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Released: June 1995
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Review by: Corbie Dillard
If ever there was an rpg that just reeks of originality and innovation, it's this one. You can play thousands of games and not find one quite as unique as Earthbound for the Super NES. Earthbound takes the standard overlay of a typical turn-based rpg, and somehow molds it together with a very modern-day storyline to form a game that's as off-the-wall as it gets. If you're an rpg player looking for something that really strays from the tried-and-true formula used by most rpgs of this time period, then look no further. Earthbound is your game.
Graphically Earthbound is just a minor step above most 8-bit games. It certainly isn't a game that takes any kind of serious advantage of the Super Nintendo's 16-bit processing muscle to be sure, but the visuals are about what you'd expect from a game this crazy. It's very cartoony and colorful and fits perfectly with the light-hearted stylings of this offbeat rpg. Most of the game has a 3/4 style view to it, and you're gonna see everything including modern-looking houses, buildings, and even streets. Since the game is set in the 1990's, everything in the game has a very modern day look to it that you just don't see in any other rpgs on the SNES. I was a little dissapointed in the battle scenes, as I thought at least there would be a great place to show off some impressive monster visuals, but as with the rest of the game, it too had a very archaic and basic look to it. You just have to understand that a game like this isn't about flashy graphics, or sharp details, it's about carrying the silly look of the game's visuals effectively. And that it does.
This is going to be a tough category to review. Let me begin by saying that you're not ever likely to hear a soundtrack like the one in this game. Ever. The best way to describe it is like a cross between your typical mediocre rpg soundtrack and The Lost Vikings game. It has some nice tunes, most of which get hip-hopped up a bit. Trust me, if you think the visuals and storyline of Earthbound are strange, the soundtrack fits right in. I'll admit that I liked the buzzing sound the bee made as it was circling my character's head, but after a few minutes, I was glad the time came for him to get swatted when he did. One nice touch of the soundtrack is that it doesn't stick out too much from the rest of the game. It's at just the right volume to be enjoyable, but due to the odd stylings of the music, it's nice that it doesn't jump out too much at you. I was also dissapointed that there wasn't a bit more variety in the tunes. Most of the music had too similar a sound and it made the music grate on my nerves a bit after 10+ hours in the game. Like the graphics, the music just seems to fit this rather odd game to a tee. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
I realize that many rpg fans consider this a top shelf game. That's easily seen with how much this game goes for still to this day on ebay. While I enjoyed the game the first time through, it's not one that I find myself picking up very often. The gameplay in this game just reminds me way too much of some of the below average rpg offerings found on the Super NES. The battle system is a little on the sluggish side, and it just doesn't seem to have that playability some of the better rpgs on the SNES have. I did like the ability to select "Auto Fight". This handy selection on the combat menu allows the computer to select the best fighting commands for you. This will come in really handy for those who are not quite as seasoned in the workings of rpg turn-based combat. I think what it is, is that the entire game just feels several steps behind from where turn-based rpgs were at the time of this game's release. It just feels like a game that should have been released on the NES. I can only assume that the simplistic combat style must have been used to fit in the with the simple and silly design of the game itself. But it was the gameplay that made this game not nearly as likeable as I think it could have been had it been done better. It's the story that carries this game...not the gameplay.
I've seen this game rated as highly as a 9.9 on some reviews on the net, and that I just can't understand. I mean, sure the storyline of this game is extremely funny and refreshing, but other than that, the game is just way too plain when it comes to graphics, music, and even gameplay. To me the game relies too heavily on the gimmicky style of the story and puts way too much emphasis on cracking jokes and being silly when it should have put more emphasis on the gameplay. My recommendation is that if you like rpgs, give this game a try. But be forewarned, this game is more of a novelty and should not be bought with the impression that it's going to offer a serious gameplay experience that many fans of more serious titles like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger have come to expect from an rpg. This game is good for what it is. A light-hearted parody that's more funny than it is fun.