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Earthbound Mondays #2

In this week’s edition of Earthbound Mondays iamCornhoolio beats up a drunk, pummels a new age hippie and gets chased out of a tunnel by ghosts. Will our hero Ness ever find the mysterious Paula or is he destined to fight an increasingly bizarre range of mobs alone?

It’s been a week of firsts for me in Earthbound; my first contact with Paula, the first time I’ve had a status effect cast on me and the first time I’ve used transport to travel to a destination in the game rather than using my own two feet.

As a reminder, I’ve done the following this week;

  • Arrived in Twoson only to meet a Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom. Became infected with spores, causing me to lose my sense of direction.
  • Met a man who is lodging in a house owned by mice.
  • Visited the cycle shop, department store and bought a teddy bear.
  • Had a look through Burglin Park and spoke to a number of stallholders.
  • Had a fight with Everdred, a robin hood type who is protecting the residents of the town from police corruption. Beat him senseless with the ever useful Rockin A.
  • Have spoken to someone who has been kidnapped for a ritual sacrifice (Paula) via a dream.
  • Met Paula’s mother and the students at her school.
  • Met the obnoxiously twattish Orange Kid and the more modest Apple Kid and paid for their inventing services.
  • Been given a mobile (Receiver) phone by a helpful mouse.
  • Tried to get to Happy Happy Village on a quest to find Paula but was stopped in my tracks by a broken bridge and a massive statue of a pencil.
  • Took a call on my newly acquired mobile phone to let me know Apple Kid has a great new invention ready for me.

Earthbound is really starting to grow on me now. I’m finding that I’m more able to put a finger on what I like about the game, rather than just defining it as having a certain, unique charm. Although I’m still not feeling a deep sense of immersion in the game world yet, I’m getting there. Although the encounters I’ve had with other characters have been brief so far, I’m starting to feel a sense of connection with some of them. Take Paula’s Mom for example. I’ve only shared a few lines of dialog with her, but she’s come across as an instantly recognisable, caring, motherly figure. The contrast between the supremely confident Orange Kid and the more meek Apple Kid is a nice touch as well.

I’m starting to look forward to finding new enemy types when I enter new areas, although I’m itching to start experiencing combat as a party rather than an individual. I’m also starting to get used to the style of combat where you can’t see your own character  on screen whilst you are fighting. The wavy backgrounds and enemy sprites are more than enough eye-candy to hold my interest for now.

I’m also starting to get an idea of the thought that has gone into the battle system. After bashing my way through a bundle of Annoying Old Party Men and New Age Retro Hippies I found myself up against an Unassuming Local Guy. One of his attacks was to be overly nice to me, which caused me to stop fighting, step away from the fight and miss a turn. Curing status ailments by getting the healer in the Hospital to buy the mushroom over your head is also another example of doing things differently. These are only very small, subtle touches, but like I said in the last episode, it’s the combination of these little things that is making the game more than the sum of it’s parts.

I’ve also found the game to be more balanced in the last couple of hours than the starting segment. Rather than hitting a brick wall and needing to grind out levels, like with the Frank Fly fight, I’ve found that I’ve picked up the XP needed by just fighting the enemies I’ve come across as I’ve moved from one location to another.

I was also surprised to see the issue of religion being woven into the storyline, through those who have apparently kidnapped Paula. I’m really interested to see if religion becomes a theme that is explored further in Earthbound. It’s not a theme that I remember being dealt with in many games of the time, and the quirky nature of the title could give a very interesting background to do this against.

One thing that is driving me mad at the moment is lack of inventory space. When I play an RPG I’m usually a bit of horder who likes having every item that I’ve picked up at my disposal, just in case I need to use it. I think I need to start using Escargo Express from now on, otherwise the constant dropping of items is going to drive me round the bend!

I’ve just saved my game after receiving a call from Apple Kid asking me to go find him. Hopefully this will get me into Happy Happy Village and start building my party of adventurers. See you same time next week!

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