I remember the giant box sitting on the shelf of the local laundromat/rental store in the little village of Three Oaks, Michigan. I didn’t know who Shigesato Itoi was or how an RPG worked, but I was curious about this game. And seeing as how my brother and I had returned enough abandoned pop bottles to rent a game and we had already played everything else, we decided to pick up Earthbound.
I was quickly captivated by this game. It made sense to my young mind. Of course a bee named Buzz Buzz would come out of a meteorite from the future and prepare me to fight off the greatest evil the universe had ever known.
Come on, it’s not that weird. We’re all quite aware that Nintendo’s biggest game is about an Italian plumber who fights off princess-kidnapping-dragons in the magical land of the Mushroom Kingdom, where consuming all kinds of things that fall out of blocks will give you super powers.
In that light, Buzz Buzz sounds pretty normal.
While I was quickly captivated by this game, my skill level was not. I didn’t understand how RPGs or grinding worked. How many times could I die before I ever made it to the Onett Arcade to defeat Frank Fly?
A lot of times apparently.
But I remembered the game for years to come. In fact, it was a big part of the reason I bought a Wii U. Yup. I bought an entire console so that I could play Earthbound with a handful of other games. And I suppose that after all of these years, I still wasn’t skilled enough to play it, but thanks to the console’s instant save ability, I managed to get myself through it.
And it was a beautiful return to nostalgia. The jokes were hilarious (and even broke the fourth wall on occasion); the adventure was exciting; the bosses were random (including a pile of barf at one point). You truly felt like you were on a quest with your friends to save the world.
And then there was the God element.
You ever have that happen? You’re enjoying something secular when all of the sudden God breaks through and teaches you something? Well that’s what the end of this game does (12 year old spoiler alert).
At the end of the game you’re turned into robots so you can go back in time to fight both your best friend and Giygas (the ultimate evil). Makes sense, right? As you begin to fight Giygas, you notice a few weird things going on. The dialogue is a bit odd and the bad guy is scarier than anything else in the game.
I tried to beat him over and over again, but nothing was working. I just kept dying. And then, (like a good pastor) I tried the only move I never used: prayer. The dialogue began to change and cutscenes started to play. And so I prayed again. More cutscenes. They showed people I met throughout the game randomly walking out of their houses and praying for me.
I kept praying until finally Giygas was defeated.
Ends up that the final bad guy was based on a horrifying memory that creator Shigesato Itoi had, as he has disclosed in different interviews. It was the ultimate bad guy. How did he overcome it? Not by his own strength, but through his own prayers and the prayers of others. By the strength of God.
Or so the game at least implies, and rightly so.
And they said video games would rot our brains ;)