Tips for Buying EarthBound

November 26th, 2012 | EarthBound

There’s been a lot of EarthBound articles being posted around the Internet lately – and here’s a new one on The Escapist!

One of the interesting things is how reviews of EarthBound started out as this in 1995:

And now, in more contemporary reviews like this Escapist one, the game is seen in this light:

This is the odd little cubbyhole that EarthBound occupies. An “American” game that resists “Americanization. A fiction-of-a-fiction that somehow feels more tangible than fact, and an ostensibly familiar setting with more inventive spirit than a dozen other games set in floating cities or megaverses, in data streams or dreams-within-dreams

I wonder what changed between then and now. Did it take people time to grow up? Was the game ahead of its time? Was the state of game reviewing just that bad back then? If you have any thoughts, let me know!

And thanks to Brendan Main for the nice write-up 😀


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14 Comments to Escapist: Homeward (Earth)Bound

Anon said on Nov. 26, 2012

*Points at Giygas*

…Needs more menacing villains?

Hejiru said on Nov. 26, 2012

WTF. Did that reviewer even play the game?

Luke said on Nov. 26, 2012

>> Did it take people time to grow up? Was the game ahead of its time? Was the state of game reviewing just that bad back then?

All of the above. Plus what Hejiru said. I suspect a lot of reviews get written by people who have barely played the games in question.

For me the thing that stands out is that it was normal in a pre-Columbine pre-9/11 world to complain that a video game was “not violent enough”. Now it’s 2012, and the popularity of Irony has soared while our fascination with Violence has waned, so of course people are rediscovering and re-evaluating Earthbound.

Chris said on Nov. 26, 2012

Yeah, the Giygas stuff is frightening enough. I’m sure the reviewer had checked out by then, unfortunately. (I’d argue that Magicant is pretty disturbing as well)

It makes more sense that a positive review would come way after the fact. Because of the quick turn-around, reviewers don’t have much time to consider why something is done the way it is, thus the subjects get the short thrift with simplistic reviews, all of which generally cover the surface of things. Is it fun? Too hard? Is the story good? All are worthwhile questions, but a piece of art requires (or, deserves) a deeper analysis.

I think this happens mostly in movies, video games, and television. When something isn’t coming out week of, hopefully you’ll find a writer willing to revisit it somewhere down the line and give it a proper dissertation.

Gaffer Tape said on Nov. 26, 2012

I think it’s the difference in both American ’90s culture and American ’90s video game culture from today. Not only was this a time where everything was being touted as more extreme and violent (the Rob Liefeld comic book years), but video games were still only barely catching on as anything other than children’s entertainment. So I can certainly see adult video gamers of the time balking at something that seemed to reinforce that “kiddy” stereotype and lament that if only it had all that “mature” stuff like violence and gore it could be a good game!

Puck Your Mother said on Nov. 26, 2012

This game came out when the Nintendo was being ridiculed for acting as a child’s console. Of course this shallow minded ignoramus obviously was on the Sega Genesis’ side.

TragicManner said on Nov. 26, 2012

I have a friend here at work who has played Earthbound (and he’s one of the only ones, and I work at a game development company >_<). At any rate, we have had long conversations about how he finds Earthbound to be one of the most disturbing and perspective altering games he has ever played. He says he likes to stop while playing the game and imagine the scenes he's played, but with real life level detail. You start to see how Earthbound becomes a story of truly facing some of the most ugly things that people are capable of doing in this life, and pressing onward happily all the same.

I don't know that, to me, the game is as disturbing as my friend likes to say it is. I definitely see where he is coming from, but I would say that I appreciate it as much as I do because of the initial charm I saw in it when I first played as a kid, and because I honestly feel it has some excellent design, storytelling, and pacing. It really feels to me that, as someone who didn't normally work with games, Itoi put an emphasis on details that most people, at the time, were not worried about. NPC phrases, little quirky details in the story, and moments where the game just made you want to smile.

In the end, I think that's the difference between now and then. Video games were limited in the amount of non-gameplay detail they could contain, and RPGs already were ahead of their time in this regard. Earthbound took it a step further, and allowed players to feel they lived in a vibrant, living world in ways that didn't involve bashing in heads and saving princesses.

Ostricho said on Nov. 26, 2012

I’m going to rip that nincompoop reviewer to shreds. Right here.

So suppose Barney did go through a McDonald’s playland? He is a T-Rex; he would be much to heavy for the plastic platforms and slides. The entire playground would creak, quake, and fall to the ground, flattening all the children inside to bloody McGriddles, mashing Barney into a purple McFlurry, shattering the glass windows into tiny, Chicken McNugget size pieces. The flow of destroyed playground materials would effectively push into the restaurant side of McDonald’s, and dump the garbage cans like large Cokes. Everyone would panic, and the children’s bloody gore (strangely similar to Heinz ketchup) would flow like a fountain. You want fries with that?

I assume the reviewer was trying to reference such a situation, implying how DREADFULLY EVIL this game was, and that it should’ve toned it down to at least Mortal Kombat violence level.

That’s the only explanation.

Detailed said on Nov. 26, 2012

Mainstream Game Journalism never got better than that initial, terrible Earthbound review from the 90’s.

Because game journalism from the likes of Kotaku, IGN, Gamespot, and dozens of other terrible websites and magazines are still just as trollish, sensationalist, biased, and meaningless as ever.

The difference between then and now is that we have people that aren’t being paid, or supported by the game industry to support those that pay for good press and bashing those that don’t pay for the provlege of good press.

With the advance of the internet, the only difference between the 80’s and 90’s, and the early 2000’s, and today is that we have people on their own “community centered” honest freelance reviews and opinions who aren’t getting paid. They actually care about games and they actually know about games, and do what they do out of love. It’s independent and therefore, far more honest.

Mainstream Game Journalism, however, has never changed. It is still biased and very political, and based entirely on money and ad revennue, not based on real opinions, or real critique, or real love of the industry.

In fact, Mainstream Game Journalism has only gotten worse since the 90’s.

That statement from a mainstream game magazine about Earthbound? It’s actually fair and balanced compared to most of the reviews you’ll read on sites like IGN, or biased, crooked, aggrandized, sensationalist “journalism” from sites like Kotaku, today.

The difference between Earthbound reviews like that and reviews like the latter today, don’t have anything to do with the industry or the journalists “growing up”. They never have, it’s just a new, fringe breed of honest “indie” reviewers on the internet who love games for free instead of being paid to hate, that didn’t exist at the time and do now.

Apple Kid said on Nov. 26, 2012

I not going to go on a long rant so all I’m going to say is “There is nothing like old spirits, friends, and wine.”

Buster The Fox said on Nov. 27, 2012

This was supposed to be about the Escapist article, but all the comments are hating on the 90’s review. D: Not saying I don’t hate it, too. But it’s old news, really.

I haven’t read the Escapist article yet, might when I get the time. 😀

Realist said on Nov. 27, 2012

The problem is, Game Journalism has become a joke.

One writes on the Escapist even admitted, He often writes “good” reviews on popular games, simple because the games are popular, and he doesn’t want to face backlash for expressing his honest opinion.

So, Its not because people “grew up”, its just that videogames themselves became more popular, and good reviews are written FOR the views and ad revenue.

Max said on Nov. 30, 2012

I’ve been a huge fan of EarthBound ever since it first came out–in part because it strove to be different. That’s why it holds up so well now. Itoi clearly went out of his way to create a work of art. And–without sounding too pretentious, I hope–that’s the burden that great artworks bear sometimes. People don’t always appreciate them as soon as they should. It would be great if eventually there’s some sort of Criterion Collection-equivalent for video games, and the MOTHER series could be preserved there. But for now, it’s cool that more and more people are celebrating these great games.

I still vividly remember when reidman had his original “You Are Now EarthBound” site–and the only other serious MOTHER 2 website that I can recall was in Japanese (I think the woman who started it was named Hajime, but I’m not sure). It’s heartening to know that there’s a whole movement of people now clamoring to play through the series.

yugimumoto1 said on Jan. 8, 2013

sounds like he didn’t get to giygas when he wrote that.


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