No matter how much you dislike a certain genre of games, there are just some that you must play. It�s like that for me, at least. Whether it�s to contribute to an interesting conversation, or just simply expanding my gaming repertoire, games like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger are high up on my to do list. If it means diving headfirst into a particular genre I know I have little fervor for, so be it. I hate hearing about how great something is and not having an opinion on it.
The few that know me well understand that I�m not the biggest fan of Japanese role playing games, or most things that have to do with Japanese culture for that matter. I�m not totally opposed to them, but my patience wears thin. There are some prerequisites when purchasing a new JRPG for me. It must be something extraordinary, or it must have Pok�mon
What prompted me to jump into Earthbound before any other games in the genre was the strong Western vibe. It wasn�t set in a fantasy land and it wasn�t set in Tokyo, or whatever irrelevant Japanese location. It oozes 80s and 90s American cinema. You know, back when a child�s adventure flick meant the Goonies and not Hannah Montana.
After a few hours of play, I�m happy to announce that I like it. It�s not necessarily because I�m enamored with the battle system. On the contrary. I absolutely despise the combat system. It is overly simple and utterly monotonous. Even upon looking back at other JRPGs released during and before Earthbound�s release, you can�t say that it was one of the strongest. It also didn�t help that the game wasn�t very clear about telling me what to do. I�d run back and forth trying to figure out what to do and having to fend off the same enemies because they�d reset once I moved screens.
It�s interesting when I look back at all the games I�ve played. Not many have been able to pull off what this one has. As a game, Earthbound fails. The mechanics - the combat; it isn�t fun, and no amount of convincing will change my mind. As a story telling platform, it�s such a palatable experience.
The closest thing I can really compare Earthbound to is Uncharted, but even that�s sort of a stretch. I didn�t hate its gameplay, but it wasn�t what I�d call �good�. My attention was kept because of the charm that the digital actors had, and such was the case with Earthbound. The world was an absolute joy to traverse. Luckily, some of the same charm that you get from walking around and interacting with things sometimes sneaks into the combat in Earthbound.
There were many things that makes everything outside of battle an absolute joy, but the most prominent part was the music. Lately I�ve opened up to the music in older games, and this one�s up there with the likes of Megaman 3 and the original Metroid soundtrack. However, it isn�t just the music that�s astonishingly good. The entire audio department did a fantastic job; especially with sound effects.
Your party members walking around with you is another aspect of the game I�m quite happy with. I wish Japanese developers would do it all the time. It does so much for immersion when I don�t see my characters disappear after battle, even with a game whose graphics require much more imagination.
I�m sitting at a crossroad. I can�t tell you that I hate this game, because I don�t. It just sits in a spot where it relies on narrative, but that�s usually there to back gameplay. It�s just not easy to be black and white with this one, and it�s something I can respect.