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GFA: EarthBound

Simple gameplay, well-written dialogue, beautiful spritework and a great soundtrack. This game has it all, but this includes a few small quality of life snags that keep it from perfection.

This is the first title I finished on the SNES Classic. More first-time thoughts on these 90’s classics are to come.

Let me start this off by saying I am not a huge fan of RPGs. But, I decided I was going to play through this one as I keep hearing about it and its unfortunately region-locked sequel MOTHER 3.

EarthBound. A game about a young, baseball-obsessed kid going out and fighting off art, rogue beverages and almost any stray animal he comes across in order to destroy some alien being before it can destroy the earth. Oh, also all this is fine as everything either disappears or “becomes tame” instead of just straight-up dying.

Needless to say this is definitely a bizarre game.

However, the game takes this bizarreness and runs with it. One moment you’ll be fighting off angered insects while the next you’ll be taking on a Melting Clock or an “Annoying Old Party Man” for some apparent reason. Random as these all may seem, the game usually makes their location and purpose believable: the Annoying Old Party Man will not show up in the middle of the jungle and the Melting Clock will only show up in one specific sequence alongside other equally surreal enemies. Unfortunately there are a few times where this system is broken, such as with crocodiles showing up in an incredibly snowy area. Thankfully these instances are few and far between, but I would say it makes them even more jarring than usual.

Gameplay is simple. You move around, you manage your inventory, occasionally fight something and every now and then talk to somebody. It never gets that complicated and doesn’t even use all of the buttons on the original controller. Combat-wise you really only have to worry about HP and PP meters, (Representing Health and Special Ability Points) which use the “rolling number” mechanic present in this series. In short if something is lowered, it won’t go down instantly. There are a few moments where you are given the chance to recover the damage before it’s done, which could be a lifesaver for your party and an easy way to avoid those ever-disappointing Game Over screens. However, just like with the oddly-placed enemies there are some situations where this system is circumvented and your party can just be instantly killed. It’s no fun, and happens quite often later in the game.

I could go on about the soundtrack, the writing or the spritework, but the mere fact that this game has inspired many developers within the last 20 years speaks for itself. Some hail it as a perfect game, however I would have to politely disagree with that claim as I have two major problems with this game.

First off, Inventory Management in this game is a pain. There are different rules for items in the field and in battle, such as if a party member is downed in battle, their entire inventory is also unavailable until the battle is over. However, in the field you can just grab whatever from anyone provided you have enough space to store it another character’s inventory.

I also question why you can’t just swap items between party members and why it’s so incredibly easy to completely destroy an item in your inventory. In one case I ended up losing a rather expensive revival item simply because I missed the correct menu option.

Secondly, travel is rather slow for a decent portion of the game. Fast Travel options are not given to you until after one large back-and-forth section is taken care of, and it gets tiring quick. By the time the option to fast-travel is given to you it is a relief, but at the same time it’s another situation where a helpful item is given right after you really began to wish you had said item, which is something that I have never found enjoyable.

Overall, EarthBound deserves the praise it gets. It’s quirky, weird, silly and embraces all of this while remaining grounded within itself most of the time.

This game is Good.

(For you number junkies, I’d look elsewhere. I’m not assigning one to this game.)

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