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There are a few things every gamer should remember; the first console you ever owned, how to perform the Konami code, and the best game you ever played. For me, the NES was my first, given to me by my Godfather for Christmas. Setting it up without fail made my parents think I was some sort of prodigy, as I was two years old at the time. The Konami code is safely in my memory, as are the numerous times I entered it playing Contra. As for the last one, there is a single game I have replayed every year since I got it, and it even made number two on our list of Top Five Games Overdue For An Update. That game is EarthBound, and it will forever hold a place of honor in my heart.
The game that started the hobby…
Released in Japan as Mother 2 in 1994 and the US in 1995, this Super Nintendo title was a hard one to miss. No, literally, the box was huge. It was big enough for a full game guide, while others at the time would just hold the cartridge. I was originally introduced to this game by my best friend in Elementary School, John, who had picked up the game before I had even heard of it. Sitting in his living room, I saw what would eventually be the first of many Role-Playing Games I would ever complete. The graphics were simple, but adorable sprites, and the combat was new and exciting. So after begging my mom and doing way too many chores, I got my own copy and started to play the game myself.
After naming all of my characters after friends of mine (and the cute girl in class my younger self was crushing on) I found myself in a modern day world, complete with cars, fast food joints and ATM machines, which you would collect money from after beating up baddies in the world. It was a stereotypical story; boy lives normal life, boy finds meteorite, boy learns he has psychic powers and is the only hope to save the world from a talking bee from the future, you know, the usual for the 90’s. But as my first RPG, I was thrilled at this novel idea of being the savior of the world.
Believe it or not, that Teddy Bear can take a beating.
“Quit Staring At My Hips!”
As I grew older, I came to enjoy the features that made this game unique: baseball bats and frying pans for weapons, hamburgers and bread rolls for health, and New Age Retro Hippies and Violent Roaches for enemies. Another detail that made this game great was the humor spread throughout. Fourth wall jokes, Beatles and Blues Brothers references, and five Mole bosses all thinking they are the third strongest of the group made me laugh more with every subsequent playthrough. Every new town was a great design choice. Threed was a zombie-infested town before the current Zombie trend saturated movies and games. Magicant was a world completely created by the mind of your character and developed the silent Ness in subtle ways. Scaraba was humorous take on real-world Egypt, complete with a merchant-filled marketplace, pyramids and scorpions. Every town was an experience, and every experience was great. But the story was where this game shined.
Ness (or whatever you chose to name him; I liked Andy) was on a quest to collect eight different melodies across the world of Eagleland. The Giant Step in Onett by yourself, the Lilliput Steps when you first pick up Paula, or the Fire Spring of the Lost Underworld all offer their own hazards and rewards. The Rainy Circle was one of note, as you pass by the spot when controlling Jeff (or your second friend, as the game refers to him) and are not allowed to access it. You forget its even there until you go back to the snow-covered Winters Jeff is from and find you are now able to take on the Shrooom!, with a powerful party of three. Few games give you the feeling of developing strength, but this game makes you feel like you’re changing from ant to Chuck Norris.
The Blues Bro…err, Runaway Five.
“When On Your Way Out…”
This game went on to become a cult classic, while it had the potential to become a Greatest Hits title. For the time, the graphics were seen as inferior to those of Chrono Trigger, which overshadowed it. Chrono Trigger is a great game, with its multiple endings, time-travel based plot and character designs by Toriyama Akira of Dragonball fame, but forget that game. Itoi Shigesato, its creator, is a voice actor, copyrighter and occasional judge on the original Iron Chef. EarthBound’s plot is simple, but fun, and that is what all games should focus on, not pretty backgrounds. EarthBound took a modern setting and made a great RPG with it, not a medieval or future setting that even present-day role-playing games haven’t gotten past. It was original, entertaining and, as is obvious to visitors to Starmen.net, still strong after seventeen years of being released.
This game took me away from the Super Mario Worlds and Donkey Kong Countrys of the time and made me realize that gaming was not limited to simple platformers… they could be shamelessly funny too! Not all RPGs needed random encounters, this one had monsters in the field, and even let you get surprise attacks on them. And most importantly, even to this day, it provides a link to the past (tee hee, Zelda joke) when I was young and just starting on this fantastic journey. I’ve watched the industry grow from simplicity to the gripping, realistic and movie-like experience it is today. And it all started with this wonderful title shared by a friend when I was eight years old.
Thank you John, for the wonderful gift of gaming. I haven’t left since and pray I never will.
EarthBound was rated KA (Kids to Adults), or E for Everyone in the current ESRB. No descriptors were listed for this rating.
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