Feature: Bound Together

The intro screen for the game evokes the feel of classic Alien Invasion sci-fi films such as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.
EarthBound Box Art

Hello and welcome to The Day Tonight’s playthrough of Earthbound, a JRPG originally released for the Super Famicom in Japan on 27 August 1994, and in North America on 5 June 1995. Later (in both Japan and North America), it was released on the Wii U and New 3DS Virtual Console, and it is included in the games available on the SNES Classic Edition mini console.

Earthbound has become a cult hit in the wake of what was a somewhat confused North American launch. Since then, it has developed a large fanbase. A series-focused website, Starmen.Net, continues to see updates and interaction from fans. The game, and the series from which it is taken, remain extremely popular in Japan: recently, the announcement of the Hobonichi Mother Project has been in the news as announcements of books and other products have once again brought the series back into the headlines.

The second game in the Mother series, Earthbound has been celebrated for what was, at the time, an unusually jocular approach to JRPG writing. Not only was the game replete with puns and wordplay (something which the Dragon Quest series has taken to another level), but its humour poked fun at the nature of JRPGs themselves: trashcans filled with edible burgers, in-game dialogue that references the real world, and challenges facing the party that were often just as likely to be down to mindless bureaucracy or general incompetence as to genuinely malign intent.

Threed, meanwhile, suffers an infestation of zombies.
Each town in Eagleland needs the help of Ness and his friends. For example, Onett’s police use roadblocks to solve every problem.

It is now well-known that the first game in the Mother series was translated and prepared for release on the NES in North America, even getting a screenshot teaser in Nintendo Power, only to be unceremoniously withheld by Nintendo bosses who felt that American gamers were too feeble to understand its humor or overcome its challenges. The same disparaging sentiment prevailed into the SNES era, when Earthbound (Mother 2) was released in North America with a full-size strategy guide in lieu of an instuction manual. And when Mother 3 was released in Japan to critical acclaim, returning villain Reggie ‘The Chin’ Fils-Aime sought to bury the title, leading directly to Caspius’ award-winning reporting on the acclaimed Mother 3 Translation Project. It was only thanks to the constant journalistic pressure from The Day Tonight (and a desire to profit on a worldwide niche release) that, in 2015, Nintendo finally re-released the original Mother game as Earthbound Beginnings on the Wii U Virtual Console.

The 2015 release of Earthbound Beginnings was the last major video game news on the Mother front: the series’ 30th anniversary on 27 July 2019 passed without fanfare; and, despite the success of the Nintendo Switch, neither the NES nor SNES versions of Nintendo Switch Online have been graced with a Mother series game–not even in Japan, where the series enjoys continued attention and praise. It is for this reason that Caspius has taken up the fight once again, reviving his weekly updates on the Mother 3 Fan Translation Status (currently: released), and pressing InterPol to issue an international arrest warrant for Reggie “The Chin” Fils-Aime for his numerous crimes against Mother.

The game frequently makes tongue-in-cheek references to its own mechanics.
The Dragon Quest style battle system will be familiar to classic JRPG fans.

Earthbound has not had a physical release since the Super Nintendo cartridge was released in 1995, and physical copies of the game are expensive to obtain. However, the Wii U and New 3DS Virtual Console editions cost a mere $8 (US), and provide users with additional features, such as save states, which could be helpful for those who are not used to the difficulty of classic NES-era JRPGs. Unfortunately, Earthbound has not been made available on Nintendo Switch Online. However, Nintendo has thrown classic gamers a bone by making its entire catalogue of instruction manuals available online in high-quality PDF format, including the official strategy guide that was included with the US release of Earthbound.

Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, secrets and new content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you feel that Earthbound has held up despite the passage of a quarter of a century, or do you prefer more forgiving modern JRPGs? Do you find the linear direction of the storyline helpful in making your way through the game, or too restrictive? Would you like to see Earthbound re-released–either as a Switch Online title or as part of a collection–or would you prefer to see an entirely new game in the Mother series? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments, each week, for our podcast discussion.

NOT released outside of Japan! 'Why? Hmmmm... BOING!' indeed.
In-game dialogue hinted at the development of what would become the (Japan-only) release of Mother 3.

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in about three months, ending by late November. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion, and will let us know when it is time to close our site playthrough.

Platforms available are as follows:
• Super Nintendo (Original Release)
• Nintendo Wii U (Virtual Console)
• New Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console)
• SNES Classic Edition (Mini Console)

Please join in with us and comment about your experience! The playthrough time frame is intended to allow anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Comment and tell your friends!

Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Day Tonight’s staff members and readers in playing Earthbound, as we find ourselves Bound Together!

74 comments

  1. Earthbound is one of those games that it is just impossible to be unhappy whilst playing. The whole game has a sunny disposish.

  2. I just rescued Paula from the perils of Happy-Happyism. Making good time! 😀

  3. I haven’t started it yet. It’s been months since I played my 3ds, so I need to charge it. I’ll start this evening

  4. I beat Belch and am on my way to the third shining spot, but I have to keep turning back because I keep getting hit with the Mushroomise status. I spent 45 minutes trying to get there, most of the time getting smacked with mushroomise as soon as I enter the tunnel from Saturn Valley! Luckily it is great exp, the inn is free, and the hot spring removes mushroom.

    No more time tonight to keep trying, but maybe tomorrow after work. Ness is 32, Paula 30, Jeff 29!

  5. Thank you for posting the strategy guide! That’s pretty cool. I’m not going to start playing quite yet, I don’t want to stop the progress I’m making in the game I’m currently in, but that’s why it’s great to have a few months to go through it. Earthbound feels like a summer-going-into-autumn seasonal game.

  6. One of the nice things that Nintendo has done is to digitise and release all their old stuff in PDF!

  7. I think I’m going to break my big rule. NO FAQS OR STRAT. GUIDES. I don’t see a way to get to the meteorite. I played it for two hours then I put it down. I slept on it last night to try again. I’ll try again today sometime. I’ll consult if I can’t figure it out.

    Funny enough, do you know what Games I used Strat. Guides for? Ogre battle, Vagrant Story, Tactics Ogre. Hmmm. All Masuno Games.

  8. I hit Twoson! A funny thing is I feel like I have played so far in this earlier when truth is I bareøy started the game lol I just grinded forever on the start area xD

    Well we’re doing it this time :D

  9. @Jack: 1) Talk to everyone, and also 2) you can’t get to reach the Meteor the first time out: the police are in the way. See (1): talk to everyone, and when you can’t progress, do what a little boy should do: go home.

  10. Just a reminder to folks: CALL YOUR MOM frequently. If you don’t, you’ll get Homesick.

  11. Got through to the third sound boss without encountering a single ramblin’ mushroom! Took down the boss, saved Threed, crossed the desert, and now I’m in FOURSIDE.

    Making good time!

  12. I think I know why I don’t like Earthbound. It’s because it doesn’t stay with the typical RPG tropes. Most games would have you check it out, and some boss would pop out. Earthbound reminds me of those early RPG Maker games I played in the early 2000s. Some of those were very good, but I can see the bones of those games in Earthbound. I got as far as going home, saved I then put it down.

    I’m giving Earthbound a second chance, but I dont understand the hype it got over the years.

  13. No. Most RPGs do not give you a boss fight in the first five minutes of gameplay. That’s not a trope.

    Moreover, if you play the game through the opening Meteor sequence (about 15 minutes or less), it does end with a boss fight against a Starman Jr.!

    If you play Earthbound for five minutes, go home, and say ‘this game didn’t give me a boss fight yet, so I’m not going to play anymore,’ that logic also rules out just about every other JRPG. So, I guess, good luck with that standard?

  14. I’m willing to give the game another chance to grab me. I got some time to finish it.

  15. The game REALLY rewards talking to people, reading signs, etc. I recommend doing that!

  16. Stayed up way too late finishing Fourside, the goldmine, Moonside, the monkey cave, and the Monotolo building. But the party is reunited, and the Sky Runner is repaired, so next stop… Summers!

  17. Spent the day at the hospital, so a bit too tired for any Earthbound tonight. Tomorrow, though…!

  18. I started the game on Wednesday using a Swedish PSP. Frank was easier to beat than I remember, but maybe I forgot to buy gear the first time?
    Working my way through Giant Step now. Going a little slow because of work, but I’ve got a couple of days off now and should zoom ahead.

  19. I fell asleep! Oops! Today or tomorrow will see some Earthbound, if I get some time after editing the podcast!

  20. Made it to Threed on Saturday night. Trying to find how to cure mini ghosts now. I’m playing without a guide, so I’m going slow and getting mad at some of the silly status effects.

  21. @Imitanis: The guide was included with the game and is linked in the post above!

  22. @Caspius Playing without a guide was intentional. I try to play most games without help and only go to other resources if I’m really stuck, want an achievement/100% completion, or I just want to get something finished.

    I made it to Saturn village today, challenged Belch once and got beaten, but I’m ready to take him on again. Main character is at level 30 now, the other two are both at 25.

  23. @Imitanis: 🙄 Okay, but in this situation, the guide is the instruction manual (and vice versa). That’s where all the info about status conditions, items, etc. is located. The guide is a combo thing, it’s both instructions and guide. That’s why Nintendo shipped it with the game and there is no separate instruction manual.

    The same is true of the FF1 NES instruction manual, which is both instructions and also a partial guide.

  24. @Caspius: Well, we all know how games were made to be easy when they came to the US ;)

  25. And reached Winters! Love snow areas in games, they are the best. Looks like we might grow our party soon!

  26. Sixth ‘your sanctuary’ location completed!

    I’ve noticed something about the way I play the game. Against normal enemies I just have everyone attack and heal up after the fight if need be. Allies tend to die fairly often, maybe 10-20% of the time?
    Against bosses I throw everything I have at them, which usually means every spell at my disposal. They die quickly, usually without being able to attack. I fear regular enemies more than I do bosses.

  27. I have been so swamped with work that I haven’t made any progress. :(

    @Imitanis: I use magic constantly outside of battle. The availability of butterflies and the ability to respawn them rapidly and easily means there’s no reason not to be using PSI powers all the time.

  28. @Caspius: I’m a traditionalist. Magic is only for bosses and healing and using items is a complete no-no. Everything must be hoarded.

  29. @Imitanis: this isn’t a traditional RPG.

    Yesterday night, I finally had some time to play games for the first time in almost two weeks! I finished Summers, Dalaam, and the two short shining spot dungeons, so now I’m in Scaraba on my way to the pyramid.

    I likely will be playing Mario 3D All Stars tonight but hope to get back to Earthbound this weekend!

  30. @Caspius: That may be so, but it doesn’t stop me being a traditionalist.

    I finished the dungeon man today….. twice. Had a small crash (the first while playing the game rather than suspending) that lost me a single trip through him. I’m in the Deep Dark now.

    Mario 3D All Stars launches tomorrow here, but Hades launches tonight, so I’ll be putting some time into that.

  31. ‘Why use the door when I can just knock a hole through the wall with my head?’ – Imitanis

  32. It’s amazing how reading a book can cure an entire race of shyness. Now I’m going to talk to some rocks.

  33. Spent the weekend helping out some colleagues and playing Mario with my sons, so no Earthbound progress to report today. Soon!

  34. MioJeff levelled up quite a bit on the incredible Cave Boys. Wow they gave tons of xp! Then took a cool ride back to Threed.

  35. Well, I’ve wrapped up Earthbound. Had to fight Giygas a second time because I stupidly wiped out my party on the first attempt.

  36. @Winter: Sorry, forgot to check the post for a couple of days. 83/72/71/68, I didn’t have much trouble on my second attempt.

  37. Thanks :)

    Reached Saturn Valley one of the prettiest places so far! This morning I’m working on getting some more money for a couple of things before I head on.

  38. Finished Gold Mine! Wasn’t too bad, forgot secret herb revives though so I had plenty of tours out.

  39. I’ve played a little bit, stopped right before reuniting Jeff with Ness & Paula.

    This game has amazing and unique music – which I’ve been appreciating the piano renditions on the podcast. (I use the Onett theme as my wake-up alarm, and the more melancholy Twoson as go-to-work reminder). There are very funny lines that people will say. Everything about this game is excellent and it deserves all the praise it gets.

    I’ve started Earthbound playthroughs multiple times since first renting it at Blockbuster in the mid-90s, but I’ve never really gotten into it, including now. There’s nothing I can point to as why; it’s totally up my alley. But it might be like how I haven’t really gotten into Terranigma or Seiken Densetsu 3, despite loving the games adjacent to them. Perhaps for me it’s more about reliving the games I used to play than finding new experiences like them.

    That’s not a mindset to be proud of or wallow in either. Still, forcing myself to overcome that drive is contrary to the central pillar of playing games to have fun. It feels like a very Mother-ish problem to have.

  40. I told Caspius while back I don’t know why this game doesn’t catch me. I thought it was just the modern setting. It might be the script maybe? I might be in the mood someday. I dont think its now. I think if i had had played this right after i played Illusion of Gaia it might jave cought me.

  41. 30/50! Next up is Pink Cloud. Whatever that is lol. Been having good progress this week and seen some pretty sights. Summer was very nice, but Dalaam was so colorful and not a city in the same sense. Probably my favorite place so far and I think I’m about to head back there now.

  42. Pink Cloud after Dalaam!? I regret that you’ve almost caught up to me–I haven’t had much time for games other than brief moments here and there with my son. I wanted to wrap up this weekend, but it’s his birthday party, so that’s probably not likely either!

  43. About half way through Stonehenge base. Do I need the weapon i can get here that has like 1/128 chance or something?

  44. It’s a GOOD boost, but unless you are really struggling, yes, go ahead and skip it, because it is 1/128 from an enemy that doesn’t even show up every time.

  45. Reached Fire Spring! Can almost taste victory now. And my gold star 😎

  46. Done! Main char was 93 in the end I think and rhe others about 76 or so?

    The use of colors and variety of places and the uniqueness of them was great in this game! I liked the use of player too.

    Some things I would have changed would be inventory (one bigger shared one and key items seperated) and easier to understand names of items and spells.

    All in all a fun game and better throughout 😊

  47. Thank you ^^

    You usually are way faster than me. Or well you don’t play multiple rpgs at once. I guess there is that too lol.

  48. This time I was playing multiple games!
    I have finished about six games during our playthrough–unfortunately, none of them are Earthbound (I am at the end of it, but can’t find the time to finish)!
    And now that Crown Tundra is out . . .

  49. Our Earthbound playthrough ends TOMORROW, 31 OCTOBER! Please post your final thoughts before 11:00AM (US Eastern) for inclusion in our last Earthbound playthrough podcast feature!

Comments are closed.