Kamen Rider Saber: The Book of Ruin and the Phoenix Swordsman-A movie?

If you read through my post about Kamen Rider Saber, you’ll know how much I hated yet appreciated the first part. Although I was angrier than usual in that post, I kept going because I wonder if the rest of the show will improve. Also, I already promised it and I’m going to finish it unlike my Mother 3 post. But we’re not here to continue the adventure. We’re here to talk about the sidequest that’s almost important to the adventure.

This show came out during the height of the pandemic, when the actor who played the Red Ranger in Kirameiger (the Sentai of 2020) contracted it. That moment was not only frightening because of how young he was, but also halted much of what Toei was doing. The sets were shut down for a while, meaning Kirameiger and Kamen Rider Zero-One was postponed until further notice. Kamen Rider suffered the most, as Zero-One lost 4 episodes from its 49 episode run and the summer movie was pushed back to December. This would not only be one of the few shows of this current generation to not have a summer movie, but also the first time there wouldn’t be a crossover movie known as a VS movie. Or the Generation series; it’s kind of complicated.

All this meant that Saber, in the long run, would not get a standalone, non-V-cinema film in the summer since Super Hero Senki, the crossover, was pushed to the summer. Although part of me was happy, it also felt strange and sad. But, Toei came in and rectified it by making a short film rather a feature length one. One billed next to Zero-One…which also meant no Super Sentai film. Jeez, this was a strange time. This film, the first ever gekijo-taban in the franchise, would be called Kamen Rider Saber: The Phoenix Swordsman and the Book of Ruin. A poster was released to showcase Saber, a book, and a floating ghost to act as our antagonist.

“Protecting the world from temptation, one rider kick at a time.

Coming back to be our villain, Kamen Rider Falchion, was veteran Tokusatsu actor Masashi Taniguchi, the blue ranger from GoGoV (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue in America) and Amazonz Alpha in Kamen Rider Amazonz. A movie form would also come as well. Although not the same as a feature length film, this movie became a replacement as if the pandemic never happened.

I haven’t watched it for the obvious reason. Why watch a movie from a show you despise? But, this film would continue providing many firsts since Falchion, because of a later plot point about the Seiken, has a Seiken, meaning he would become important to the show. So, I thought it’d be good to watch it for the overall review in order to have the context for later. And…this movie sucked. Not bad, yet far from good. 

Side Chapter: The Immortal Swordsman Sends All to the Void

“Sir, please put your mask on and stop talking to me.”

We start with a loser kid watching a game of soccer like how I stalk my neighbor. Intense, with hands covered in Dorito chips. Just then, a mysterious stranger sits down next to him. Nothing bad happens. The guy just tells him to put the chip bag down and get a life.

Back in Wonder World, a man named Bahatobama steps off a cliff. Like a teenager who just discovered nihilism, he opens up a butthole into the sky and starts sucking out the life out of everything. Tassel opens up his window and smells the cringe like, “ooooh, that funky.” The shithole was created by the Book of Ruin, which came frooooo-well, it’ll destroy both worlds.

Touma: “Bahato. You shall not destroy all in your quest for those Gravure pictures.”
Bahato: “What! I can’t hear you. Speak up, I can’t hear you from down there!”
Touma:” What! Speak up. We can’t hear you from down here!”

The hole opens up in the sky, sucking up Japan like a political talk in a party. Everyone runs away while Tou Mama Caught Me Yankin and his band of bitches walk through the crowd, swords in hand. They appear before the portal, promising to keep to their abstinence and also to survive. They scream at Bahato that his twitter comments are cringe and unproductive. Bahato laughs at their ideals, before revealing his Wonder Ride Book: Eternal Phoenix. With the power of a poor understanding of nihilism he watched from anime, he unsheathes his sword, Kyomu, and becomes Falchion: The Void/Immortal Swordsman.

Touma and the gang transform and enter Wonder World with the power of abstinence and friendship. While the non-protagonists fight a horde of Shimi and Megid, Bahato takes Touma head on. Touma spouts about how fighting is wrong, while Bahato spouts how humanity is always set on obtaining power and will betray each other for it. Touma becomes Crimson Dragon and slashes Bahato so hard the explosive cells in his body activate.

However, as Touma lowers his guard, a single orange feather falls. Gas Money base boosts as Bahato returns. Touma’s gets stunned by the sick beat (seriously, listen to Gas Money by Xavy Rusan) that Bahato gets the hit on him. Touma falls down the cliff.

“Null? Void? Phoenix? Hotel? Trivago.”

Meanwhile, back on the homeworld of Albert Einstein and Hentai, citizens watch in awe as the world is close to being destroyed. However, Meiby it’s Meibaline tells them that the Kamen Riders will win. From their combined will of literally 3 bystanders, Jake the American Dragon leaves Touma and flies up to the butthole to bring out Toothless and that dragon from Shang-Chi. They all combine with the others to become a new book for him: Emotional Dragon. With this new power of wholesome youtubers, he becomes Emotional Dragon and faces Falchion one last time.

Touma: “Me and my friends will protect the world from temptation. You must not obtain those pictures.”
Bahato: ‘What in the world are you talk about?”

Swords clash and bodies fall as the others destroy their targets. Falchion and Saber fight until Saber gets the upper hand. With Falchion shown videos like Girlfriend Reviews before Rekka slaps him in the face, he becomes immobilized. Tootless and the Shang-Chi dragon deform Touma as they drag Falchion into the butthole. Falchion vows to return.

“It’s an eclair btw.”

With life returned to both worlds, everyone has a happy ending. The boy takes all that trauma and plays soccer with the kids who managed to survive. Our heroes watch when Mei suddenly whips out four black cocks. Rintaro gets excited and tries to take them to eat the cre-okay, I’m done. Hahaha…I’m sorry.

Cons

The Entire Plot

“Dammit book readers! You released hell on Earth.”

Since this is a 23-minute movie, I’m basically combining a bunch of sections. Anyway, what plot? This movie is basically a distilled version of every standalone Kamen Rider film. A dark rider appears to face our main team, they threaten the world, the good guy gets a movie form, they beat up the dude, and the day is saved. It’s very by the numbers with nothing making it stand out amongst the many others out there.

Bahato’s character gets expanded in the show, but here he just comes out of nowhere. None of the riders question why there’s a random dude with a freaking Seiken, even though up to this point everyone with one has been a member of the Sword of Logos. Sure, the fate of the world is at stake, but at least indicate something to the audience. The Book of Ruin comes out of nowhere, with no time to explain what the heck it is. Touma’s Brave Dragon flies into the butthole and pulls out 2 random dragons. Granted, most movie forms come out of nowhere anyway, but this one aggrieves me more than usual. There’s no time to explain anything in this movie, so it just jumps right into a fight for the rest of the screen time. 

The rest of the movie puts focus on these 3 civilians because the theme of the film is that “we live our lives normally while there are those fighting in the background to keep our lives in peace.” There’s a kid, a high school student, and a dad. However, it is so forced and blatant that it hurts. Understandably, the kid would stay with Mei since she’s an adult, but then she just makes him watch the Rider fight while parts of the city are getting sucked up. It might be a cultural thing, but wouldn’t this kid want to go to his parents or something? I love how they show his face, inspired, as Mei tells him about the theme of the story. It’s exactly like when Sophia ranted about how powerful books are to Touma. It’s so obvious.

“Well, now you just ruined it. Thanks Mei.”

When Mei helps the kid and tells him that her friends will help, the student just stops running away from the apocalyptic event to listen. Also, conveniently on center stage for the camera. Then, as Mei’s explaining the theme, the same student and the dad are just conveniently there, and the movie puts more focus on them than any other civilian. One, why are none of them running away and hiding in a bunker? Second, although there’s an apocalypse threatening the world, there’s nothing here to get invested in these random people. The kid? Yeah cause we had a scene establishing him. But the rest are these cardboard cut outs meant to be the beacon for the theme. I didn’t care when they go back to their normal lives at the end of the movie. Who were these people? 

Touma: “Here you go, Ren. Go play with your friends.”
Ren: “F@ck you Touma!”

The movie relies on two sets of cliches, both embedded in the franchise and within superhero movies in general. All the dialogue is non-stop exposition about good and bad, faith in humanity, and the friendship. Nothing about it is organic. Everyone talks like they’re in a TED Talk. When the beliefs of the 3 random civilians go into Touma as he gets Emotional Dragon, ironically, I felt no emotions from it. Nothing has weight in this film. This movie tried to be ambitious like the show but, also like the show, it falls hard on its face

Pros

Falchion Suit

“I don’t appreciate you calling my mom that!”

Alright, here’s the cosmetic stuff. Falchion is one of the best-looking riders in this show. Seriously, he got the good end of the stick. The orange and black contrast well, becoming uniform with his sword and belt. Something I forgot to talk about in the first review was how every rider’s mask are based on a sword swing. Saber’s is a cross slash, Blades’ is a vertical slash, Espada’s is a horizontal slash, Buster’s is a downward crash splitting a mountain, Kenzan’s is a cross but in the shape of a shuriken, and Slash is a thrust that resembles both the impact of the sword and the cartoonish bang used in cartoons to signal gunfire. Calibur does a downward slash as well, but his mask is more like a standard knight. Falchion follows this trend by having his eyes resembling explosions, which are things that reduce things to nothing. It’s one of the few consistent things with this series.

There’s also his main suit, which is just gorgeous. I love how inverted his armor is, with the phoenix head on his right shoulder, while the tails act as a skirt for the left side unlike the other Seiken Swordriver users work. It’s like a phoenix resting on him. I also love how the tails go around his base suit like chains or cracks. It’s visually pleasing, as if his own existence is breaking apart. As if he was corrupted to his core.

“You stealing ma look?”
“I can say the same for you, buddy.”
“*muffled screaming*”

On a side note, Falchion is an example of a rider suit reusing parts from previous suits, albeit very subtle. This is standard within the franchise, since it seems they don’t have the budget to always have new parts all the time. Not sure about that, since it’s not readily available information. For Falchion, his left side shoulder pad is taken from Kamen Rider Build’s TakaGatling form. Yes, there is a form where it’s a Hawk with a Gatling gun. Don’t question it, it gets explained in the show. The entire base suit was taken from Ghost’s, which painted over the translucent parts. It’s not very noticeable, and I only learned that from the wiki page pointing it out. A more obvious one is Emotional Dragon, which reuses the Hedgehog mask from Espada to be the white dragon head. The Brave Dragon shoulder pad from said form is mirrored to become the black dragon on the left side. The cape is taken from Kamen Rider Tsukuyomi from Kamen Rider Zi-O, while the shield was taken from the Shield Module from Kamen Rider Fourze. 

“Can I come onto your show? I need more screentime.”
“Nah, but I’ll take your cape.”
“Mom, Dad, I sh!t on the bed.”

While it may seem lazy, the best part of reusing parts is seeing how creative the team can be went retooling it for another rider…sparingly. It’s okay for them to reuse stuff for movies and specials. For the main show, it can be pretty abhorrent. Trust me…we’re gonna get to that soon.

The CGI

“Can we have a normal camping trip one time!”

I’ve always enjoyed the CGI backgrounds of Saber. Sure, it’s Tokusatsu CGI, meaning it looks like garbage, but it at least varies the locals that’s typical of these shows. Even if the concept was too ambitious for Kamen Rider, the CGI allows Wonder World to be fully realized as if it actually exists. This movie takes place primarily in Wonder World, where Touma fights Bahato onto of a tall mountain from day to night. While it does transition back to the same cliff area in every Tokusatsu show ever, it blends with the CGI. Nothing feels jarring, and, if you accept the CGI, the finale is an amazing spectacle. Seeing Saber fight Falchion under the night sky as a large portal is sucking up everything made the movie bearable. I wish the rest of the show was more like this, sparingly, since CGI be expensive, because this is really one of the last times Wonder World is explored.

The Credits?

“Yes? Hello, police? Hi, this Power Range is dancing in front of my house and causing a ruckus. Yes, he’s a Power Ranger-oh my god! He just fired a pink sidearm at a crowd of cosplayers. He’s stabbing them! Oh my god-“

The credits are pretty charming. Not because it’s the end, but because it’s cute. It has scenes of each character doing something as a picture book, with each scene being transitioned by the book turning the page. Ryo cutting down boulder after boulder, Kento flying in the sky, Daishinji testing out the gun mode of his sword, and other brief moments that give character. It’s visually appealing, fitting the book theme, and it’s one of the very few times I enjoy these characters. If the whole show was like this, I’d enjoy the hell out of it more.

Overview:

This movie is a hard pass for anyone who’s a veteran Toku fan or even a newcomer. There is no substance whatsoever, the plot is nonexistent, and it relies on cliches so much despite not doing anything different with them. I would even say I made a mistake. Though this story introduces Falchion, his introduction here is about as random as someone watching the show without watching the movie seeing Falchion come out of nowhere. I don’t think you need to watch this film to enjoy the show. It’s best left untouched.

At first, I thought of making an argument that this movie would be a good start for newcomers to Tokusatsu. I wouldn’t say it would make for a good Kamen Rider introduction, as the franchise is more story based than Power Rangers or Super Sentai. But, as an introduction to Toku, I think it may work. It has a villain who wants to end the world, as many Toku villains are. It showcases the toys that do plague modern Toku but isn’t so much that it’s overwhelming. It has all the themes of these shows, albeit cliché. And the main rider gets an upgrade form, which is something to be expected. Plus, it’s a short film, so they have all the time to watch and finish it. But what do you think? If you’re an expert of Toku, or have watched this movie, would you show this to someone looking to get into the genre as an introduction? Let me know in the comments.

“Hmmm…I wonder if we’ll see this guy soon. Also, don’t question this room. It’s briefly shown sometimes.”

Anyway, next time, we return to Touma’s adventure as he tries to discover who the traitor is; the person who’s caused all the events in this series. However, he’ll learn that such a quest won’t bide well with his companions, so he’ll need an ancient one to survive.

-Samuel Argueta

Kamen Rider is owned by Toei and Bandai. Please support the official release.

Kamen Rider Saber Chapter 1: The Awakened Rekka, The Megid’s First Move, and The Mysterious Calibur?

Introduction:

Kamen Rider Saber came out during the 2020-2021 period, during the 50th anniversary of the series just 3 years after the 20th anniversary of the Heisei Era. However, while Super Hero Senki is tied to Saber as a commeroation of the franchise, Revice would be the official anniversary series. So, technically Saber is an anniversary series but only in year.

Since this is the first Kamen Rider series I’m covering, I’ll quickly go over the basics. I would advise to go to my blog post covering Kamen Rider in general. Like every season, Saber has a weird ass gimmick that leads to a lot of genius, physical puns. This time, it’s a combination of books and knights. Many seasons before, especially in the last 6 years, lean heavily into science fiction as a homage to the Showa era. Saber, on the other hand, stands out as a high fantasy show with its own lore and alternate dimension, making it more of a homage to a lot of earlier Heisei like Kuuga and Blade.

“In this coming back to fight back the nut, his resistance will be a symbol for others to follow.”

When the first scans of the show were released, I had a mixed response. I loved that we were returning to the mystical side of rider, since it was what got me into Kuuga back in the day. While I still love the science fiction aspect, it was getting pretty stale by Zero One. The books looked interesting, considering how small the toys were, and the sword and knight aesthetic had the potential for more sword-based combat that would make Saber stand out. However, Saber’s Base suit was, and still is, not impressive. Not only did it lean more towards the design aesthetic of Build, but the idea that all of the dragon armor was on one side made it look incomplete. It also made the belt an eye sore. Drivers with multiple items in it to initiate a combo have all its slots filled most of the time, but the Seiken Swordriver allowed only one book to initiate the transformation. With just one, it just didn’t look right.

But I kept an open mind when the first trailer hit, which revealed that the show would be utilizing full CGI scenes. A new world, called Wonder World, with a rider possibly from it fighting monsters made of books while an indigo knight waited in the shadow. This show had promise. They may not have gotten through it all, but the world building they can do with the knights and this alternate dimension couldhave been it one of the most unique rider seasons in a while. After a year and 36 episodes…

I wanted to buy the hardest liquor.

To spoil a little of the overview post, Kamen Rider Saber became one of the worst seasons in the franchise (consider I haven’t watched every season yet), and a fundamental lesson in how to not write a story or create a tokusatsu show, in my opinion. Poorly executed characters, repulsive inconsistencies all around, and a mess of a plot from start to finish. Revice’s bare minimum, just the bare minimum, was enough to reinvigorate me back into the franchise. In my initial week-to-week viewing, I quit entirely because it was hard to get through.

“All the readers reading this wondering why I would do this to myself. The short answer to the paragraph is that I’m a sadist to myself.”

So, why the hell am I even reviewing it if I hated it so much? Well, because it’s still minty fresh in the mind factory. Before I came into this review, I wanted to trash the absolute hell out of this stink pile. It wasn’t until I sat down to plan this post that, instead, I wanted to not only finish it, but re-watch it in its entirety. I had the thought that maybe, in my numbness, I missed something that might have actually been good. I wanted to review the whole show bit by bit to understand why I didn’t like or what I might appreciate more. Something to make it more analytical and fairer rather than 10 pages of pure anger. Was I wrong, or was I right?

I’ll be splitting this review into different parts based on the 4 arcs of the show, including the short film with Falchion, before the overall finale. For those who have watched it, I will not include the swordsman chronicles series in the overall show synopsis, or the Sword of Logos saga for now, but I will use info within for clarification and character insight when needed. You do not have to watch the swordsman chronicles (due to it containing 2 new scenes and a bunch of repeat scenes) and you cannot watch the Sword of Logos saga until you’ve finished the second arc (due to spoiling said arc).

The next page will be a full story review for those who need a refresher before I give my thoughts or if you don’t want to watch the show. I will then split the rest, from characters to worldbuilding, into their own pages from pros to cons. Saber does have a lot, even in just one chapter, so I want it to be digested as easily as possible.

“My sanity getting dragged back into watching the show.”

Child of Light Part 2: The Music, the Graphics, and The Little Things.

Last time on Child of Light, I discussed the essential parts of the game in the attempt to mask my horrible scheduling. From the story, the characters, and the gameplay elements in both a critical and, admittedly, bias way. Now it’s time for me to discuss the other aspects, from its stellar music to its side quests that were alright. Was this a necessary post? Maybe. Was it for quantity? Ask my dead integrity.

Music: Beats by Coeur

“Igniculus shined like the sun and melted my eyes…”

Video game music is my sh!t, and Child of Light delivers a soundtrack that slaps hard! Admittedly, I am not the best when it comes to talking about music. Like, how do you I put the feelings I have about onto words in the most accurate way? Well, I’ll give it my best shot. The music, by Coeur de Pirate, has this fantastical yet melancholic feel to it, relying on pure instruments emphasizing on piano, violins, and flutes, to amply the adventure. It’s a symphony fit for a fairytale, giving the game its own identity.

Traveling around Lemuria is a musical dream, presenting a crisp orchestra as you solve puzzles and fly around the sky. From “Patches in the Sky” to “Pilgrims of a Long Journey,” it sets the tone of magic and wonder while reminding you of the torment brought by Umbra. I can only compare it to how Metroid sets the tone with its music, creating a soft ambience the amplify the eerie feel as you travel through the planet or the space station.

Coeur’s music is like a classic Disney movie, at least what a classic Disney film is meant to represent as a kid. It’s beautiful on the first run but still retains the magic on subsequent listens. Basically, when it was good.

I personally love “Patches in the Sky,” which plays as you go to the Temple of the Moon. The piano has this soft soul underneath its violin, telling how close you are to the “end” of your journey. It captures the wonder of this flying…city? I don’t quite know what the structures are supposed to be in this section. Ruins? The circus? An abandoned town? Whatever Tristis decided to kill himself in, the pure sight of it fills the imagination and the music helps create an awe-inspiring feeling. It’s the track I give subsequent listens to for studying.

Now, the battle music is the peak of this game. It actually contrasts the peaceful melodies of the overworld music. Like this is some Lord of the Rings level of epic and triumphant. The music makes every battle feel like you’re in Mordor, winning even with the eye of Sauron is just above the horizon. Especially “Jupiter’s Lightning,” this trumpet loving song that’s a regular battle theme disguised as a boss theme. It makes fights spectacular, and I’ll admit to getting pumped. It makes me want to fight enemies just to hear it. The other battle themes are great too, but Jupiter is the best one. Coeur managed to create one of the best regular battle themes in JRPG history, better than the many Final Fantasy or Pokemon themes. I’ll play more, I swear. I hear Legend of the Dragoon is good…

“Oh no, my Golem is going to be hit by a grass move. Why did Gamefreak also make him ground type!”

Maybe it’s just me, but Couer’s soundtrack is something to behold for yourself. I really recommend the video about how she made the music, going from simple to orchestrated when it came to the boss fights.

Graphics: A Moving Painting

“Yo, Aang is to the west. Pay attention for any fishermen huts, they’ll have the monk your looking for.”

The game utilizes the Rayman Legend’s engine for its animation but has such a different presentation compared to whatever the hell Rayman is supposed to be. Seriously, every time I watch my brother play it, I ask, “the hell happened to his limbs?!” Child of Light on the Switch is a visual beauty, a moving painting that compliments the game’s high fantasy. A lot of the game’s cool color scheme has this nice blue hue to it of varying degrees, but it does journey into warmer colors for places like Bolmus Poppuli. The developers made it so the background wasn’t static or lifeless. Many characters and monsters roam around in the landscapes, giving the world more depth. Sonic did this all the way back in the 80s, showcasing spanning cities or luscious forests as a backdrop, but 2d games (at least the one’s I’ve played as a gaming scrub) in recent years are able to have these backdrops so animated that its visually stunning. I love when a game leaves a lot to the imagination. The most iconic moment is the beginning, seeing the giant roam Lemuria as you walk across a small stream.

Animations for Aurora are equally impressive, especially her hair physics. It sways everywhere you go, raising up when being healed by Igniculus and sometimes covering her face. Her hair is like Medusa from Marvel; The locks have a mind on their own. Though, Aurora and her family are the only 3d models in the overworld. Everyone else is a 2d “sprite,” if sprites were just bio pics. This never becomes jarring since their animations are just as fluid as Aurora’s. It’s a few head nods but it keeps them from becoming cardboard cutouts. I’m surprised the writers didn’t have a moment where one town was struck frozen by Umbra to the point where they did look like a drift store prop.

The battle animations are great, specifically with the monsters. Each are given 4 kinds of movements, individual to their design. When attacking, archers fire arrows while rocks just hop in place (at least this one has an excuse Gamefreak!). Some are better than others, since the archers have this weird lag with the sound effect with firing. Monsters have a “push back” animation when hit, making attacks feel powerful. This is the same with the heroes, so battles end up with more weight to it. Monsters have a charge up animation, which vary in quality. Some reflect their design, like how the archer backs up like he’s charging the bow, while many are just “get big!” These compensation ones are just boring since they revert to normal size. I wish they stayed in their big boy forms, then lose it when they release their charge. Finally, there is the “almost dead” phase, where they visibly look down as if they’re getting scolded by their principle for being creative. It’s small but appreciated since enemies don’t have life bars. All of this makes regular grind fodder have life to them.

And that’s what Child of Light’s presentation is. On the big screen, it’ll take your breath away how beautiful Lemuria is. It’s water-color, cartoon artstyle stands out so well, making it one of the most recognizable games on the Switch. There’s barely any lag, so visuals pop onto the screen no problem. I highly suggest playing on a large TV. the handheld mode is good, but the TV’s presentation is way better.

Sidequests: In this Time Frame?

“Miraculous! Something something french, something something I stalk a blonde boy…Miraculous!”

Yeah, the sidequests are all…okay. I’m primarily talking about the ones you get from NPCS. I’ll get into the secrets later. The main characters do have sidequests that fit their character, such as saving the Kategida clan or getting Rubella’s brother. My personal favorite is the Kategida one since it’s in a labrynth puzzle that has actual ties to the lore of the game. However, none of the others are fun to do besides the reward. They’re the kind of sidequests that are just chores, like “kill these spiders in front of my lawn” or “get my flying pig back!” Yes, pigs do fly in Lemuria so any excuse you have is invalid. You could honestly skip them because they add nothing to the plot or the NPCS’ character in an interesting way. It’s one of the game’s weakest points.

Secrets: You Found the Thing!

The most interesting of Lemuria’s secrets are literal flying paper. Scattered throughout the world are diary letters that go further in-depth of Lemuria’s lore, primarily focusing on the explorers that were the ancestors of Aurora and Umbra. They aren’t too hard to find since flying, ripped paper in a world full of monsters will stand out, plus they continue the poetic writing of the dialogue.

Alongside the paper are the stardust’s, which are the game’s stat increase items. Same idea as the other things around, but their very much in the open. They can be taken by Igniculus, so they’re the easiest out of the collectables. Some are even rewards for side quests, such as the trade sequence. They still do that right? I’m still behind the times on gaming, correct?

“Ah yes, the most challenging of bosses: Darumaka’s sentient turds.

Smaller “dungeons” lay hidden, mostly within doors with a gem or a random entrance in a dungeon. Most of them contain puzzles that are just “fly fast” or a boss. On that note, a lot of the puzzles in the game are pretty simple. It’s one of the game’s weaker points since most are just flying through wind, moving block, or lighting stuff up. Nothing really worth wild or memorable. The rewards are more of the same: gems and potions. I do like the idea of bigger versions of enemies acting as bosses, but many of them use the same strategies. They’re just…bigger.

Annnddd…that’s all I have left. Now for my 2nd overview.

Overview

“Don’t get all mushy about it. I want your gold you European murderer, now hand it over!”

Like I said in Part 1, I really enjoyed this small JRPG for managing to bring back that classic fairytale feel with a great story and fun battle mechanics. The smaller aspects of the game are just as good, especially the music and the graphics, though the side quests and collectibles are the game’s weaker points. Many sidequests feel uninspired and the puzzles, while fun for a while with some good rewards, become lackluster.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the game. I hope you had a fun experience just as I did. I highly recommend checking out how the developers created the game through their series on Ubisoft’s Youtube channel. They’re short and sweet, but a great way to understand the magic behind the game. Anyway, I’ll hope you’ll return whenever the f to read me write more swear words than the lord would permit because I’m tackling Kamen Rider Saber, because 2020 decided to spawn both a virus and this show.

-Samuel Argueta

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Compilation

Can you spot the new addiction throughout my recent posts? It’s not the heroine manning my writing.

I watched the entire original Gundam show through 3 compilation movies on the youtube channel GundamInfo. I thought it was an incredible show and start for the franchise, but the compilations themselves were pretty alright. Especially found in the second movie, I could tell that too much was put in and a lot of the fleshed-out details like character and story bits were rushed because of it. A great show, but okay movies.

The year UC 0079, and the Principality of Zeon have waged a rebellion against the Earth for independence, thus starting the One Year War. Also they dropped a colony. The Zabi Family, at the head of Zeon, lead their soldiers using the revolutionary change to warfare: Mobile Suits. On Site 7, young Nuke Amuro Gunray witnesses the terror of war as No-Goufs Boy 2’s wage an attack on the Federation’s secret weapon stashed in the colony. Amuro ignores his father as he enters into the cockpit of Earth’s greatest turning point, the RX-78 Gundam, to defeat the enemy soldiers.

Now, forced with other children to fight in the war in the White Base (yes it’s called that) Amuro and the Gundam (and I guess the Guntank and Guncannon) will change the course of One Year War while ignoring the other Gundams that come along later. Idk, I haven’t watched them all yet.

Ungifted

So, real talk. I didn’t plan a book post well because I had school and I didn’t know what to do about screenshot jokes. So, here’s my apology recommendation. I swear, it’s still better written than Captain Marvel.

Young Donovan Navonod is a middle school kid so reckless he makes my 1 am walks seem smarter. One day, he smacks the thicc @ss of a statue and causes it’s bronze world to smash into the nearby gym. Does he get in trouble? No, he gets accidently awarded by being transferred to the gifted program school. Now, with the school district superintendent on his trail, he has to keep low while having to fake his way long enough for the drama to die down. However, it turns out that the smart kids may value him more than they could have thought.

I really hope that read with that generic synopsis voice for all those kids movies. I thought of writing generic lines like “Now, he’ll learn that he may be the best thing for the smart kids” or something like that. That’s my critic on the back of the book, which was literally written by that generic guy voice in all those trailers.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Hey, remember that weird movie review I did for that elf movie. Please don’t read it. Anyway, something that I don’t talk about much is my love for classic films. I mainly mean from the 60s to the 80s. Westworld, Logan’s Run, Dr Strangelove, Forbidden Planet, and a bunch of others. There is something beloved about the old ways they would create the worlds of the films, having to rely on the practical rather than today’s CGI reliance.

I watched this film for a drama class I’m taking, and it is seriously one of the funniest comedies out there. It’s very simple humor, but the physical comedy and clever dialogue is so witty it reminds me of a Monty Python film. I also love the camera work since it’s so good at adapting to the emotions of the scene, whether it be made into quick shots for the humor or angled shots for a character’s anxiety. It’s genuinely well-made for a 60s film and has some of the most unique visuals I’ve seen from a film from it’s era. At least to me.

In this adaptation of a musical and kind of Pseudolus, our MC is the conniving slave looking to obtain his freedom. When his masters’ son, Hero, wants to marry a girl in the slave house next door, he makes a deal that’ll get them both what they truly desire. What comes next is an elaborate plot of madness as the slave tries to hook the two up while more and more complications arise, especially in the form of the girl’s buyer Captain Miles Glorious, who will burn everything to get his bride. With some of the best actor performances and chemistry, with a mixture of comedy and clever writing, this is a classic that’ll make you holler every 5 minutes.

Republic Commando: Dark, Gritty, and Full of Banter

Star Tre-I mean Star Wars! The gripping science fiction masterpiece that’s spawned so many different story mediums Disney had to make it all non-canon just because it’s too f@cking big. Like my lightsaber. Farm boys becoming ace pilots, X-wings swimming through space to evade bow ties, and sword wielding mages fighting to protect or enslave the galaxy. Star Wars is an awe-inspiring science fiction franchise and, to me, the science fiction franchise that many see today as historically relevant and genre breaking.

You’ve the got the smart one, the child, and the psycho-path all in one place. One happy family.

I would say I’m a major fan of the franchise, but I’ve mostly viewed the movies and shows, for better and for worst. Reylo makes me sick. I was an avid fan of the first 6 movies, my jaw dropping at the Death Star imploding in Ep4 and Anakin and Obi-wan fighting their way through General Grievous’ ship in Ep 3. This was my jam as a kid, never getting tired of sword fights and incredible set pieces…well, except for the shitty CG added to the original. Funnily enough, I used to think that the prequel trilogy was made first before the original. My 6-year-old brain never noticed how old Ep 4 was. .

However, despite this love, I never really went out of my way to experience the all-expansive Expanded Universe much (Legends now, if you’re a newbie), only playing Dark Forces, reading 2 books, and watching the Old Republic trailers. Now, like many properties growing up, my computer was slow as balls, so I never learned there was such thing as an EU past middle school. Same thing with Nintendo; I legitimately thought every character in Melee only existed in Melee. While it’s exciting and refreshing to finally experience some of the EU content, I couldn’t get into it because of how big it was. Like my lightsaber. I compare it to the Bionicle lore, except even more massive. As stupid as it was making EU non-canon, I could almost agree with some of the logic considering no general audience is gonna read, watch, or play all the sh@t to understand a sequel trilogy. Then again, to my dismay, my journey into the EU turned out to not be confusing at all, especially Darth Plagues, so what do I know. In any case, I love this franchise. Anything from the EU is a genuinely exciting feeling and brings back the adventure of discovering something new, and I do think Star Wars is in good hands with Filoni. If only a certain KK would leave already.

So, why I am rambling and not diving head first into the game? One, cause I have the keyboard. Two, setting the scene. One aspect about Star Wars that’s interesting is the latter war. The Prequals would end up showing how war is in this franchise, with the movies and Clone Wars giving a full in-depth look into the different conflicts the Jedi and the clones went through against the several Separatist and 3rd party enemies. While I did find Clone Wars to be a masterpiece, and especially helped with the viewing of the prequals, there is one game before that showed not only a uniquely grim side of the war, but also the fact that clones have personality. Republic Commando; the black ops story of the Republic. Ever wonder who takes care of the behind the scenes during the war? You didn’t? Too bad, here it is.

“I made this joke already.”

Republic Commando: No Fancy Weapons and Ancient Religions Here

“Tuning in to Clone TV, bringing you all the movies with none of the propaganda. Today we’re playing the Lego Movie, just to remember how you are the special till the day you die.”

Created by Lucasfilm in 2005, released on PC and Xbox, this game is about a black ops team of commandos performing several missions during the years of the war while being as unprofessional and professional as possible. It’s incredible how much they walk that thin line. With Temuera Morrison returning to play Boss, the playable character, a slew of talented voice actors giving it their all, and more violence than usual in a Star Wars game, Republic Commando sets itself apart as a hard-edged game while managing to balance the grittiness with bantering humor.

The Story: Uhh…

It isn’t…much of a story per say. There is a consistent plot within, but each campaign is essentially its own thing. The game starts with a montage of Boss’s life, being bred by the noodle necks to be trained in the republic’s new, totally-not-shady, clone army. However, unlike many of his brethren, Boss is trained to become a Commando, an elite soldier specialized for infiltration mission(despite the fact that their given one of the best guns in the army considering it can be customized to be a machine gun, a sniper rifle, and an actual grenade launcher. Someone knowledgably in Legends explain this to me, because Regs would live longer if they had this).  However, he isn’t alone, as he’s chosen to be the leader of Delta Squad, consisting of: Scorch, the demolition expert who’s got something to say every 10 minutes, Fixer, the no-shit attitude soldier who follows orders and quiets banter, and Sev, the murderous sniper who counts kill and banters a lot with Scorch. Okay, Filoni, we all know you played this before making Bad Batch. Afterwards, Boss is seen outside as everyone is loading up for Geonosia during Ep 2. Once you enter the Republic Gunship, it’s time to rack your kills.

There are 3 campaign missions based on a world(or a ship): Geonosis, the Prosecutor, and Kashyyyk. While that sounds short, each campaign lasts a while with several different missions within. And lots of enemies.

Geonosis: Pest Control

Something of a side story during Ep 2, Delta Sqaud to take out of Sun Fac, a Geonosian leader with a beautiful, evil beard like chin. You meet each of your squad one by one as you make your way, while simultaneously taking care of other missions behind the scenes to give a Republic their first edge in this starting war.

“You know how that Shoretrooper got a following because they died just getting their lunch? Can we get a following for this unnamed clone being the only company Boss had? And, yes, this guy does fit the criteria of dying.

The Prosecutor: Because All Republic Ships have to Enforce the Fact That They Are The Ruling Government

Delta Squad is going deep into space when a republic cruiser, their first home, has mysteriously stopped all contact and has been found damaged in a sector it shouldn’t be in. The squad splits up to receive data on what exactly happened, slowly realizing the horror of a new alliance brewing for the separatist faction.

“I don’t know if you can see it, but Boss is currently entering…the enemy scrotum!”

Kashyyyk: Even the name is asking “Why!”

Sometime during the timeline of Ep 3, this new alliance comes into play in the final mission, where the Wookies are under threat of invasion. The first task is to save their leader, Tarfful, before breaking out into all-out war to secure the Wookie civilization away from separatist tyranny. All mechanics come together in this race of time to prove Ki-Adi-Mundi right.

“Hey Sev, the last time Boss was in a LAAT with another clone they…ooohhh”

I appreciate how Delta Squad’s story is this small part of the prequal trilogy while still feeling like a fully fleshed story on its own. It’s paced well due to its constant action, but it allows for slow and downright creepy moments, especially the 2nd mission. This special ops perspective gives a different and unique look to the franchise and world; a perspective lacking in the safe and magical feeling the Jedi always gave us.

Gameplay

Solo: Shoot First, Ask Questions Never

The game mechanics are split into two different categories: solo and team. On your own, the game is a standard FPS. You’ve got the guns, the bombs, and the armor to take out anything in your path. Besides the customizable DC-17m, you’ve got a pistol with unlimited rounds, an arm blade to cut NEEEECKS, and enemy weapons that are either dropped by them or just lying around carelessly. From the Geonosian Arm Cannon to the Wookie Bowcaster, there is a lot of variety for play that keeps fire fights from becoming stale.

There are some rules to weaponry to keep in mind. There are different grenades for different situations that don’t work in others, like the flash grenade to stun organics and the EMP for mechanical foes. Enemies require logical strategies to conserve as much ammo as you’ll want or need for the next level, as transitions to the next section (sometimes) doesn’t replenish it in a way like Metal Arms. Will you use grenades or the grenade launcher to quickly deal with Supers or save it in case you’re in a swarm of enemies later on? I never really noticed, but enemy weaponry is said to not be as effective against their maker.

I went back to test this and I noticed a few things, and the few things are that it doesn’t matter! The in-between level text was added to the switch (unless the PC version just didn’t have this) and that’s where the quote came from. Spoilers, the Trando shotgun and machine gun and the Geonosian laser beam do the job on their makers. If anything the machine gun is crap against Super Battle Droids, and even then they’re hard with the standard weaponry the commandos get. I’m not quite sure what they’re referring to. Maybe this was a feature meant for the game but was never implemented? Maybe the writers for the quotes weren’t informed? I don’t know, either way it probably would have ruined the streamline and creativity of fights anyway if the enemy guns didn’t work on the enemies.

Here’s a segment of videos showing it off:

Author Note Here: I can’t do a side by side because it doesn’t allow for fullscreen.
“It doesn’t f@ckin matter!”

Movement is pretty standard, though I wouldn’t get used to the jump button like Mario. You’ll use the left stick to move to run around while you use the right for camera/aim. And… it’s pretty clunky on the Switch. Unlike the accuracy of a computer mouse, I have a difficult time aiming at enemies because of how sensitive the camera movement is. The wired controller for dock mode is a lot better, but playing hand held can be frustrating. Starting out the first time, I stared at droids with a deadly grin while using 20 bullets to kill one. There is a zoom in button and assist aim, and enough practice will help, but expect some sluggish controls at the beginning.

However, and I’m not sure if this is in the other versions, there is an apparent limit to how much you can move the camera left and right. Unfortunately, there is a constant glitch where the camera will just sky rocket all the way in different direction, mostly up and down. Because of this, it moves the camera to its limit, so it appears as if it got locked from that position. This gets infuriating during combat because it makes it so you can’t hit enemies on either side. This is, unfortunately, the beginning of this port’s problems.

Here’s an example:

“Btw, it’s inhumanly possible to be that fast with the camera.”

Finally, since there are levels where you’re on your own, it’s best to understand the solo mechanics well because the game is way harder when it’s by yourself. When you die with your team, you can command them to revive you, prompting some funny lines and moments. When you die alone, it’s game over. Luckily, these levels accommodate your loneliness, so it never “feels” like you need the team in these moments. I’ll admit, I enjoy these sections because the game becomes a solid single FPS, allowing you appreciate the rest of the game for managing to balance both, and listening in to your squad do their part.

Together: Boys will be boys, Clones will be murder machines.

The game’s best mechanic is its command controls with the team. While dealing with blaster fire, you have to command and navigate the team effectively if you hope to get through a level in relatively one piece.

The A Button: If Only We Had This In Real Life.

The A button is your best friend when performing quick commands, something the devs did to ease Star Wars players into this kind of tactical FPS genre. Throughout each level, there will be interactive objects for you or your team to use in order to advance, such as hackable data terminals, sniping positions, and bombable walls. The coolest one is door breaches, where you can choose to either go into a room quietly by hacking the controls or performing an actual break in procedure by placing a small charge on the door.

“I will say, it’s super obvious that a different animation plays when they get into position. It’s pretty jarring at times.”

The process of simply pressing A is seamless and fun, with the only nitpick being the lack of control of who goes to do what and sometimes making a squad member do a task despite the fact you’re standing right in front of the thing! Plus, only squad members can use sniping positions.  The way the game sends squad members is that it makes the closest one or the one who isn’t doing anything do the task, while with bacta it’s the person with sustained damage.

I understand that having the option to choose a member breaks the quick pace and concentration during fire, which is perfectly fine, but I wish I could choose which member does what because I have to rely on either the game choosing for me or meticulously manipulating it to what I want, which is a lot slower. The game gave the squad member’s specialties to reduce the time spent on a task: Fixer is quick with datapads, Sev is good at sniping, and Scorch is faster with detonators. It’s agitating watching Fixer be put in sniper duty and having to rely on Sev or Scorch to take so long on a terminal. Not being able to choose who does what and rely on luck in the situation, I feel, take as bit away from player control.

“So…is the door stuck? Man, the Geonosians really cut on the budget.”

By the way, besides doing commands, you are the only one who can detonate charges, meaning you have to rely on squad members to revive you if you die. The game is difficult for many good reasons, but its stuff like this that feels arbitrary.

Advanced Maneuvers: When A Really Becomes the Best Button

When you hold A, you bring up four maneuvers/tactics that the team will follow:

-Form up: When you want the squad to stay close together

-Seek and Destroy: An offensive position where squad members roam around to find and kill enemies.

-Secure Area: A defensive position where they stay to protect a single spot.

-Cancel All: This is best for when you have every member doing something, i.e sniping or taking a torrent, and you need to move on. It’s a faster way to tell them to get your ass over hear instead of pressing A to individually cancel each position.

The Helmet: Micromanaging All in One Space

“You know what, y-y-you have a point Scorch.”

On your own, it’s just about using low light when it’s too hard to see (which makes the abandoned ship level so much better for its lonely atmosphere), your own health, ammo on the gun, and which grenade is equipped. But, to explain why I saved it for this section, the part that draws a lot of attention is your team members health, located on the bottom left. Green is good, yellow is worrisome, and orange is when you get a man some bacta. Normal or hard, you’re gonna want to pay attention to this so you know who needs health and needs cover when your being overrun. If you’re in a situation where a member or 2 (or all sometimes), it becomes crucial to get this menu stuck in your routine.

Overview of Squad Commands

The difficulty in Republic Commando comes from this balancing act of completing the objective, killing enemies, and creating damage control through commands. Because of how straight forward and non-linear they are, it allows for creative experimentation on multiple replays, seeing which different strategies work best or worse in a given situation. It’s not very complex, although some would be nice, but the devs implemented in a way where it doesn’t hinder the intensity of fights. It’s the perfect blend that reinforces the team aspect of Delta Squad. It’s engaging as hell and never gets boring thanks to the way each level is made and paced. I’d say this game mechanic it was solidified Republic Commando as the perfect videogame: fun and replayable.

Miscellaneous Things

Enemies: They’ve Sent In the Supers!

To reference a past game, one of the things I adored about Metal Arms was its enemies and A.I. They each packed a punch, even the lowly grunts when they’re together in groups. It required a lot of patience and strategy to take them down within each level, but it allowed every weapon to be used against them in creative ways. Plus, they were great at duking out damage and simultaneously crapping on you for being a scrub.

Republic Commando has its own slew of enemies, though some are more difficult than others. If you seriously die to a regular battle droid that was not from behind or from previous damage, you need to git gud. If you died because the camera messed up, well then you get a pass and a beer for my empathy. Super Battle Droids, on the other hand, will decimate you. I’m gonna say it, this is the best iteration of the Supes in the franchise (I know I talked about not knowing the EU. I meant be the best I’ve seen). The shows and Battlefront make them out to be as expendable as tin cans, but this game portrayed them as hulking, heavily armored terminators that take a beating just to damage a portion of the shell. Their rocket launchers hit hard, they take more than just regular shots to kill, and they sometimes still go on even when their legs stop working. Somehow, Supes being walking tanks are more terrifying in this game than the Droidekas, also named Destroyers. Let that sink in. Their difficulty is reminiscent the Metal Arms Titans, especially their heavy weaponry and mountains of armor. I’d love to see a death battle between them.

“Now, imagine these guys in droves in tight corridors, filling up hangars in ships, and generally being a looming presence. Nasty stuff.”

The other typical enemies are the organics. Geonosians become difficult due to their flying tactics, mostly seen with the Elites, and close combat attacks with a spear, plus their babies. The best way to describe their children is like a baby xenomorph who’s born in a sort of midway point to the adult Xeno. They use the dark areas where they’re born to screech like demons and spit acid at you. Gonna say it, I don’t feel bad murdering the little shits. Then there are the, spoilers, Trandoshans. These guys are a huge nuisance, especially in the second campaign. One of their tactics is coming out of literally nowhere. Vents? Trandos. Corner? Trandos. A f@cking tree? Lizard! They’re a lot smarter with their A.I, such as picking up your grenades and throwing them back. Other than that, they have… jetpacks? The ones with machines guns have these strange backpacks which I’m not sure what’s it used for, but it sends them flying in a blazing glory when you fire at it. Finally, the Trando Elites are these hulking hulks who uses a Gatling guns of death, murder, and eviscerations. They’re pretty much the trando version of Supes, but they’re a lot easier in my opinion. First appearance is great, especially how they show him physical crushing clones like their nothing, but that first appearance is quickly diminished since they appear in areas with a lot of wiggle room compared to the choking hallways Supes are found.

Humor: My Ways Both Confuse and Disturb Scorch

Let’s be real, the best thing about Republic Commando is the commandos themselves. In a game full of death and violence, their constant quips and bantering during levels gives life to the grim situations, eases the tension, and gives character to them behind the mask. Most of it consists of Scorch and Sev talking smack to each, Fixer having enough of their shit, Scorch making commentary like how he can’t remember if it’s the green wire or red wire (and he’s supposed to be the demolition expert); Boss sometimes making comments to himself while Fixer asks about it, Fixer once complaining about a Wookie in the middle of crossfire but hesitating when Scorch says that he should tell them and so many other quips and lines, and Sev just letting out some disturbing facts. It’s so much that I had to make a poorly structured list just to fit a general synopsis of their humor.

Here’s a few of my favorite:

Even cutscenes have some fun little moments, such as the squad helping each other adjust their backpacks, Sev zoning out when he was supposed to press the elevator button, Scorch and Sev having some brotherly fights, and many. It brings a nice breath of air in between the tense moments, and gives real character to a squad that otherwise never gets development (this isn’t one of those games). They aren’t just mindless soldiers, they’re real people who have a sick sense of humor. The humor itself helps them stick out from the rest of the clones, even the ones in Clone Wars, but also allows for the serious situation are never downplayed. It’s well balanced to perfection and you’ll leave the game hearing their quotes in your head for months.

Attention to Detail: This is Where the Fun Begins

I’m currently learning how important attention to detail really is for a piece of art medium. While it may appear that little things shouldn’t matter, it greatly elevates it because it shows how careful the writer, developer, or whoever was with the art. The creators of Republic Commando went out of there way to immerse you into the world in a very flawless way.

The first mission alone sets up the quality and tone of the game, right as you watch a fellow clone get snagged and killed in first minute. Now, whoever did the sound design is a god because it has weight and is satisfyingly crisp. As you move through the battlefield, you hear gun shots, clones screaming for their lives, the devilish roars of Geonosians, bombs going off, and so much chaos that it creates the perfect war environment. The coms have a nice static and low frequency to them like a real radio. The sound of your gun is effective at giving “umph” to attacks, much like the impact the guns in Metal Arms had. The best part is that no music plays; It allows the environment to speak for itself rather than dramatic music. A perfect first level to lay down what you’ll expect.

Other little sound and seeable details include:

-The sound of steam when you reload

-Reverb in large, chasm like places to create an echo effect.

-The shink of your vibroblade

-The robotic sound effect for droids

-The little click and clacks of armor and footprints

There is also a lot of smaller things that gives the game more life:

-Commandos limp when heavily hurt

-The DC-17m, when in the standard mode, has this little rivet at the end of the muzzle that ricochets as you fire.

-The weird claws of the Geonosian gun “tapping” your arm like a bug. It’s it…trying to dig in but can’t cause of the armor?

-The squad doing littles things during cutscenes, mentioned before.

-The little details behind the Super Battle Droid armor, like the little wires and buttons revealed when you blow it off

-Add many more

Soundtrack: *Insert Raging Mandalorian Language*

It’s okay. A lot it is leans towards the atmospheric side, which greatly adds to the tense tone of the campaign but isn’t that enjoyable outside of that, at least for me. It utilizes pre-existing Star Wars music from the movies which, from what I’ve experienced with Battlefront 2, Dark Forces, and Dark Forces 2, seems to be the go-to way to further cement a Star Wars game as a Star Wars. It brings a nice familiarity considering the game barely has notable Star Wars characters, though I do enjoy its main theme. The Mandalorian chanting has presence, giving a gothic mood like the Commandos are some heavenly force (which they are). Other than that, there isn’t much to say. Great music for in the moment, but not something I’d listen to on my own.

Multiplayer: Escaping the Bull of $20 Internet

Not on the Switch version. I saw some gameplay of it while writing this and it actually looked fun. With the single mode already being pretty tight, I could imagine the multiplayer being a fun FPS like Battlefront. But that’s all for me on that. Let me know in the comments your memories of this cause I do like nostalgia and other’s people nostalgia for stuff.

The Extras/Unlockables:

Like with Metal Arms (Jesus I’m referencing this game a lot), unlockable are just interviews about how the game was made. I love these because, like I’ve stated in previews reviews, you get to understand how the game was made. It gives insight into how the team actually learned from a special ops agent on how to perform the right positions and movement to later implement in the 3d design, how Morrison gave personality to Boss and why he’s the greatest after a spa day, and how the sound designer created the effects. It’s not new maps, it’s not costumes, and it’s not anything that affects the actual game, but it’s there to inform you on how a masterpiece was made if you’re interested. And that, to me, is better than loot crates.

On the history of development, it’s amazing how Republic Commando managed to be this good in what I can only describe as a hostile work environment. Lucasfilm games was going through changes once the prequals came, ending up changing management and going for more “numbers” than unique quality. The game suffered a lot because the president didn’t believe in it, wanting more broader audiences with all your favorite characters. It’s this disrespect that ended up giving the game poor marketing and sales. There were even apparently layoffs in the team, yet they still persevered and delivered a quality game. I suggest watching GVMRs discussion on the history for a better insight into this strenuous development history. He gives more detailed insight, a reason to love the development team, and kind of a satisfying feeling knowing that the president failed because of his actions.

Presentation of the Switch Version: A Sadness Undeserving for a Legend

Alright, now that I’m done talking about the game generally, besides some mentions of how this port controls and has, I’m now gonna divert attention to crapping on the switch port. Now I personally can’t compare it to the PC one my brother owns back home now right now, considering I’m in a college with potentially horny people, but I can say that the comparisons throughout Youtube make a good point. The graphics and frame rate can be choppy at times, especially with character models. For me, the frame rate isn’t too bad, but it could look a lot better for a Switch port. Plus, despite the fact that I praised it for having echoes in large areas, this version got rid of it. 0/10, worst port ever. For real though, it’s a shame such a great game has such a crappy port. Compared to the other versions, this game just looks straight from the 2000s with all its graphical problems. I know it wasn’t marketed as a remaster, but I’d much prefer a remaster to touch up on the graphics short comings. All in all, the presentation for the Switch version is poor. And this is the same console with Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, yet an older game runs worse.

“Um…okay! Do you mind elaborating on that?”

Overall Overview: A Great Game Nonetheless

“I guess these guys landed in Angel Island Zone Part 2.”

Its Star Wars games like this and Battlefront that cemented the love I have for the franchise. While this port’s bugs and graphical errors degrade it, and a lack of multiplayer if you veterans enjoyed that, the single player campaign is investing, playable, and fun enough to get it. I do have to recommend the X-box or Steam versions, even a physical PC version if you can somehow find one, for better quality, but if you have a Switch primarily then I’d say go for it. At least it’s not too expensive; just $14 bucks. Really wish the porters went for a remaster.

If you’re hungry for some good Star Wars content, want to see how the original EU was (yes, I know I said this is technically canon, but this was during the EU years), or just want a stellar Tactical FPS game full of death, Black Ops missions, and bros hanging out along the way, then I highly recommend getting Republic Commando. I’m giving this game a 10/10 overall, but an 8/10 for the switch version.

Btw, did you know a sequel was in the works back in the day, but it ended getting cancelled. Apparently Sev, who’s, spoilers, status was made killed-in-action by the end, would have come back and, essentially, start the rebellion. There are no words to describe how much I hate this timeline.

-Samuel Argueta

Star Wars: Republic Commando Hard Contact

I highly recommend this book, by Karen Traviss, for those who can afford to read books. It’s a solid that continuing what the game started in terms of Black Ops operations and tone, though depicting Omega Squad instead of Delta. Don’t let that stop you from reading it, because you get the same amount of action, death, and themes of what it means to be a clone. A team of the last surviving members of their own squad are sent to Qiilura to stop a Separatist Bioweapon aimed to kill all clones, created by Dr. Uthan under the protection of Ghez Hokan, a Mandalorian warlord who’s come to have strong feelings about the clones of the legendary Jango Fett. He also has a lightsaber; not the Dark Saber, that’s later. Aided by young Padawan Etain, this batch of clones must reach the city to destroy their brother killer before the doctor can finish it.

Also there’s romantic subplot between a clone and the…padawan. In his defence, he’s 10 like Cell from DBZ. Still weirded out…just up her age. Listen, it’s not even that important in the story but…it-it’s a good book.

The Untouchables

Real talk, it’s not historically accurate, but it is historically bad@ss. In the time of the prohibition, when man and woman’s quench for booze has been stifled, Al Capone comes in to save the day, except for the fact that he’s a gang lord. With a crime spree infecting Chicago, leading to the death of a little girl, prohibition agent Eliot Ness is joined by a rag-tag team to find evidence of tax evasion to finally put Capone behind bars.

Brilliant acting, a suburb score by Ennio Morricone, and an amazing plot that’ll have you on the edge better than my bargain bin movie descriptions, this film is one of the greats and deserves a movie night by everyone. And yes, that means no love making.

The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Oh look, another movie Ennio made. I literally just watched the film last night and it holds up so well. Made in 1966, this film not only stacks up to modern films, it surpasses them. Now, there are two types of men: those who love the Italian western, and those who’s only heard of them. This film can be enjoyed by both. You dig what I’m saying?

During the Civil War, it is a time of western paradise. This is the story of 3 men after gold hidden in a graveyard: The Good “Blondie,” who’s honor lights up his more dubious morality, the Bad “Angel eyes,” a mercenary willing to do everything devious and malicious to be thorough in a mission, and the Ugly “Tuco,” a conniving sleezebag with a moral code. Each holds a clue to the gold, yet none of them trust or like each other. In a time of uncertainty, witness the brilliance of each actor as they go through some kind of west/south…desert…area to discover what the ecostasy of gold means. Whenever people say, “they don’t make movies like they used to,” its films like these that make me agree sometimes.

Earthbound Beginnings: The Giygas Menace

Introduction:

“Either my great-grandad let the smoke machine on for too long or Yellowstone just found some competition.” Image from Wikibound

The year is 1988 as a dark storm looms over America…and it wasn’t the new Coca-Cola taste. The adults of a town are taken away until only children are left. Living cars, strange monsters, and animals not in their right mind roam the country. Pissing on said cars and giving people hernias. A young queen in a distant wherever the hell Magicant is loses her memory and a special song. All these strange phenomena occur as the clouds of evil nest above Mt. Itoi, and an extraterrestrial being plots their evil scheme.

The young Philips CDI awakens from his…nap on his singular chair? Either way, as he leaves to get some juice, an attack from a poltergeist interrupts his day. A lamp with a smile, the first of many victims, strikes at the boy with his tangling thing that turns him on (I didn’t mean to word it that way), but Ninten (his actually name) smashes the ceramic lamp of $12. He bursts into his sister’s rooms and savagely beats on another lamp and doll. The day is saved, but not until the inside of the doll sings the first part of a secret melody. Going downstairs to resume his day, Ninten’s father 7 years late gives him a call about his great grandfather, revealed to be George, the kidnapped man in the beginning, and of PSI. He tells Ninten to go to the basement, go on an adventure, ignore the trap door, and learn of his powers that he totally had the entire time. Armed with his abuelo’s diary, a map, and a loaf of stale bread with a bit of fermentation, our young hero sets out to Podunk These Nuts to investigate the strange occurrences of the land and learn of his family’s history. Along with him on the ride is a catholic, a boy from within a trash can, and the guy from one of the Romantic’s album covers.

Earthbound Beginnings/ Mother 1: The Classic Lost In Magicant

“Podunk, where the kids where blue and the adults have blue hair. Guess this is L.A then.”

Itoi’s vision brought to life when he, besides being a famed copywriter and celebrity, wanted to make a video game after playing the NES for a while. Though he thought his proposal didn’t convince Miyamoto during a trip to Nintendo, which was originally for a different business purpose, due to the previous flop of another celebrity tie-in-game named Takeshi’s Challenge, he was given the go. He started Ape Inc and developed Mother for release on July 27, 1989.

Inspired by Dragon Quest and named after the John Lennon song, the game is a simple RPG with towns to traverse through and enemy jack@sses to randomly meet. At the time, it was a unique distinction from other RPGs due to taking place in a modern setting, America (the most modern place ofcourse), unlike the medieval themed locals of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. So, no black mages and roaming dragons; you’re a Giants fans fighting cars and eating burgers like a MERICAN! Instead of temples or ruins, you explore Abandoned Zoos and caves…and some ruins. While an Urban Fantasy isn’t unique these days anymore, it was an innovative move for RPGs back in the late 80s.

Though a bit rushed, shown in Mt. Itoi, the game was released on the NES and was a huge hit in Japan. Unfortunately, possibly due to the release of the Super NES over in the states, the game’s finished localized version was never released here. So, the game in America never came to America. 80s kids wouldn’t get their kicks of psychic kids and stinky humor until the release of Earthbound. While not official, fans did get a hold of the localized cartridge back in the day and put the ROM online, translating it as Earthbound Zero. However, in 2015, Nintendo did the unthinkable and released the original english translation onto the Wii U due to fan dedication. 27 years…and for the low price of $6.99. No one, ever, can tell me the Wii U was a bad console. Not great but, hey, at least this game and Metroid gave it recognition.

I played the game a while back, and went back for the sake of this review, after playing Earthbound and learning the prequel was on the Wii U. I didn’t have one at the time, so I ended up borrowing my brother’s. While I did enjoyed it myself, it’s a very flawed game besides, of course, the fact that it’s old as balls. Some aspects aren’t bad while others can totally influence whether or a not a person would want to buy it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not a newer title and I won’t compare it much to our current era.

With that in mind, I’ll get into the review.

Gameplay:

If you’re familiar with Earthbound, the regular gameplay elements of Beginnings are not different at all. The menus are layered the same, the bag is limited (yet somehow worse), the walking animations are the same, the battles are fought mostly the same, and PP is still filled in the tank (better go to the bathroom for that).

Talking to people and checking random garbage still requires going up to them and using the corresponding option on the menu, just like real life! Hotels, hospitals, and stores function the same. You get money from enemies and access it through an ATM, and you save by calling your dad (or save states on the Wii U). Goods and equipment are stored in the bag, though their is no equipment menu. All and all, this sets up the basics that the rest of the series will follow, and isn’t too different at first that it will require someone to struggle getting adjusted. Even if you didn’t play the original, it’s not too hard to get used to.

There are still major and minor differences, both good and bad, to go through.

Overworld: Where the h3ll am I?

The overworld of Beginnings is detailed similar to how Earthbound would be designed, though the NES makes these towns and locations very basic. I’ll get back to this later.

One of the things that did get annoying in Earthbound is the slow overworld movement. After a while of playing, the slog of walking did make going through areas boring. In a weird switcharoo, this game decided to feature a run button!

“Accurate representation of me with the B button: sh!tty look and all.” Image by Kwentan

Well, not exactly a run button. Just like how emulators have a speed up command, the English translators made the B button a speed up button to move around areas fasters. So, it’s less like running and more like breaking the fabric of time to get to places faster. This is a great feature in the English version as a run button helps explore the world better.

From Podunk to Ellay, originally named after holidays similar to the number theme in Earthbound, America is a large world that can be explored at any time. This is because, unlike the linear story of Earthbound, Beginnings has a non-linear campaign where a lot can be seen in any order and not everything is required. For instance, Ana, Paula if she experiences frostbite every 2 seconds, is not a required party member to beat the game. So, you do the entire journey without her, though not getting her is a pretty bad idea.

“That first road…so many 60s freaks. So many Beatles fans!” Image from Wikibound

Admittedly, I never took advantage of this aspect of the game. I would have loved a non-linearness experience if the game wasn’t confusing as hell. Now, you get a map of where you generally are, which is great, but it is really not specific. The graphics has its ups and downs, and those downs include all the forest and plain paths looking very similar together. It can become disorienting and you can get turned around a lot trying to do everything if you don’t pay attention.

The dialogue, unless I’m dumb as bricks, was so vague on where exactly stuff was located that I had to use a guide for the whole game. I don’t complain much about a game requiring an outside source much since it’s not actually a part of the game, and I think that a game that doesn’t handhold too much is good. But this game lands on the spectrum where the lack of direction makes for a more frustrating playthrough where a guide is required for the whole thing. For us, in the age of Twitter mobs and moms living near our area, guides are readily available for use. But for the kids back in the day, how the hell did you beat this game?

Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh; it was a different time. Maybe it isn’t that bad…until you get to the major difference compared to its successor. One of my favorite features in Earthbound is the enemies being in the overworld. It allows for strategy on how you can approach them-would you want to wait for an opportunity to get the back or just avoid them all together-and adds a level of engagement that I wish more JRPGs had. Of course, Beginnings couldn’t do that. Random battles are initiated whenever exploring outside a city. The problem isn’t that there are random battles, because how can I be mad at a game that didn’t do the thing its successor did, but rather its damn encounter rate. Step out of the city and you’re gonna fight something. Idk who’s gonna appear after the black screen but you’re gonna fight something.

“Don’t go into the long grass! Not into the long grass!”

Exploring wouldn’t be so bad if every single step didn’t have the high chance of a fight. The encounter rate is so high that just one step after the other could be another. On the one hand, it adds a level of difficulty where you have to be cautious at every turn. On the other hand, it’s arbitrary and makes exploring more of a chore. It drags the pacing of an already slow plot. The battles themselves aren’t too bad but after a while I just want to get to the objective done with. Exploring the world was one thing, but the high encounter rate makes the guide even more necessary to finish it without pulling out so many hairs. (To really get the gist, watch Alphs video on Earthbound Beginnings. His joke on the random battles sums it up).

On a last note, the reason I didn’t talk to a lot of the people in town and found their vague dialogue an annoyance is because I find the actual civilized areas of the game to be really boring and unremarkable. Some places do stick out like Magicant, Spookane, and Youngtown, but everywhere else barely stood out from one another. The only thing separating the same skyscraper and house design is the layout of the town. Don’t get me wrong, this game does have a lot of strange and wonderful moments. But when it comes to the normal npcs, they aren’t as quirky, dark, or interesting. Unless it was in a story-related area of the place, I basically ignored most people. It’s really Earthbound that refined this and made a lot of regular NPCs quirky. NES argument aside, it’s really lackluster. Hopefully with a new reimagining coming out soon, the team can give each town a distinct look and vibe.

Battles: All Quest, One Dragon.

“I like to imagine that you’re fighting the whole d@mn background and not just a pair of eyes.”

The battle system here is more in-line with Dragon Quest 2, from what I’ve seen of footage due to not having a Projared level collection of games, but does have many generic JRPG conventions. The battle starts, you input commands, and you wait to see what happens. No rolling HP system to save a party member before death, none of the characters have a special trait that can be used in battle, and none of that psychedelic background that burns the retinas. Only 3 party members can be used as opposed to the 4 in Earthbound. A black background, a few enemies, basic controls, and that’s it. It’s old but simple, though my favorite aspect about the aesthetics of these battle screens is the way enemy sprites manifest. In Earthbound and Mother 3, they are just there the moment it starts. I like that, in this game, it’s like the enemies are appearing from the black drapes like a play ready to stand still and do weird things.

On the battle menu, you have the normal attack, the PSI, the Goods, Run, and Check; the basis for what Earthbound’s would become. The latter is unique to this game, essentially a universal Spy for everyone to check the enemies’ stats and weaknesses. There isn’t much to write or go in depth on; you pick the action, wait your turn, and be done with battles. Because of the encounter rate, the simplicity can become a double-edged sword and cause some disinterest. I found myself spamming the A button during some sessions; a bane for all JRPGs. I only became disinterested after a while, but whenever I refresh myself these basic battles were engaging enough to keep me going.

With the battles out of the way, I’ll go into the main characters and then into the story and my thoughts on it.

Character:

Ninten: Doing what Sega can’t

“So, when do I come into Smash? When do I get a mailing list? What do you think I am, the postal service?” Image from Wikibound

The young main protagonist thrusted to investigate the strange cases in America and learn how his family is connected to everything. Like Ness and Lucas, Ninten is a strictly supportive PSI user. The only attack he has is the physical ones, which he uses a bat to execute. Ninten, though, stands out compared to Ness and Luca due to not having offensive skills like Flash or a secret, special attack (Rockin and Love). Ninten has all the healing moves and shields but does have other abilities. Like Lucas, Ninten has stat buffs, standing out with a speed boost move. He has a defense down debuff and the Beginnings unique 4-D Split, a guaranteed run away (none of the annoying mechanics of running away normally in Earthbound) but with a high PP cost.

I actually like that the protagonist is a support user because I feel as though they do much more in battle than if they were offensive. It makes the protagonist’s “power of friendship” matter because they are the ones keeping their friends alive. Nothing wrong with an offensive MP, but I think Ninten being the strict tanky support made for a more unique character.

One last aspect of Ninten, more of a crutch, is his asthma. Like Homesickness, it keeps Ninten from attacking. I love that a status ailment is also a part of the character, but it does get annoying during significant battles. The only way to heal it is through a asthma bottle or ending the fight. Only in Beginnings.

Saint Ana’s Fire: Snowman in Motion

“How lonely must it be in Snowman for Ana to fall in love with the first boy she sees in a dream?” Image from Wikibound

Paula’s predecessor and the main offensive PSI attacker in the group. She’s a young Christian girl from the white winter of Snowman who’s shy but kind. She joins the quest for the Holy Grail in order to find her missing mother. Ana’s role in the party is the offensive PSI glass-cannon, and bless the lord is she one of the best…when you get her up them levels. As the only one, she gets moves like Freeze and Fire that helps against enemies weak against special moves. Train her up and she gets the PK Beam, which is essentially the PK Rockin and Love of the game except Ana and other enemies get it. Also, it has a vendetta against one sorry mother fu-

But, the best thing about Ana compared to Paula is how much of a Jack of All Trades she is. She gets all the healing moves, up staging Ninten with Lifeup Omega, many status ailment moves like Paralysis, PK Magnet, PK Block, shield and shield breaks, and a frying pan. When she gets these moves, she proves her weight. But, like our next party member, she is a chore to catch up with Ninten due to being lv 1 when you recruit her. This was a chore in Earthbound but Paula is found at a reasonable place. Snowman had some powerful enemies like the Coca-Cola bear, and keeping her alive was pretty difficult. But it would be an understatement to say that Ana is a powerful ally.

Pink Lloyd: Wish You Were Here, Sometimes

“I’m so stereotypically nerdy that the designers surgically infused my glasses into my retinas!” Image from Wikibound

Jeff if he looked like his dad and had a lower IQ. I’m not being mean, there is no IQ stat here so Lloyd is technically dumber. A coward from Merrysville found in Twinkle Elementary, he joins Ninten on his quest after the latter assists him in getting and releasing fireworks from the Sweet’s ol’Little Factory. No idea why Morrigan Freeman suddenly paid rent in my head when I wrote that. He’s the only party member besides Pippi that is required to recruit in order to finish the game, as he’s needed to fix Eve the robot randy.

At first, Lloyd is a pretty weak. Like Ana, he starts at a pretty low level so he requires grinding to get him up to speed. I found him to be worse than Ana when this occurred since Lloyd doesn’t do much in the beginning. Because he only has a gun and no PSI, he doesn’t do a lot of damage in the beginning, so he’s a lot more tedious and boring compared to the others. As a physical attacker, Teddy does the job better than him later on. However, Lloyd does become more useful when he gets access to his gadgets, similar to Jeff. Unlike his blonde counterpart, the goods exclusive to Lloyd are only bought in certain stores rather than made using the IQ stat. Some of his best ones are the Laser Guns (PK Laser as an item), the Flamethrower (PK Fire as an item), and the bombs.

I do like how Lloyd only goes with Ninten because they become genuine friends together. Ana and Teddy join the cause because they have a personal vendetta with the main antagonist, but Lloyd lacks this character trait. Some might see him as the worst or the most uninteresting because of that, but it speaks more when you realize he’s doing this journey to better himself and be there for the first friend he ever made.

ICUPippi: …and she’s gone.

Teddy Roosevelt: Of the Booty-Busting Gang

“I suddenly looked at his weird hair, cropped it out, and pasted Gerald’s face from Hey Arnold under it. I hope all of you can’t unsee it.”

The leader of the Bla-Bla Gang (Black Blood Gang in the Japanese version because everything sounds cooler in Japan) who joins Ninten on their quest very late game (or early) to head to Mt. Itoi in order to avenge his parents who died there. He first appears as a boss before Ninten uses his balls for baseball. I like Teddy cause he uses swooordds, and looks like the Fonz. Shout out to all the greasers still thinking John F Kennedy is the president. Teddy is the Poo of the game since he’s the fourth member to join (still the 3rd since he shanks Lloyd to take his spot) but is more of a predecessor to Frank the Fly as a gang leader and the usage of blades.

Teddy is a one trick pony for physical attacks, but he’s no poo poo at the job. He gets the highest stats in the game with a physical stat of 86 compared to Ninten’s 5 and Lloyd’s 4, so his physical attacks using swords (his best being a damn katana) are on par with some powerful PSI attacks. I’ll admit it, I enjoyed his company. I actually liked the idea of the Frank character being a prominent party member, though his late entry doesn’t give you much time with him. Unfortunately, unless you do cheats, Teddy never gets to fight the final boss, being injured during the attack by a giant robot. I did sigh in anguish when Lloyd came back, but laughed when he did it riding solo in a tank.

Fun fact: because of the ambiguity of the Japanese version, it’s not clear whether or not Teddy survived his wounds. He is technically the only party member to potentially die.

The Story: Sporadic, But in a Fun and Creepy Way

The story and plot can be sporadic, and slow due to mentioned grievances, but it has a charm to it that becomes a staple for the franchise. It’s child-like writing definitely fits well with the game’s Peanut artstyle. You deliver a baby chick back into a town made up of chickens, ride a tank in a desert in search of a monkey cave, and talk to a man who feels forgotten. Combined with this imagination is a level of depth sometimes explored in the open that keeps it from being nothing more than a dumb kids game.

I call it sporadic because the main story only comes in snit-bits. It starts with the phone call, but really begins when you visit Queen Mary of Magicant, a pink cloud world full of Magician Reds and freakin eyeballs, for the first time. While the small cases around the world are important, getting the 8 melodies is how you actually progress into the finale. Some moments like the haunted house is connected to the melodies, keeping them from feeling like unnecessary filler, while others are annoyingly scattered throughout the country with vague hints to where they are.

The moment Queen Mary gets her memories back: “Lalala, I love living in-hey, what’s that ligh-“

It all comes together at the end when you sing the 8 melodies to Queen Mary, which reveals her identity as Maria (Ninten’s great-grandmother), and Giegue. It’s revealed that Maria, after getting yeeted to space, had taken care of Giegue 80 years ago liker her own Mewtwo…child. What the hell is that thing. Well, “that thing” invaded Earth due to George noping out of captivity and stealing the knowledge of PSI from his race. Thinking back on it, it’s a really good twist that adds a personal touch to Ninten and Giegue’s conflict. I love how tragic Giygas’s origin is and I’m glad Itoi added some depth to what could have been a generic final villain. With the little bits of George and Maria given in this game, it really puts everything together to make a unique “alien invasion” story. I do wish it was mentioned more and was put into full focus besides the 8 melodies, but I like what we get. It makes for an emotional end for the game.

What made everything so enjoyable despite how loose the plot can be is the way it induces a child-like nostalgia. Walking around a town, talking to people, and dealing with robots brings a familiar feeling like the times you’d come home from school to play on your game console, go outside in the backyard, or anything you did to escape the horrors of reality. Maybe minus the robot part, unless you’re life was more interesting than the rest. It all came together like a story we would probably make as a kid: scattered without direction but with many colorful creatures and people to encounter. However, unlike our flawed minds, this game did it with enough stability and heart to make it enjoyable for anyone.

The main characters and their small interactions, though slim, help convey this feeling while also being organic moments in the story. A stand-out moment happens when Ana and Ninten confess their love for each other. On the tops of Mt. Itoi, in a small cabin, the two tell how they feel to each alone in a room before escaping their troubles together in dance form. It’s heartwarming, cute, and conveys how everything to a child, even something small, is the most serious thing in the world. Even love…though it gets ruined by Teddy’s interference and a giant Gundam.

Yet, what stood out to me the most even to this day is its creepy and eerie atmosphere. Blue KKK and implied adult stuff is rampant in Earthbound, but it’s very subtle underneath the trip of drugs and quirky humor. Beginnings doesn’t have a lot of adult subtexts, but due to the dated graphics and supernatural moments there is a added level of eeriness that’s more blunt than it’s successor. It’s equivalent to walking around an empty town as the wind howls. Building’s creak, darkness replace doors, and you feel eyes all around you. Even within towns, the small amount of people gives an air of loneliness to this game.

“Hello, this is the Zoo help line. Waht? The animals escaped? No, honey, you’re calling on the wrong day. We only let them out when it’s Tuesday. Wait, right now? Ooooh, that’s been the blood curdling screams I’ve been hearing all day. You know, I thought it was a bit strange when that man came at the window and screamed ‘help me god, please!’ I just thought it was one of those Catholics again, running on and on about their sins. I opened the window and threw him a Devil’s cake to scurry him off. Now, honey, I’m gonna have hang up the phone now, I think the lions got out. No, they’re not reenacting Mufasa’s death, they’re eviscerating human Simba right now. I got to go, I got to go. Bye honey, I’ll see you at 4.” Image from Wikibound

One of my favorite examples happens early on when you enter into the abandoned zoo for the mayor. Kicking the monkey out and getting the key, you go in to find out why the animals have gone berserk. You wonder around alone, not a single person in sight. Some animals stay in their pens while others prowl around the facility; you’re their prey. The music brings an air of unease as you try to get to the nearest building, though I imagine its either loud from animals or silent. The graphics add to the tone, to me, because of how simple it makes everything. It’s what I love about old games because the setting is conveyed enough in a way for you to fill in the gaps with your mind. Even when you escape the jaws of the alligator and the claws of the bear, you’re still not safe in this building. It’s empty and quiet, with the only things remaining being the scuttering of rats and a strange alien in an empty room.

Beginnings finds a great balance between a children’s story and an atmospheric horror story. Though the random encounters become a chore, the difficulty puts players on the edge as danger lurks in every corner. This type of tone makes Beginnings a better alien invasion in a rural area game than Earthbound, to me. I love the quirkiness of Earthbound but I also love the atmosphere of Beginnings. It always feels like a more expanded version of the Stonehenge arc, which was very much the classic example of an alien invasion. The story of Beginnings can be frustrating to get through, and it sometimes feels like a less refined Earthbound (which it really is), but it has memorable moments and a tone that’s consistent and engaging. To me, the best aspect of each game goes as followed: Earthbound is the adventure, Mother 3 is the story, and Beginnings is the tone.

Soundtrack:

It’s okay. It helps establish the tone I ranted about earlier, but I didn’t go gaga for the soundtrack this time around. It’s not because its the NES, because I love the Mario 3 soundtrack, but more like it’s just not my kind of sound. The one’s I found the best include Magicant, the factory theme, and Giegue’s theme. Magicant utilizes the beeps and boops of the NES to create a weird but fantastical theme that really represents the world as a concept. It has an aura similar to temple themes of other JRPGS, but I find Magicant unique because it best represents what Mother is: quirky with heart. I especially love how chippy and happy it is. Most mystical themes go for an intriguing sound, but Magicant just goes full ham with its cheerful noise.

I definitely like this version a lot more than Ness’s due to being more recognizable to the ears and short. Ness’s Magicant theme is okay, definitely has bits of the original in it and fits with Ness’s whimsical and nonsensical version of the place, but I find myself leaning more toward Maria’s. Also, you can’t help and deny the remixes of the original are pretty damn emotional. Especially bauerklos’s version, which should be sued if this game gets a remake.

The factory’s theme is one of my favorite dungeon themes due to its simple execution. The foreboding nature throughout helps establish the factory as a dark place where horrors can be found, evident with the weird scientist and robot enemies. But I love how the static effect of the NES is used to make it seem the machinery is still alive in the place and continuing what they were made to do. Gives, as Henry from MXR would say, IMMERSION.

“There’s something so eye-catching and creepy about Giegue’s original look. I wonder if this is the Devil Machine.” Image from Wikibound

The final in-game song, or track, is Giegue’s theme. And when I mean song, I mean white noise and some pushes of a button. Unlike other final boss themes like from Ocarina of Time or Okami, this track doesn’t go for a high emotional punch that favors the hero or the villian. Instead, it gives an ominous sense of dread. The best way to describe it is like a UFO hovering above the battle field, its strange machinery filling the air with its presence. Sometimes it sounds like a legion of UFOs ready to attack. The theme fits Giegue and the game well because of its alien-like nature, but also makes Giygas stand out among other final bosses.

Props to him, he did it twice. It doesn’t sound like something a human would make. There’s voids in it, gaps that our imaginative minds need to fill but are denied the request. Itoi is a creative genius when it came to developing this franchise, but the tracks by Suzuki and Tanaka prove others helped in that genius.

Other Issues

Mt Itoi-This part was freaking hard when I first got there. I learned that, apparently, the team had to ship out the game before pre-testing the area for the release date. Because of that bull, the place is a huge difficulty spike. I had to actually grind for a while just to get through it. However, it becomes a joke once you find EVE as she pummels everything in sight.

“George honest to god came to this mountain and thought, ‘Mwah, mwah. Perfect location with the finest view of corpses and glitched out squirrels. Nobody visits me for some reason.” Image from Earthbound Fandom

Leveling– Skills can be learned up until around the 40s, but you can beat this game with levels under 30 (though it’d be a lot hard). I finished the game with Ninten and Lloyd around the 30 mark and Ana at 25. Similar with Pokemon Gold, I find the leveling system quite strange and unbalanced.

Does it even matter– And, as a personal thing looking back while comparing it to the trilogy, Beginnings is both really remembered and forgotten in later installments. Beginnings is definitely an important game in understanding the origins of PSI and Giygas, and yet Earthbound essentially became a reimagining of it. Ness, Paula, and Jeff are redesigns of the Beginnings party, especially Ness was designed exactly like Ninten with the hat pointing the opposite way (there is some more slightly differences). Much of the music has been reused in Earthbound: the random battle music becoming the boss theme, the Yucca Desert theme becoming the Dusty Dunes Desert theme, Pollyanna becoming Ness’s home theme, and Snowman becoming a series staple song. Certain events are played out similarly like a gang taking over a town and people being kidnapped and put into green pods. Even the story of Earthbound itself is about a group of kids finding the 8 melodies to defeat Giygas, who is influencing the world with his powers. Earthbound comes across as Beginnings refined to perfection, leaving Beginnings to feel like a first draft.

And yet, despite Earthbound originall being called “Mother 2: Giygas Strikes Back,” it’s not really a sequel because Beginnings is barely referenced. Now, fans of the series might argue the Mother series doesn’t have a concrete timeline. Beginnings takes place in 1988 but Earthbound takes place in 199X (whatever that means) meaning Giygas went to the future 10 years after Earthbound after taking over and then went back to the equivalent of a few years after the first game (yet America is never mentioned once at all and you can’t tell me Eagleland is America). Yet, Mother 3’s year is so disclosed the rest of Civilization ended by the time the prologue starts. Since Porky was directly stated to have traveled throughout time, who knows when Mother 3 took place.

Besides the lack of Mericans, none of the events that took place are referenced in the slightest. George discovering PSI, the Youngtown disappearances, or the fact an alien came. You’d think Ninten or Lloyd would have figured out that weird crap was going on. What, is CNN just as bad in fictional America? Giygas barely talks about his grand nephew and the Starmen never mention how Ness looks like the other baseball loving Asian.

Sure, Earthbound is barely mentioned in Mother 3, again from the playthrough I watched, but it’s referenced way more and is actually important to the story. Porky becomes, gasp from no one, the main villain and the end of the game basically shows you snit-bits of Ness’s journey. It’s presence is more felt here than Beginnings in Earthbound.

“I know this is for the fans but Lucas has no context for this. He must be thinking, ‘what the hell is this? I pay $2 to see some fat kid fight barf?” Image from Earthbound Fandom

I remember, before playing Beginnings, that someone had told me it wasn’t really important to play when playing all the games. I found it strange considering there are only 3 games, Nintendo please, but after playing it I can’t help but agree to an extent. I would have liked something to have been referenced, but having only Giygas be important makes the rest of Beginnings feel like an unnecessary prologue.

Overview: Is it Worth Playing?

After every compliment and criticism I gave this game, I did wonder whether or not you should actually play it as a casual or even a Earthbound fan? To the latter, I say of course! *Smack to the head* Get your hands on a ROM or pay it on the Wii U and play it. For others, understand that this is a pretty difficult experience and that this ain’t for everyone, more so than Earthbound. If you hate JRPGS, you’re gonna get hate this game. If you’re new to JRPGs, I’d say play others like Pokemon or Final Fantasy to understand how the genre works. I wouldn’t say this is an entry into this genre. If you’re a veteran JRPG player of old, new, or both, then I say check this game out after playing Earthbound. Earthbound will get you pretty situated into this weird franchise without pulling out your hair, and if you’ve only played the fantasy or science fiction games than this more modern world may become fresh for you.

“The hell category 10 hurricane is going on in the planet? Image from Wikibound

Me personally, I enjoyed the game with its faults. I enjoyed the world at its best, the story at its most critical, and the characters at their most charming. It’s hard, simple, and very strange. I mean, a town of ducks, man. I think people should play it at their own disposal or at least give it a chance. It’s not perfect, but it’s an imaginative and fairly executed experience that’ll have you singing the Eight Melodies on your Ocarina. Not the time one, Saria’s high school project one. I give Earthbound Beginnings a 6/10.

See you all when I play Mother 3 in 2056!

-Samuel Argueta

Recommendation Corner

John Lennon: Mother

This is the song that influenced Itoi to not only name the series Mother, but a lot of the creative decisions with the franchise due to Itoi connecting with Lennon as a person. Ever wonder why the first 2 games barely feature the father besides a phone? Well, I gave this song a listen to learn the roots of the franchise and for my novel.

The only way for me to describe the emotions of this song is a cry for help.

Image from wikipedia, all credit goes to the original uploader.

SSSS. Dynazenon

The continuation of SSSS. Gridman and the anime I’ve been watching for the summer. It’s a bit slower and I do find the original more interesting, but this show has its strengths and definitely has a good cast of characters. I also haven’t finished it, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Image from Gridman Fandom, all credit to original uploader

Super Metroid

Super Metroid is one of those rare games to me where I can repeatedly play it and never get bored. The amount of replayability is so good that it’s better than any of the overdone statements people have used to describe it. The alien world is fully detailed and gives a tone of mystery and exploration.

Get it on the Switch, the 3ds, or the Wii U. This game is the definition of what a video game should be, and Nintendo pulled this off in the 90s!

Sonic Adventure Part 2: All’s Well That Ends Well

After 5 months of grueling school work, I am finally free enough to deliver the second part of this review. In the first part, I gave an honest review of each character campaign in the game’s story. In this post, I decided to not only review the final portions of the game but also look into a few important side characters and the DX version’s different modes.

Originally, the plan was to play the Dreamcast version for a more personalized review of both versions that didn’t require too much outside research, but that plan didn’t go through. I have the Dreamcast game, just didn’t think my money situation could afford a 100-dollar console. So, that plan drained faster than Chaos on a sewer grater.

Spoilers!!!!!

As I’ve said before, I highly recommend playing this game before reading both reviews. There are a lot of spoilers, and I don’t want you to ruin the feeling of playing it for the first time. So, go and buy the game in any way you can.

Did it? Good.

Sonic Adventure Part One: The Chaos of Love

Hey shorty! It’s your birthday!

So yeah, Valentine’s Day was my birthday. Instead of kisses and hearts, I got glorious gifts and chocolate cakes. It’s always strange being a Valentine Baby, having to explain it to people whose thoughts are most likely “where’s the red hearts filled with chocolates! Let me speak to your manager!” Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoyed their day of love, showing the one you care about how much you care about them so they can shut up about how much you don’t care about them. How does it feel, cause I never found love…

“Me everytime I make a decision without prior research or a plan.”
Image from MobyGames

Personal History:

Well, since this month is my birthday month, I decided to make a special post about one of my favorite video games, Sonic Adventure. This wasn’t my first ever video game, that would be a portable Grand Theft Auto Game I played when I was 5, but this was the first one I owned. Like usual backstories with a video game, I played this a lot as a kid, it influenced my life, made me a prolific fur-nah I’m kidding.

I will say, since my internet was about as slow as grass growing, this was my introduction to the series like how Smash Melee was mine to Nintendo. I didn’t find out Sonic had a franchise till around middle school, though I never cared enough to play the other games until Sonic Mania came out(yes, I am that man who lived under a rock). After that, I really stuck close to the oldies, playing Sonic 2 on my 3ds and Sonic Cd on my old tablet.

“Why go to the beach for real when you can run like hell in a fictional one? You’ll be safe from CO-VID.” Image from Sonic News Network

Sometime in 2017, I decided to make it an annual tradition to replay Adventure every summer break, since the story states Station Square was supposed to be a vacation for Sonic. This is the only game I replay, and I found myself liking and disliking sections. Every playthrough had something I never noticed before, leaving with a different perspective by the time I finish. The game is dated, especially the graphics for the DX version, but the developers put so much love and detail into this platformer to make it an immersive and fun adventure.

For this review, I’ll be giving my honest thoughts of each story, character, and miscellaneous things with a balance of bias and unbias (trust me, there are parts I can’t gaslight myself from). Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my copy to my dorm, so this won’t be as in-depth. So, here’s part one of 45.

Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to be spoiled, play the game first and then comeback

“This city’s water bill is gonna go through the roof soon.”
Image from Sonic Fandom

Overview

After years of living with small animals and beating a fat man, Sonic has decided to take a vacation in the city of Station Square, a small loop noticeable for showing Eggman’s race, when he suddenly intercepts a police operation to deal with the greatest enemy in the series: sentient water. Sonic beats the creature, but it escapes into a sewer pipe. Standing on a building, out of view, the walrus drops the creature’s name as Chaos, the so-called “God of Destruction.” Later on, after witnessing Tail’s commit plane arson on the beach, they’re confronted by the two, where Eggman reveals he needs the 7 Chaos Emerald’s in order to power up Chaos and destroy Station Square. In place would be Robotnik Land, which presumably will involve making Metal Sonic the mascot and charging 3 grand each visit. Sonic, Tails, and other 5 game modes race against time to stop the evil Eggman, while also discovering the mystery of who Chaos is.

Sonic’s Story: It’s Sonic’s Story

Sonic, as the title character, has the most levels, getting 10 out of the 11 action stages. It’s essentially a 3d version of his usual gameplay from the 2d era, like Mario 64. Fast with long levels, split up similarly to the acts of the 2d games. Additionally, they introduced the Homing Attack to hit enemies better (and make the platforming easier) and minigames in between levels (other characters have some as well) like the sky Chase sections. Compared to Mario 64, Sonic’s gameplay is smoother than the red plumber. Levels like Emerald Coast or Sky Deck don’t have too much BS level design that hinders the controls, unlike levels like Shifting Sand Land or Tall Tall Mountain. There’s also expansive unlike the sand-box like design in Mario 64, which does have its own merits.

I have played Sonic way more than the other, and I don’t wanna bash Mario 64 too much, but even when I got used to Mario’s controls the level design just didn’t mesh together. Sonic’s levels aren’t too challenging, maybe Final Egg, but their fun to run through and each level has enough secrets to have continuous playthroughs. I’m just saying, sonic had the smoother transition.

“I take one vacation away from the animals, and now I gotta fight the embodiment of my one weakness!”
Image from Pinterest
“Did you know that, apparently, this was alluded in the Japanese marketing for Sonic 3 and Knuckles. That’s…really good consistancy on Sonic Team’s part.” Image from Pinterest

However, while gameplay is fun, Sonic’s story is the introduction to the wider one. This means his section isn’t as in-depth to his character or to the lore, which is a strong point for the other characters. Sonic has to beat Eggman and get the Chaos Emeralds; the usual “get to the goal” kind of story that’s been in the previous main entries. Characters like Tails and Knuckle are at their surface level, acting as a teaser to their game modes. The only depth of lore comes after his fight with Chaos 6, where he enters into the Temple Ruins and discovers a sliver of Chaos’s backstory, an ancient mural and a vision of a fiery past. Besides that, it ends with him beating Eggman and saving the day.

Sonic’s story isn’t bad. The gameplay is the most solid out of everyone else. Who doesn’t remember his run from the giant Orca whale. It just lacks the substance in world building and character that the rest of the game offers. Sonic doesn’t change or learn anything unlike Tails or Amy, coming close to Big territory, and that one lore drop is all he has. Luckily, the secret story gives this blue blur the edge he needs over the others.

Favorite Moment

Just like how Sonic Adventure was my introduction to the franchise, it also gave me a taste of Nights: Into Dreams through the casino level in Casinopolis. When I played this as a kid, I thought this whole section was an in-universe character that was popular in Station Square. I found myself always coming back to this pinball machine because of how much it stands out from the rest of the game. The music is mystical, and my jaw drops every time I get transported to the bonus area and fly through a miniature Spring Valley.

“My favorite theme in the game, and it’s not even original to the game.” Image from Strategy Wiki

I eventually got a copy of Nights on Steam just to see how the game was. It’s a pretty fun acrobatics game, with enjoyable controls and heavenly music. By the end, though I wouldn’t say it blew my mind, but it was fun to be able to play a different game Sonic Team made. The company was pretty creative in their hay day. Hopefully, Balaan Wonderland can bring back the surreal fantasy that made me love Nights.

Tails: A Tale of Independence

“I wanna fly HIGH!” Image from Strategy Wiki

Tail’s may be the brains of the operation, but he’s the “Luigi” of the duo. Smart, but young, without the confidence to go on his own. Tail’s story is about him catching up to Sonic, his hero, in a symbolic and literal sense. While the story is essential the same as Sonic in the beginning, fighting the same bosses and going through the same cutscenes with small dialogue changes(which I’m pretty sure is non-canon), it diverges when the duo are separated in the first Tornado section. Tails lands in the jungles of Mystic Ruins where he dreams of his first encounter with the blue blur, running behind him with a smile on his face. Afterwards, Tail’s story becomes one of self-confidence and growing.

I love a character arc when a sidekick wants to be more than or equal to the main hero without disrespecting them. Tails learns to become independent besides just making gadgets, to not rely on Sonic for all his problems. At the end, he stands alone in the face of adversity against Eggman, who plans on detonating a straight up nuke within the city. Tails beats Mr Potato Head and becomes a hero to the people of Station Square, proving that he too can be a hero in his own way.

Unfortunately, as good as his character arc is, Tail’s levels are beyond easy. His gamemode is a race against Sonic (Eggman in the finale) in every level Sonic is in, excluding Twinkle Park, Lost Underworld, and Final Egg. However, levels were designed to make it impossible for Tails to lose. Not only can he fly across the entire map, they put ” magically floating rings” to give you short cuts to areas far ahead from Sonic. The only one without these shortcuts is Icecap since you’re stuck with a board.

“I didn’t even know Sonic could get that close.” Image from Mod DB

The story they were trying to tell gets undermined when they give Tails such easy routes to beat Sonic. I get that Sonic’s the fastest thing alive, but don’t nerf him to the point where Tail’s can beat him in a race by flying. I’ve swung into both spectrums on how I feel about Tail’s levels. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I’m bored with it. By the end, it’s just decent. You’re only take away is Tail’s character growth…and how useless his tail blades are until the final battle.

Favorite Moment

Tail’s ending is just incredible, no matter the faults. Despite Eggman’s threats, he beats the AT-AT all by himself when no one else could have stood up to it. Surrounded by a crowd of cheering fans, Tails gained the confidence he needed to know that he can be a hero. Station Square knew of the hero Sonic, but this was Tails’s night. This was his glory. Heck, apparently Sonic Adventure 2 confirmed Tails got a medal for his actions and a Chaos Emerald. As the credits role, Tail’s theme plays, with lyrics discussing his major theme of independence and self-growth. Besides that, the song is triumphant, a fitting tune to a great character…which they forgot in Sonic Forces. I mean, come on! The moment I saw that interaction between Tails and Chaos killed any interest in that game. That crap was inexcusable. How are you gonna forget the one thing Tails had!

“So did Tails see this and think, ‘You know what, I’ll make my own chicken walker.” Image from Sonic Fandom

Knuckles and The Escape from Unemployment

“Oh no!” Image from Pinterest

Imagine your all alone, contemplating you whole existence with a magical emerald behind you, when you suddenly find a lanky water god towering over its shattered remains and eating the pizza man. To make matters worse, because the Master Emerald was what held it in the sky, the island falls into the ocean next to the Mystic Ruins (referenced as mountains by the explorers, which begs the question: how is the train station and the surrounding area not destroyed?).

Knuckles, the last guardian of the Emerald, must search around the 3 locations to find its scattered shards in order to bring Angel Island back to the sky seas.

As the last of the Echidna Tribe, which is further explored as the race in the past, this is Knuckle’s sole purpose in life. To me, his story is sad. His arc is about his secluded life, whether or not he’s happy with this fate. In the beginning, he states that he doesn’t know why he was given the job, meaning it was placed upon him when he was probably a child. However, he’s incredibly determined to recovering the Master Emerald, even, for the second time, believing Eggman that Sonic is trying to find shards as well. Though he’s naive, that rash behavior shows that he’ll do anything to accomplish his mission. His goal is simple in the end, compared to other characters. Get the stones, say hi to some friends, punch some robots, go back to his introverted seclusion and beat a stick. Serious and practical, Knuckles is one of the best characters.

His entire mode is a fetch quest, which makes for one of the more “explorational” sections of the game. Every character shares a few levels together, which, while might seem lazy, actually allows different sections of the location to be shown. Since Knuckles has gliding and climbing as abilities, you can explore so much of the map that you couldn’t with other characters (even Tails, who just really has crappy levels).

“Nobody touch my emeralds! I leave it all for my ghost!” Image from Sonic News Network

One of my favorite is in Red Mountain. It’s the exact map that Sonic has in the firsts ection, but Knuckles abilities can let you see all the little islands and canyons that you couldn’t access before. There are even the little things like the flying platforms and the strange whirlwind area in the far back. Being able to see different perspectives of the same maps in a new way makes Knuckle’s short levels unique. Level designers and programmers will have a blast with this Echidna

I’ll inject this right now, Knuckle’s gameplay is way better in this game than Sonic Adventure 2. The sequel, by giving him his own unique maps, took away what made him special in the original. They also ruined the meter that indicates where the shards are, showing only one at a time rather than the original that showed all 3, making levels way too long. Sure the original was short, which does suck, but its better than being stuck in one level for 30 minutes going through the same looking hallways. But hey, at the end of the day, at least Knuckles got the best level songs in 2. How a serious and rash character can work with chill hip-hop is beyond me, but it is a damn good mixture.

Favorite Moment

“A purpose in isolation. Is there truly more to that kind of life?” Image from Sonic News Network

A question Knuckles raises is, “Is there more to life than just this role?” Knuckles seemingly wants to do more in his life than live in seclusion and fight for the Emerald. The only time he ever goes to Station Square is for his job, never getting the time to just hang around. He never goes to Sonic like bros, he goes for advice on his job or fight him. His mind is focused on one thing, though the beginning makes you wonder if he really wants to do this anymore. Seclusion can have a toll on a person, especially for all their life. Heck, it’s no wonder he has a hard time talking to Rouge. There aren’t any lady Echidnas, or ladies at all, on Angel Island.

By the end, however, as he sits in front of the restored Alter with the sun beating int he distance, he feels satisfaction in his role. I think it’s because of the 3 times he sees the past, and not just because of the quest. The game never points it out but this is the first time he’s seen the tribe he’s descended from. He saw increments of the struggle for the Master Emerald, between the tribe leader Pachacamac and his daughter Tikal. In last vision, he sees the shrine in flames, the girl hurt, and an ominous roar in the distance. He may not have seen it all, but I believe this helped reaffirm his belief in protecting the Emerald. He may not have seen the entire story, but he’s found a new sense of peace in his purpose.

Big the Cat: A Huge Problem

“Like it, want it, need it, WHY!” Image from Pinterest

Before we get to the two last characters, let’s get this stupid one out of the way. Big’s section is bad. While I can do it, it’s just so unnecessary. The only form of enjoyment from this section is the Game Grumps playthrough. Arin’s rage makes watching fishing fun. Why would you have a fishing mode in a game called Sonic Adventure! The story has some relevance, but not to the point where we needed a Gaiden on it.

So, the story starts with Big sleeping in his hut within the depths of the jungle, where a search party of dim-witted explorers are, when his pet frog, Froggy, discovers a differently shaded and textured puddle. When it gets close, the water gets ingested, and the frog gains a longer tail. Big wakes up to find his friend insane, eating his damn Chaos Emerald and hopping away. And thus, the journey of furry Duke Nukem begins.

“Come on Froggy, get over here! I’m gonna hook this sh!t in your mouth.” Image from Nowhere

Big’s gameplay is fishing. That’s it. You go to 4 stages with a bunch of pools to catch a green frog, and you just wait. Gotta go fast! Except, if you don’t know what to do, it takes hours. As a great memory of my time as a kid, I never did this section. My brother played it, and I remember distinctly Emerald Coast being 3 hours. We waited 3 hours to catch a frog in a Sonic game

I eventually found out that you have to push down on the Control Stick to get the “hit” when Froggy, or any fish, bites the lure. So, while I can finish a level in under an hour now, it’s not worth it. Compared to Sonic’s fast platforming and Knuckle’s exploration, the fishing is just slow as hell or a quirk route to boredom. Big’s maps do show different parts of the maps, like the top of the aquarium in Hot Shelter, which is good world building. However, Froggy’s location isn’t randomized. It’s in the same spot every time, so there’s no point to going back to the level to explore the secret areas unless you want a bunch of fish or just for some sense of fun. His gameplay is repetitive the first time and in subsequent replays.

To add to injury, and this may be different for your copy, but I found that getting to the secret area of Hot Shelter makes catching Froggy impossible. For some reason, I can never catch anything while floating in the water using the Life Belt. Since getting to the secret area requires filling up the main location with so much water that the only solid ground, a floating brick, is far from Froggy’s location, I have to reset the level to erase what I did. It’s mind numbing.

“There’s a whole skeleton in Icecape that’s so cool but you’ll only see it when you need to find Froggy.”

As I said, the story has relevance, but only because of Froggy. It shows why Froggy became one of the central points of Eggman’s scheme, since he needs Chaos’s tail. However, even if Big is the owner, I don’t think we needed an entire story of the character when his frog is more important. I do like the chill humor of the story, and a story about a cat fishing for his pet frog in the midst of the world close to ending sounds like my alley. But the execution was not worth the 3 hours. The game didn’t need Big’s section, functioning the same, or even better, without the laid-back cat.

Favorite Moment

“I will fight Chaos the only way I can, with my fishing pole!” Image from Sonic News Network

I do love this moment. This is the funniest way to have a boss fight with Chaos. After Eggman kidnaps Froggy for the third time to give the swallowed Emerald and tail to Chaos by straight up throwing it into the deity, Big must help Sonic to get his pal back the only way he can: fish within Chaos’s body. I hope and fear the man who thought this got a promotion. Think about, knowing in the end, that Big managed to penetrate Chaos’s body faster than most characters. Some people may find it stupid, and I can see that, but the fact that they made this happen with a water boss the team wanted in the game is brilliant. Not worth it, mind you, but funny none the least.

E-102 Gamma: The True Hero

“My hovering jetpack is having a hard time holding this whole game.” Image from Sonic News Network

Gamme is the reason, in my opinion, you should play Sonic Adventure. A lot of people have said it but Gamma is the best character in this game, no doubt about it. An amazing plot of brothers, the concept of love and freedom, and character development that stands out among the rest…considering he dies in the end. He’s the only character in the franchise to die apparently, though you could consider the Dreamcast as well. However, like his B.A.G, his character had an impact that none of the other characters had.

The story begins with Gamma’s creation as the second of the E-100 series robots, coming after his “brother” Beta. After a shooting test, Gamma is pitied against his brother to see who will be apart of the Egg Carrier Crew, because why have two of your best soldiers when you can have just one. Gamma wins, impressing Eggman, but Beta comes along for “spare parts.

“Something about this feels like my master’s fantasy…” Image from Source Gaming

Inside the large vessel, Gamma is put in a team with 3 other of his kind: Delta, Zeta, and Epsilon. Eggman instructs them, as their first mission, to catch Froggy. Yeah, a ragtag team of pimped up robots should totally be catching a frog instead of gunning down Sonic. Good plan Eggman. After Gamma succeeds, gets sent to a vision of the past, and watches his other siblings transported away, he stumbles upon Beta being remodeled. Something about this hits Gamma, as if he’s witnessed a murder. Just one long existential crisis.

“This bird is free to fly. Why do I recognize it, and why do I desire the same thing?”

Confused, Gamma leaves to accomplish another task for Eggman: take a bird from a captive Amy. Gamma demands for the bird, but Amy refuses to heed his commands. When Amy asks why he wants it, Gamma is left with no answer. He doesn’t know why he carries out these orders and, after everything that’s happened since his birth, he’s left a shaking, confused child. After a while, Gamma questions why Amy cares for something she barely knows, something useless to her. Amy takes pity on the machine, believing Eggman failed to give him the greatest gift of all: love. Suddenly, Birdie escape to look directly into Gamma’s eyes. Gamma stares at the bird when a mysterious picture appears in his processors, one of 3 birds including the blue one. Gamma is left silently shaking until he makes the ultimate call to let Amy go. The girl thanks Gamma, calling him a friend, before leaving the robot to his thoughts.

Have I talked gameplay? No? Okay. Well Gamma’s the gun level. I’d make a Shadow The Hedgehog joke, but I barely played that game. Anyway, Gamma’s main objective is to shoot everything he can until he faces the boss of the level, namely his comrades after he decides to go against Eggman and free the animals within them(a good expansion on the idea of the machines having animals in them). Unlike the other characters where there timer goes up to tell you how long you’ve spent on a level, Gamma’s goes down. Blasting enemies gives you more seconds of time, and with the lock on system allowing you to stack up time, its best to hold the B button to lock onto as many robots as you can to avoid a game over.

Gamma’s gameplay is alright. It’s quick and gets to the point like a gun, so it accomplishes what’s it’s meant to do. All 5 levels aren’t long, so it makes most of Gamma’s story cutscenes. He controls fine, the rocket pack giving him a small gliding boost like knuckles and the gun fires fast, but his movement speed always felt slow. He can speed up, transforming his legs so his back wheels can move him, but it gets annoying when he gets stuck on stairs. He has another mode where he becomes a propeller to avoid water, which makes him raising Chao impossible. Don’t use him for taking care of babies.

“So, you guys or gals cool with me busting holes in you later for my existential crisis?” Image from Sonic News Network

The part that lacks is boss fights. They are way to easy. All the E-Series robots have low health, two attacks, and A.I that barely tries. I’m not asking Sephiroth bosses, but his final boss, once you know how it works, can go by so fast it almost takes away how awesome and emotional it is.

(Before I do my obvious favorite moment, I have to talk about the character integral to his plot.)

Amy: Love In Different Ways

“Sonic has quills, Knuckles has fists, and I have a big a$$ hammer!”

I have had many different perspectives on Amy’s story. At first, I thought nothing of it. As a kid, it was just “the girl” of the game. Later I found myself feeling they cheated Amy out of a good one, making her have the fewest levels and not having her stand on her own. I felt that her goal of saving a bird wasn’t as significant as Sonic’s or Gammas. But, despite how short it is, this story does Amy’s character justice. Love is her main character element, and the game brings out so much of that theme through her actions. I saved her for last because not only did she become my second favorite story, but she’s integral to the story of Gamma.

It starts with her being the material girl of a material world, reminiscing the bygone days where she and Sonic were together and being chased by his psychotic robot double (by this point, I’m pretty sure Sonic Adventure is a continuation of the 2d games). Suddenly, Eggman’s flying fortress passes above Station Square, scaring all the citizens with its massive, pointy tip. Amy questions what just happened, when a blue bird suddenly tackles across her face. At first she’s mad, but she realizes the bird must have escaped from Eggman when E-100 Zero, the prototype to the E-100 series, crashes from the ship and chases the duo. Realizing the bird is in danger, Amy vows to protect the bird and deliver it to their family…by first asking Sonic to do it.

Amy’s gameplay is honestly the second worst of the game. She runs like a tank which makes movement jarring and unnatural. She has a hammer as her main weapon. If you run fast enough, she can do a really fun somersault by launching her into the air. Other than that, just the tap of B adds to the clunkiness. In each stage, she is pursued by Zero relentlessly, making her gameplay that of the “cat and mouse.” Zero has a lock on, a prototype to the one Gamma has, hands that can stretch out like a rocket punch, and a electric shock wave when it jumps in the air. The game says don’t let Zero catch you, but that just means don’t let it kill you. Nothing happens if Zero touches you.

“No joke, I still don’t understand the controls of this area.” Image from Neoseeker

To halt it’s progress, since you can’t break the exterior(somehow more durable than it’s successors) you hit it down to the ground to stun it. Some levels have little cans to hide in like Solid Snake, but they are useless. Not once did the mechanic work, since you’re in plain view of the robot. It’s like hiding in a cupboard while Jason Voorhees is in the room watching you. On a funnier note, sometimes Zero leaves you alone for a while but busts through walls just to scare you. I guess Zero did it’s horror film research.

The end goal is some random balloon that takes you to safety, even though Zero can clearly just rocket punch the balloon. It floats slowly anyway, and I’ve seen Zero bounce high enough to just grab her. I don’t know, maybe Eggman didn’t program it with smarts. Like father, like robot.

This mode can be fun when you get the handle on the controls, however you only have 3 levels to do that. Yep, she has the lowest count of levels. Most of her story is just cutscenes and dialogue, and the occasional kidnapping. I do get it, since it’s just her trying to find a bird’s family in 3 locations. The pacing is good for such an arc, I do enjoy each scene like her and it going into Final Egg, but it feels stupid when she’s the only girl character. It’s really obvious. Besides that, she deserved more levels than Big the ATOZ 7. Amy’s gameplay is bad, but at least it’s not so bad that people couldn’t beat the game because of fishing.

I didn’t mention it till now, but each character gets their own upgrade that boosts their abilities or gives them new ones. Knuckles gets shovel claws to dig, Sonic gets a ring to do the Light Speed Dash, and Big gets a bunch of lure. I saved it till now to discuss how stupid Amy’s are.

Her first upgrade, the Warrior Feather, allows her to spin her hammer in place. It’s required like other upgrades, which, unlike others, must be obtained by beating Eggman’s high score on his whack-a-mole minigame (why does he have this in the Egg Carrier? I don’t know, he must get bored in there). However, it doesn’t help fight enemies and you can’t use it to inevitably kill Zero cause you need a horizontal attack than a vertical one. In a section of running away, the move keeps you static and vulnerable. The only thing it does is cause a special animation where Amy becomes dizzy as she walks. Like Tail’s tail swords, this mechanic is unnecessary to play the game.

“Wow, this could have been useful a while ago!” Image from Sonic News Network

Her last upgrade is the Long Hammer, which increases the range of attack. This makes hitting enemies and somersaults easier. However, you can’t get this upgrade during her story, rather afterwards. You get it at the whack-a-mole again, getting 3000 points instead, in the floating ruins of the Carrier. What I don’t understand is you come to this location for Amy’s last level and boss, yet getting the score gives you nothing. You have to beat it, go back in, and do it again.

So much of her gameplay left a bad taste in my mouth, leaving a bad impression on her story. Slow, janky, getting all the good stuff 2000 late, and going by like a blur in the worst way. Thankfully, I ignored it to analyze the underrated story.

Favorite Moments

“Writer Here: You would not believe how scared I when typing “Amy and Gamma” in Google for a screenshot. I was afraid of seeing the weird side of the Fandom.” Image from F@ck Yeah Sonic

Amy first appeared in Sonic CD as the “Minnie” for Sonic, a love struck hedgehog who fell for the Blue Blur. Even when Sonic rejects her heart, Amy is determined to make Sonic fall for her. Her character is essentially based around love, shown by the pink of her fur. While the game keeps this aspect of her character, the writers also brought out, in full flair, her love for other creatures. When the little bird was in trouble, and Sonic rightfully refused his stalker’s request, she immediately made it her quest to protecting it from Zero. I always loved that the bird followed behind her. It’s a small detail, but it showed how much the bird imprinted to her.

This act of love would later be the revelation needed for Gamma. As I said, Amy is responsible for Gamma turning on Eggman. She initially hated the machine, like all Eggman robots since she was kidnapped by Metal Sonic in CD, but when she realized Gamma had not reason to do the things he did she felt sorry for him. Amy immediately pleaded to him them, seeing Gamma now as a life than a machine. When Gamma frees them, she’s actually shocked. An Eggman robot being good? As she leaves, she thanks Gamma and decides to call him a friend.

Amy would later return the favor by stopping Sonic (or Tails) from delivering the finishing blow on a damaged Gamma, telling them that he’s good. Just before the Carrier crashes and Tails takes Amy away, she asks Gamma if he’s okay. He asks why she helps him, to which she repeats that their friends. She even states that Eggman is no good for him, and that she and the bird want to see him friend. Amy hopes she sees him again as they depart the falling castle in the sky, separated to continue their own story.

Image from Sonic News Network

Gamma, as memories of his life and the people he’s met flash before his servos, decides to erase his master registration, declaring Eggman an enemy and making it his mission to free the animals within his E-100 series brothers.

“Last remaining units…Beta…Gamma…” Image from Source Gaming

One of my favorite Gamma moments is right after he destroys Zeta, and he sees a modified Beta fly above him. Right before he goes into his last battle, he takes a moment to count how many units are left. Beta and Gamma. He looks at his hand as he says his own name. His mission is to free all the E-100 series robots, including himself. With the ocean breeze as ambience, it reveals to the player that Gamma isn’t going to walk away from this story with a happily ever after. His battle with Beta will be the last, or he’ll have to take other measures to free the animal inside of him.

After his fight with Beta Mk II, as his brother falls to the ground close to exploding, you think Gamma’s gonna walk away. However, Beta faces Gamma and delivers a fatal shot to the protagonist. Beta dies, freeing the yellow bird within. Gamma limps away as the bird watches. Just then, Gamma remembers the memory of three birds: a yellow one, a pink one, and a blue one. Right then, the machine falls to the ground and dies in the biggest explosion in the game. The story fades away as a pink bird reunites with the yellow one. However, while this is the ending shown in Gamma’s story, Amy’s end shows the conclusion.

After failing to find Birdie’s family in Final Egg, Amy believes they may be on the floating Egg Carrier since that’s where Birdie escaped from. They go and Amy is happy when birdie finds their family, revealing to be the yellow Beta and pink Gamma bird the whole time. Suddenly, Zero appears and hits Birdie with a rocket punch. Fed up, Amy takes out her hammer and stands her ground. With the help of the “magically appearing electric gates,” Amy destroys Zero once and for all, as only one stalker can be in the Sonic Universe.

As Amy stays with the hurt bird, watching it try to fly away. For a moment, it seems Birdie dies, but they manages to recovery and fly with the rest of its flock. Amy says how happy she is that Birdie found their family again. Amy watches them as they fly away to the sunset, never realizing that she got to see Gamma one last time. Amy says that she’ll do her best, which basically means getting Sonic’s damn respect. The story ends for the both of them, going back to their daily lives.

“Can’t believe you blew up our cool, mecha suits, idiot!” Image by Sonic Adventure Facts from Twitter

Gamma’s story hit me as a kid. In a short time, I saw his birth and death at the same time; an entire lifetime. I never expected him to go like that, hell I never thought a main protagonist could die. When Beta, possibly rejecting his brother, takes the dirty shot, it came out of left field for me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and then it all came together when the hero fell. The emotional weight his story had stuck with me for years, becoming one of the reasons I got into storytelling. I don’t remember if I cried or not, probably did, but every subsequent playthrough came close to bringing me to tears. Something brought up to me was how his theme song, played in every cutscene, represents his story; the techno front being his robotic exterior while the soft piano is the emotions he gains.

I chose to do Gamma and Amy’s section together because they’re connected together. Having Amy’s ending be about her growth as a character and the finale of Gamma’s arc really shows how much they affected one another, and how much they are friends. Sure Gamma’s is the more famous one, he is a fan favorite, but I got to give credit to Amy for being the reason for his redemption. Their stories are the most heartfelt and unique in the game, and why I think you should give them a shot and play the game.

End of Part One

“I just liked this meme. Props to the creator.” Image by Stick Breightley on Reddit

Since this post is getting long, I’ll separate the secret story, other characters, and miscellaneous things into a different post. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this February, 2021, and I’ll see you into the start of the Spring, where allergies will come and falsely accuse people of having the virus. Fun times.

-Samuel Argueta

Earthbound: The Giygas Strikes Back

Introduction: (Disclaimer: There may be a few spoilers)

The year is 199X. In the depths of the night, the citizens of Onett are sleeping soundly, unaware of the strange things that are going to start this very night. Our chubby protagonist, Ness Quik, sleeps within his small home in his blue pajamas, when suddenly a loud boom shakes the earth. The ambience of the outside world is now accompanied by the distant sounds of police sirens blaring into action, coming closer as if the source of the sound is near. Ness wakes up, along with his agitated family, and decides to check out what has occurred. His younger sister, Tracy, gives him a cracked bat to arm himself, and so the boy goes out to the cold world.

“Don’t you just hate it when a meteor from the sky wakes you up from your glorious sleep?”
Image from FandomSpot

He goes over to climb the mountain, meeting up with several officers along the way who are tired an agitated, especially with the gangs they have to deal with on a daily basis. He talks with a strange man who lives on the mountain, who asks him to see his billboard he worked hard for, and then meets up with one of the neighbor’s son, Pokey (renamed from Porky for obvious reasons) who is chastising with the police. The police have blocked the way. Up above, a scientist and a cop study the meteorite. Pokey tells Ness to go home and stop bugging the cops. With nothing left for him to do, Ness goes home and back to sleep.

Suddenly, he’s ripped from sleep by the sound of knocking at his door. Ness storms downstairs and opens the door to see Pokey, who had lost Picky when they checked the meteorite after the police left. With bags under his eyes, and a call from milk-getting pa, the boy, his “friend,” and dog named King, they set out to the top of the mountain while beating up snakes and crows. Stupid nature. Once on top, King leaves in fear and the duo find Picky. Before leaving, a strange and controllable pillar of light breaks from the meteor toward the sky. The trio bask in the total disbelief as a fly, bee, rhino-beetle looking thing descends from the heavens. Buzz-Buzz tells of an evil future brought by Giygas, the universal destroyer who used to go by the name Giegue, and a prophecy that the chosen 4 will beat them. Spoiler, its not porker and his brother.

“Awaken, my Buzz-Buzz!”
Image from Earthbound Fandom

The gang leave, when suddenly Starman.net arrives to defeat Ness. Buzz-Buzz and Picky help in the fight, while Porky does nothing. The first of many enemies. Ness delivers the brothers to their parents, hears their father beat them, and then witnesses their mother one-shot Buzz-Buzz. With the thing dying in his hands, Ness is given words of courage and the Sound stone in order to record the music of his 8 “Your Sanctuary.” After sleeping away the trauma, our chosen one steps out to the beautiful sunrise of a new adventure.

The World of Earthbound

“Cue that Upbeat Onett theme”
Image from Nintendo Life

Earthbound is the wacky story of a young boy who must travel cross-country, from Eagleland to Foggyland, with friends in order to stop an adopted universal evil. Along the way, they must beat up cops, help the Runaway Five band out of debt, fight 5 number 3 moles, and even deal with living barf.

Each town, city, and tourist trap they visit is based on a theme. Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside of Eagleland are an obvious one. Foggyland has Winters and Summers based on the seasons. Summers also fits with the number theme combined with Chommo’s Tenda Village in the Deep Darkness. 1+2+3+4=10.

“See, it is the Blu Blux Klan. The only left to do after seeing them is getting the hell out.”
Image from Starmen.net’s walkthrough

At the time, it was a parody of many JRPG’s at the time, which were mostly set in an old fantasy world rather than the more modern fantasy one the Earthbound franchise would be known for. While the game can be quirky in many moments, it also tells the serious themes of childhood, friendship, and love for one another. Ness grows up throughout the game, eventually defeating the evil in his heart that could corrupt him. It’s also known for the various dark crap that happens to these kids, even if some are played for laughs.  You know you’re a dark game when you have a boy stop the blue Klu Klux Klan from sacrificing a young girl and painting the world blue. The blend of satire, fun, and disturbing moments makes for a unique journey.

Gameplay

Unlike the other RPGs at the time, with their magic potions and mystical swords of insert thing it does, you heal with food, like hamburgers, and equip with a bat or a frying pan. Trash cans and present boxes replace treasure boxes, castles are replaced by suburban towns, and you’ll ride the occasional yellow submarine. Everything has a modern mix to it, making for a pseudo-realistic feel.  At the same time, there are elements in the game that make you feel that you are in the imagination of a child, such as the pencil eraser item that erases pencil-shaped statues (no kidding).

Rather than magic spells, the game has characters use PSI. PSI is more explained in Earthbound Beginnings, but for now all you need to know is that it’s a psychic power that some people, animals, and machines have. Like magic, it runs on PP. The more the characters with it gain experience points, the more they learn new PSI powers and even stronger versions of the ones they have based on Greek letters (like PK Freeze Omega).

“Why take the bus? I got legs! Um, don’t tell the Runaway Five that…”
Image from Earthbound Fandom

The party walks around the vast world of Earthbound, and I do mean walk. There isn’t a run option in the buttons, but you can eat a Skip Sandwich to move faster. You can talk to anyone and check everything through the menu, accessible with the press of A. Talk To for people and the like, and Check for objects and other things (check things you might not think would work. A surprise is always around the corner).

Besides those options, there’s Status to check on your party’s states, PSI to check the PSI your party has, Equip to put equitable objects on the party, and Goods to check you inventory. The inventory is notoriously small, with only a few items to hold for each party member, and items don’t stack with each other. Under the menu is the amount of money your party has, and the HP and PP they have.

Characters

Image by Wolf Electric from Pinterest

Ness

Ness is the main protagonist, healer and tank of the game, a great contrast to the standard typical “Main protagonist must be a full on fighter.” A baseball fan, his main weapon in the Bat and equipment a baseball cap.

He is a PSI user like Paula and Poo. His only offensive attacks are PSI Rockin, a powerful attack exclusive to him that can hit all enemies, and PSI Flash, which can inflict a random effect like crying or even instant defeat. As the healer, he gains each of the upgrades for PK Life up, which heals Hp, and Healing, which heals status affects. He also has other assist moves such as shield for physical attacks, hypnosis which gives enemies the sleep he lost in the beginning, and paralysis to paralyze people. He is the leader of the group.

Paula

Paula Dean is the offensive glass cannon of the group and the only female character in the party. Her main attacks come from her PSI, but she can do physical attacks with a Frying Pan. Like any magic user, she has the PK attacks of Fire, Freeze, and Thunder (because Japan likes the name better than the actual lightning that strikes). Her only “Recover” PSI move is Magnet, shared with Poo, in order to heal her PP (it’s so good). Her assists are PSI Shield, the magic shield equivalent to Ness’s Shield, Offense Up for the whole party, and Defense Down for enemies.

While the fastest and strongest attacker on the group, Paula’s special skill is the ability to Pray, which I believe to be a pseudo reference Ana’s(Paula’s counterpart in Earthbound Beginnings) Christianity. It induces a random effect during battle from healing everyone in the party to inflicting a status affect on everyone. I guess this is God’s way of interacting in the world? I don’t know. The ability is limited, and I never really used it myself, but it is a pivotal ability during the final battle.

Never used solely in the game.

My Name’s Jeff

Jeff Bridges is the geeky support and I guess thief of the party. He is the only one in the party to not be a PSI user, which makes it seem he’s the weakest link. However, looks can be deceiving. His main weapon is a gun. Not a toy gun, an actually freakin magnum. This kid packs heat to the highest degree, since he has 2 of the best special traits in the game. The first is his ability to repair and use gadgets that only he can use (such as the bottle rockets and shield killers) due to his IQ. Yes, that’s a stat. Once Jeff gets the Multi Bottle Rockets, he can easily deal massive damage that can end a battle swiftl y. He also has the Spy ability, which allows the player to know the stats and weakness’s of the enemy, while also being able to steal from them.

He’s used solely by himself during his introduction in Snowman.

Poo

Poo Puri is the Prince of Dalaam and I don’t know what he’s supposed to be. As a PSI user, he’s a balance between Ness and Paula. His offensive skills are Freeze and Thunder, the former never going to omega. He can use Lifeup (never omega), Healing, a Shield like Ness, and Magnet like Paula. He does have his own special skills exclusive to him. He is the only one in the party to use PK Starstorm, a powerful attack similar to Ness’s PK Rockin, and Brainstorm, which puts strangeness on an enemy. He also the only one to use the technique called Mirror, which makes him become an enemy except bosses.

Poo, like the prince he is, is a very picky poo. He cannot equip any of the equipment available in the game, as it makes him weaker. He can only equip the “of Kings” set (good luck getting his damn sword). Also, he has a special diet where only water and stuff from his kingdom will increase his HP and PP to a high degree. Anything else does less.

He’s used solely during his introduction when the rest of the party get high on cake.

Other important characters include Buzz-Buzz, Dr.Andonauts (Jeff’s Dad), Picky, the Mr Saturns, and Pokey Minch.

“Anyone else feel bad for Picky?”
Image from Wikibound

Pros

The Story: I chose to make a small novelization of the introduction just because it’s one of the best openings to a game I’ve ever come across. The story is the classic good vs evil, yet the wacky humor and dark themes flesh it out. The journey is nothing short of a children’s tale, filled with swift setting changes and weird enemies to fight. Yet it’s that children’s aspect that makes the game unpredictable and fun to playthrough. Many moments in the game are memorable, from the lights out of Fourside’s department mall to the final battle with Giygas. One of my favorite moments was when you switch over to Jeff’s side after Ness and Paula are captured. I didn’t expect it to happen, but the mystery of this new character and the humble setting of Winters made me intrigued to what would come. Once you get into it, it’s a story that’ll keep you guessing and entertained.

The characters: Many of the characters are funny and complex. The protagonists each have their own character traits and story that go deeper than the surface value. Ness’s journey of growing up, Paula’s strong and tough personality thanks to the English localizers, Jeff’s relationship with his father and friend, and Poo’s journey to master Mu and help the others in their quest. Many of the important characters are just as well-written as the protagonists that allow players to theorize and go deep on their own to fill in some of gaps the game intentionally leaves out. Even the NPCs around the world are interesting due to their quirky lines of dialogue. A mix of fun and serious make each of these characters fun to talk to.

“It speaks for itself.”
Image from Ekostories

The humor and themes: In my opinion, the funniest things come from a serious story that has a sense of humor. Despite the dark and disturbing moments in the game, its mixed perfectly with a game that will make you giggle and laugh. It’s that fine line in the middle that gives the game a heart and soul. Without each other, I don’t think the game would have gotten its cult classic status and unique tone. There are such absurd moments in the game that will make you laugh. I mean you ride the Beatles Yellow Submarine to a place called the Deep Darkness. That is not where you find the sun. At the same time, the moments of police brutality, the kidnapping of Paula by the blue cult, the zombies of Threed, and a touch of alien invasion give a creepy atmosphere that demands you to take this game serious at times. To me, it’s a great comedy because it balances to good and bad that accompanies life.

The worldbuilding: From Onett to Tenda Village, each location stands out from each other and bring a memorable moment to the game. Each has a distinct atmosphere and a distinct look from each other. The metropolitan Fourside, the cozy tourist trap Summers, the small population of Winters, and the warm heat of Scaraba. The game transports you into this world and keeps you hooked in till the end.

“When a jam happens like this, pop in some ACDC and enjoy the-move it already!”
Image from Earthbound Central

The soundtrack: To me, music is everything and Earthbound nails it. The theme of Onett makes you want to walk down the sidewalk of a quaint little town, while the music of evil Threed makes you want to stay home and drown out the screams with Wipe Out. Atmospheric, chiptune, fun, and creepy, the Earthbound soundtrack is just as complex and fun as the game is. A good movie, tv show, and game must has the proper music, and good thing Earthbound got one.

The UI: Everything just flows well with the game. The menu is there with the push of a button, everything you need to know comes up in, and there is no confusion in what you need to know. The lack of random encounters is a godsend, and the mechanics of the overworld enemies is fresh and controllable. Battles flow well thanks to the rolling HP counter, allowing you to save yourself from certain defeat before it rolls to zero. With enough practice, even the hardest battles can be controlled by the player.

Cons

The inventory space: It’s a con that everyone usually points out, but it is a problem nonetheless. Inventory space is based on how many party members you have, so starting out with Ness gives you such little to carry. Since items don’t stack, you have to carry two of the same item and they take 2 spots in the inventory. Equipment items also take up space, so that’s 4 spots taken away including the required items you need to have.

Getting party members become a blessing in order to carry more, however, if they fall in battle that stuff is locked away from you both in the overworld and in battle. Imagine giving someone all the reviving items and they fall in battle? There is a storage in the game, through your sister with the Escargo Express, but along the way inventory is a pain.

“Back then, on my first playthrough, I think Hell’s bells were ringing for me” Image from Earthbound Fandom

The difficulty: It can be grueling at times. Many people have a hard time with the first part of the game, since it’s just Ness. Grinding is a must during Onett and the first part of Twoson, since you’ll be dealing with 4 bosses, enough with SMASH attacks (critical hits in the game), and the whole of Peaceful Rest Valley.

Me personally, I’ve had a lot of trouble with Threed and the Stone Hedge alien base. I entered Threed without grinding beforehand, and because you’re stuck there until you free it I was dealing with enemies’ way above level. I say grind before going.  The Stone Hedge Base is a current predicament, since many of the enemies are powerful PSI users. Earthbound is a game that takes time and effort to get into.

Lack of run button or speedup: The walking in the game can be slow at times, especially compared to the adding speedup in Earthbound Beginning, and the only way to run is stuck in the inventory. Everything is in walking distance, but when you’re doing a long dungeon and you can’t just speed it up it becomes unbearable, especially if you need to backtrack.

This goes into the point that some items are completely useless. The bicycle could have fixed the problem, but the bicycle can only be used when only one person is in the party. You get the bike in the town with the second party member, so you get to enjoy it for one town.

A nickpick: I don’t like that Onett never returns to its original state after the invasion near the end. I never like that when a game has this one area that just turns to crap and you can never experience it again until you start another file.

Conclusion

I didn’t get the chance to grow up with this game, but it became an easy classic in my game catalog. It’s was a unique RPG in its time, and it still stands out to the hearts of many to this day. This game is a cult classic, but I will admit that not everyone will probably “get it.” However, if you love a funny but dark game set in an alternate 90s America in the eyes of Japan made by a copywriter and his team, then Earthbound is the game for you. Fuzzy pickles everyone.

-Samuel Argueta