I know I’m late to the party by about 20 years for this one, but 20 years ago I was 10 and didn’t have any money to go out and buy my own video games.
I finally started playing EarthBound two nights ago, and I’m a little bit in love with it. I’m only a few hours in, which is probably more like an hour in for most people: I really seem to take my time playing through and exploring areas of the game more than most. For the record, I’m not the type to bandwagon with others on hyped up popular opinions. I admit that I’ve been fed the idea that EarthBound is the penultimate of all turn-based RPGs for most of my life, but it’s not those little opinion seeds sprouting in me that has me tickled about the game. EarthBound seems to resonate with me and is plucking strings in my heart that have remained unplayed for a time. I’m certainly not surprised, but it has been a while since I’ve genuinely enjoyed a game as a whole package.
I’ve always been an enormous fan of early RPGs/action adventure games released on NES and SNES. The allure for me is simple: they used adorable, detailed sprites and
questionably translated mostly good writing to convey the story, as well as implementing an excellent musical score to set feelings in motion and tie it all together. There was no reliance on smoke and mirrors in the visual realm to pass off a shoddy story with broken gameplay mechanics. I feel like there should be a warning of this new method of trickery in the back-of-the-box description for most modern day games (oh wait, they don’t even come with boxes anymore… damn.) There was a humbleness to early games of the genre that simply doesn’t exist in (most) modern RPG installments. The focus has shifted to bigger and better technology rather than substance (for example, I think Witcher 3 had the option to turn on/off visual options for more detailed character hair for goodness’ sake… come on!). I’m sure that I’m just another echo of many voices before me to say the same thing, but what the hell: it apparently bears repeating since there have been few attempts by modern day developers to venture back to the fundamentals of that well-loved era of gaming (I suppose Undertale is an exception, and is a step in the right direction.)
Anyway, EarthBound to me feels like an embodiment of all the things I’ve grown to love about retro gaming: the story is fun, the characters are adorably portrayed, and the writing so far has been laugh out loud hilarious! Typically, I’m not a laugh out loud kind of girl. I often see movies with friends and people wonder if I’m enjoying myself since I don’t normally emote outwardly unless something is really funny. There’s whimsy in the atmosphere of this game that’s paired with situational humour and a quirky soundtrack that really brings it all together quite nicely. I’m certainly not saying that elaborate cut scenes and other baubles in newer RPGs aren’t good in their own right, but EarthBound and its early console counterparts don’t seem to need the cinematic prowess to make you feel something.
Also, I’ve already died several times! There’s something to be said about a game that doesn’t awkwardly hold your hand through tutorials or ram information about every small detail down your throat before you have a chance to think about it. Am I scared to buy items at the in-game drugstore without knowing by how much exactly they’ll increase my offense or defense? Sure. But I think that’s part of the charm of the game. You’re a kid who doesn’t know about stat multipliers and all those fancy things that many newer games are consumed with getting you consumed about.
I could go on, but I suppose the long story short here is that I’m excited. I’m itching to play through more of the game, but adult responsibilities call out to me like a siren in the abyss.
A tiny aside: if you haven’t played Fable for PC, you really should. This is not to be confused with the “new” Fable series at all. This was a one-off point-and-click adventure game that follows Quickthorpe on a lovely quest, made in 1996.
With the smiles and giddiness about this out of my system, I am off to tend to some of those adult responsibilities that are holding me down. Maybe join me sometime on my play-through of EarthBound (www.twitch.tv/hungrygoriya).
Thanks for reading!