Monday, August 16, 2010

Amber Dreams: Memories of the SNES Classic Earthbound

I’ll never forget the first time I played it. So new, so very different, so distinct. One couldn’t help but fall in love with the wacky characters. Their personalities were as individual and varied as the man who created them. Obviously, I speak of the best RPG, nay, the best *game* ever created: Final Fantasy VI. …Earthbound. I said Earthbound. Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound sound alike, that’s all.

Earthbound has changed my life in countless ways, from giving me a keen mutant healing ability and a nice Adimantium skeleton to helping me achieve the highest level of awareness in every form of martial arts known to man. However, all of that pales in comparison to the minutes of sheer bliss I was plunged into from the second I turned the game on to the instant I got done naming the main character, Ness, “Gargamel.”

But I assure you, even though I found the game too difficult and turned it off relatively early, (“Please select text speed?” Who do they think I am, Superman?) I love the game more than anyone with a second grade reading level or below can fathom. In fact, if Earthbound were a person, I’d kiss her. Or him. Whatever.

Deep in the recesses of my mind, to the left of the frontal lobe and next to the spot I was planning to rent out to microscopic elves as low cost housing, I have a memory. A memory so precious, so vital to my being, that I wouldn’t give it up for all the rice in Pakistan. Even if I was attacked by a Spinnin’ Robo-Ninja Death Squad, I would defend this memory over all else. It is, in fact, the memory of my deceased great uncle. Next to that, in a small cardboard box, is the memory of the first time I played Earthbound.

It was a snowy July day, the 42nd I believe, and I was busy swabbing the decks of my father’s pirate ship, The Free Willy. I never actually knew how to “swab” something, so I basically just covered the floors with some sort of food item, like ketchup, until someone yelled at me and gave me something else to do. Anyway, after discovering that first mates don’t float, my father suggested that perhaps instead of throwing is poorly paid yet strangely loyal crewmen overboard, I could go mow the lawn.

“But Daddy, we’re on a pirate ship,” I protested. “There’s no grass for miles. With the added weight of the lawnmower, I’d just fall off the ship and sink to a watery, yet dementedly comical death.”

“That’s the point, boy,” Dad returned. “But first, I want to you play Earthbound.”

“What?” I stuttered confusedly. “That has nothing to do with mowing the-”

“Just do it, boy. And take Randy Savage with you.”

“Oh yeah!” Savage yelled savagely.

So Randy and I walked into my room and turned on the Super Nintendo, which was easy for us, with all the electricity available on a pirate ship in the middle of the ocean. And there it was, Earthbound. Shigesato Itoi’s vision spilled vibrantly across the glassy screen as I stared in awe. I sat there for hours, basking in its glory. It was grand – profound – beyond anything I had ever seen.

“Do you think we should plug in a controller and actually play the game now?” I inquired after about three days.

“Oh yeah!” Randy affirmatively returned.

So, for the next two minutes or so, Randy and I sat there as the game grilled us like an unfortunate shrimp in an Australian restaurant.

“What’s you’re favorite thing?!” the game demanded, threatening to take hostages if I didn’t answer.

“I… I don’t know!”

“Where were you on the night of December 7th, 1941?!” the game bellowed. “You weren’t, say, bombing Pearl Harbor, where you?”

“I wasn’t even born yet!” I replied. At that point, I handed the controller to Randy and left to get a Coke.

By the time I got back, everyone and everything in the game was named “Oh yeah!” Well, at least we were done with the naming part. So, we began playing, and eventually came upon an enemy.

“You engage the Spiteful Crow,” informed the game. Seconds later, we had beaten it up and stolen its cookie.

“Wow! I must be good at this game. It’s strangely satisfying stealing cookies from defenseless, spiteful wildlife,” I said, grinning.

“Oh yeah!” Savage yelled predictably.

Two steps later, another battle ensued. “You engage the Giygas,” informed the game. “SMAAAAASH!”

“I just lost 22,000,000,000 hit points,” I coughed.

“Oh… yeah…”

At that point, the continue screen pulled up, depicting Ness (or, in my case, “Gargamel”) as an angel. “I see dead people,” I said.

“Oh yeah?”

It was quiet for a moment as he and I stared blankly at the screen. “So, wanna go throw bottle caps at old men?” I finally suggested.

“Oh yeah!” Savage returned.

Well, there you have it; my very first (and very last) encounter with the game that would change my life forever. From its unusual towns to its goofy enemies, Earthbound (probably) delivers unadulterated enjoyment. Who could ever forget characters like that lovable Ness, his dad who’s apparently stuck inside a telephone, that school girl turned super-heroine, Sailor Mo-, er, Paula, that fun lovin’ underdog boxer, Rocky Balboa, or even that wacky “treasure hunter,” Locke Cole?

Earthbound has it all. In fact, the only thing it’s missing is Final Fantasy VI. But, this slight oversight is easily forgivable, given Earthbound’s super-awesome-o-matic game play and its funktastic story line. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, while Earthbound is a fun game with inserted into a Super Nintendo, it loses much of its charm when inserted into a wall socket.

Congratulation, Earthbound. A winner is you!

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