Official Nintendo Magazine

Log in to access exclusive Nintendo content, win prizes and post on our forums. Not a member yet? Join for free

Earthbound review

Nintendo's great, lost RPG finally debuts in Europe

For close to 20 years EarthBound has remained a distant curio to European videogame players. Launched in Japan in 1994, it was the sequel to the curious Famicom RPG, Mother, a game written and designed by Shigesato Itoi, a popular Japanese author, musician and advertising slogan writer. In its home nation, EarthBound was anything but a curio. Itoi's celebrity status combined with input from Nintendo's best-known game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, as well as the company's current president, Satoru Iwata, made the game an instant success.

Set in a modern American town, here was a game unlike any other in which the hero was a boy in pyjamas whose weapon was a yo-yo and whose enemies were town thugs, mean rats and even local racists; it was a far cry from the knights and dragons that filled most Japanese role-playing games both then and now.

Click to view larger image
Stuffed with references to brands such as Coca Cola, the Beatles and Star Wars, the game underwent a significant translation before EarthBound debuted in America in 1995. Despite a whopping reported $2 million marketing spend, however, it sold only 150,000 copies in the US and with the Super Nintendo system well into its twilight months, Nintendo chose not to bring the game to Europe.

The Mother We Share

As such, the game's arrival on Virtual Console around the world is something of a momentous occasion, finally bringing one of Nintendo's few remaining lost classics to those it has eluded for two decades. In the intervening years fashions may have changed - after all, the videogame medium discovered an entire new visual dimension soon after its original release - but time has not dulled this game's charms and EarthBound still casts a potent spell on those willing to yield to it.

The magic is, for once, in the mundane; this is a game without lavish spells or outrageous armouries. While its rhythms will be familiar to anyone who has played a JRPG - exploration leads to battles leads to exposition - it's dressed in familiar western clothing. You battle enemies with baseball bats, not swords; your armour is a peaked cap, not chainmail; health is restored by eating cookies and hamburgers, not by drinking potions. Any money you earn from defeating enemies is transferred to your bank account and must be withdrawn from ATM machines in hotel lobbies and you're just as likely to have to convince a policeman to let you through a barricade as you are to defeat a hulking alien monster.

That's not to say there are no mystical elements. Your quest is to collect a number of magical melodies scattered across the world in order to thwart the plans of some nefarious and ancient alien invaders, but the fantasy and science fiction is given a freshness via the setting.

Click to view larger image
Beyond this, EarthBound's greatest power is in Itoi's script, which shifts with an easy grace between humorous and poignant, delivering one of the medium's strongest and idiosyncratic storylines. The kooky narrative pulls together with a sleek battle system and enticing side-missions to deliver an experience of greater power and potency than many games with far larger teams and budgets. A genuine classic that, at long last, is within our reach.

Comments

9 comments so far...
Add a comment

  1. Mariostar222 Saturday 21st Sep 2013 at 09:02

    Have you read the creepy story of the guy's japanise version was saying go away to him and he had to translate it on google,apparntly it was alive! it told him in 3 weeks in english 'YOU MAY PLAY WHEN YOU ARE PROMOTED TO'

  2. Pyron12 Saturday 21st Sep 2013 at 12:16

    Have you read the creepy story of the guy's japanise version was saying go away to him and he had to translate it on google,apparntly it was alive! it told him in 3 weeks in english 'YOU MAY PLAY WHEN YOU ARE PROMOTED TO'

    That's because Google Translate is terrible for whole sentences.
    Good news, but where is Mother 3? :cry:

  3. Tamzily01 Saturday 21st Sep 2013 at 12:41

    Have you read the creepy story of the guy's japanise version was saying go away to him and he had to translate it on google,apparntly it was alive! it told him in 3 weeks in english 'YOU MAY PLAY WHEN YOU ARE PROMOTED TO'

    That's because Google Translate is terrible for whole sentences.
    Good news, but where is Mother 3? :cry:

    There's the fan translation that's been floating around since 2008. However, that requires an emulator to play. Worth it though, totally worth it.

  4. MartinIsAwesome Sunday 22nd Sep 2013 at 21:51

    About a month and a half ago I started playing Resident Evil 4 for the first time and I totally love it - I didn't want to put it down, and when I had to I just couldn't wait until I coudl play it again.

    Then I download EarthBound, and now that same level of focus and devotion has transfered over to this gem. I'm just so so so so happy that this game lives up to the hype. It would have been such a shame if this game that we'd been waiting for for so long ended up being a disappointment - but it isn't. It's a wonderful game and I'm so pleased to be playing it.

  5. OrangeRakoon Monday 23rd Sep 2013 at 00:19

    I'm currently playing it (in short bursts between other games so it's taking a while), and it is wonderful. One of the best scripts I've come across in any game.

  6. wilfrefanguy Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 11:58

    Earthbound is now my fav game!

  7. toffeeman30 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 12:12

    played loads of rpgs, would put this in my top 20

  8. RSE III Monday 21st Oct 2013 at 10:35

    *Sighs*

    This is the exact same review that appeared in the Australian issue of ONM. Do you guys just use the same article for both editions?

  9. MatthewONM Monday 21st Oct 2013 at 10:38

    *Sighs*

    This is the exact same review that appeared in the Australian issue of ONM. Do you guys just use the same article for both editions?


    All of this content is written for ONM UK. If the Australian edition uses it, it's on them. Please don't complain about us printing our own reviews!

Register or log in to commment
Add a comment
Nintendo Co., Ltd. is the owner of certain copyright which subsists and trade marks and other intellectual property rights in certain content, characters, artwork, logos, scripts and representations used in this publication. All rights are expressly recognised and they are used by Future Publishing Limited under licence © 2006 Nintendo Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. "Nintendo", "International Nintendo Licensed Product" "Nintendo DS", "Nintendo DS Lite", "Nintendo DSi", "Nintendo 3DS", "Nintendo DSi XL", "Nintendo 3DS XL", "Wii" and "Wii U" and the associated logos are the trademarks of Nintendo Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.