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Earthbound Beginnings – Wii U

Earthbound Beginnings – Wii U

titleVCPlatform: Nintendo Wii U

Developer: Ape

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): June 14, 2015

Genre: Role-Playing

Nerd Rating: 7.5/10

                                                                   Reviewed by TimmiT

 

As a borderline obsessive fan of the Mother series, there is one thing I cannot stress enough about playing Earthbound Beginnings: Play Earthbound first. In addition, if you can speak Japanese or have nothing against playing a fan translation, play its sequel, Mother 3, next. I give this warning for two reasons. 1, because knowing story elements of Earthbound will help enhance the story of Earthbound Beginnings, and 2, because there’s a good chance this game will turn you off of the Mother series altogether. That being said, let’s jump into the beautiful mess that is Earthbound Beginnings.

Earthbound Beginnings, known as Mother 1 in Japan on Famicom, is the predecessor to the cult SNES RPG, Earthbound. Though the game released in Japan in 1989, the game would not see its North American release until 2015 when it was released on Wii U Virtual Console. Despite this, the game is exactly the same as its Japanese version save for the ability to run.

In other words, we’re dealing with an old school NES RPG here, and if you’ve played a game in this genre before, you probably won’t encounter too many surprises gameplay wise. The similarity this game has with similar RPGs of the time is no coincidence, as series creator Shigesato Itoi specifically crafted the Mother series as a parody of the Dragon Quest games, where instead of grinding through medieval castles and dungeons, the game takes place in a setting more akin to modern day America.
mother.0.0

The setting is one of the most unique aspects of this game, and indeed, the Mother series altogether. The game begins with a seemingly out of place story about a couple’s disappearance 80 years ago, followed immediately with the player’s character fighting a possessed lamp. The player then is thrust into the open world with extremely minimal gameplay or story instruction other than that you are to explore the strange happenings across the country including zombies, evil cars, hippies, aliens, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

EarthBound_0_Remake_Hack_-_Earth_Bound_comparisonThe weirdness of the game is only enhanced by the setting. If you were to fight these type of enemies in a medieval castle, then the player would probably just feel dumbfounded by the bizarre enemy choices. But fighting these enemies in a quaint modern day town, zoo, or factory leaves a more powerful impression on the player because they are in a location they are familiar with, however, things are slightly off, allowing the player to immerse themselves more easily and feel a more compelling sense of intrigue.

The core gameplay is basic enough, with the player traveling around an exceptionally large and convoluted world map, collecting eight “melodies,” grinding through increasingly tougher enemies, gaining new party members, and learning new magic attacks called “PK”
abilities. This game structure, as with many older NES games, will likely leave modern gamers craving more, while pleasing old school gamers with its raw simplicity of leveling up and exploration. Personally, I do like the simplicity, but there are plenty of shortcomings involved with this that haven’t aged well, and in some cases, even worse than contemporary games of its time.

First and foremost, the random encounter rate is insanely high in this game. Often times you can walk one pixel ahead and encounter an enemy. This encounter rate is only worsened by the massiveness of the world, which you aremother-battle encouraged to explore, but are constantly punished by doing so. The cryptic nature of this game also does not help, as you’ll find yourself frequently backtracking for clues only to be bombarded with enemies all over again. Eventually the game gives you a teleport command, but it comes too far late in the game to make a difference.

Like other RPGs of the time, this game does have a repellent item to stop the encounter rate slightly, but the placement of this item was a grave mistake. This item was placed in an area you can transport to instantly, but the exit is an actual dungeon that you have to fight your way out of, and this is true for every single time you go. This means that you had better buy multiple repellent rings when you go, because you will need them for the dungeon as well, which is not helped by how stingy the game is with cash. Thankfully, the random encounters were done away with in Earthbound which implemented a visible encounter system.

The combat itself can also be extremely frustrating, with attacks aimed at enemies who died not transferring to living enemies, as was the case in Final Fantasy I. In addition, as you are fighting your way through dungeons which are almost impossible to navigate without a real life notepad to map out as you go, you will be sure to encounter enemies with downright unfair abilities such as “stone” that you more than likely have not grinded enough to combat yet. Luckily, the game does give you a break in the form of what may seem like a negative, in that there are very few actual boss battles in the game. This would usually disappoint me, however, in this game, the boss lulls are a welcome reward after the difficult dungeons.

FirstMelodyAll hair-pulling frustrations I have with this game considered, I still consider this
an absolutely essential game. I could go on for hours about all of the moments in this game that stand out in my mind still, like the gangster fight in the karaoke bar, the town run by children, the random man with a tank in the middle of a desert, and the beautifully poetic moments of the endgame. Though the random encounters impede the player’s want to explore the world, it makes it that much more rewarding when you finally do discover that hidden area or obtain that secret item.

The game didn’t hold your hand to get you where you are. You found that place because you wanted to go there, no matter what got in your way. The character, heart, humor, of the other games in the Mother series are in full force here (along with one of the best NES soundtracks period),  but this game is a beast of a completely different nature due to its old school roots. It’s a shame so few people will reach the touching moments of this game’s ending due to its difficulty, but I assure you, it is worth it.

4797644_earthbound-beginnings-launches-on-the-wii_a6cc24bb_m

 

Written by Nerd Bacon

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