What’s Unique about Mother? (Thoughts on Earthbound)

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…

How My Garden Grows!

It’s been just over a month since we first planted the garden and I figured it was time to give all the readers an update.  First, we might have planted things a little too early as there was some rainy/frosty days in April that took a toll on the plants.  The eggplants seem permanently stunted as do the peppers.  Second, slugs really like to eat tender plants and eat them they will!  We’re giving the eggplants and peppers another week or two before we pull them and put something else in.  The nice thing about growing things here in this part of northern California is that you can get in two or three “crops” per season!  One of the small perks, I suppose.  The slugs were a different matter and we lost several of our pole beans, cucumbers, and soy beans to the little suckers before we looked up how to deal with them:  beer traps.  The traps worked great, though just to be careful we spread used coffee ground around the younger sprouts to keep the slugs away, these two measures appear to have worked.

The plants that look best right now are the tomatoes and zucchinis which are growing at a great clip.  I already mentioned which ones looked the worst.  The cantaloupe never came in.  We replaced the cucumbers that were eaten with some cucumber and bean sprouts we picked up at a local nursery store and put them in.  Our chard is just about ready to be harvested and we’re hoping to have tomatoes and zucchinis by the end of the month.

Sadly, the vegetables that we planted in the front of the house (tomatoes, onions, beans, and peppers) were all either devoured or simply failed to thrive in the front yard.  The beans sprouted and then were promptly eaten, the tomatoes grew a little, turned a sickly green color and then immediately bloomed, the peppers and onions seemed to simply wilt away.  I don’t know if the plants weren’t getting enough nutrients, they did have to compete with a tree and several large hearty hedges, or if we didn’t transplant them with enough compost and fertilizer.  In the end, we ended up pulling out all of the vegetables in the front and planting annuals.  We won’t be able to eat anything growing in the front but at least the yard will have a little more color in it.

I also discovered that wild strawberries are growing in the backyard but they’re competing with the lawn grass and a fruit tree.  I don’t know whether to pull the plant up or try to clear the ground around it and see if it thrives.  Are wild strawberries any good?

Garden Planted!

The soil arrived bright and early last Saturday and I spent the first part of the morning moving it from the front driveway to the back and into the box.  I don’t own a wheelbarrow and so was using a tarp to haul all the dirt back, until one of my neighbors came over and volunteered his wheelbarrow!  With the added technology the moving went much faster.  Once all the dirt was in the box I spent the next 30 to 40 minutes getting the soil saturated with water.

After a trip to the local ACE garden section and we picked up a number of things:  Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, onions, parsley, leeks, cucumber seeds, yellow cucumber seeds, pole bean seeds, edamame seeds, kale, zucchini, and cantaloupe seeds.  I’m hoping to see some of the seeds push through the surface in the next 3 or 5 days.  When we planted everything it was sunny and the temperature was trending up to the 7os… But, this week its been cold and overcast… I’m hoping the weekend brings the sun and warmth and we start seeing some seedlings.  Then, of course, I’ll have to worry about birds something already tore one of the peppers in the front out.

So, a purchase of some wire mesh cages is on the horizon.  This is my first attempt at home gardening.  I’m hoping it turns out well, but we’ll see.  There is so much space in the box, and much more on the other end (See picture below) because many of the plants we put in can get quite big (zucchini and cantaloupe especially) we wanted to make sure there was going to be room for everything and that no plants choked out any others.

Once these plants are growing and (hopefully producing) I’ll write more.  Alternatively, if they all die I’ll let you know too, I’m not expecting that outcome though…  What an adult-like adventure I’m having!

Planting Gardens

So the clouds have finally parted and Spring is coming to northern California, I can’t say I’m not excited to see it.  I’ve missed the sun terribly since I saw it last sometime in late November.  Not everything about spring is great, my allergies have returned with the Sun and I’ve had to go back on a cocktail of drugs in order to breathe through my nose and see through my eyes.  Time will tell if this price is worth paying for.

With spring here, it was time to finally put my thoughts on gardening into more than just lines on a paper:

This turns out to have been a little too optimistic about what I could fit into the side yard and so I settled on a single 4’x10′ box instead of the two smaller ones, there just wasn’t enough room to move around with the original plan.  A quick trip to Ace Hardware, a realization that my automatic drill wasn’t up to snuff, a return trip to Ace, and a little bit of sweat and:

Soil arrives tomorrow to fill the box up, and then there will be one last trip to Ace for seeds and seedlings.  D and I plan on putting in eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, melons, beans, and basil.  Give or take.  Since this is the first time we’ve done this some experimenting is on order and so we’ve planted tomatoes, beans, and peppers in the front yard too, where they’ll get more direct sunlight than the box on the side.  It only required my butchering one of the hedges (I’d like to remove all of them and put in some sort of sage grass, but I’m only renting.)  Hopefully, between the two I’ll get something to show out of this work.

Once the box is in place, filled, and planted I’ll take some more pictures.  If everything works this site should soon be full of the garden’s progress.  If you don’t see anything else about it, I’m merely hiding my shame.