Mother 2 / EarthBound
This is the game that probably needs no explanation for many. For North America, this was the introduction to the series as it was the only game with an official release here for many years. While it might not have been as commercially successful as Nintendo might have hoped, it sure made an impact in its own way right from the start to those who did give it a try.
At the time, RPGs brought to mind a very specific image. Anyone familiar with them would instantly think of medieval settings where you’d take control of knights and wizards. The enemies of the world were typically dragons and mythical creature. EarthBound, however, avoided so many of these cliches of the time.
The game was set in a world that looked much more like our own complete with delivery pizza, bus rides, and skyscrapers. For the most part the weapons were baseball bats, slingshots, and frying pans. Some of the obstacles that got in the way of saving the world included overzealous cops that literally put up roadblocks, hippies, stray dogs.
As you might be able to tell, while the game appears to be set in the modern world, it’s more of parody of it than a completely accurate take on it. Shigesato Itoi, creator of the series, greatly expanded on his take of modern-day America that started in EarthBound Beginnings. There is an endless supply of humor to be found here both in the setting itself and in the dialog.
In terms of gameplay, a few new features were introduced both to make this iteration even more enjoyable than the last and even introduced new possibilities for strategy. Enemies can now be seen on the screen before going into battle allowing for the ability to try to avoid battles when desired or to sneak up on enemies to get the first move. Also when the player gets stronger, battles that would be no challenge are automatically won instead of having to deal with the tedious task issuing commands and going through all of the text for a guaranteed victory.
Perhaps, the most interesting concept came from within the battle screens themselves. The HP and PP meters were displayed as analog counters. In the case of HP, for example, when damage was taken or recovered, the players HP meter would start rolling to move the number up or down instead of instantly changing to it. This allowed for unique strategies where if a player can get out battle before the meter reaches zero, they can avoid losing.
Another thing to note is the music. The soundtrack did an amazing job of pushing the limitations to their boundaries and helped to create a diverse and interesting atmosphere. The music ranges in so many styles and fits perfectly to it’s setting. Like the world, the soundtrack has takes on many from of modern music including funk, dub, metal, and jazz to name a few and even samples quite a few popular songs.
While it may have not have fully gotten the reception is deserved from the start, EarthBound has eventually earned its place as a classic. The fanbase has certainly grown quite rapidly over the years and it seems this is still the starting point for most people.