"In 1995, RPGs were stuck in a rut that Dragon Quest had dug. Most were still set in medieval times, with knights and mages battling mythical monsters with swords and magic. Few games dared to defy this mold until EarthBound (Mother 2 as it is known in Japan). No other game was like it, except maybe its prequel, Mother, which had not been released outside of Japan. EarthBound introduced, and even today continues to introduce, RPG fans to an entirely different experience.
The story is set in the 1990s in Eagleland, a kitschy and romanticized parody of America (perfect lawns and quiet suburbs). No dragons, mystical knights, or staff-wielding wizards appear in this game. You are just an average 13 year old kid from the suburbs...until the night a meteor lands in your backyard. The local wildlife start attacking you, a gang of local hoodlums begins causing trouble downtown, you realize that you have psychic powers, and a mysterious messenger from the future tells you that you are destined to save the world. But, before you face any of this, your mom reminds you to change out of your pajamas.
Armed with a cracked baseball bat, a lucky charm for protection, and whatever food you can find (including whatever gets thrown into the trashcan outside the burger joint), you begin your quest to stop the evil alien Giygas from destroying the world."
The year is 1995. I am 7 years old. It's my birthday. In front of me, there's an abnormally large box covered with wrapping paper. I open it to find a game called, EarthBound, inside. Nintendo boxed the strategy guide with the game, which was unheard of back in the SNES-era, let alone for console games then. The game features a myriad of strange things/music, including scratch and sniff cards. The marketing campaign didn't help the game sell too well, considering it says point blank, "this game stinks". It's strange playing the Japanese version of the game since the North American removed alcohol/religious references as well as trademark logos similar to Coca Cola and Red Cross. Earthbound made changes atypical to the usual RPG formula (the rolling HP meter and fleeing enemies).
I always felt like this game was unique. The enemies, especially. You wouldn't see orcs or elves like your typical Final Fantasy/Chrono Cross games of the day. Instead, you see bad guys with names like, "Military Octobot", "Great Crested Booka", and "Demonic Petunia". All of the enemies who were under Giygas' (the main villain) never "died" when beaten, but instead, became tame. While the game never was a hot seller when it came out, it did spawn a few fan sites like EarthBound Central, and Starmen.net. The latter of which would end up putting out a fan translation of the yet to be released in the states, Mother 3. Oddly enough, Lucas from M3 is in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, so maybe Nintendo is paying attention now. (Ness was in the original Super Smash, yes, but we're talking about attention the series as a whole) Earthbound was finally rereleased on Wii U's Virtual Console on July of 2013, much to the delight of many EB fans such as my self.I always thought it was funny that the game became Rated Teen with the rerelease, despite being rated K-A (Kids to Adults). Then again, if you wanna get technical, Ocarina of Time had blood in it despite being rated Everyone.
Many fans thought copyright issues may have prevented the game from being rereleased but EB writer Marcus Lindblom insists that's not the case.
"We did sit down with our legal department and we were pretty certain that there weren't going to be any issues with a lot of this stuff because we were kind of protected to some degree by the parody clause you get,"
Marcus is also responsible for the game's numerous pop cultures references. The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Monty Python, Blues Brothers, Little Rascals, The Beach Boys, The Loch Ness Monster, Stonehenge, etc are among the easter eggs in the game.
Even though the game is linear, it still has a ton of replay value. The game becomes enhanced when using PK Hack on the game's ROM (Google has it somewhere...) The hack allows you to edit almost all data available in the EB ROM. Some people have went as far as rewriting the entire game, making it an entirely different experience. I remember playing an imported version Mother 2 on the GBA Advance and was able to get halfway in the game without a manual (except for those darn monkey caves) despite not knowing Japanese.
Marcus Lindblom sums up the game best:
It’s a game that’s meant to be played all the way through. I think if you approach EarthBound with an open mind, you’ll find that it’s really a glass half full kind of game. It’s meant to be a positive thing about always progressing, always getting better, always moving forward towards an ultimate goal. Which, happens to be saving the world in this case.
If you have not played this game, please do so as soon as possible. Remind yourself of what gaming has lost. A game like this will never come again.