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Reviews VideoGame / Earth Bound

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01/09/2015 13:34:00 •••

Presentation is part of content, and this proves it

Presentation is a big part of what makes this game. The graphics are simple yet charming. The rest of the presentation is what clearly had a ton of work put into it. The trippy backgrounds during fights, the stylized music, and the use of sampling - taking actual recorded snippets from other songs - all make Earthbound have a unique style unlike anything else out there in any genre.

And speaking of genre, it's an RPG set in the real world rather than a fantasy world. Well, "real" in that it's clearly set in the United States (plus India, Scotland, Egypt and Italy), although it seems to blend time periods together, being not quite set in the 1990s in which it was made. You don't fight lizards and dragons and so on - you fight wild dogs, snakes, cranky elderly women, "overzealous cops", anthropomorphized stop signs and taxi cabs, and more. The Ultimate Evil is actually a space alien, and his right-hand man is... your bratty next-door neighbor, who shows up from time to time to taunt you along the way.

The game feels like something that only an individual with a very personal imagination could create. No marketing committee would design a game that starts out light-hearted and cartoony, contains elements of spoof and parody of the real world (including a variation of the Ku Klux Klan that obsesses over painting everything blue), and then suddenly switches moods at the end to have you fight an unholy abomination that can only be killed with prayer.

But style is all over the game. The dialog feels very casual, and is only improved by Nintendo of America's translation, which gets somewhat loose when naming the enemies (it was NOA who named the enemies things like "Rambling Evil Mushroom", "New Age Retro Hippie" and "Mad Taxi"). The music can best be described as "unconventional" and "experimental". The gameplay introduces some odd elements such as the "rolling HP meter", where your hit points slowly roll down or up as you take damage or heal, allowing you to survive a fatal blow if you can heal in time, adding some action to the turn-based fighting. And the mood is all over the place, ranging from light to dark, upbeat to sad, serious to parody.

It's an experience worth having, not just watching on YouTube, and one of the very few turn-based RPGs I've ever liked.

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