Earthbound (Mother 2) – Review

RPGs are like Marmite. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. What tends to put gamers off is the investment needed to play through the game and many argue that the need to fight endless battles against minor minions to increase stats are a cheap way to ensure the longevity of a game. However, this is also what attracts many gamers. They fully immerse themselves in their chosen character and enter a world of pure escapism where they can be a barbarian, dwarf, mage, elf or countless other humanoid species.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) is a single-player RPG developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory, and published by Nintendo. It is the second game in the Mother series, and was released in Japan in 1994 and North America in 1995 for the SNES and Game Boy Advance. In 2013, it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.

The graphics suggest the game was designed for a younger audience (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

A decade after the events of Mother, the alien force that is Giygas has enveloped and consumed the world with hatred, turning animals, plants and humans into monsters. With his three companions: Paula, Jeff and Poo, Ness must travel the world collecting melodies from the eight sanctuaries in order to stop the invasion.

Characters:

Ness – Just a normal kid who defeats his enemies with the use of a baseball bat

Paula – Ness’ friend who possesses psychic powers

Jeff – A young scientific genius

Poo – A mysterious Eastern prince

Fighting scenes sport an array of weird and whacky opponents (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

The game is viewed in 2D with the overworld view being an iosmetric design Interestingly, unlike other RPGs, there is no difference between the over-world and town/dungeon scenes, meaning the game moves seamlessly between the two.

What makes Earthbound different form other RPGs, is that it isn’t based on random encounter scenarios. In this game, you can actually see your enemies and can give them a wide berth if you do not wish to fight. Also, once your team reach a certain level, many of the lesser enemies are automatically defeated, meaning you don’t have to waste your time faffing around with pointless battles that give you little in the way of experience points. Additionally, you can gain a tactical advantage by approaching an enemy from behind. This allows you to strike first everytime. I thought that these were great features to have. I have always disliked the random encounter aspect of RPGs. I understand that they may be important for the game to ensure your characters build their stats but I’d rather have the option to fight when I wanted to because I feel random encounters just slow the game down too much.

The battle scenarios consist of standrd RPG practice in that it is a turn based affair. You can choose to attack, use an object, defend yourself, use PSI, flee etc. However, you still need to do battle with them in order to gain inexperience points, items and money.

There are a few other interesting aspects to this game. Firstly, your father regularly deposits money into your account so that you are never short of cash to buy new weapons and other items. Secondly, because you can only carry a certain amount of items, you can drop off items or have them delivered to you when you find a telephone. Thirdly, your character becomes homesick at times, which I believe affects him during battles. To remedy this, you simply need to call your mother who gives you a pep talk…very cute!

Isometric overworld view (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Although the game looks to be aimed towards a younger audience with whacky and childish jokes, I thought that it was quite fun to play. The story is well thought out, if a little bizarre, and there are plenty of collectables to keep you interested. The controls are simple to learn and the game isn’t to complex and so can be easily picked up played.

Graphics

Although cartoon like, I thought the graphics were good (but not great), bright and colourful, with lots of variations amongst the sprites.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, with minimal help from a walkthrough

What The Critics Said:

Gamefan: If you love RPGs, you really must buy earthbound. At first glance the game may not seem like much, but a rich and involving adventure hides just beneath this game’s 8-bit veneer. While not as mind blowing as, say, FFIII, EB is just as fun to play simply because it’s so wacky, original and amusing. Overall 89%.[1]

Super Play: “An RPG that’s very much more than the sum of its parts. If you’ve got the patience to suffer its crude elements then prepare to be boggled: there’s simply nothing like it on the SNES. Overall 88%.[2]

Nintendo Power: “A great story, fun graphics, good sound effects. Frequent, sometimes tedious battles. Poorly designed inventory system limits how many items you can carry. Overall 4/5.[3]

Game Players: “The game’s biggest strength is its humour, but while there’s something here for everyone, most of the quips and strangeness are geared for the younger set – it ain’t exactly Final Fantasy or Illusion of Gaia. Overall 69%.[4]

Awards:

RPG of the Year – 1995 Game Fan Mega Awards[5]

My Verdict:

“I really wanted to give this game five stars, but I feel that the graphics let this game down a bit. When compared to the likes of Final Fantasy III and Secret of Mana, the graphics are not what one expects from a SNES. However, don’t be put off by first impressions. This game has much to offer and endears itself to you the longer your play it. Say ‘Fuzzy Pickles'”

Rating:

What are your memories of Earthbound? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @Nicklovestogame.


[1] Rox, N., ‘Earthbound – Review’. Gamefan. (August 1995). Volume 3 Issue 8:70-71.

[2] Nicholson, Z., ‘Earthbound – Review.’ Super Play. (September 1995). Issue 35:38-40.

[3] ‘Earthbound – Review’. Nintendo Power. (June 1995). Volume 73:10-19 & 107.

[4] Lundrigan, J., ‘Earthbound – Review’. Game Players. (July 1995). Issue 54:60.

[5] ‘1995 Mega Awards’ Gamefan. (January 1996). Volume 4 Issue 1:106.