“Sean Ate the Cup of Lifenoodles” (Non-Fiction, 07/30/09) Doc. #010

Saturn Valley Problems
Earthbound for SNES is my favorite video game of all time.  This is my little tribute to a brilliant and hilarious game mechanic. Don’t get “mushroomized!”

The Text:

Sean Ate The Cup of Lifenoodles

Written July 30, 2009 (Age 22). File name: Earthbound.wps

Disclaimer: This article is really just an excuse to talk about one of my favorite games. (Age has brought clarity on this subject. Plus, it sounds more definitive.)

Every now and then, a game will come along that manages to be both awesome and poor-selling. Take Jet Force Gemini for the N64. This game was an imaginative sci-fi shoot-em-up with beautiful environments, original enemies, and a story as epic as Star Wars. But for some reason, it was the worst-selling game produced by Rare to come out on the N64. Clocking in at just over a million copies sold, this game did worse than Pokemon Stadium, and that game sucked.

Now, before you go saying “Hey, a million copies is a lot!” or “Pokemon Stadium rules!” I’m only using JFG Jet Force Gemini as an example, and considering the high-profile company behind the game, a million copies is a bomb. And even though I own Pokemon Stadium (don’t ask), that doesn’t change the fact that the game was a poor excuse to put the then-cherished Pokémon (“then-cherished” lol) in a 3D environment for the first time (I still think a re-make of the original game would be sweet on Wii, throwing poke-balls with the Wii Remote… yeah, that would be awesome). (that does sound awesome.)

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, really good failures. I want to talk about the best failure of all time. No, not the Liberty Bell, I’m talking about Earthbound for the SNES.

If this game were a woman, I’d marry it. It’s funny, endearing, it makes your favorite food all the time, and you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again. There’s always something new to discover. I just recently played this game again (for at least the tenth time) and was rewarded with two things I had never discovered before in previous play-throughs. I’ll bet there are still lines of text in the game I’ve yet to activate. (I’ve since managed to acquire the Sword of Kings in a subsequent playthrough. Yeah, that’s right, I got the Sword of Kings, what?)

What makes this game so special is that it’s unlike any RPG ever created. Yes, there’s magic and a turn-style battle system, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. For one, the world you play in isn’t much different from our own. Our hero, Ness, lives just outside the small town of Onett. He leads a normal life until Then one night, when a psychic bee from the future rides a time-traveling meteorite onto the hill behind Ness’ house. And yes, you read that correctly.

From there you are sent on a mission to save the world from an evil alien named Giygas. On your journey you’ll visit strange places and make new friends. Along the way, you’ll encounter fierce enemies, such as the “Mole Playing Rough” and my favorite enemy, the “New-Age Retro Hippie.” Take my word for it, nothing is quite as satisfying as walking around town beating up hippies with a baseball bat. Ultimately, you’ll save the world (or get your head handed to you). In the meantime you’ll be laughing out loud (no, no, no) at the outlandish dialogue and descriptions.

Okay, so the game is weird… really weird, but that weirdness is a part of what makes it great. It’s the only RPG comedy that I’m aware of. (Steam has really changed the game on that front.)

So why did this game do so poorly, if it’s so great? The simplest answer is the price of the game: 70$. The game came pre-packaged with a full-fledged strategy guide, and many gamers didn’t feel like shilling out the extra 20$ for it. Another reason that the game was a flop was it’s marketing campaign. The tagline of the campaign was “This Game Stinks.” I’m not kidding here, that was the phrase they used to try to sell the game. I guess it’s supposed to be a reference to the fact that some of the dungeons in the game are kind of gross and would smell bad if you were actually there. Still, it really doesn’t make you want to buy the game. It would be like trying to sell LostWinds for Wii Ware with the slogan “This Game Blows.” (lol) Yeah, it kind of makes sense, but it’s still a bad idea.

Oddly enough, someone recently purchased a sealed copy of this game Earthbound on eBay for just over 1,000$. Damn. (Okay…)

Earthbound probably has the most obsessed fan-base in all of video-gaming. Don’t believe me? Well in 2006, a sequel on GBA was released in Japan called Mother 3 (There’s way too much to explain when talking about this game, but Earthbound was actually a sequel to an NES game that never made it state-side). (Once again, time has made fools of us all… um, me) When it was revealed that Mother 3 would not be coming to the US, a group of fans got together and translated the game into English, a first in video-gaming history. Suck it, NoA. (Yeah! You tell em, you nobody!)

Critique:

One would not be able to describe the purpose of this article had the writer not led with an explanation. The only thing worse than writing only for one’s self, is writing only for one’s self and then publishing it. This article should never have seen the light of day.

Fans of the game will find little in this article that they did not already know or feel themselves, and readers who are unaware of Earthbound will find themselves confused and uninterested. There simply is no audience for this piece.

The writing is of the same high quality one expects from Sean L, but nothing really jumps off the page. To borrow a phrase from today’s youth: this article is basic as f***. Grade: C+

Reflection:

If you’re familiar with Earthbound, you’ve probably already guessed from the art on this site that I’m a fan.

I wrote this unfinished, unpublished article for a small video game and entertainment website that is still in operation today, and pretty successful for its size. I had been out of college for six months and was unemployed, depressed, and living with my parents (incredibly, there isn’t a huge demand for philosopher-poets in the workforce). I started writing for the website to distract myself from the fact that I couldn’t get a job at Wendy’s (really).

At first, writing for the site was fun. There were no deadlines (perfect for me) and I could write about any video game, movie, TV show, or book that I wanted to. I might have continued writing for the site, but a few month in the owner wanted a commitment from all of the writers to produce at least 3 articles a week while still receiving no pay. The website had been growing and he wanted to stimulate that growth. Perfectly understandable, but I didn’t even know this guy except through e-mail, and I wasn’t running a publicity charity for small business owners. I wished him luck and stopped writing for the site.

I was halfway through “Sean ate the Cup of Lifenoodles” when I quit the site and stopped writing it. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t opened my email that day until I finished the article! I have no idea where I was going, but I would have loved to find out.

Earthbound is a very special game for a lot of gamers, myself included. I basically forced my wife to play through it once before I agreed to marry her. Describing it in a way that makes it sound appealing is difficult, and almost all descriptions fail to capture the feelings the game evokes in the player. Simply put, it is a timeless, one-of-a-kind gaming experience that more and more people are discovering and treasuring each year.

I’ll probably continue to play and discuss Earthbound in the future. A fan-made “sequel,” Mother 4 (free to download) is on my to-do list for 2017. Maybe I’ll write a review when the time comes.

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click one of those SHARE buttons below! Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

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