A combination of awful-smelling scratch and sniff images that I kept re-smelling, because... well, I'm not sure anymore, but it was either that I thought they would smell better the next time, or because I felt the urge to remind myself why it was a bad idea the last time I did it. I know it's one of those two reasons, but which one? Also, there were these wonderful, detailed clay models of several characters, which I loved to look at from a distance, on TV, in a magazine, on the computer screen, and anywhere else that wasn't actually near me, because inanimate shit with eyes and facial expressions creep me out.
|Beware the trees, Ness.|
Earthbound was a flop in the mid-90s, and it's not hard to figure out why. The game looked like shit when up against the visual gems of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (FF6). The downgrade in appearance was intentional to keep the art style consistent with the original, but the problem is Mother never had a US release, so many knew nothing about the reasoning behind Earthbound's 8-bit adventure on a 16-bit console. You might remember the tremendous focus on graphics at the time, too. Something fun HAD to look amazing. It was like a video game law or something back then. Then, there's the cost of bundling each copy of Earthbound with a player's guide, and that aggressive two-million-dollar ad campaign. Like I mentioned before, I thought it was neat, and I'm sure there were others who felt the same, but the American market wasn't interested in Japanese RPGs until FF7 popularized the genre. Daring gamers not to pick up a copy was definitely the wrong way to promote this particular title. Now that everyone loves Earthbound (because many probably assumed Ness originated on Super Smash Bros.), Nintendo has performed an opposite fuck-up by refusing to release Mother 3 outside of Japan. Maybe that'll change in the near future. Still, Nintendo must really hate easy profit. Me, too, I suppose. I could be cluttering this blog with some cheap advertisement.
Considering the amount of effort put into the music, if Nintendo was going to bundle the game with anything, they really should have gone with the soundtrack. The full playlist is over three hours long, so, obviously, somebody would need to cherry-pick about a dozen or so tracks (though I bet a bunch of you greedy bastards would expect them all for free), but this would have still highlighted one of Earthbound's best features. Besides, the player's guide was an easy sale during the 4th generation of video games. If not that, then offering it as the freebie for a Nintendo Power subscription renewal might have sparked some curiosity.
Having recently finished Earthbound, I find the game difficult to recommend. The environments are cheerful; the NPCs provide humorous, fourth-wall-breaking responses; enemies are as goofy as they are varied; boss fights are challenging even though they are just as susceptible to status effects as Ness and his friends; the ending is not only amazing, but is practically guaranteed to make the player emotional; the odometer life bars and the guts stat that affects them is unique and keeps the player attentive during turn-based combat; Iwata, Iwata, Iwata; and, again, the music successfully brings it all together. "So why would you..." Shut up. I'm still typing. My beef is with the mechanics and how they sour every other enjoyable moment with exception to the last. I'm complaining about the grinding, the difficulty spikes, the limited space for inventory, sluggish travel (even teleporting can be a bitch), the constant drain on my psychic points to remove status effects from an unending slew of respawns, and the slow, cumbersome menu screens I had to deal with in order to organize, equip, and supply my party members for far longer than it should ever take to get back into the action. The only reason I can't gripe about the confusing "Now what?" portions of this game is thanks to the included guide provided physically for the original and digitally with the Wii U version. There's also the internet and its wealth of information (and porn) at my disposal. That practically excuses every developer from having to assist the player with progression, doesn't it?
I'd type that one would find just as much pleasure in watching a silent playthrough online, but thanks to a particular this and a specific that, I very much believe it is worth your time, money, and hassle to experience this for yourself. I only wish I could have enjoyed it twenty years earlier. The impact it must have had on the player at that time is something I can only imagine thanks to the efforts of inspired titles, like that of Undertale and Citizens of Earth. Both do justice to their predecessor, and both deserve the opportunity to further increase the size of this post, because the regulars who follow this blog (which consists of only me... unless I also count myself) would never expect otherwise. It doesn't matter either way, but I'll go ahead and start with Undertale, since that hype train has finally slowed down and the game is probably safe to type about again.
I was told to play Undertale by a co-worker, a co-worker's daughter, through several Youtube video recommendations, and by some guy on the sales floor who overheard my conversation about it with Paul and interrupted us with a fairly loud, "It's fucking awesome!" Having finally played it for myself, the sentiment is well understood, or relatively understood. See, I may have spotted several examples of genius detail work, but I still missed half (if not more) of them. It's not until after one has played through the entirety of the story, and/or watched it on Youtube, then further researched it on various sites (like I was doing for the sake of this blog entry), that you begin to realize the actual scope of effort put into this game. And it's for ten dollars! I just wish I could discuss it more, but, as many have said before, you have to go into it blind. If you're a fan of RPGs, then play it.
I will point out one thing. Undertale is not a pretty game to look at (most of the time). At first, I figured it was because of the small budget, the size of the development "teiam", and a lack of experience. (Other than this game, I only know of his Halloween hack of Earthbound, and the man has expressed dissatisfaction with how that turned out.) Again, it wasn't until I was in the middle of typing this that I made the possible connection of it mimicking the decision behind Earthbound's appearance. My only supporting logic on the matter is Dust: An Elysian Tail, another one-man job with a similar budget that looks astounding by comparison. It's hard to imagine so much would already be put into this game, yet Fox just decided to settle for a crude and unappealing presentation without good reason.
I feel somewhat uneasy about stating this, but I believe Undertale is a better game than Chrono Trigger. I know. I know. Blasphemy! Look, Chrono Trigger is the product of money, experience, and talent in large sums. It has everything one would expect of a JRPG from the nineties, and then some. Despite all of this, the one issue some have with the game is that it is composed of nearly every cliché in the genre. On the other hand, it utilized those clichés far better than every other JRPG, AND! it threw some unique and interesting stuff into the mix (the Millennial Fair thingy that I won't discuss further, for example). Square played it safe, and did quite well. Toby decided to be risky with his creativity, and still did quite well. With that in mind, which would you believe is the better game? I'm not asking for a literal answer in the comments. I know it's an opinionated decision. I was just clarifying mine. I still love Chrono Trigger, even if it lacks Katt, Raine Sage, and cold spaghetti.
By the way, Undertale's soundtrack is a must-buy item when getting the game itself. This is especially true with regard to the unique boss themes. Most developers won't put in that added touch of love to their work, yet Mr. Fox does so several times over with his own. The music just happens to be my favorite among them.
As for Citizens of Earth, this Canadian RPG failed to reach its Kickstarter goal by a devastating 64%, and was fortunate enough to have left a strong impression on the people of Atlus. Visually and mechanically, CoE is a far more literal nod to Earthbound with Eden Industries aping the sequel to Mother with several specific references, like that of its Eagle Land world, the protractor and ruler being used for battle, violent hippies, police brutality, and even avoidable or instant-win encounters...
| There's also a Loch Ness monster spotted near a bunch of campers|
that your party uses for transportation.
|Nearly half the playables are female, and I spotted only a single (and fully clothed)|
lewd image while researching the game.
I'm not sure if I should be proud of or disappointed with the internet.
As one would expect, Citizens of Earth thrives on strong, humorous dialogue (supported by fantastical voice acting!), dumb situations, and bizarre enemies. Whomever is on your team during a cutscene will sometimes respond to the conversation in a unique fashion, which I find neat. It's a loving bit of detail, similar to the verbal tics of the Crono Cross crew (except Magus, who was just too complex), but it hardly encourages repeated playthroughs (even with a New Game +). Add to that, I don't believe any of the achievements are missable, so even completionists have no real urge to start over.
Citizens of Earth is looked upon by some as a mere rip-off of Mother 2, which I feel is both harsh and untrue. After all, its development is similar to that of Yooka-Laylee, which blatantly aimed to mimic Banjo-Kazooie, Bloodstained, which blantantly aimed to mimic Castlevania, and Mighty No. 9, which blatantly aimed to mimic Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. (They even share a favoritism for blue.) All three of these came from developers who were finally free to create whatever they wanted. Anything at all! They all chose to make what people wanted most from them, and if Itoi has no desire to craft another Mother sequel, then there's no reason for the gaming community to insult indie developers willing to do it in his stead. The more, the merrier! Seriously, it's amazing to discover how many games were inspired by Earthbound, despite how few of them are alike as a result. If you're curious, some of the other more notable examples include OFF, Anodyne, and Lisa. I have Anodyne in my Steam library, but I'll likely add Lisa, as well, in the near future.
Hmmm. Maybe I'll update this garbage with more pictures at a later date. It needs more visual aid, don'tcha think? Eh, maybe not. I don't know.