May 23, 2012

EarthBound Zero - Ranking

Story & World

A RPG set in modern (with a dash of future) times is rare enough but EB0 ups the ante by casting the characters as young children.  With psychic powers.  The whole place feels like modern day Earth but set in an alternate dimension.  One that doesn't mind having children running around that can create force fields and fire lasers with their minds.  The world feels vast; appropriate from the perspective of a young boy.  A pretty silly place most times that adds to the overall charm of the game.

Talking to NPCs for the first time is always fun since you never know when they will give a good hint or just say something ridiculous (but funny).  Even though most are one-liners, there are plenty of things to talk to.  In addition to people and animals, there are also conversations with things like bone piles in the desert.  Cities are appropriately dense with people and somewhat unsafe as talking to certain NPCs results in combat.

The main quest of finding the missing tunes fit nicely into the other major quests (usually one unit of music per quest).  It's also about making a track so dope and slammin' that it can repulse alien beings (symbolizing parents, perhaps?).  The other quests were nicely varied, from wiping out a zombie infestation to finding a canary's lost chick.  Story-wise, the cohesiveness between all the quests is pretty jagged as they're not really related at all.  This is sorta forgivable considering the type of game EB0 is but it's still kinda lousy.  12/20

Character Development

No customization of characters at all throughout the game.  Attribute increases upon level up appear just slightly randomized.  Characters are prone to greater increases in certain stats than others.  For example, Ana gains high mental but low physical whilst Loid does the opposite.  Shen is the standard balanced character.  Gaining levels is satisfying for the "magic-users" since they sometimes gain a new "spell" but boring for the "fighters".

Both weapons and armour are in short supply.  The armour items bought in Magicant early on stay with characters the rest of the game.  Useable items fare a little better but mostly just duplicate spell effects and lose their usefulness after Shen and Ana become psi-proficient.  5/20

Combat & Monsters

Combat is the standard model with no tactics involved, just mashing the fight option unless a spell needs to be cast.  There is an option to defend but does anyone seriously ever use that?  The magic-like abilities of Shen and Ana's Psi power are both diverse and many.  Most spells are tiered in that there are different versions of a base spell type (e.g. four different versions of the fire spell).  It's not just a simple increase in power as later spells might switch from normally targeting a group of monsters to just a single.  Another example is changing from doing points of damage to an enemy to a possibly instakilling them.  Older spells are not replaced as newer ones are gained ensuring an arsenal of magic to choose from in the late game.

From hippies to vehicles to robots to bag ladies, you never know what you'll end up fighting in EB0.  All foes can be checked out during combat at the cost of a turn.  This will give the base stats of the creature and a, often humourous, description.  A lot of foes have special abilities but they're not always beneficial.  Sometimes they waste a turn or attack another member of their group (always hilarious to roleplay).  14/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics are acceptable and lean towards a cartoonish edge.  Some animations for the psi-effects would have been nice, though (at least the ones that manifest physically).  The music really stands out with many pieces fitting perfectly into the setting (e.g. haunted house).  I'd give another link to the hippie music but I assume everyone has bookmarked it.  14/20

Gameplay

I like that the economy is tied in with level gains instead of encounters and dad is certainly very generous to Shen (I ended up with over $80,000 by endgame).  Maybe a little too generous as, after purchasing all the expensive Magicant equipment, there is little to spend on other than useables (which are cheap).

The ability to move in eight directions instead of the standard four is wonderful although it's still pretty easy to get stuck sometimes on impassable terrain.  

Very linear though there is some wiggle room during the middle game.  The difficulty for combat encounters is solid.   Each new area's selection of monsters has easy, moderate, and hard encounters.  It's very satisfying to go back into an older area and beat the asses of the monsters I'd previously always had to run from.  The pacing is great with loads of story scenes balancing nicely with the dungeon crawling.  10/20

Final Ranking:  55/100