Hello and welcome to The Starlight Megaphone’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.
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 Starlight Megaphone (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.
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.
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 Starlight Megaphone’s staff members and readers in playing Earthbound, as we find ourselves Bound Together!