The classic Super Nintendo Role-Playing Game (RPG) “Earthbound” makes its return as a virtual console game only on the New Nintendo 3DS console. This game combines the best of classic RPG elements with light flattering humor, and most importantly, the masterful storytelling of Shigesato Itoi. Despite being a second installment of a trilogy only fully released in Japan, “Earthbound” stands strong even as it stands alone.
From the time the game starts, the music and scene set an unfamiliar, eerie tone. The actual in-game sequences of the beginning put the player in control of a confused Ness as his coming of age experience begins. The neighbor, Pokey (a mistranslation of a perhaps more well-known character named Porky) knocks on Ness’ door, requesting help in finding his lost brother. The adventure unfolds from there. The player explores a world slowly becoming more and more threatened by the looming presence of the alien forces of Giygas.
At a glance, this seems like a simple story, but it is expanded by Ness and his psychic abilities. Ness, being destined to defeat Giygas must ally himself with many different people from all around the world. Be it to gain access to different areas or fighting alongside players, “Earthbound” is a game full of infinitely useful characters, playable or otherwise.
Thanks to its modern setting, there is plenty of room for quirky humor in this game. That can be seen almost immediately by the fact that players fight corrupted dogs and crows in the beginning portion of the game or swapping out the swords and shields for bats and yo-yos. Even switching health potions for hamburgers makes this game very different from the “Final Fantasies” and “Dragon Quests” of that era.
Despite this, the game does not lose any of its storytelling quality. It is still quite capable of achieving the same degree of epic emotional charge, and perhaps is able to do so because of how truly relatable it is. Not everyone can relate to taking a sword in hand and doing battle with demons, but the story of a boy traveling to new towns and meeting new and scary people is one that rings true for many. Making friends who become family while facing adversity is something that can be understood on a pretty universal level. “Earthbound” captures that better than most traditional RPGs could.
The combat of “Earthbound” is unique, swapping mana for Psychic Power, and spells for more precise character specific techniques. While it still follows the formula of a turn-based RPG it does break a lot of traditional boundaries.
The visuals pop, with saturated colors filling the world with life and character. The vibrant soundtrack and wonderful sound work make for a very fun living world.
“Earthbound” is a gem. It is a true classic in the JRPG genre that should be experienced by all gamers. New Nintendo 3DS owners should certainly give this game a purchase if possible.