How many games can you honestly say have given you sinus infections? I can claim one: EarthBound…that’s a whole other story though.
The SNES was a powerhouse as far as role-playing games went, and I was lucky enough to grow up in that era. Here is a game that does not bear the Squaresoft brand name, but can indeed be classified as one of the best RPGs for the SNES.
You start off the game innocently enough, asleep in your bed, when you are awakened by a crash. There is a meteorite, and a lot of cops, and your fat neighbor. Nothing interesting, so you go back home. Later that night, you are awakened by an incredibly annoying knock at your door. I would kill anybody who managed to pull off this knock in real life, in the most horrible way. Anyway…the mystery knocker turns out to be your jerkwad neighbor, Pokey, who wants you to go out and search for his missing brother. Your search ends back at the meteorite, where you find Picky. Just as you are about to go home, Buzz Buzz, the super alien bee from…wherever, shows up to set you on a legendary quest to end all quests!
The storyline of EarthBound takes you on an adventurous journey through many of the towns of Eagleland, as well as some more faraway exotic locales. The whole point to the game? To collect melodies from the world’s eight melody spots, and defeat the alien menace known as Giygas. You are joined by three other young’uns destined to save the world. You are Ness, the baseball-wielding powerhouse of Smash Bros. fame. Paula, the pink-clad, fry-pan-swinging, magic-throwing missy with a thing for praying. Jeff, the geeky kid you make fun of, but is a master at fixing crap. Poo, the badass psionic Asian dude.
Of course, you can’t just waltz through the game without getting into a scuffle or two. Enemies are visible as you walk around town, the fields, the caves, wherever you are. The thing is that they are unavoidable, you can see them, but they dart at you with the tenacity of rabid wolves. So what do you do once you are in battle? Well, let me explain your options. You can BASH them with your melee weapon, which is always a good choice when things are looking grim. You can use your PSI attacks to annihilate the enemy with the powers of your mind. You can use some GOODS to heal yourself or damage the enemy—depends on what kind of GOODS they are! AUTO FIGHT (completely useless), DEFEND, and RUN AWAY round out the rest of the commands available to you.
The game itself is very comical and entertaining. It is a nice break from the seriousness of some other role-playing games, and fits well into the SNES era. For the time, it had average graphics and average tunes. Nothing in there blew me away, and it certainly doesn’t now, but what really matters is the content of the game. That’s where EarthBound shines.
As for the sinus infection? The strategy guide came with these rancid scratch and sniff cards of some of the game’s enemies. Without forcing me to relive the nightmare, I can just say the mere whiff of some of these cards could ruin your sense of smell for a week.