Once in a blue moon, a game will nestle itself deep within your heart, leaving a permanent imprint on your character. It's these games that prove to be the most special, the most impactful; these are the experiences that make certain games transcend the confines of entertainment and towards artistry. Now I don't mean to sound pretentious or overly sentimental (though if you've read my previous blogs, you'll notice that sentimentality is a recurring theme), rather I just want to share an experience that reminds me time and again how important and beautiful this medium is, and how it can remind you of how damned lovely this world can be.
Earthbound is one of those games that's as confusing and bizarre as it is wonderful and hilarious. Foregoing the typical fantasy setting of its contemporaries, it went for the most terrifying setting of all: America.
It's a game filled to the brim with fantastic characters that are excellently written, a turn-based combat system that is far more tolerable than other jRPGs, and some dang good music. It's the only RPG I've beaten on the SNES, so take that for what you will. I could write so much more about how much I love this game, but I'd like to share one part in particular with you that made me want to write this blog. Minor spoilers ahead, in case you're interested in playing this game at some point.
Near the end of the game, Ness and co. enter the Fire Spring. It's hot and full of bad guys, but that's not important here. One of the main goals throughout the game is to fill your Sound Stone with notes from around the world, each of which reminds Ness of events in his past. Upon defeating the rather difficult Diamond Dog, Ness obtains the last sound he needs to fill the stone, which brings us to a flashback of sorts at Ness's home.
Here, we see Ness slowly walk towards his house as a beautiful melody begins to play. I would recommend playing this for the full effect.
The house is empty, except for a young King, the family's cowardly dog. The camera pans through the upstairs, where Ness is shown as a baby rocking in his cradle.
"Ness... Hmmm... I think Ness is the right name for him."
"Ness... he smiled just from hearing his own name. Do you think he likes his name?"
"Try putting that red cap on him. Ha ha ha! It's too big, but it looks good on him."
"I hope King won't be jealous of the baby."
"Let's celebrate with some steak. This baby will grow up to be a hard worker, just like you."
"I don't think he needs to be rich or famous... but I want him to be a thoughtful, strong boy."
There's more, but I don't think it's entirely necessary to continue. Seeing his parents watch over him, proud of what they have done, loving their newborn son endlessly is one of the most amazing and down-to-earth experiences in what is ironically one of the most out-there games I've played.
It reminded me of Christmas 2016. As his gift to the family, my dad had taken all of our family footage since my brothers and I were born and had them converted to digital so we could all watch them together. Sure enough, the first video made the entire family sobbing messes. It's my mom, just two years older than I currently am, holding my recently-born oldest brother. I'll use a fake name because of anonymity and such.
"This is Sam. He's one week old, and is a healthy baby boy. He's our beautiful, wonderful boy, and we love him so much. We're so happy to have him in this world, and he's going to make us very proud."
This is something that Earthbound captured so well; forgetting all the troubles of the world for a moment to bask in the happiness and pride of bringing a beautiful child into the world. Combined with this music, it made me feel more than any game I've ever played, and that's not mentioning how lovely the rest of the game is. I know that this is a very personal experience for me, and I'm not sure if this could have a similar effect on other people, but to me this was a very touching moment that made me appreciate not only how important my family is to me, but also how much art can bring those emotions out. However bleak and colourless the world may seem to be, there is always hope and goodness waiting to come out. That's what Earthbound gets, and that's why its story has become so important to me.
Thanks for reading this, I really appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!