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A Journey to Discover If EarthBound Holds Up

It's not always a smart idea to roll the dice on games from gaming's youth, but the way people talk about EarthBound, you just have to find out.

Boy, you’re a strange one, EarthBound.

HOW CAN YOU A HATE A GAME WITH THIS SCREEN
HOW CAN YOU A HATE A GAME WITH THIS SCREEN

Though I can’t quite put my finger on it, I know I played EarthBound at some point. The intro provoked serious deja vu, and I’m guessing Nintendo’s failed push to make EarthBound a big deal in 1995 prompted me to rent the game from Blockbuster. I didn't play beyond Ness’ discovery of his destiny, and I’m not surprised the meta humor went over the head of a 10-year-old version of Patrick Klepek. Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger were more of my jams during that era.

These days, the idea of playing a JRPG will quickly provoke a groan. Traditional grinding ceased being interesting when I could no longer sleep in all day, and my truly epic time investments are usually put aside for whatever Todd Howard releases every few years. But with EarthBound having just released on Wii U’s Virtual Console and this fall’s onslaught knocking on the door, now seemed like the right (the only?) opportunity to help right a wrong.

There are, of course, two scenarios when one visits a cherished classic.

  1. It’s still great.
  2. Uh oh, it sucks now.
  3. Both.

OK, that’s three. Thanks to Nintendo’s long-standing policy of ignoring the Mother franchise in North America, EarthBound is more unique than the rest of gaming’s beloved. These fans are beaten, bruised, and can't be trusted with sharp knives. It’s possible EarthBound is everything these people have promised you...or it's just nostalgia from the nearly two decades since its release causing a form of stockholm syndrome. Time has made talking about the game in a rational light impossible. If we disagreed, could we ever see eye-to-eye? It made me nervous to even start the game, knowing option two was possible. Take a recent episode of the great Polygon series, Cooperatives. Russ Frushtick has my nightmare scenario.

I don’t like to hate things. I like to like things. (So does Russ! He just didn't like EarthBound.)

This is a roundabout way of walking you through my emotional journey before discovering EarthBound remains a truly wonderful game. I’m about halfway through, and the game’s dedication to subtle subversion of player expectations remains thrilling, funny, and surprising. In hindsight, it’s even more impressive that a game from 1995 was so willing to go out on a whim and mess with you over and over.

Here’s a good example. The third person who joins your party is Jeff, a dude who will secretly repair stuff while you sleep. That’s already weird enough, but he joins your party with a ruler and a protractor. Inventory space in EarthBound is precious, as your four equippable items take up precious slots, and you must balance between the number of useful one-time items the game offers up. When you “use” the ruler, the game says you “can now figure out the lengths of things easily.” Er, okay? What does that mean for fighting hippies, Mr. Video Game? +20 to my HP? 10% increase to accuracy? The game never says, no matter how many times you ask it. As it turns out, the ruler doesn’t fucking do anything. Nothing. Zip! The game never tells you this, and I spent at least five hours with the ruler and protractor filling my backpack. It wasn’t until I decided to look online and realize there is still an ongoing discussion about these items happening today, despite players having examined the game’s ROM and learned they are nothing more than jokes.

No Caption Provided

I could not help but literally laugh out loud. It’s insane, and I cannot imagine a game today pulling this off. People would be furious about the game’s deception, and this sleight of hand is present everywhere in EarthBound. The game is well aware of its genre’s tropes, and even when it’s not poking fun at its fellow JRPGs, it’s messing with you for the sheer pleasure of befuddling you. This isn’t for everyone, and playing EarthBound without a walkthrough nearby might prove infuriating, but it’s exactly these kinds of small details that made the game all the more endearing. Like a big brother, it’s punching you in the arm and telling you to laugh about it.

It is also, weirdly, an amazing proof-of-concept for the GamePad working as intended. The recent firmware update means swapping between apps mid-game isn’t like watching paint dry, so I’ve always got the walkthrough from Starman.net queued up. When I leave an area, I check the walkthrough, make sure I’ve done anything that’s worth doing, and move on. It’s hard to get “stuck” in EarthBound, but as if the walkthrough wasn’t enough, the game is willing to guide you forward--for a price. In one of the early towns, there’s a hint shack, and for the low, low price of $60, he’ll tell you what to do next. Straight up. Sure, the description is a little coy, but rather than have players wandering the landscape, talking to NPCs over and over again, you can just keep moving. It provides EarthBound with a profoundly brisk pace that’s kept my attention focused.

Little touches define this game. I love how Ness can become “homesick,” which prompts him to mess up attacks because he’s thinking about his mom and eating [whatever you put in as your favorite food at the start of the game]. You don’t fix that by casting a magical healing spell, you pick up the phone and call home. It’s so god damn simple and brilliant. They even streamline combat grind by letting you outlevel enemies, prompting them to die automatically when approached. Not only that, but enemies run away from you! You have become powerful, feared. And it looks funny. It transforms a frustrating slice of JRPGs into a relatively stress-free affair. I can listen to a podcast or watch a TV show and tick up, up, up without skipping a beat.

No Caption Provided

Weirdly, though, I don’t ever feel like I’m grinding. You don’t spend much time in a single area, and you’re onto the next one relatively quickly. EarthBound seems acutely aware of its ability to tire you out, and freaks out over the notion that you might get bored. So it’s one event after another, one weird line of dialogue after the next--always moving forward and seeing new stuff.

I’m not sure what the point of writing this down was. I’d intended to do a travelogue of my EarthBound experience, but I’m already halfway through the game, so that seems a little goofy. But I’ve been having so much fun with the game, enjoying the validation of the game’s design ethos even in 2013, and kicking myself for not having tried it sooner. If you haven’t played EarthBound before, now’s the perfect time...if you own a Wii U. There’s no good reason this shouldn’t be on 3DS, too, except to tempt people towards buying Nintendo’s new console.

Turns out it's a pretty good reason.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
144 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for suzukagongen
Posted By SuzukaGongen

The things you are describing about Earthbound made the game the most memorable. Talking to animals? Items that don't do anything. Signs that acknowledge that you are reading a sign in the middle of nowhere? Fighting hippies and crazy old coots? The game's imitation of real life was strange and intriguing.

Mother 3 is okay... it just has less of all the weird wonderment. The story's pacing was plain jarring. Where Earthbound's story rarely changes acts without your walking involvement, M3 changes acts, timelines and scenes whenever the fuck it feels like it. The themes are standard Japanese tropes that take precedent over the weird stuff going on. It's powerful but Earthbound is more memorable to me because in my mind, the weird stuff (especially the long ending part) just stuck out more since it was different.

Avatar image for jasondesante
Edited By jasondesante

I hope once the WIi U sells enough units to sheeple that it isn't a Dreamcast, that Nintendo will FINALLY merge the Eshops and make all virtual console games bought on 3DS count for Wii U and also for every other Nintendo system. No more buying virtual versions of Mario 1. I've bought it 3 times already. No more Nintendo. Sorry. If you force me to buy Mario 1 for the 4th time when I finally get a Wii U, I will not buy eshop anymore.

Seriously hope this comes to 3DS!

Played it on the Wii, virtual console style. Don't ask how though, because then I would have to kill you. :D

Avatar image for maccyd
Posted By maccyd

@fancysoapsman: I keep hearing about mother, but what about the original mother? Is it bad or something?

Avatar image for jazgalaxy
Posted By JazGalaxy

@jazgalaxy said:

@towersixteen said:

Man, guys, due to the differences in how the games actually play, I don't think the dark souls example is really equivalent. Earthbound may benefit sometimes from a guide due to obscure game design but in Dark Souls the "needing a guide because this game is too obscure" problem is a fucking epidemic and probably the games biggest flaw, IMO.

Also, to those saying "There is no such thing as improvements in game design": LOL

Its perfectly fine to love old games, lord knows I do, and many still play great. But gaming can and has improved over time, I can't believe that's even a question. And can you seriously, honestly say that there's not a single game you enjoyed at first that you've then gone back to and kinda felt eugggh about? Frankly, I wont believe you if you say no. And even if you don't, the hypothesis that "oh, people who don't like it now wouldn't have liked it then" is absurd. Sure, some fit that label, but there are plenty who liked certain old games but feel, in light of modern game design, they're just too clunky or primitive to enjoy. It's fine to disagree about which games are hit hard by this but denying the phenomenon at all is madness.

You're missing the point.

There are absolutely old games that are hard to go back and play, but those games were bad when they were new. Take Golgo 13 "Top Secret Episode" on the NES for example. That game is almost impossible to go back and play. But it was also almost impossible to play when it was new. That's just a POORLY DESIGNED GAME. (which I loved) And yes, it is absolutely hard to go back and enjoy poorly designed games.

Contrast that with something like Faxanadu on the NES. I remember loving that game to death, but I can't go back and play it now because it takes too much time to play, and I just don't have that much time as an adult.

FAXANADU HAS NOT CHANGED. I HAVE CHANGED.

Vinny put it perfectly when he was doing the quicklook of Dark Souls, or Demon's Souls. One or the other. He said that it was the perfect game he would have eaten up when he was a kid over summer break, but as an adult, it seems like it just takes too much time, and he doesn't have that kind of time. Dark Souls is not poorly designed, VINNY HAS CHANGED.

There are tons of "evolutions of game design" that Brad will point out as loving, like games that sell all your equipment back to the store with a push of a button, sometimes not even requiring to go back to the store. This is great for Brad, who plays so many games that he appreciates games that mostly play themselves, but to other people who buy 2 or 3 games a year, it's dumbed down gameplay to the point to being no fun at all. It's not "evolution", it's personal preference.

At some level, your right- It is us that's changed, but also, duh. ANY game only has worth based on how people perceive it. Thats the point. Our expectations have changed. It's like- imagine a top of the line computer from 1995. It was good then. Now place it in a modern context and, as a computer, its crap- computer design has changed, and people's expectations are different. It would be ridiculous to say, as your are, because it's crap in a modern context, it was secretly crap when it came out. Likewise, its dumb to say that, if it was good then, it has to still be good now. What was cleverly designed for it's time has been hopelessly antiquated by it's successors.

You're talking about hardware, which is COMPLETELY different than talking about game design.

Again, you're walking into the myopic trap of thinking that modern game design means that a game is empirically better than old game design in the same way that a modern computer is empirically better than and old computer.

Yes, a modern computer is way better than a 80386 PC. But Gone Home is not inherently better than Kings Quest 2. Game DESIGN does not evolve.

Does Gone Home have better graphics than KQ2? ABSOLUTELY. It came out like 25 years later. But that's technology, which absolutely DOES evolve. Game DESIGN is just trendy. As is influenced by the fact that Gone Home is a huge anomaly in 2013, that is causing a huge stir, but in 1997 it would have been on a shelf with a dozen or so similar games.

Avatar image for krathoon
Posted By Krathoon

I have the original cart. Hardcore.

Avatar image for hilts
Posted By Hilts

Love Earthbound. It's my number 1 feel good game even today. Some of its systems remind me of Pokemon but its got a blissful charm of its own. Mother 3 us worth tracking down for GBA if your able to read Japanese ... Or run the translated version on an emu!

Avatar image for gordo789
Edited By Gordo789

@atesh42 said:

Um. Patrick, how about Dark Souls with its Pendant in comparison to the ruler?

I don't think Patrick has played Dark Souls.

Anyway, great write-up. This is a cool game I should finish sometime. I rented it as a kid but never got through to the end.

Avatar image for mithhunter55
Posted By mithhunter55

: D Glad you liked it Scoops. I played it on a couple years ago for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the cute world of crazy happenings. Download the fan translation of Mother 3 it is very good.

Avatar image for nomomoe
Posted By nomomoe

Think I am going to go dig out my smell-o-vision cards and game guide.

Avatar image for towersixteen
Posted By TowerSixteen

@towersixteen said:

Man, guys, due to the differences in how the games actually play, I don't think the dark souls example is really equivalent. Earthbound may benefit sometimes from a guide due to obscure game design but in Dark Souls the "needing a guide because this game is too obscure" problem is a fucking epidemic and probably the games biggest flaw, IMO.

Also, to those saying "There is no such thing as improvements in game design": LOL

Its perfectly fine to love old games, lord knows I do, and many still play great. But gaming can and has improved over time, I can't believe that's even a question. And can you seriously, honestly say that there's not a single game you enjoyed at first that you've then gone back to and kinda felt eugggh about? Frankly, I wont believe you if you say no. And even if you don't, the hypothesis that "oh, people who don't like it now wouldn't have liked it then" is absurd. Sure, some fit that label, but there are plenty who liked certain old games but feel, in light of modern game design, they're just too clunky or primitive to enjoy. It's fine to disagree about which games are hit hard by this but denying the phenomenon at all is madness.

You're missing the point.

There are absolutely old games that are hard to go back and play, but those games were bad when they were new. Take Golgo 13 "Top Secret Episode" on the NES for example. That game is almost impossible to go back and play. But it was also almost impossible to play when it was new. That's just a POORLY DESIGNED GAME. (which I loved) And yes, it is absolutely hard to go back and enjoy poorly designed games.

Contrast that with something like Faxanadu on the NES. I remember loving that game to death, but I can't go back and play it now because it takes too much time to play, and I just don't have that much time as an adult.

FAXANADU HAS NOT CHANGED. I HAVE CHANGED.

Vinny put it perfectly when he was doing the quicklook of Dark Souls, or Demon's Souls. One or the other. He said that it was the perfect game he would have eaten up when he was a kid over summer break, but as an adult, it seems like it just takes too much time, and he doesn't have that kind of time. Dark Souls is not poorly designed, VINNY HAS CHANGED.

There are tons of "evolutions of game design" that Brad will point out as loving, like games that sell all your equipment back to the store with a push of a button, sometimes not even requiring to go back to the store. This is great for Brad, who plays so many games that he appreciates games that mostly play themselves, but to other people who buy 2 or 3 games a year, it's dumbed down gameplay to the point to being no fun at all. It's not "evolution", it's personal preference.

At some level, your right- It is us that's changed, but also, duh. ANY game only has worth based on how people perceive it. Thats the point. Our expectations have changed. It's like- imagine a top of the line computer from 1995. It was good then. Now place it in a modern context and, as a computer, its crap- computer design has changed, and people's expectations are different. It would be ridiculous to say, as your are, because it's crap in a modern context, it was secretly crap when it came out. Likewise, its dumb to say that, if it was good then, it has to still be good now. What was cleverly designed for it's time has been hopelessly antiquated by it's successors.

Avatar image for billymagnum
Posted By billymagnum

"These fans are beaten, bruise, and can't be trusted with sharp knives."

somethings...missing...

Avatar image for zockroach
Posted By zockroach

Excellent write up, Patrick.

Avatar image for dan_citi
Edited By Dan_CiTi

@patrickklepek: I hope you can dig into Mother 3 at some point, it's got all of the charm of this game and arguably more, and things such as UI and overall game design are much smoother and modern(not perfect, obviously but I never got as frustrated.) I gotta say I love EarthBound as well, even if there are some shaky design decisions now and then and the game's UI is pretty awful.

Avatar image for hailinel
Posted By Hailinel

@towersixteen said:

Man, guys, due to the differences in how the games actually play, I don't think the dark souls example is really equivalent. Earthbound may benefit sometimes from a guide due to obscure game design but in Dark Souls the "needing a guide because this game is too obscure" problem is a fucking epidemic and probably the games biggest flaw, IMO.

Also, to those saying "There is no such thing as improvements in game design": LOL

Its perfectly fine to love old games, lord knows I do, and many still play great. But gaming can and has improved over time, I can't believe that's even a question. And can you seriously, honestly say that there's not a single game you enjoyed at first that you've then gone back to and kinda felt eugggh about? Frankly, I wont believe you if you say no. And even if you don't, the hypothesis that "oh, people who don't like it now wouldn't have liked it then" is absurd. Sure, some fit that label, but there are plenty who liked certain old games but feel, in light of modern game design, they're just too clunky or primitive to enjoy. It's fine to disagree about which games are hit hard by this but denying the phenomenon at all is madness.

You're missing the point.

There are absolutely old games that are hard to go back and play, but those games were bad when they were new. Take Golgo 13 "Top Secret Episode" on the NES for example. That game is almost impossible to go back and play. But it was also almost impossible to play when it was new. That's just a POORLY DESIGNED GAME. (which I loved) And yes, it is absolutely hard to go back and enjoy poorly designed games.

Contrast that with something like Faxanadu on the NES. I remember loving that game to death, but I can't go back and play it now because it takes too much time to play, and I just don't have that much time as an adult.

FAXANADU HAS NOT CHANGED. I HAVE CHANGED.

Vinny put it perfectly when he was doing the quicklook of Dark Souls, or Demon's Souls. One or the other. He said that it was the perfect game he would have eaten up when he was a kid over summer break, but as an adult, it seems like it just takes too much time, and he doesn't have that kind of time. Dark Souls is not poorly designed, VINNY HAS CHANGED.

There are tons of "evolutions of game design" that Brad will point out as loving, like games that sell all your equipment back to the store with a push of a button, sometimes not even requiring to go back to the store. This is great for Brad, who plays so many games that he appreciates games that mostly play themselves, but to other people who buy 2 or 3 games a year, it's dumbed down gameplay to the point to being no fun at all. It's not "evolution", it's personal preference.

What you consider a "bad" game isn't necessarily bad, nor has it always been bad. Game design has evolved, just as hardware has. As designers and programmers have gotten better at what they do, the general quality of games has increased (though there are still plenty of bad games being made today). But relative to their time, some of those games you consider bad are still actually quite good. They weren't necessarily poorly made games; they've just been eclipsed by experiences that are better designed. Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode and Faxanadu are the same games now that they were back then, but the fact that game design has generally gotten better over the years doesn't negate the enjoyment that people have with them, or games like them.

Avatar image for jazgalaxy
Edited By JazGalaxy

Man, guys, due to the differences in how the games actually play, I don't think the dark souls example is really equivalent. Earthbound may benefit sometimes from a guide due to obscure game design but in Dark Souls the "needing a guide because this game is too obscure" problem is a fucking epidemic and probably the games biggest flaw, IMO.

Also, to those saying "There is no such thing as improvements in game design": LOL

Its perfectly fine to love old games, lord knows I do, and many still play great. But gaming can and has improved over time, I can't believe that's even a question. And can you seriously, honestly say that there's not a single game you enjoyed at first that you've then gone back to and kinda felt eugggh about? Frankly, I wont believe you if you say no. And even if you don't, the hypothesis that "oh, people who don't like it now wouldn't have liked it then" is absurd. Sure, some fit that label, but there are plenty who liked certain old games but feel, in light of modern game design, they're just too clunky or primitive to enjoy. It's fine to disagree about which games are hit hard by this but denying the phenomenon at all is madness.

You're missing the point.

There are absolutely old games that are hard to go back and play, but those games were bad when they were new. Take Golgo 13 "Top Secret Episode" on the NES for example. That game is almost impossible to go back and play. But it was also almost impossible to play when it was new. That's just a POORLY DESIGNED GAME. (which I loved) And yes, it is absolutely hard to go back and enjoy poorly designed games.

Contrast that with something like Faxanadu on the NES. I remember loving that game to death, but I can't go back and play it now because it takes too much time to play, and I just don't have that much time as an adult.

FAXANADU HAS NOT CHANGED. I HAVE CHANGED.

Vinny put it perfectly when he was doing the quicklook of Dark Souls, or Demon's Souls. One or the other. He said that it was the perfect game he would have eaten up when he was a kid over summer break, but as an adult, it seems like it just takes too much time, and he doesn't have that kind of time. Dark Souls is not poorly designed, VINNY HAS CHANGED.

There are tons of "evolutions of game design" that Brad will point out as loving, like games that sell all your equipment back to the store with a push of a button, sometimes not even requiring to go back to the store. This is great for Brad, who plays so many games that he appreciates games that mostly play themselves, but to other people who buy 2 or 3 games a year, it's dumbed down gameplay to the point to being no fun at all. It's not "evolution", it's personal preference.

Avatar image for ryanwhom
Edited By ryanwhom

The Mother 3 fanslation is pretty solid and it is a better game I think, in the the weird stuff is weirder and the emotional stuff is somehow way more gutwrenching. Its such an odd combo. The distinction it has and continues to have stems largely from the fact that no other game has since really entered the same territory.

Avatar image for evercaptor
Posted By Evercaptor

@patrickklepek didn't dark souls do exactly that with the pendant gift? I don't remember anyone getting "furious" there, either.

Avatar image for patrickklepek
Edited By patrickklepek

@hailinel said:

@cabrit_sans_cor said:

@patrickklepek if you didn't already know, the game has some deviously ingenious anti-piracy measures as well. I mean brilliantly evil stuff.

Probably should check that out after finishing the game though. Spoilers and whatnot.

Spoilers? Not really. The biggest things that the anti-piracy measures induced were:

  • An anti-piracy message would appear at start-up.
  • An absolutely psychotic enemy encounter rate throughout the game.
  • The game freezing just before the final boss fight.
  • You game data being wiped when restarting after said freeze.

Genius, it was.

Holy shit!

Avatar image for mezmero
Edited By Mezmero

I played a bit of this game during the early days of emulation on PCs. It was really cool but I could never make the time to finish it. I was a Genesis kid so this wasn't even on my radar at the time of release. Not surprised to hear that it holds up. I really like how mundane a lot of the early enemy and item types are. I would really like to get back to it some day but I don't have any plans to own a WiiU. Thanks for the article.

Avatar image for cdub901
Edited By CDUB901

@pmavers said:

@budwyzer said:

DL'd the ROM for an emulator I had on my PSP (such an old game).

Played it all the way to the end, got to the final boss, and he was invincible no matter what I did to him. So I uninstalled it.

So you actually didn't try everything. It's not actually invincible, but just requires a little bit of out of the box thinking and a leap of faith. Maybe involving something you've had the entire game, but it's never done anything.

Re: Porting it to the 3DS, that would require them to put out SNES games on the 3DS. Which there aren't any so far.

No the final boss is literally just straight up invincible in hacked versions of the game

it's a little something the developers put in the game that when it detects that it isn't a legit copy of the game it lets the gamer play the game like normal, but the final boss will be unbeatable meaning you had wasted all that time to get to the final boss and can't beat the game....it was a fantastic troll

Avatar image for ryn
Posted By ryn

One of my favourite quirks about Earthbound was that you could control the entire game using just your left hand and it was a completely viable way of playing that game (I think the only thing you can't do is ring the bell on the bike since that's the only use for RT). You could bring up the menu using the select button and the L shoulder was your confirm for everything. I find modern day controllers are a bit ill suited to doing this but it was a great little unique thing in a game full of unique things.

Avatar image for towersixteen
Edited By TowerSixteen

Man, guys, due to the differences in how the games actually play, I don't think the dark souls example is really equivalent. Earthbound may benefit sometimes from a guide due to obscure game design but in Dark Souls the "needing a guide because this game is too obscure" problem is a fucking epidemic and probably the games biggest flaw, IMO.

Also, to those saying "There is no such thing as improvements in game design": LOL

Its perfectly fine to love old games, lord knows I do, and many still play great. But gaming can and has improved over time, I can't believe that's even a question. And can you seriously, honestly say that there's not a single game you enjoyed at first that you've then gone back to and kinda felt eugggh about? Frankly, I wont believe you if you say no. And even if you don't, the hypothesis that "oh, people who don't like it now wouldn't have liked it then" is absurd. Sure, some fit that label, but there are plenty who liked certain old games but feel, in light of modern game design, they're just too clunky or primitive to enjoy. It's fine to disagree about which games are hit hard by this but denying the phenomenon at all is madness.

Avatar image for gimpy
Posted By Gimpy
Avatar image for blazehedgehog
Posted By BlazeHedgehog

Wait. Protractors and rulers actually don't do anything? I figured you got buffs to your accuracy.

Avatar image for agent_eli
Posted By Agent_Eli

Scoops, did you know that crap like this goes to my Instapaper withing seconds?

Cuase this ain't crap, it's great writing. Keep it up!

Avatar image for ch3burashka
Edited By ch3burashka

@xeiphyer said:

Reading about the useless items reminded me of Dark Souls. There's a starting item that does absolutely nothing at all.

Or does it...? *creepy ghost noises*

But yeah, I think the director confirmed he trolled everyone.

Avatar image for xeiphyer
Posted By Xeiphyer

Reading about the useless items reminded me of Dark Souls. There's a starting item that does absolutely nothing at all.

Avatar image for selbie
Posted By selbie

So... it's super juvenile, but start a new game and set "pussy" as your favorite food. Makes for a hilarious conversation with your mom next time you talk to her.

That's no different to calling Epona "Your Mom". A perfectly valid gameplay method :D

Avatar image for michaelfossbakk
Posted By michaelfossbakk

Only EarthBound and The Wonderful 101 have me interested in the Wii U.

Avatar image for saddlebrown
Posted By saddlebrown

So... it's super juvenile, but start a new game and set "pussy" as your favorite food. Makes for a hilarious conversation with your mom next time you talk to her.

Avatar image for courage_wolf
Edited By courage_wolf

16 bit JRPGs are perfection in video game form. I was a few years too young to get into them when they were new on SNES, but I discovered them during high school when they were rereleased on GBA. The first 16 bit JRPG I played was Final Fantasy V Advance and I instantly fell in love with the genre. Playing other classics like FF4, FF6, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Tales of Phantasia (my favorite JRPG), Super Mario RPG, Secret of Mana convinced me that there is a special something about the time, style and hardware limits that combined to create one of the greatest styles of gaming in existence. This is highly subjective but I have to say that JRPGs lost the special something that makes the 16 bit era so glorious immediately after the genre moved to Playstation. Games like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Cross, direct heirs of the 16 bit legacy, don't have the same purity of style and focus as their SNES ancestors.

I am very interested in playing Tales of Destiny and any other 2D PS1 JRPGs that might be out there. I think it would be a good test to see if the magic was tied directly to the SNES hardware or simply the type of games the hardware encouraged. I suspect that it is more the style and relative simplicity of the games that makes me love them so much. As far as I can tell the developers of Tales of Destiny made a SNES JRPG on the PS1 so it would probably give me the same joy as older games.

Avatar image for saddlebrown
Posted By saddlebrown

@patrickklepek: "I’m about halfway through"

Man, then you don't even know. The ending is incredible. Genuinely touching. Follow-up article, please.

Avatar image for enchantedecho
Posted By EnchantedEcho

These fans are beaten, bruise

Bruised maybe @patrickklepek? I really enjoyed reading the article though, seems like a really cool game; too bad I don't have a Wii U, hopefully it comes out on 3DS at some point.

Avatar image for iragequit
Edited By iragequit

I first played Earthbound at my friend's house, I guess I was 8 years old. I was pretty good so he just wanted to watch me complete it. It was exciting figuring out that last battle. I went back to it at around 16 and found it to hold up then. Enjoy Patrick.

Avatar image for viking_funeral
Edited By viking_funeral

I really, really enjoyed this game when it came out, but like a lot of classic RPGs from the NES / SNES era, I'm cautious of going back to them because I just can't do grinding like I used to.

I'm glad to hear that it can still be appreciated by relatively new players today.

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Posted By JazGalaxy

@jazgalaxy said:

@likeassur said:

@jazgalaxy said:

I'm a vocal dissident of the idea that video games "hold up". In my opinion, if a game was ever good, legitimately, it will ALWAYS be good. Simultaenously, if you go back play a game and it "doesn't hold up", the odds are good it was NEVER actually good.

Good design doesn't change. Tastes do.

That being said, I feel like the majority of people who play Earthbound for the first time in 2013 and say it's gameplay "doesn't hold up" are the same people who wouldn't have liked it when it was new. Earthbound was 100% counterculture even when it came out.

The flaw in your point is that design evolves, along with our tastes. Look at every FPS since Modern Warfare. Nobody used down-the-sights aiming, and we were all fine with that. F.E.A.R. and Medal of honor were find games without it. Now try going back and playing them again, it's just not the same without what Modern Warfare did.

Does that make them bad games? Absolutely not, but they definitely don't hold up.

I could not disagree more.

There is no such thing as design evolution. What you are talking about, ESPECIALLY with down the sites aiming, is personal preference and trend. You mention Modern Warfare as being "evolved" FPS design, but I HATE Modern Warfare style FPS games. I think they are terrible. Are you right, or am I right? Niether. It's just personal preference. And what's trendy right now in the market is Modern Warfare and thusly, all games try to be modern warfare.

I can list a dozen sound design reasons why rechargeable shields ruin games. And, I can also list a dozen sound design decisions why they help the game experience. Niether is correct, it's just personal preference and whatever fad is popular at the time.

Being pretentious enough to think that whatever game you like right this second is somehow the "evolved" form of it is how people wind up looking at their yearbooks in 20 years and going "What the F was I wearing!?! I thought I was SO COOL in that picture..."

Are you kidding? You say "There's no such thing," then your last sentence is exactly what I'm saying. It's a hell of a lot more than just "personal preference." Do you want a better example? Take Goldeneye 007 and Halo: Combat Evolved. Are you really going to sit there and tell me that Halo's gameplay is just a "personal preference" and not an improved version of what Goldeneye did? Are Resident Evil's tank controls really on par with Devil May Cry's quick movement controls, and it's up to the individual to decide which is better?

I would bet you money that if Shigeru Miyamoto could go back and redo Super Mario Bros., he definitely would. In fact, that whole franchise shows the evolution of game design. Even something we take for granted - checkpoints and auto-saving - are things that were unheard of when Earthbound was out. You know why? Because game design changed. It's more than just "personal preference," because if that were the case, there would still be non-indie games that had Goldeneye's aiming, reset to the beginning if you die, and only manual saves. There's not, and it's impossible to go back without some sort of mini-culture shock.

You are just flat out wrong.

I said that people looking at year books and say what they wearing was ridiculous because it's a trend, which is the crux of my whole argument. What that person is wearing, when they are looking at their year book, will look just as outdated 20 years from THEN. Not because clothes have "evolved" and "gotten better", but because the fads change. And then, who knows, maybe it will all come back in fashion, as it does cyclicly.

Gaming is the exact same way. Turn based gaming is suddenly all the rage again, but after Warcraft 2 came out, you couldn't find a turn based game ANYwhere. Even Xcom, which was even more popular then, than it is now, wound up putting real time RTS elements in Xcom 3, which is why the game tanked and wasn't heard from again for like 15 years. Or, for instance, take co-op gameplay. Co-op suddenly became all the rage again after Halo brought it back to the forefront. But Halo didn't invent Co-op. Co-operative play was absolutely EXPECTED in the 8 and 16 bit eras of gaming. Almost every game had it until the technical limitations of the Playstation 3d gaming era meant that 2 player gaming was expensive on the hardware.

And, yes, I am absolutely going to tell you that Halo being better than Goldeneye is ABSOLUTELY just preference. Sure there were HARDWARE IMPROVEMENTS like having dual analog sticks that let Halo do some things that Goldeneye couldn't, but from a gameplay perspective, there are a ton of things that goldeneye does better than Halo. Recharging health? Personal Preference. Two gun limit? Personal Preference. Open landscapes vs. corridors? Personal prefence. Jump-happy gaming vs. gameplay where you can't jump? Personal preference.

And your dumb example of there being indue games that forced manual saves, and resetting to the beginning if you die is ridiculous because THERE ARE INDIE GAMES THAT DO THAT. I'm not sure what you were trying to prove by suggesting there aren't.

And as for Resident Evil's tank controls, those controls existed for a reason. I mean, firstly, Resident Evil controlled TERRIBLY. When it was NEW Resident Evil controlled poorly. This is because the control of RE, much like the rest of RE, was poorly ripped off the PC game Alone In The Dark. The "tank controls" exist because when the camera angle shifts (a cinema technique) the "absolute" controls would lose their orientation. If you are pressing "up" to move your character forward, then when the camera shifts to be in your characters face, pressing up would suddenly mean moving your character "backwards". "Tank controls" were actually a slice of genius and used in dozens and dozens of PC games like Little Big Adventure and Grim Fandango. It's also worth mentioning that "tank controls" were designed to be used on a keyboard.

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Posted By scarycrayons

Oh Polygon. I'd make a comment laughing about Polygon's awful views that busty/stylish character art is somehow 'discrimination and hatred of women', but Patrick tends to share that mentality, so I can see why he linked to their site.

Oh well, there's always the comedy of Polygon giving Sim City 2013 a 9.5/10 at first. That was pretty hilarious.

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Edited By steveurkel

Why do you affiliate or link stuff from polygon? That video is objectively terrible. Ugh they have the worst sense of humor. I'm mad bro.

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Posted By Hailinel

@patrickklepek if you didn't already know, the game has some deviously ingenious anti-piracy measures as well. I mean brilliantly evil stuff.

Probably should check that out after finishing the game though. Spoilers and whatnot.

Spoilers? Not really. The biggest things that the anti-piracy measures induced were:

  • An anti-piracy message would appear at start-up.
  • An absolutely psychotic enemy encounter rate throughout the game.
  • The game freezing just before the final boss fight.
  • You game data being wiped when restarting after said freeze.

Genius, it was.

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Edited By cabrit_sans_cor

@patrickklepek if you didn't already know, the game has some deviously ingenious anti-piracy measures as well. I mean brilliantly evil stuff.

Probably should check that out after finishing the game though. Spoilers and whatnot.

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Posted By weegieanawrench

Can we get a quicklook of this? Either from @patrickklepek or the rest of the crew? I would love to hear their take on the updated version of the game. I only ever played a snippet of Mother 3 (a sin, I know), but this game always intrigued me.

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Posted By Hailinel

There's no good reason this isn't on DSI or the Wii VC either.

DSi doesn't support Virtual Console titles in general, and why would they put it on the Wii when they want to encourage people to buy the new platform?

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Posted By rachelepithet

There's no good reason this isn't on DSI or the Wii VC either.

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Posted By Hailinel

@hailinel: The extra dollars (or pounds in my case) are simply a sign of Nintendo 'nickel & diming' a loyal and deeply nostalgic fanbase. Hell, in the UK we had to pay an additional premium for it because it was never released in this country originally, when no additional work went into its production for a same language speaking audience. As a UK gamer, I feel I'm supposed to be excited to pay more for it based on word of mouth alone from other countries, that were touched by the anointed hand of Nintendo, and were seen fit to be allowed to play it in the first place.

I can't excuse what amounts to ROMs having a tiered pricing structure for the same platform. The asking price of every other SNES game is the same, why should this one be different? Because they can 'get away with it?'

I just don't think there's an easily defensible argument to me made in it's defence frankly. It simply stinks.

It really saddens me that because the sales of Earthbound have been such a success, Nintendo have already confirmed that they'll continue with this multi-tiered pricing policy. Customers are begging to be mugged.

It's less about the amount of money, but the principle.

It's two extra bucks for a one-time purchase. And they did go the extra step of turning the entire strategy guide that was originally packed with the game in North America into a digital version that could be accessed from Nintendo's website. And no, no extra work went into the ROM for the UK audience, but:

A. That's because the game was never touched by NOE during the localization phase, and

B. Virtual Console titles are always offered in as accurate a state to the original ROM as possible. Changes are rarely implemented (as was the case when Wave Race 64 had to remove Kawasaki branding from the race courses due to an expired licensing deal). This goes the same for games that were never released in a particular region before. So Europe has the North American version of EarthBound, both territories have Sin & Punishment in its original Japanese state (which was actually fortunate to already be loaded with English text), and so on.

If you feel that extra two bucks is a deal breaker, that's up to you, but for a lot of people, it doesn't really make a difference.

@sweetz said:

@jazgalaxy

@likeassur said:

Are Resident Evil's tank controls really on par with Devil May Cry's quick movement controls, and it's up to the individual to decide which is better?

I don't particularly agree with much of what likeassur said, but he does have a point about character relative (aka tank) controls versus camera relative controls. At this point, I think one can empirically say that camera relative controls are a superior method of moving a character in a 3D space than character relative controls. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone arguing the merit of tank controls.

Granted this is one very specific mechanical aspect of games, but the point is there are elements of games that have evolved and for which a general consensus has been reached that new methods are better than old.

Honestly, the choice between tank controls versus camera-relative isn't entirely clear cut. You look at games like Resident Evil 4 or Gears of War, and those games function on tank controls. They don't have the fixed camera angles of the older RE titles, but still, they're tanks. It's not about which control system is inherently "better," it's about which control scheme works best for the game you're designing.

@patrickklepek: If you want to take Wii U screenshots, it's easy. Any screenshot you post to Miiverse can also be pulled from Miiverse later by logging in from your PC and downloading the image file.

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Posted By FancySoapsMan

@animasta said:

Well hopefully you play mother 3, which is, in my opinion, way better and also there aren't enough words on the internet about it.

Mother 3 is a wonderfully odd journey, even compared to other JRPGs.

I agree that it needs to be talked out more.

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Posted By maskedarcstrike

One of the things I always love about Earthbound was how every town and major area had it's own theme with unique flair. Mr.Saturn Village, Threed, Fourside and just about every area in the game is an absolute joy to explore. Sure there's some caves that are kind of the same. Overall I just loved the environments in this game.

I was actually lucky enough to get a Gutsy bat on my old snes playthough.

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Posted By Daneian

I would pay 20$ for this game on 3ds

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Posted By VarkhanMB

So cool to see all those people experience Earthbound for the first time. I did, myself, a few years ago and I spent countless hours in the game just trying to figure everything out. I especially loved the fighting and how it was less frustrating than other JRPG's and the random encounters.

Great stuff, thanks Scoops.

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Posted By Tireyo

@vrikk said:

Earthbound was, and always will be, my favorite game of all time.

Right on soul brotha.