Home > opinion, retro gaming, video games > NARG: The Fuzzy Pickle Diaries #2

NARG: The Fuzzy Pickle Diaries #2

Last time I posted, I discussed the idea of the journey sensed by the player in Earthbound. This time I wanted to be a little direct with my experience with the game. Again, here’s some Earthbound music while you read:

On the surface, the gameplay of Earthbound is nothing out of this world. The battle system feels standard for an RPG of the mid-90s, but at the same time it stands apart. While playing I had to reconstruct my methods of playing games so that I could be success within the game. This extends far beyond the ‘retro factor’ of Earthbound, but largely into the game itself and the ways it deliberately makes itself different from other RPGs.

It’s hard to stay mad at this guy.

In many ways, its easy to be frustrated with the gameplay of Earthbound if you’re not familiar with the style of games from 20 years ago. There is no quick guide to explaining how everything works, where to go, what to do, etc (well, there is if you bought it new). It’s very open-ended and challenged me to reconstruct how I needed to play the game. I very well understand that this is a turn-off for modern gamers playing retro games, but it’s a skill useful in accessing many games, retro or not.

It took me a while to reconstruct myself while playing the game. I continued on, streamlining my progression, missing the second ‘Sanctuary’ boss of the game-only discovering I had done so when I was well on my way to defeating the third ‘Sanctuary boss. What was my grand punishment for this mistake? Nothing. I repeat, nothing. In an era where games are driven by accomplishing goals before moving onto the next obstacle (or sometimes defying to have any or little goals whatsoever), all of which I am used to now, I had to change. This little mistake, of no major consequence, was a realization I had to play differently. With this experience it soon became easy to jump in.


Of course, this isn’t the first RPG I’ve played of the SNES era. Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and I’ve put my time in Final Fantasy IV and VI. The games that served as the epitome for the console’s line of RPGs. Still, I was initially frustrated by Earthbound‘s gameplay. Battle system-wise was all familiar to other turn based RPGs of the era. The item inventory and menu system, while not identical, was still fairly reminiscent of other similar games. But what really got to me was the way that status ailments and item usage worked. Both of these are staples of the genre, but they played out so differently. When Ness got paralyzed or possessed for the first time I thought, “Hey, I’ll just heal him or use this item and–” Much to my dismay this did not work. Unlike other RPGs, in Earthbound it is far more difficult to treat status ailments in the game’s beginning. It requires a trip to hospital, as much as it would in reality, or very specific items (that aren’t given as freely as other RPGs). While this eases later on, it’s something you need to prepare for and rethink your strategy.

In this regard, Earthbound was a wake-up at how I play games. Well, it may simplistic by today’s ‘complex and superior’ gameplay, the style is something that must be accepted. It works splendidly in the own rules it sets for itself. It simply is what it is.

Am I missing a topic on Earthbound that you want to hear about? Let me know in the comment section or shoot me an e-mail at ‘nalvicreviews@gmail.com’

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