Following my 3 hour marathon completion of Pokemon Yellow of which I barely scraped by, I quickly switched gears back to Earthbound and decided I would wrap this one up next.
Earthbound and Xenoblade Chronicles are so vastly different in terms of playstyle that I was having trouble bouncing back and fourth, and decided I would halt Xenoblade until I completed Earthbound. In a matter of two nights, I managed to secure the last two “Your Santuary” locations, take out Ness’s Nightmare, and burn straight through a pile of dungeons. I managed to not get a single game over, either!
Before I decided to buy Earthbound on the eShop, I did a little intel gathering on the game, as I’d somehow missed it when I was a kid with a Super Nintendo and a Christmas wishlist. One of the things that was mentioned frequently was how the difficulty scaled up from time to time, and having underleveled characters could potentionally make the game impossible without some grinding.
Fair enough, I thought. There are lots of RPGs that require grinding, but generally I see the necessity of grinding to be a big design flaw. Forcing the player to fail repeatedly until they perform monotonous work is not good game planning, in my opinion. It’s actually what stopped me from going back to Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, and likely any other game by Atlus that bares similarity. Still, I bought the game and decided to try it. I needed to find out what all the rage was about behind this game.
But here we are – I was able to take out Ness’s Nightmare while sitting at an average level of 55. 55! And I read a guide that claimed I should be around 77-81!
I’m currently approaching the Meteorite from the beginning of the game to repair the Phase Distorter II, and am very close to the final boss. However, the return to Onett while playing last night marked the first time that I realized I was severely underleveled (which prompted me to look up that previous guide in the firset place). Here I was thinking I was a powerhouse ready to take on the final boss when not a single character had broken level 60 yet, and a guide is recommending at least level 70 for each character. Oh shit.
Predictably, I got totally destroyed around the Ness’s house area of Onett (where the Ghost of Starman and Evil Eye creatures roam). And I mean I was getting my entire team wiped out with a single hit. Not good.
And this is where some minor complaints arise about this game.
There exists what are considered the “ultimate weapons” for each character in this game. All of them are obtained in different areas, and are drops from enemies that fall at a 1/128 chance. Let me first go on record by saying that 1/128 is completely ridiculous for the end of a game. But it’s not even those odds that turned me off – at this point, I’ve completely given up at getting them, because in my 2 hours of grinding efforts to get those weapons, I have pushed my average level from 55 to 71. Because the way leveling works in this game (in short: it goes pretty fast), if you attempt to get all four ultimate weapons, odds are that you’ll max out your level at 99 before you even get your hands on them. And if you do end up getting them? You will be massively overleveled, AND have the best possible weapon. Unless luck is on your side, of course.
Personally, I consider this a design flaw in the end-game. Here I was, grinding away, hoping to get a weapon that would give me an edge in the final battle, but in reality it just overpowered my whole team which.. gave me an edge in the final battle. On paper that sounds like a win/win, but I still feel like I cheaped out a little bit on the challenge. If I had managed to nab any of those ultimate weapons I would have been a mega force of unstoppable face smashery.
One of the issues I ran into constantly with this game is that the difficulty tends to scale up at random times, and then drop quickly afterwards. There were dozens of times where I felt like I was playing the game wrong, which is ridiculous as RPGs are generally flexible to different playstyles, but I found myself on GameFaqs making sure I wasn’t being an idiot on more than several occasions.
Either way – Earthbound has been a great experience and I feel like I’ve gotten a small glimpse into the childhood memories of many. While the difficulty is just downright insane at times and the weird grinding can get absurd, the charm, the strange worlds, the bizarre conversations, and the endless chats with Dad while just trying to save my damn game has completely won me over. I can confidently say regarding peoples’ reactions to the very mention of Earthbound: I get it now. There truly isn’t anything else like it.
I’m not done with it quite yet, but I’d say in the next night or two I’ll be done with this one. I’ll be putting it into the Retired list, but it’s been a great expenditure of 30 hours of my life.
Bravo, Earthbound, Bravo.