IN 90 SECONDS I WILL PERSUADE YOU OF THE FOLLOWING:
EarthBound is a postmodern videogame, and it is good.
EarthBound is a Japanese RPG that is set in Eagleland (Definitely Not America), starring a bunch of kids who become Unlikely Heroes to take on the threat of an Evil Alien Invasion.
It’s weird and goofy and full of wonderful imaginative setpieces, like:
- Haunted ghost town
- Village taken over by freaky cultists
- Definitely Not Manhattan
- Gross underground sewer
- Upside-down nightmare metropolis
- Definitely Not Scotland
- Nostalgic childhood dreamland
- The ~ Mysterious Orient ~
- An active volcano
- Robot dystopia
- Dinosaur village
- Definitely Not Egypt
- whatever Mr. Saturnland is, I guess?
- and lots more!
- THIS IS A BIG GAME.
This uniquely bizarre take on the daydream of American suburbia— and the daydreams of various other cultures that you encounter along the way— is immersive, innovative, hilarious, and surprisingly emotional. It blends mundane real-world mechanics and videogame logic in a delightful way. Call your dad from a pay phone to save your progress. Order pizza delivery to restore HP. Talk to some incredibly unhelpful NPCs.
EarthBound's cleverness isn't limited to the writing, either: the gameplay itself is wonderful. The combat is challenging and intense without being arcade-hard. The level designs are thoughtful, diverse, and reward exploration. And the soundtrack is a jam.
In addition to being an all-around great gaming experience, EarthBound is also an exploration of what it means to be a videogame. It examines the relationship between the game designers and the game player, as well as the relationship between the game player and the game itself.
All of which is to say, EarthBound nudges pretty hard at the fourth wall— when it’s not smashing straight through it.
This isn't the kind of postmodern metafiction that exists soley to get up its own ass about how clever and funny it is, either (although it is very clever and funny). EarthBound nudges you in the side with a wink and a smile to ask more important questions.
- What does it mean to play a game?
- What does it mean to make a game for others to play?
- What kind of world do I live in now?
- What kind of world do I want to live in?
- How do I bring that world closer to reality, both for myself and for the people I love?
- What does it mean if the world I want to live in makes someone else unhappy?
EarthBound came out in 1994, revolutionized the genre, directly inspired Undertale and a bunch of other terrific and boundary-pushing games, and it still holds up today.
It’s absolutely great. It's postmodernism with a full and shining heart. Play it.