I rate on a scale of 1-10. 1 is the lowest, 10 is the highest.
Earthbound is one of my top favorite RPGs, along with Final Fantasy 6 (SNES) and Albert Odyssey (Saturn). It's fun, long, challenging, and never gets old. It has a very humorous story, excellent translation, and downright funny dialogue. It's a game that forces you to think, use a lot of strategy, and fully explore its environments.
Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the game. Most people will look at these graphics and think one of several things. They may think the game looks too cartoony or "kiddie". They may think the graphics lack detail, and aren't really good. They might be turned off by the look after playing the 3-D RPGs of modern systems. However, if you want MY opinion, (and this whole review is MY opinion), I thought the graphics were okay. I really don't have a problem with them. They do look just like a cartoon, meaning the colors are a little flat, but they are bright. There's many little objects and things in the background that just make the towns seem to come to life. During the battle scenes, the enemies are drawn big and look like cartoon characters. However, many of them are funny-looking, and not really so cutesy they make you puke! One thing you'll definitely notice is that the game uses colorful, vibrating backgrounds instead of detailed backgrounds showing your surroundings. People either love this or hate it. Some of the backgrounds can be nauseating after awhile, and some people might find it distracting. However, I really liked this approach. I thought the backgrounds added excitement to the battles, and they really looked cool. What looked even cooler were the spells and PSI attacks. There are no wild 3-D effects or any of that jazz, but what this game does is take simplistic graphics and use them in a way that is dazzling.
Overall Graphics Score: 6.5
I think the sound is considerably better than the graphics. First, I'll start with the music. It may not be the most dynamic soundtrack, but it's got some really good and catchy themes! I'm really surprised at how well the music conveys emotions at various points. There are times when it sounds scary, goofy, happy-go-lucky, sad, etc. The music always fits the situations, too. Like the Egyptian music in the desert and the Christmas-style music in the winter area. The Dungeon Man theme is one of the few songs that's ever made me laugh out loud (particularly when I read the sign where the Dungeon Man says the music is one of his greatest creations!) The Runaway Five songs and the Sky Runner Theme are some of the best songs I've ever heard in a game. But my favorite, besides the ending theme of course, is Venus's Song. The only area where the music seems to lack is in the battles. The battle music is very flat. The Boss themes, on the other hand, rock heavily! (Wait till you get to the battle with Pokey and Giygas! heh heh!) The sound effects are really good, too. Maybe even better than the music itself. I especially like the sound effects for when you walk up and down stairs, and the spell sound effects in battle. After awhile, the other battle sound effects can get a little annoying though..
Overall Sound Score: 8
People always say Play Control isn't important in an RPG, but I think, in some ways, it is. I've played RPGs where the characters are tough to move around, or walk too slow, or the battle menus are difficult to navigate and use. I had NO such problems with this game. My only complaint is that sometimes it's a little confusing switching things in your menus, but it doesn't take much getting used to at all. The characters move at a decent pace. They're always easy to move around. The battle system runs pretty smoothly.
Overall Play Control Score: 9
Here is where this game WON'T disappoint! This game is LONG and CHALLENGING! What makes it so challenging, other than the length? Well, for starters, you're not given a bunch of characters with abilities that will wipe out every enemy you encounter. You're characters start out weak, and they gradually get stronger as you fight. (I mean VERY weak.) Also, when you're levels go up, usually not all of your stats raise at once. Sometimes, you may only get a 1 HP increase and nothing more!!! So you can't always just build levels in hopes of clobbering every boss. You need to use strategy, and use your characters abilities wisely! Ironically, the bosses don't seem as tough to beat as the minor enemies. If I die at all, I get wiped out before the bosses, but once I get to them, I can usually beat them with little problems. However, that doesn't mean there aren't some tough ones! Towards the end of the game, the minor enemies become some hard, every battle is like a boss fight! (Especially those damn Starmen!) The game does a good job of mixing up the challenge, too. What I mean is, there are times when members of your party are taken away, and you're left to fight without them until they return. There's one part where you lose Paula, and only have Ness and Jeff, and you'll find out how tough this part is! In another part, you fight in a Dream World all alone as Ness. This can be a real bugger, too! This helps to even out the problem most RPGs have, where gaining a larger party means the game becomes easier as it goes along rather than harder. The final battle is not overly difficult, but still a challenge. (The biggest challenge of the final battle is figuring out HOW to beat the last boss!)
Overall Challenge Score: 10
This is one of those things that people are either going to love or hate! Personally, I loved it! They really lead you to believe this is some kiddie story about an alien invasion...but it's not! I hate to reveal spoilers, so I won't. But let me just say, this story is full of subtle jokes, and even some "adult" humor! There's alot of symbolism and detail in the story, and I didn't find this game as predictable as some RPGs. The rivalry between Ness and Pokey really adds flair to the game. Pokey is one of the best villains in RPGs, and I think the only RPG villains who's ever made me hate him more than Pokey has, is Kefka! So he's right up there with the best of the best! There are so many plot twists and turns, this game can almost make you dizzy! Each area you encounter has it's own little story that unfolds in several linked events. Everything ties into the main story, too. It is really incredible, if you catch on to everything...If you get lost or don't pay enough attention to the story, chances are you won't enjoy it as much as I did.
Overall Story Score: 9
Overall, this is one of my favorite RPGs. It's VERY complex. Alot of RPGs make you follow a pattern of going to a town, defeating some evil in a nearby cave or castle, then moving to the next town. Earthbound has you moving from town to town, but many different events occur and unfold in each area. Sometimes, it can be a little hard to tell what to do next, which can get annoying, and if you don't pay careful attention to the story and its details, you'll get lost. Also, the game is kind of linear, but it hardly matters considering the size and scope of the game. Non-linear play would've probably resulted in a Saga Frontier-style disaster! The game's cutesy look and raunchy humor won't appeal to everybody, but for those who take the trip, Earthbound is a wild ride!
Overall Game Design Score: 9