It’s hard to say when I became a “nerd” who played video games. Acquaintances in grade school might have pegged me as a “nerd” but it was because I took a great deal of enjoyment out too many think fantasy novels. I got the Nintendo early on in its life cycle but never had more than two or three games for the system until everyone had upgraded to 16-bit systems and were getting rid of their “obsolete” NESs. I was there to accept or purchase cheaply their unwanted games. Games like Bionic Commando, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Kabuki, Castlevania, Metal Storm and others. I even scooped up a copy of the NES Game Atlas. It was with these 8-bit hand me downs that I became a “nerd” who played video games, or just a gamer. But, while all the other nerds were playing and talking about Super Mario World, I was exploring the intricacies of SMB2 and 3.
I certainly heard people talk about Final Fantasy 3 and Chrono Trigger but I never played them until after the SNES was yesterdays news and people were talking of Saturns, Playstations, and N64s. My earliest experiences with the SNES were at friend’s homes with games like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, Star Fox, and Super Punch-Out. I missed out on Final Fantasy 3, Secret of Mana, and the Lufias. I sold my NES and all those games, nearly 50, to get enough money to buy a SNES when it started being bundled with Donkey Kong Country (’95 or ’96, I think.) Again, many people were moving over to 64-bit systems and just giving away their games, move rental chains too were selling carts at a heavy discount to make way for Saturn and Playstation CDs. With people beginning to talk about 3d gaming and witnessing such early attempts as Jumping Flash, and later more refined ones as Resident Evil, I could only be jealous. Luckily, I had such familiar, and phenomenal games, as Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid to sooth my gamer’s lust. Those games that took my breath away and still do.
In 1997, I succumbed to the marketing blitz of Final Fantasy 7 and sold my SNES and games to buy myself a PSX and that game… I can’t really say I became a fan of the series or JRPGs until then… That is a different story though, and this introduction has gone on long enough. What I’m trying to say is all of the above might have something to do with why Earthbound just doesn’t do much for me.
There are a number of games on the SNES that I can play again and again. All of them I played for the first time more than 1o years ago though, the same is true for many NES games. On occasion I pick up a game I’ve never played and play through it but I find that a lot of the charm I see in these old games must be supplied solely by me and the personal emotions that are tied up with them. NES and SNES games I play now are not accompanied by any such emotions and so, the flaws and limitations of the them are much more apparent to me.
Earthbound fans love to talk about the game, and they love to tell you how amazing it is. I believe them when they tell me these things, but I also believe that much of that pleasure is not in the game itself but tied up in their memories of it. When I played Earthbound I saw a lot of things, some good some bad, but not amazing and mostly I saw a typical JRPG. Earthbound is Dragon Quest with a setting swap. This isn’t an insult to the game. It’s simply an acknowledgment that the game isn’t genre defining, revolutionary, or paradigm shifting. Someone I know stated that the Mother series was all about evoking nostalgia but when you have no emotional attachment to the game, and not much to its genre (circa 1995) there isn’t an fuel for the Earthbound to ignite and player’s without a specific history, a cultural reference, are left in the cold.
Did you play Earthbound when it came out? Did it blow your mind? How so? I’d really like some other people’s thoughts on this…