A Humorous and Original Masterpiece
Ah, Earthbound, I have many fond memories of this game. Back when it was new my sister rented it from the local video store, mainly because she's a little strange and the game came in a huge box due to the pack-in strategy guide. At the time I wasn't into RPGs, and this Earthbound thing looked ridiculous: throughout the strategy guide (it never had a proper manual) were clay sculptures of enemies and main characters, and you used slingshots and baseball bats as weapons. I thought "what the hell is this?" and dismissed it as being some cartoony push-over game.
Sadly, this is the reaction most gamers had towards Earthbound.
That day that my sister first rented Earthbound was rainy, so with nothing other to do I watched my sister play this cartoony baseball bat game. Little did I know that game would change my gaming tastes forever.
Earthbound is, at its core, a traditional RPG borrowing its core elements from the Dragon Warrior/Quest series. That's about the only thing I can say to put this into perspective with other RPGs out there. Since I've played this I really haven't played anything that's come close to it.
What really sets it apart from most RPGs is the setting, it is set in 199x in Eagleland, an American-like country. Gone are swords and shields, baseball bats, slingshots, and lasers are your weapons, baseball caps your armor. The story is simply excellent; it covers the range from emotional to original (and clever) humor.
Along your quest you'll go to Stonehenge, rid a town of a zombie infestation (with zombie paper!), straighten out a crooked police force, travel through time, and fight a bum (seriously, and freakin' hippies too).
In my opinion, the thing that turned a lot of people away from this game (aside from the kiddie look) are the graphics, they look just better than NES quality. Mother 1 (Earthbound 0, it was translated but never released stateside) has a very similar look, the graphics just don't pack in quite as many colors on the NES hardware.
Earthbound is the long lost gem of the RPG genre, any RPG fan would do themselves good to play this game. However, for those of you who don't have access to a copy, the game has gone up quite a bit in price: a "complete" copy (box, strategy guide, and game) on Ebay will cost you upwards of $150, I'm glad I got it when it first came out!
Oh, you're wondering how Earthbound changed my gaming tastes? Lets finish my little story. *ehem*
Anyway, after watching my sister play for a little bit I was intrigued, this odd little game had taken a hold of me. When she was done playing, I fired up a new game and started playing. And from that day on I was hooked on RPGs. My sister and I must have rented Earthbound twenty or so times before I finally picked up way back in '96. Even now I must have played through the game five or six times. Heck, typing this makes me want to pick it up again. I think I just might...