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February 11, 2004

{     EarthBound / Mother 2 (SNES)     }    

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System has oft held a special place in the hearts of console roleplaying game connoisseurs for the two (US)/three (JP) excellent Final Fantasy installments; the action RPG(Role Playing Game)s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana; and what is considered the single greatest console RPG(Role Playing Game) ever crafted: Chrono Trigger. However there is another less well-remembered gem in the SNES(Super Nintendo Entertainment System) library that you need to know about. We in the United States know it as EarthBound (if we known it at all) while our friends on the other side of the Pacific call it Mother 2. As the Japanese title implies this is actually the sequel to a game released for the Famicom and "very nearly released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (See the Nintendo Power preview!)": Almost immediately after turning on your SNES(Super Nintendo Entertainment System) you should realize that you are starting a game quite unlike any you have ever played. Instead of being set in a quasi-Medieval world like most roleplaying games EarthBound exists in a contemporary setting. Saving your game is accomplished by calling your perpetually absent father on the telephone who also deposits money in your banking account based on the number of enemies you have defeated. Automobiles, televisions, and other modern devices are commonplace. Eagleland seems a thoroughly banal location, but under the surface lurks the weirdest damn game ever made. The plot is actually fairly standard for a console RPG(Role Playing Game). Our prepubescent hero Ness is awakened late at night by the crash of a meteorite into the hilltop near the house he shares with his mother, his sister, and his dog. As we gamers know, things that fall from space are capital 'B' Bad. The coming of this meteorite heralds the arrival of the unholy power Giygas, whose sole purpose is to destroy the world 10 years in the future. It is up to our courageous band of youngsters to ensure that this does not happen. The broad plot strokes are honestly not at all essential to enjoying the game. Things need to be collected and activated. Love is the most powerful magic of all. Lots of nasty creatures need to be beaten senseless. All of these elements had become commonplace by the release of EarthBound, and none of them set the game apart from its peers. Where EarthBound really comes into its own is the sheer insanity that pervades nearly every minute of play. The predictable plot, interface, and mechanics are not the result of a lack of inspiration. Rather, these conventions are being used as a wry satire of the genre. Though the genesis of the console RPG(Role Playing Game) was predicated on the pen-and-paper roleplaying games of the 1970's — which was in turn predicated on centuries-old traditions of myth and storytelling — it has been so purely refined over the few decades in which the medium has been readily available. The genre is defined not only by underlying framework (hit points, random damage, increase of skills and power over time) but by the aspects of plot (save the world), character (determined teenagers and preteens), and means of fulfilling the primary goal (collect all x of the y to form the ultimate z/unlock a gate/collect even more things). Where EarthBound succeeds is by easing the player into such comfortable conventions that she never bothers to question the game immediately. The reaction comes more as retrospect. She follows whatever directions the game gives her, either explicitly or implicitly through the means of the aforementioned clichés, until something truly bizarre happens and the whole game has to be reexamined. This happens constantly throughout the game. Your first foes are commonplace animals, such as Spiteful Crows and Runaway Dogs, that have been driven mad by the influence of Giygas. As the game progresses, the enemies only get weirder and weirder. By the time you reach the second major town you will face Ramblin' Evil Mushrooms, Annoying Old Party Guys, and New Age Retro Hippies. You will make friends with the Blues Brothers clones The Runaway Five. You will fight a giant pile of vomit. You will trap zombies with an enormous piece of flypaper. You will fight Abstract Art. Let me put it to you this way: If you own a SNES(Super Nintendo Entertainment System) you owe it to yourself to find a copy of this game. If you can find a copy of the original instruction manual/strategy guide with the scratch n' sniff card intact you're even better off. If you consider yourself a fan of console RPG(Role Playing Game)s, you need to play this game. Even if you don't, I still think you should play EarthBound at least once.

     » A comprehensive guide to all things Mother
     » Search for 'EarthBound' on eBay


I wonder why the video-gamin RPG world is so steadfast in clinging to their treasured cliches? You have only the options of sci-fi or fantasy, or a mixture of the two.
After 20 years of video game RPGs, we're just now getting a few that are based on superheroes or organized crime, and these are always more action-based as opposed to the pure turn-based formula.
I want a true number-crunching turn-based video game RPG that lets me power up by smoking crack, or resist the ill-effects of my wounds by downing a bottle of whiskey. I want to be able to mark my territory with graffitti, build my own gang, upgrade my breakdancing combat abilities with experience points earned in battle.
It makes more sense to get a pile of gold chains after slaughtering a gang member than it does to find a chest of gold coins magically appearing after you kill a giant rabid rat in the big dark woods.
See "IKEA the RPG" on the "links" sidebar for more on the subject on non-traditional RPGs.

Posted by: Adam at February 13, 2004 9:33 PM

I am one of the few people,lucky enough to have Earthbound. I got it back in 95 or 96 when it first came out i was 9 years old and zelda a link to the past was my fav game i was hooked. But I will never forget the first time I saw that big rectangle box " EarthBound" it said on the cover. I looked on the back and seen that it was a rpg and I seen that you could go to a circus, like I said I was 9. Well that was12 or so years ago and I am still playing that very copy. I love it, I have played every rpg known to man almost from all consoles, and while earthbound dosest allow you to pick every thing up or walk through endless terrain, as oblivion does and yes it is snes grapics. but the game itself, the story, the complete "mindf@*#"!!!! ( and for those of you who have played it you know what i am talking about.) I can safely say Earthbound remains my fav rpg of all time and if you have not played it you are missing out on the greatest concept in a game that there is. it was ahead of its time when it came out, and I belive it still is ahead of its time. no other game is like EarthBound.

Posted by: jared at November 29, 2007 4:38 AM

Earthbound is a complete, friendly, and fun rpg that has a wide variety of characters and objectives to complete. play this game.

Posted by: mason at May 27, 2009 4:31 PM
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