play EarthBound to understand it.

The game was written and directed by Shigesato Itoi, and "brilliant" might just be an understatement. Unfortunately, purchasing a cart will cost about 80 bucks (on a good day) to 120. A complete set can easily sell for $500 on Ebay. I was lucky enough to find a copy for $6 at a garage sale, but that was without a doubt the greatest gaming bargain I've ever snagged.

It's the sequel to a Japanese game, Mother, which was intended for release in America on the NES as "Earth Bound." However, marketing fucks at Nintendo pushed Mother/Earth Bound back, and back, and back, and it was eventually scrapped altogether. Luckily the game had already been translated by Nintendo and in 1999 one of these prototype carts went up for sale on Ebay (for $400!). It was dumped by Demiforce, who hacked away the copy protection and added "Zero" to the title to differentiate it from its sequel. You can play this ROM on an NES emulator, so check out the links and the end of this post if you're interested. I haven't played this game yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

It's also got a sequel, Mother 3--released for the GBA--which fans have graciously translated for the English-speaking world. Why doesn't Nintendo want Americans to play these games? Who knows. The controversy is filled with speculation and rumor, and I'm not even going to touch it in this review except to say that Nintendo is losing money by not releasing Mother and Mother 3 in America. Hopefully they have plans for some sort of compilation in the future, but I doubt it. It's also a shame that such a compilation would probably be released for the 3DS, but fans can dream about playing all three games on the big screen. EarthBound Zero is easy--use a hacked Dreamcast, Xbox, or order a reproduction cart online. For Mother 3, your best option is running in on a hacked Xbox or using the VBACE emulator.

EarthBound (Mother 2) starts out like many RPGs, with the main character leaving his hometown in search of high adventure. But that's where most similarities end. The music is quirky, the characters are insane, and lewd and/or toilet humor abounds. What other game has the balls to name one of the main characters "Poo"?

I'd tried for years to complete this game, but I never managed to even get to the second town. Retrospectively, I know that I was simply too young to understand why EarthBound was so interesting. I hadn't played enough video games to appreciate the differences between this game and more "serious" RPGs like Breath of Fire or Final Fantasy. Interestingly enough, EarthBound's humor is quickly revealed to be quite dark and disturbing, which only serves to accentuate the nuanced world created by Itoi.

The graphics are bright and charming. The music is upbeat, diverse, and plentiful (over 10 battle themes alone!) The battle system is similar to Dragon Warrior, but set in 199X. You'll pull money out of an ATM, call your Dad on the phone to save, visit Hotels, and use your psychic powers to overcome the ultimate evil and save the world. The only complaint I could possibly make is that you'll never have enough spaces for all your items, but one could easily argue this only adds to the challenge and appeal.

EarthBound isn't the hardest game in the world, but it's no cakewake. There were times in which I suffered crushing defeats, but with a little persistence and leveling up, every challenge was surmountable. I finished the game last night, after years of playing through only the first town over and over. Somehow, this time, everything "clicked," and I couldn't put down the controller.

But EarthBound isn't afraid to push artistic boundaries; like in real life, everything doesn't always work out hunky-dory. Nevertheless, you owe it to yourself to play this game-- you will remember it forever.

----------------------------------- - A amazing fansite for all things Mother/EarthBound related.

Fantasy Anime EB Series Page - All 3 roms and the English patch for M3.

EarthBound Central - PDFs of the Strategy guide, and another EB fansite.

1 comment:

X_Legend said...

Fucking love the Mother series, reading this reminded me of the first time my bro and I rented Earthbound back in 1996. It was the first game I ever emulated as well. Still waiting for the VC release.... I guess Nintendo doesnt want my money.