May 02, 2012

[Game 020] EarthBound Zero (NES - 1989)

Translation by Neo Demiforce

I must say that I've been looking forward to this one.  Whilst out for my daily jogs in cyberspace, I've heard only good things about the EarthBound series.  Any memories I had of the SNES release I stupidly stored on some Western Digital drive partition somewhere and so now are obviously gone.  I can't have any memories of this game since it was never localized for (U) or (E).  There's a whole backstory to the series and, once again, I'll defer to the master cylinder of historic gaming over at 16-Bit Gems.

Right away the game starts in with its light-hearted and quirky humour.  The first fight takes place right in Shen's bedroom.

Can you spot the hidden enemy?

For those that guessed lamp, you receive a free entry in this week's raffle.  After punching the lamp's lights out, Shen discovers that the rest of the house is also acting bonkers.  More lamps are attacking as well as a stuffed doll!  Dusting off the ladies, Shen gets a-punchin' and dispatches the household items.  After chatting with mom and dad, Shen heads off to the closest town of Podunk to try to find out more information on the strange phenomenon.  Instead, the mayor talks Shen into investigating the zombie-infested cemetery and locating a lost girl.

All this serenity sure is frightening.

One thing that stands out while traversing the lands is the smoothness of the journey.  Since the point of perspective has such a sharp angle to it, the developers have allowed for diagonal movement in addition to the cardinal directions.  This greatly decreases the feeling that the character is clunkily moving from tile to tile (as happens in most top-down RPGs).  The towns and the wilderness are seamless (just like in Heracles) and the whole place is huge!  Thankfully, the encounter rate is very reasonable and many locations are completely free of battles.

The battles themselves are a hoot.  The playfulness remains high with odd enemies and plenty of shenanigans during the fight.  Enemies will sometimes get distracted or confused and end up missing their turn.  For example, crows will often forgo their turn to laugh instead and bats like to either get confused and attack each other or just sit there and self-reflect.

"Hmm, am I being the best BatC I can be?"

Topping all these encounters, however, has to be the fight with the Hippie.  The Hippie's special move consists of him taking out a megaphone and saying something about yo mama.  This causes Shen's offense stat to drop... IF it's successful.  In a pleasant twist, if the attack fails, then the reverse happens and Shen's offense increases due to rage.  He also likes to waste a turn every now and then to take a break and meditate.  This is all fine and well but what really takes the Hippie fight to the next level is the absolutely groovin' tune that plays.  It's unique to this fight and never fails to get Shen in a hippie head-bustin' mood.

Oh snap!  Sick burn, game.

A win nets Shen some experience points but no money.  So far, no random encounter has generated any cash.  Money is only acquired after gaining a level.  The gain is not immediate, either.  It requires finding a telephone and talking to Shen's dear old dad who puts a little green into his bank account.  Since the hotel in the city costs money, Shen usually opts to make the trip back home for a free meal and snooze while also checking in with dad (who is always at the office).

Not appropriate for children, Dad!

There are lots of items available to be bought in Podunk.  The department store in Podunk is a massive five level structure with everything a kid could want.  From baseball bats to 75 dollar sports drinks, there is nothing Shen could possibly want more out of his shopping experience.

Yes, one hundred drugs, please.

Not being happy with Shen just rescuing the girl lost in the cemetery, the mayor then asks Shen to investigate why the animals at the zoo have broken out and started to attack everyone.  Shen was a little worried that his slingshot that he'd been using up to this point might have difficulty taking down elephants and tigers.  Luckily he had enough ducats in his bank account to afford a sweet wooden bat.  With all the kinetic force his 30 kilo body can generate funneled directly into that cylindrical chunk of ash, Shen felt more reassured that he'd be able to take on the LARGEST LAND CREATURE ON EARTH.  While he did manage to bag a few pachyderms, most of the time Shen high-tailed it outta there.  The path through the zoo itself is a long and linear one but at least there is some sightseeing along the way so it's not so bad.

So glad to not have to fight these cuties.

After destroying the source of all of the animal craziness, Shen gears up and prepares to head to nearby Merrysville.  He's got a ton of dinero burning a hole in his account and he's a little anxious to spend.  Maybe there'll be a metal bat or a super soaker or, oo!, those little guns that shoot the little plastic discs.  Pew!Pew!Pew!  Okay, calm down, Shen, because the road guards aren't letting you pass, even though the animal threat is over.  No, you have to go to the gateway faaaar to the north and have the slack guards there let you through.  Well, let's stock up on precious drugs and get a move on, Shen.  Merrysville awaits!