Replaying old favorites with the Retro Encounter Crew can sometimes be a bit of a rude awakening. Rose-tinted glasses find themselves shattered when confronted with archaic mechanics or frustrating dungeon designs, or sometimes the physical game just isn't how we remembered it. Not so with EarthBound, an RPG that's just as fresh, forward-thinking, and unique as it was two decades ago — with the added bonus of being able to pick up on the more subversive elements that flew over my preteen head. Shigesato Itoi's satirical vision of Americana is something akin to a Dadaist blend of Norman Rockwell, Peanuts, Haruki Murakami, and cosmic horror, while Marcus Lindblom's expert localization manages to capture the mood perfectly. To describe EarthBound as simply "quirky" does it a great disservice; there is a well thought out message at its heart, and it's an incredibly positive one.
Whether you're an adult, child, or an older sister; whether you're experiencing it for the first, tenth, or hundredth time, EarthBound remains the quintessential postmodern RPG, and one you deserve to experience.
Zoom! EarthBound sure went by faster than expected, yet rather than it feeling anticlimactic, I think I will be able to go back to it at some future point in my life and take away just as much as I did this time. This game is a fascinating combination of goofy, heartwarming, subversive, and unsettling/creepy, presented in a way that truly allows the player to engage. There is something to enjoy here whether you're an Extra Cranky Lady or a New Age Retro Hippie. Yes, the pacing through the last few Sanctuaries and just beyond is awkward, and there are some general age-related limitations, but innovative mechanics and bold design decisions keep EarthBound fresh and make me wish more recent games were willing to take risks and be more "out there." No question, creative doesn't even begin to describe this game — it is best understood by experiencing it. Possibly multiple times.
As someone who considers themselves an avid RPG gamer, it shocks me to realize how long I let EarthBound fly under my radar. I always knew of the game's existence, but I'd never had the chance to play it. And though I'm 23 years past the release date, I can say with confidence that EarthBound still holds up to this day. Filling players with a sense of child-like wonder, EarthBound tells a compelling story that hooked me from beginning to end. And while some of the game's mechanics may feel a little outdated, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. If you haven't had the chance to play this masterpiece yet, don't make the same mistake I did. I promise you, it's considered one of the greatest RPGs for a reason!
EarthBound is over twenty years old and still holds up as one of the most unique, thoughtful Japanese RPGs after all these years. It's hard to describe EarthBound without getting into strange, specific examples, but believe me when I say that this is a special RPG unlike any other. Blending Japanese literature with a cartoonish interpretation of 1950s Americana, EarthBound resembles what Peanuts might have been, if Charles Schulz was a Japanese satirist. With an interest in RPG narratives and a disdain for hippies.