This article is part of our new experimental series, Backlog Club, where (Nintendo Life!) select a game that''s likely to be on our list of "games we should get around to playing," and then we (NL + you!) spend the next month playing that game. This is the halfway point, the Part One of two, where we stop for a minute to check in with the game, and how much we''re enjoying it.
For May 2022 (how is it May already, etc.) we''re playing a seminal JRPG SNES game, Earthbound, and discovering memories from a childhood we never had.
It''s not because I''ve been hosting raunchy Formula 1 parties, or because my furniture is made of old tyres, but because I''ve been reading Earthbound''s Fangamer handbook, which has its own scratch-and-sniff card, which is also powerful.
I''m letting you know how much I''m interested in Earthbound, and the fact that I have spent my very own hard-earned journalism money on a book about it, in part, that I can only do it if I have to. Even though Fangamer''s handbook is a fantastic little thing, which is framed as a tourist guide, I''m having this much of a boogie with a 30-year-old game. (sob)
I''m not quite far in yet, although it feels like I''ve done loads. I''ve traveled from Onett to Twoson to Fourside, exploring the lovely Saturn Valley along the way, and wish I could just stay there forever, according to the guidebook. Earthbound is one of the old-school JRPG-type games that reward you for backtracking and discovering secrets down every little alleyway and dead-end, and I love them most. It may take me a while to finish this one.
Since Earthbound has been established before, it seems like everyone and their parents have mastered it, but it does not matter too much, since it is the type of game that people expect you to play, even if you are a bit late. I was also reluctant to give it a try, because I hate when people insist that I do things. I''m self-sufficient, and sorry to say goodbye!
Earthbound, with its foibles, is little more than a small hole in which Ness (or Egg, as I named him) discovers all of the random things he finds, some of which are useful and others are not, and THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW WHICH IS WHICH. And as I''ve mentioned, there''s a lot of backtracking, and it''s easy to get lost, overwhelmed, or tired. Or all three.
I''ll let you in on a wee secret of the trade. For whatever reason, British games journalists prefer using the word "charming" to describe games, usually in reviews, because it gives you a specific feeling: Being completely won over by a game that''s not afraid to be earnest, with a particular kind of enchantment that makes you smile even if it''s a little rough around the edges.
The "Charming" games are so thin that you can almost see them watching you play, like someone who just given you a Christmas gift, that they made themselves nervous, anxious, and hoping that you enjoy this thing.
Earthbound is heartfelt, beautiful, soothing, and absolutely unwelcome. It almost captures a ''90s (sorry, ''9Xs) feel that never happened in our back gardens, but since my 20th Century parents were too lazy to live in the world, I doubt my mother would have been happy with me passing out. Even if I did not call home often.
I''ll admit that it''s a gloomy game. When I got to Fourside, I was beginning to feel dissatisfied with how much the NPCs expected me to return to past towns, fix their zombie problems, go spelunking for things they lost. I have my own mission, right? I''m just a little girl!
If all your forward progress is one step forwards, twenty steps right, three steps back, and occasionally being punted into strange interdimensional spaces, it can feel like you''ve completed someone else''s maths homework.
I''ve had a good time. A Ness time. I''m getting a little fatigued, but I intend to see this thing until the end, because there are so many questions: What exactly is Giygas'' fourth character? Why is it that weird photographer constantly interrupting me?
I''m curious to hear more. Say "fuzzy pickles!"
Check out Zion''s beautiful tribute to the Mother/Earthbound series above! This wasn''t even a deliberate synergy, and we''re just super cool.
Don''t forget to enter this month''s poll for next month''s game, which will be one of these murder-mystery adventures:
- Backlog Club: Week Zero, May - It''''s Time To Play Earthbound
- April''''s Backlog Club - Slay The Spire
- Poll: Box Art Brawl: Duel #95 - Earthbound / Mother 2
- Soapbox: Mother 3 Isn''''t Sad, It''''s Hopeful
- Poll: Does Nintendo Really Need To Release Mother 3 In The West Anymore?
- Memory Pak: Making New Memories With Earthbound In 2022
- Poll: If Nintendo Released Mother 3 In The West, What Would It Be Called?
- Soapbox: Mother 3 Isn''''t Sad, It''''s Hopeful
Have you enjoyed playing/replaying Earthbound? Are you planning to try and give Earthbound Beginnings and Mother 3? Let us know your thoughts so far in the usual manner!