Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Games Round-Up Vol. 2 and a Sad, Sad Confession

Dear Wordsmith VG readership,

I have a confession to make: In less than one week, I will be 28 years old. Tonight, I am dressing as a ninja and totally going Trick-or-Treating. Not with a small child. By myself. I am approximately the height of a hobbit, so no one will suspect a thing.


If you see this Trick-or-Treater at your door, give him LOTS of candy, or he’ll fail your child in English class when he finds a teaching job.


Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES): What game gives you the option of carrying around hearts, eyeballs, finger nails, and other morbidly awesome body parts of Count Dracula? The answer: Only Castlevania II! Aside from being one of the best action games available on the NES, it also spawned the immortal phrase, “What a horrible night to have a curse.” Play this game. NOW. I command it!

From the manual. Note the puntastic descriptions.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES): The movie series has had its ups and downs, but as a whole, it’s a lot of fun. Nothing beats Johnny Depp being eaten by a demon bed, Freddy bleeding something that looks a lot like Mountain Dew, livestock running around in Freddy’s basement, and Heather’s suspiciously orange skinned mother - and that’s just in the first movie.

This is the red teen. There is also a blue one.

The NES game, however, leaves a bit to be desired. The player takes control of one of four teenage boys, each dressed in one of the primary colors. Their job is to enter houses in random order and possibly fight Freddy, or possibly fall down a hole repeatedly. According to an old issue of Nintendo Power, you were supposed to be able to play as Freddy himself in this game. Needless to say, millions of children have been disappointed ever since.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Atari 2600): The original movie is pretty entertaining and a good choice for a Halloween night movie. Steer clear of the sequels, though: The only thing scary about them is how hard they make you want to vomit for spending your money on them.

FATALITY! Yeah, that's a toy truck in the background.

The Atari 2600 title of the same name is pretty badass, in the fact that the player is given the opportunity not to play as a hero, but as Leatherface himself. The object of the game is to slice off as many little girl heads as you can wrap your chainsaw around. Taking into mind this fact alone, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably the best movie to game adaptation EVER.

'Cause I'm too lazy for a screen shot.
Vampire Hunter D (PlayStation 1): I guess this PS1 game is okay – it's a generic 1998 3D action title – but really, you should be watching the movie instead. The animated cult classic features a dark hero with a talking hand that eats dirt, an agile but wardrobe impaired heroine, and Dracula exploding someone’s head. Nothing rocks harder than Dracula exploding someone’s head, and as such, it occurs only once in this movie. (This, for those keeping score, is exactly one more time than every other movie ever.) It’s a lot like Titanic, only with Dracula and lots of killing. Fun for the whole family over 18.

This is the scariest picture I could find to end this article. GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMN KIDS!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Earthbound Scrapbook Entry #3: Zombies and Soulmen (GPP 3)

I'm lucky to be sitting on this bus. I'm lucky to be alive. I'm just lucky, I guess.

This innocent looking house is where my kidnappers imprisoned me.

It doesn't look sinister at all, but trust me: The interior is straight out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only there were no dead bodies or blood. Or chainsaws. On second thought, it was really nothing like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Well, probably. I've never even seen that movie anyway.

The interior was straight out of a scary movie where a little girl is trapped in a small jail cell with nothing but her teddybear!

If Ness hadn't come to save me like I knew he would, I'm sure the cult leader would have forced me to be the high priestess of that bizarre religion of his, teach him the secrets of my psychic abilities, or worse...

He could have made me clean up after that blue cow!

I prayed as hard as I could. I knew my call cut through the denseness of space and distance to reach the boy who's destiny is forever intertwined with mine. But when Johnny Depp didn't respond, I called that Charlie Brownish kid with the red cap instead.

Of course I'm kidding! Ness has always been my knight it keen stripes, even when I was little. I'd sometimes dream that he was saving me from my nightmares when I was a kid. I remember thinking that there would be a time when he'd protect me and I'd protect him, too. When I'd tell my mother about those dreams, she'd say, "Paula honey, did you hit your head again? Do you need a hand-aid?"

In one dream that I had over and over, Ness was walking with me through a big cave. There were bats everywhere, like this:

At the end of the cave, we defeated a giant mole creature and wound up in a field full of tiny footprints. Ness was calm and smiled at me. I once drew a picture of it about six years ago, just to get the image out of my head:

...And that's just the way it happened after he saved me from Mr. Carpainter.

After we made sure that everything was okay in Happy Happy Village, Ness and I travelled back to my hometown. Mom and Dad were so happy to see me again; Dad was even crying! Ness said he had someone to talk to, so I stayed with my parents for a while.

When he came back, we went to see Twoson's claim to fame: everybody's favorite soulmen, the Runaway Five. Ness thought they could somehow help us on our journey. I already knew what he was thinking.

After the show, Ness somehow talked the band's manager into releasing the Runaway Five from their contract and off we went on the tour bus.

Right now we're about to enter the tunnel to Threed, the next town over. The tunnel is supposedly haunted, and given what I'm seeing right now, that might be true. Things are starting to look weird.

Its getting really dark now but it's still the middle of the afternoon. I can sense some kind of ...presence.

Lucky, one of the six members of the Runaway Five, thinks that the music we're blasting will be enough to repel any ghosts that might be hanging out in there allow us safe passage to Threed. I've got my fingers crossed.

We're entering the tunnel now... I hope this works. I'm not sure if Ness and I are strong enough to fight this kind of thing yet. I mean, Ness didn't even buy an egg from that guy in Burglin Park. He'll never make it through his teen years without at least one egg!

There's moaning all around us and the sound of chains rattling against the side of the bus is freaking me out, but the Runaway Five music is louder! I think...! Yes! We're going to make it!

Threed looks awful. I'm thinking about how it's like some late night zombie flick puked all over the town when Ness signals the tour bus to stop. We step out and thank the Runaway Five for their generosity, and the bus pulls away. We're on our own in this nightmare.

"We're already in trouble, so we might as well dive right in," says Ness. He motions towards the graveyard up the road. I suppose he's right - if we're going to save the world, we're going to have to deal with things far worse than this.

Then again, in all the dreams and visions I've had of him, Ness never came across as particularly smart.

We're nearing the end of the path and it looks like we might have overestimated Threed's danger to us when Ness stops. Eyes are starting back at him through the darkness! They seem to be staring into our souls.

I'm not waiting around to figure out what's watching us!

My feet hit the ground over and over again. Ghosts and angry insects. A moldy man covered in trash and living in a putrid garbage can. Ness cracks something with his bat and hot liquid sprays in my hair and onto my dress. I begin swinging my frying pan wildly, connecting only with the air around me. Something grabs Ness and I hurl a fireball in its direction. The smell of charred flesh envelops us.

Finally we make it back to the streets of Threed. Ness and I are nearly hyperventilating.

"Let's just say at the hotel for now," he says when he catches his breath at last.

*   *   *

I guess I should have seen this coming: Our room isn't exactly cozy.

The decor leaves a bit to be desired as well.

As I lay down to sleep, Ness decides to find a vending machine for a midnight snack. I tell him to hurry back and feel my eyelids getting heavy.

I dream that I'm back in my own bedroom, safe and sound. There's a problem, though. My mother and father walk in, acting strangely.

"You need to open your eyes," Dad says. "Paula! Open your eyes!"

I wake up drenched with sweat. Something isn't right. I call out.

"Ness! Where are you!"

He's not here.

He's. Not. Here.

That's when I notice the shadow hovering over my bed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Games Round-Up; Also a Fake Curse

Ahh! ...those teeth are HORRIBLE.

It's almost Halloween again, Charlie Brown!

Instead of dressing up like Gandhi and egging your neighbor’s tool shed or getting intoxicated at some lame party this All Hallow's Eve, why not do something worthwhile and lock yourself in your room with the following Halloweenful video games. Each is guaranteed to chill you to your very soul! Bwa, ha, ha! Or at least they'll be about vampires or something, which is more than I can say about most local bars.

Also, the picture above, known as "smile.jpg" or "," carries a horrible curse that's suspiciously like the plot of The Ring, only much scarier because it doesn't involve some ugly little girl who hangs out in wells/TV sets and really needs to brush her teeth. Supposedly, anyone who sees goes CA-RAZY AND DIES or something! I'm already crazy, and thus, am immune. Enjoy your insanity; it'll enhance your gaming experience.

Anyway, let the games begin!

Halloween (Atari 2600): I know what you’re thinking, but despite the title, this game is NOT about Easter. No, it’s about maniac killing machine Michael Myers. For some reason, Michael is very angry at the local teen baby sitter population, and he proceeds to off them one by one in creative, frightening ways. This Atari 2600 classic has the player - Laurie Strode, the main character from the film - hiding children in various spots and trying to outwit her crazed brother. It never ends well for the player, and for an Atari title, Halloween can be pretty intense.

If you can't tell what's going on here, maybe you shouldn't bother with the game.

Silent Hill (PlayStation 1 and PS3): The original Silent Hill is the most genuinely frightening media experience of my life. The Exorcist hangs its head in shame compared to the first Silent Hill. Silent Hill 2 isn’t as scary, but the story line is so deep and creepy, you’ll find yourself lying awake in bed trying to analyzing it. See also - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and a good therapist after playing.

That there was a dog; this one ain't smiling.

Resident Evil Remake (GameCube): The original version of this game came out for PS1, Saturn, PC, Nintendo DS, cell phones, toasters, etc. With upgraded graphics, new locations and crazy sprinting “crimson head” zombies, the REmake is hands down the best RE title to use the old survival horror controls and conventions. Other good ones to play are Resident Evil 2 for PS1, Dreamcast, etc. and Resident Evil: Code Veronica for Dreamcast and PS2. Fleeing in terror from swarms of slow-moving zombies to conserve your single BB gun bullet has never been so much fun.

It appears to be made of shredded cheese.

Later incarnations of the series feature more action and less horror, which worked out just fine - unless you're talking about scary games.

Friday the 13th (NES): You might remember that I talked about this gem before, but it bears repeating: This original Nintendo game is actually scarier than the movies. For one thing, the music freaks you out and random Jason encounters leave you paranoid; you’re always terrified that he’ll jump out at you in the woods and kill your character. The other reason F13 so scary is that it’s one of the worst games ever made. It’s frustrating, ugly, and boring. And yet, I love it. Go figure.

That's you, in the purple, vs. Jason... also in purple.

Blood (PC): Blood is what Duke Nukem 3D would have been if  the guys at 3D Realms were really, really into slasher flicks. In fact, it shares its game engine with good ol' Duke, and despite its mushy controls, Blood is a great example of an early first person shooter done right. Time and cash limitations prevented me from finishing this one when I was a kid, but one day I'll tackle the whole game... maybe THIS HALLOWEEN.

Take THAT, random zombie!

Costume Quest (PS3): This game was recently released via PlayStation Network, and despite the fact that it was made by THQ, it's actually pretty fun. When the main character's sibling is kidnapped by mentally deficient zombies, it's up to you to save them! Each costume the player obtains has its own special ability to utilize in Costume Quest's RPG battles, which are reminiscent of Xenogears for the PS1, only I don't want to hurt myself after playing THQ's humorous take on Halloween gaming. Do yourself a favor and download the demo.

Yep, it's Costume Quest.

After hearing about all these choice games, if you’re still thinking about going to some lame party and getting drunk this Halloween, consider this: Waking up next to one of these titles the following morning does not require you to awkwardly ask for its phone number.

And for those of you worried about that "curse" I put on your earlier, don't sweat it. That picture has been proven to be Photoshopped; just look at the dog's mouth and you'll see the same few teeth copied and pasted three times. Last time I checked, demons didn't know how to use photo editing software. So it's not like there's a real curse or anything; it's just a bunch of pixels. Here, look again. Same as before:

Ahh! ...Those teeth are still horrible!

See? Nothing evil about it. In f̡̜̳͖̲͇̗̩a͍͉̹̣͂ͅͅc̞̄͌tͯit's a ͙̹͝f͛͆ͨ̔ͥ̇̚a͍̮̪̬̯̱ͮ͌̓ͭͦ͛ͬl͕͑͐̌͒ͩ̍l͙̱͚̝ͬḁ͎̹ͮc̯͚̪y͖̱̦̙̟̺͕̽̐̈́̀:

Quite ͍̩̱͙̟͓p͚̔ͭ͐͗ͣ̚̚͞l̛͇̼ͬͯ̌a̼̕ỉ̞͙̖̌ͬ͑ͩ͛̄ͅn͓͔͕͇͕ͣͬͪͅl̵͉͈̹ͪͯ̅ͭ͂̌̋y̗̻͊ I̺̹͐̍͐̈,̘͓̤̺̹͒̔ͦͣ͜ ͙̖̙̳̰̼̫͛͌̐̌̇f͙͚̤ͫͭ͛͂̄o̯̜͍͍ͦ̏͢r̖̩͑ͪͤ ̞̣̞̲͈͖͒̆̏ͬ̓͜o̰̝̯͍̪̹̤̐̔n̠̜̣̫̗̏̒͒͌͐ẽ͚͔̘̜̥̊ͬͥ̐͂̈,͙͙͈͝ ̃̿̃ͥ̇̇͏̙̦͇̝͍w̥̟͕̫ͨ̊́̕ͅȍ̲̗̪̤̬ͣ̆ͤu̹̠̳̟̓l͚ͫ̑̽ͬ͗ͥ̓d͕̙̝͓̪͉͉ͭͬ̍ͣ̚ ̤̠̰̖̼͍͒͜l̗̼͕̯͍̋i̗̝̘̔̂͛ͨ͞k͊͏͇̜̝ͅe͠ t̥͛̈͊ͥͩ͐͠ö̦͉͉̲͕́̊̃ ̵̥͎͕̠̰̻̔ͦ̃h̶͓̖̙̙̺̝̖̠̾̈́̉͊̄̿̊͌u̮̤͛ͭ̇̆̓̓̎u̷̵̩̱̽ͫͬ̀u̷̳̓̐̉̇͒͘ủ̄̒͋́̅҉̧͚̝̖̤̖͎̬͙ͅų̸̞͈̼̳̥̻̄ͨ̽̋̈͘u̗̰̠̬̮̣̮͒̿̓̒̒̔̌ͤͅu̴̺̖̖̳͆̉̔ͤ̓̌̂u̷̢͉̠̗̲̜̬̱ͯ̏̇̆͒́̄̚͟ư͇͚̤̾̕͞u͖̯͈͚̺͚̠ͤ̋̈́͡ų͛ͣ̔͆҉͔̲u͍̤ͣṳ̧̱̲̜̮̄̑̌̒ͨ͘u̥͍͔͇̝̮ͦ̂̋ͩͪ̀ͅͅu̗͇ͬ̍ͤ̕ůͯ̐̓̐͋́͞ͅuͤ̍ͪͧ͏̭͍̪̤͔͍͓͚̀

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Earthbound Scrapbook Entry #2: Twoson and Beyond (GPP 2)

Report created on 06/02/199X by Capt. Strong


We found the subject trespassing in the old entertainer's shack, despite the large red "Don't Enter" sign that's clearly visible on the outside. There were no signs of forced entry, but with the only key to the building in the possession of our fine mayor, the subject had to have broken in; there's no way he could have obtained it from the Honorable B.H. Pirkle.

Upon discovering the subject exiting the site, Officer Fielding escorted him to the police station, where he was interviewed by Officer Stone, Officer Hunter and myself. The subject refused to cooperate and became violent, attacking five officers. In retrospect, we should have confiscated his weapon first.

When Onett's finest can't talk some sense into a subject, he must be up to no good. This is when I implemented my Super Ultra Mambo Tango Foxtrot martial arts, but the subject overpowered me and forced me to allow him past our town's famous roadblocks. He fled to Twoson, but I continued surveillance at a safe distance. Approximately five minutes after he crossed, the subject was seen collecting mushrooms and transporting them on his hat:

The subject began acting strangely afterwards, proving my theory that he was using/smuggling vast amounts of illicit drugs between Onett and Twoson.

Upon entering Twoson, the subject headed down to Burglin Park, a known hotbed of criminal activity. He met with hardened crimelord "Everdred," but the two seemed to be locking horns. I can only assume that the subject went to sell his newly-acquired drugs, but the deal went sour. The patrons of Burglin Park took no notice and continued to shop.

Unfazed, the subject left Burglin Park and terrorized Polestar Preschool, the illustrious inventor Orange Kid, and some fat baby with apple-shaped headgear before he assaulted a rather cranky woman on the street. She was so out of breath from fending off the subject's blows that she had become blue in the face.

There was no time to see if the subject's victim had sustained any life-threatening injuries during the attack, because the subject - after eating a curious-looking sandwich from his cute yellow backpack - took off running towards Peaceful Rest Valley. I followed him through the area as best I could, but eventually I lost sight of him.

By the time I had caught up with the subject again, I discovered the source of all the strange noises I had heard as I worked my way through Peaceful Rest Valley: In his drug-addled state, he had been burning down trees! It looked as if he wasn't using an accelerant like gasoline; instead, he apparently blew them up with gunpowder or perhaps C4 explosive putty. I thought I saw a tree moving by itself earlier, but it must have been the leaves shaking from the vibrations of the repeated blasts.

After traveling through a short cave filled with deadly snakes, the subject arrived in Happy Happy Village. It seems that not only does he have connections to drug trafficking, but also the strange new religion, Happy-Happyism. Perhaps the two are connected, like in the Kaufmann/Garland/Mason incident at that sleepy resort town a few years back.

Everything is blue in this town, from houses to the trees.

The subject engaged several cult members in a bizarre ritual in which he would hit them with his baseball bat and they would splash paint on him as a sort of reply. I believe it was and ancient dance intended to bring about the end of the word.

I tried to push my way through the cultists to catch up with him, but the subject disappeared once more. I searched for about 15 minutes, at which time I caught sight of the subject entering a large church-like building.

Moments later, the building was apparently struck by lighting. Four times. The subject is believed dead and the threat to the good citizens of Onett neutralized. The case is officially closed.

Another job well done by Capt. Strong and the Onett police force!

CASE # 199X-061995

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Earthbound Scrapbook Entry #1: Off to Save the World? (GPP 1)

A psychic bug just told me that I'm going to save the world. And I believe him.

A meteor crashed a little ways off from my house after I had gone to sleep last night and just like any red-blooded 13-year-old boy made of clay and telephones, I went out to investigate. Even though Mom normally wouldn't have let me out of the house and I wouldn't want to leave at night anyway, we both kind of knew that I should go. I mean, at times like this, kids like me should be home playing Nintendo games, right? But tonight felt... different.

Long story short, the meteor turned out to be some sort of rocket ship from the future or something and a bee-like creature named Buzz Buzz told me that I need to protect the world from an alien invasion led by the Universal Destroyer, Giygas. Just like the feeling Mom and I got when left the house earlier, I sensed that Mother Earth seriously needs my help.

Then we were attacked by a giant metal time-traveling alien that shot death beams. It was kind of like Terminator, only there was no naked Arnold Schwarzenegger and I almost lost an arm.

Thanks, Buzz Buzz!

In the morning I grabbed my father's old Polaroid camera; after all, if I'm going on a journey I might as well document it. It's not like photographers just fall from the sky or anything. Then I tried to figure out what a hero should wear while saving the world.

If I had known that I was humanity's only hope for salvation, I'd probably have done another load of laundry first. Then again, I only own one shirt.

Mom insisted on taking my picture in front of our house before I left. She said she wanted something to remember me by. After she reminded me to phone home once in a while, I stepped out to start my adventure.

I bet I'm going to die, but at least I'll be buried in this cool shirt.

Here's Onett, my hometown. This is what it looks like from up on the hill near where the meteor landed.

Right after I snapped that shot, I heard something snarling. As I spun around, the camera when off, blinding the runaway dog that had crept up behind me. I had just enough time to whack it was my trusty baseball bat. With the hit I gave it, that dog should have keeled over and played dead for the rest of eternity, but instead it just became tame and walked away. It also dropped a bread roll which I immediately ate, because it's always a good idea to eat things that wild, stray animals have been carrying around in their disease ridden pieholes.

Since Buzz Buzz hadn't been too keen on exactly what I should be doing, I walked up to this house and knocked on the door, thinking that maybe if I asked around, someone might have experienced something related to this Giygas character.

"A Beatles song: 'XXXterday,'" says a voice from the other side of the door.

Uh, what?

"Yes or no?" asks the voice.


"That's right!" says the voice. "A Beatles song, 'Yesterday.'"

Thank you?

A little ways down the street, I discovered a seaside property on sale for only $7500! Considering that I've seen bracelets and frying pans that cost more than that, it looks like a pretty solid deal.

Someone tipped me off that the local ruffians, The Sharks, might have some information that would help me out. After a few less-than-hospitable encounters with members of the gang, I went to their hangout, the arcade, and demanded to see their leader, Frank. Maybe we could work things out.

Frank tried to stab me and, when I showed him the ways of peace with my giant bat, he sent a massive wooden robot to kill me. Maybe if that robot had been wearing an awesome straw hat, it would have been a threat. Instead I just smashed it and it let out a cloud of steam before falling apart. Then Frank got all friendly and affectionate and asked me to take a nap with him in the grass behind the arcade.

That's when I decided to go.

After hearing that I trashed The Sharks, Onett Mayor B.H. Pirkle was more than willing to give me the key to the traveling entertainer's shack near the edge of town, as long as I didn't tell anyone about it. According to my Player's Guide, that's where I would find my first "Your Sanctuary" location that Buzz Buzz had been going on and on about before Pokey's mom smashed his guts out.

Behind the shack was a huge, awesome cave filled with bugs and mice. It was so awesome, I didn't take ANY pictures of it. By the time I got to the cave's exit and squashed a really, really, big ant, I found this:

Despite the fact that whatever made this footprint is big enough to eat my head like a delicious Tic-Tac, seeing it made me feel really calm. I even daydreamed about my dog, King, when we were both really little.

For some reason, making it back through the cave wasn't nearly as difficult as before...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The REAL Greatest Game of All Time

Forget about that E.T. crap; this is the real deal. But you’ll still have to phone home.

When it hit American store shelves in June of 1995, Nintendo’s wacky SNES role playing game, Earthbound, was met with disappointing sales. Despite a generous amount of coverage in Nintendo Power magazine and an ad campaign that reportedly cost the Big N about $2 million, only about 140,000 copies of Earthbound found their way into the homes of eager Nintendo gamers. Compared to the 300,000 copies that made it into the hands of players in Japan and the fact that the RPG genre had yet to hit its stride in North America, 140,000 units might be considered a respectable performance. After all, games Final Fantasy II and III on the Super Nintendo met with similar success in the United States, though the actual numbers escape me right now.

Earthbound unboxed.

But then there’s this statement from Nintendo gaming guru Shigeru Miyamoto: “We had high hopes for Earthbound, the Super NES version, in the US, but it didn’t do well. We even did a TV commercial, thinking, ‘Hey… this thing could sell three million copies!’ But it didn’t.”

Suddenly, Nintendo’s reluctance to release the title on the Wii’s Virtual Console doesn’t seem as boneheaded.

Proof that EB's marketing was intended to cost $2 million. Borrowed from Earthbound Central.

Whether it was Nintendo’s poorly planned scratch ‘n sniff promotions of the game, the lukewarm (and frankly ill reasoned and written) reviews that criticized Earthbound’s “squashed” and “childish” graphics, or the fact that video games were transitioning to the world of three dimensions right as Earthbound hit the market, many American players missed out on one of the most touching, hilarious games ever. Known as MOTHER 2 in Japan, Earthbound is the coming of age story of a boy named Ness who, after being awoken one night by a meteor crashing practically in his backyard, discovers that it’s up to him and three friends he’s never met to save the world from the intergalactic menace known only as Giygas. Defying the typical RPG conventions of the time, Earthbound takes place in a postmodern world where baseball bats and frying pans replace swords and shields; hippies, drunken old men and scalding cups of coffee roam the streets looking for a fight; and to restore hit points, all one has to do is order a pizza. And if you’re feeling homesick, just give your mom a ring and you’ll get over it in a snap. Earthbound even came with its own strategy guide. Designed to look like a travel brochure, the guide quickly became an indelible part of the Earthbound experience.

Screens from the back of the box.

Many of the game’s unique situations and locales were based on the adventures of Japanese copywriter and TV celebrity Shigesato Itoi, who just so happens to have created the MOTHER series in the first place. For example, the “mole mine” in the Dusty Dunes Desert is based on a cave expedition Itoi took for a Japanese television program, and the final battle with the universal destroyer, Giygas, was inspired in part by a rape scene from a 1957 film called The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty, which a young Itoi was exposed to when he accidently entered the wrong movie theater.

Yes, even though Earthbound is often light-hearted, Itoi cleverly approaches mature themes such as death, absentee parenting, homosexuality and psychological trauma as a father might explain them to his children. Other times the player is forced to face the facts with no one there to guide them, just like growing up in real life. It’s a potent metaphor for what many young adults, just like Ness and his friends, will endure as they reach adulthood. It’s especially meaningful for those who just entered the confusing corridors of teendom themselves, as I had the year the game was released.

Another of Shigeru Miyamoto’s pearls of wisdom, this time in reference to his inspiration for games like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.: “What if you walk along and everything that you see is more than what you see – the person in the T-shirt and slacks is a warrior, the space that appears empty is a secret door to an alternate world? What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there? You either shake your head and dismiss it or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think. Perhaps it really is a doorway to another place. If you choose to go inside you might find many unexpected things.”

What else would you expect from a guy who
runs around like this all day?
It’s that kind of childlike wonder that made Miyamoto’s many masterpieces the hits they were; his own monuments to kiddom. Likewise, Earthbound is Itoi’s celebration of childhood, but not through the lens of the very young like Zelda or the original MOTHER game. Earthbound represents late childhood, where the world is still a wonderful and intriguing place, but there’s the creeping realization that society is in some way diseased; along with the burgeoning sense of romantic love comes the unease of sensing that there could be heartache right around the corner. Maybe that’s why I don’t much like MOTHER 3, Earthbound’s Japan-only sequel, because it’s the gaming equivalent of the transition from teen to adult. The carefree feelings of MOTHER and Earthbound are mostly absent in MOTHER 3, replaced with dread, pain, loss and a musical battle system that BAFFLES THE CRAP OUT OF ME, just like real life.

If you ever get the chance to play the underappreciated gem that is Earthbound, grab your controller, start whacking the local crazy animal population with baseball bats, and don’t look back. Even if you don’t agree with me that it’s the greatest game of all time (which it is), I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

In fact, here’s the perfect excuse to play Earthbound TODAY:’s yearly Earthbound Fanfast and Funktastic Gamplay Event is where it’s at. Every two days, the player is told how far to advance in the game and everyone talks about their shared experiences on the message boards. It’s a great way to connect to other Earthbound players and an even better way to reconnect with the greatest game of all time. Also there’s prizes and prizes are fun.

So find those strategy guides, grab your Leave It to Beaver-style red hat and get crackin’, because you’ve got a world to save!

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That'll do it for my top games list, but many of you have yet to tell me about YOUR favorite games of all time! If you haven’t, take a minute to post your top three games as a comment to this post. I’ll reveal the results in a future article here on Wordsmith VG!