EarthBound Beginnings Impressions

*Note: The following are just brief impressions about EarthBound Beginnings based on a couple of hours of gameplay. I’ll write a full review once I delve deep enough into the game.*

EarthBound Beginnings

After a twenty-five year delay, the original entry in the Mother series has finally made its way stateside under the title “EarthBound Beginnings.” After two and a half decades of demanding an international release, EarthBound fans finally had their wishes come true through the Wii U Virtual Console.

The first thing I noticed with EarthBound Beginnings is its surprisingly somber tone. Its opening music sounds melancholic, and some backstory-filled opening dialogue give the idea that a tragic mystery is about to be unearthed. Of course, it doesn’t take long for the game’s sense of humor to kick in, as the player is almost immediately attacked by a lamp of all things.

I love the game’s juxtaposition of sadness and goofy humor. The series is often noted for its contradicting heart and humor, and its very apparent early on that the original game started this unique trend.

I find myself enjoying the story moments and overall tone so far, but I have to admit some aspects of the game do show their age, even with my currently brief playtime.

First and foremost are the random battles. That most aged of all RPG conventions rears its ugly head in a bad way. You’ll often find you wrap up with one battle, only to immediately find yourself in another after a step or two. As you level up and grow stronger, you’ll still run into weaker enemies within these random battles, which grant decreasing rewards for your efforts. The option to run from these battles is there, but rarely seems to work. And every time the run option fails, it leaves you more vulnerable to attacks.

EarthBound BeginningsThe sequel, EarthBound, would fix both of these problems by having enemies appear onscreen, removing the random aspect from the equation, and by having weaker enemies run away from you once you’ve leveled up. You could even defeat some of the weaker enemies just by running into them once you grew strong enough. I know Beginnings is the first game in the series, but after being accustomed to EarthBound, it’s actually a little harder to jump into EarthBound Beginnings.

Another problem I’ve ran into is a strange difficulty curve. I’ll be fighting enemies that put up a decent challenge or weaker enemies one minute, then after walking a few more feet I run into an enemy that kills me in a few short hits. In one instance, I tried talking to an NPC who didn’t look any different from the other townspeople, only for him to turn out to be a zombie that took me out in two turns. Things like this have made the game notably difficult even in its first few hours, and when you’re just trying to get accustomed to the game it can get a little aggravating.

The gameplay itself is a solid, old school RPG. The NPCs are given fun dialogue, so you never really feel bored when you’re just talking to people around town, and the battles, while simple, are really fun once you get into the groove of them. It does feel less refined than EarthBound, but I suppose that should be expected.

EarthBound BeginningsThe graphics have a nice NES charm to them, but they lack the timeless appeal of the 16-bit sequel. When playing EarthBound, you feel like the game could have been made today, but with Beginnings, it feels like you’re playing a retro title. Overall I like the look of the game and its wacky characters (something about them reminds me of Peanuts), but its visuals understandably don’t hold up as well as its sequel. The music is already showing a sharp sense of versatility, however.

Overall, I am having fun with EarthBound Beginnings and I hope it gets better and better. But the fact that I’ve already run into some elements that show the game’s age has me a little concerned for what lies ahead. It’s already a solid experience, but after such a long wait, I’m hoping for a great one.

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7 thoughts on “EarthBound Beginnings Impressions

  1. Red Metal

    Hm… So the original Mother finally sees a worldwide release, does it? And now it’s called Earthbound Beginnings. That’s going to take some getting used to. This reminds me of when Fire Emblem: Awakening was released and with it came official translations for characters and weapons from installments that hadn’t made it out of Japan. I was used to the fan translations, so I had to remind myself of the new names until I got used to them.

    I too was reminded of Peanuts when playing this game. Some of the female NPCs look like Marcie, for instance.

    As someone who has played every game in the Mother trilogy, Earthbound Beginnings was the one I was the least impressed with. Its interface was a bit clunky and cycling through the options wasn’t as fast as it was in Earthbound. The game also had a pretty ridiculous difficulty curve (especially in the final area) and finding out what to do next wasn’t always clear. Some of it is understandable – it being an NES-era JRPG; most of those games haven’t really held up well. That said, it was very innovative for its time and had a lot of clever moments. Don’t let my opinion sour your experience – if you can get more out of it than I, that’s excellent.

    I wonder if this means that Mother 3 will also see a localization? I may not have cared for it that much, but I think it would be nice for those who did enjoy the game to get an official copy.

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      I’m hoping Mother 3 gets a release date soon. It makes sense since the Virtual Console has GBA games. I’ve been meaning to download the fan translation for some time, but now I may just wait for an official release, since it seems more realistic than ever.

      I’ll be seeing how well EarthBound Beginnings holds up in the coming days. So far it seems to have a notable contradiction of some forward thinking elements, and some that have very much aged.

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  2. Matt

    I am looking forward to your review. If Earthbound has some elements that seem kind of outdated nowadays, I assume the problem must be much more evident in Earthbound Origins.

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      I’ll be playing EarthBound again soon as well. I’m hoping it holds up to my memories of it (it’s Super Nintendo, so chances are it holds up fine). EarthBound Beginnings does feel dated in a lot of ways, but forward thinking in others. It’s quite a tough one to pinpoint.

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  3. alex9234

    Even though I haven’t played the original Mother, I’d say it’s like Final Fantasy V in a way, but minus the job system. Like FFV, it involves a ton of level grinding to be on the same lever as the enemies in the game. Lots of grinding, then after the grinding, you advance the plot a little bit, and then it’s back to grinding. LOL.

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      JRPGs often get flak for too much grinding (sometimes it’s a fair complaint), even as recently as Ni No Kuni (though I feel this was a bit unfair here, since there was only one instance where I felt I had to take a break from the story for some grinding). But I can already see this being a little cumbersome in EarthBound Beginnings due to the contrast of easier and more difficult enemies being in the same areas, and since the battles are random, you’re basically always taking a chance every time you step out of a town.

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