Dragon Quest I & II (SNES)

Pub: Enix | Dev: ChunSoft | December 1993 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Enix | Dev: ChunSoft | December 1993 | 16 MEGS

Earlier today (August 10), Square Enix released Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS. These digital releases in Japan were made to capitalize on the latest entry, Dragon Quest XI, which was released in Japan on July 29, 2017 (and is confirmed to receive a North American release at a future date TBD). This isn’t the first time Dragon Quest and its sequel have been re-released. In late 2000, a Game Boy Color version of the two games was made. But even before all of that, you had the Super Famicom version which came out on December 18, 1993. It featured both games on one cart and the graphics were improved. While the visuals didn’t take full advantage of the SNES capabilities, it was still a decent step up from the NES graphics. Unfortunately, Dragon Quest I & II never made its way to American soil. However, a fan translated English patch has long since been put out, allowing SNES gamers to fully enjoy Dragon Quest I & II on their Super Nintendo. With these two games being re-released (again) today in Japan, there’s no better time to take a look back than now.

And you thought Street Fighter refused to die!
And you thought Street Fighter refused to die!
Dragon Quest XI. The series keeps on ticking
Dragon Quest XI – the series keeps on ticking!

DRAGON WARRIOR

This left a lasting impression on a generation
This left a lasting impression on a generation

Dragon Quest was released on the Famicom on May 27, 1986. It was later released to the North American market as Dragon Warrior in August of 1989. Wow. This month marks the 28th anniversary since Dragon Warrior left its mark on an entire generation of NES playing kids. Many people consider Dragon Quest to be the granddaddy of the RPG genre. It inspired other companies to try their own hand, giving birth to classic franchises like Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy. In terms of influence, one could even argue that Dragon Quest is to RPGs as Super Mario Bros. is to platformers.

SNES MAKEOVER

DrQuNES1DrQu14

 

 

 

 

 

Immediately you can see that the SNES version enjoyed a visual boost. I’m not a graphics whore but it’s hard to go back to the NES original after seeing and playing the SNES version.

DrQuDrQu1

 

 

 

 

 

Select your game of choice. If you’re brand new to the series, definitely start with the first one. It’s harder to appreciate the original if you play Dragon Quest II first.

DRAGON QUEST

Lets call this brave handsome hero... Steve ;)
Lets call this brave handsome hero… Steve ;)

DrQu2DrQu3

 

 

 

 

 

“Demons all over the world were taken out by Roto and this powerful Ball of Light. But then, the evil King Dragon appeared. He stole the Ball of Light and sealed it in darkness. If he is not stopped soon, it will be the end of the world as we know it. It’s up to you to stop him and bring back the Ball of Light by any means necessary!”

DrQu9DrQu9b

 

 

 

 

 

Another massive improvement: now you can talk to someone or search something without having to go through the cumbersome “action” menu. Do this by pressing either X, L or R. Of course, you still have the option to use the action menu but you’d be crazy to. This definitely makes the game a smoother playing experience. It’s a big reason why many prefer this version over the original.

DrQu10DrQu10b

 

 

 

 

 

Princesses and demons…

Right?!
Right?!

DrQu13DrQu14

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the more functional control scheme, searching for hidden items is no longer as tedious or annoying. Once you’re stocked, it’s time to venture out. I like how the final castle looms in the distance and you can see it right away. It’s an effective tease!

DrQu15DrQu15b

 

 

 

 

 

Outside, the random battles begin. There’s no animation from the enemies to speak of, but it’s Dragon Quest. You’re not here for mind-blowing graphics. For what it is, it works.

DrQu16DrQu16b

 

 

 

 

 

Health running low? Retreat back to town to rest at the Inn. You can also head to the vault and either deposit or withdraw items. Since your inventory has a limited number of slots, wise management is crucial.

DrQu17DrQu17b

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring towns and villages is a must. You never know what helpful items you may uncover. That wise old man is the one to see when cursed.

DrQu18DrQu18b

 

 

 

 

 

Entering certain buildings lead to such quirky transitions.

DrQu19DrQu19b

 

 

 

 

 

Beating random enemies and leveling up is all part of the grind [HA HA -Ed.]. You’ll even learn some magic spells as you level up.

DrQu20DrQu20b

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering a new town or village for the first time is always a welcomed sight, especially for weary warriors. Even if it means, and I say this with the utmost affection, dealing with some of the village yahoos… :P

DrQu21DrQu21b

 

 

 

 

 

You’re going to need the torch here to light the way. At the end you come to a tombstone with a special message directed to you from the legendary Roto himself.

DrQu22DrQu22b

 

 

 

 

 

Wounded in battle but far away from town? Toss the Wing of the Chimera up in the air to take you back to the nearest town. Then you can rest at the local inn. Be sure to always carry at least one Chimera Wing with you. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of nowhere with no medical herbs or magic points to heal yourself.

DrQu23DrQu23b

 

 

 

 

 

Having a tough time with the latest batch of enemies? Then be sure to upgrade your weapons and armor. I like how the game shows you the difference. Believe it or not, not every RPG following Dragon Quest did this. That’s my biggest pet peeve with certain RPGs other than excessive random battles. Show me the difference, damnit! Ahem. Oh, and don’t forget to sell obsolete items [Yessssss, DELETE! -Broken Matt Hardy]

DrQu24DrQu24b

 

 

 

 

 

Typically, it’s just a matter of leveling up a bit and/or upgrading your weapons and armor. That’s been the RPG way ever since.

DrQu25DrQu25b

 

 

 

 

 

Ooooh, ahhh. Check out the brand new tree shadows in the village of Kol! This is perhaps the coolest visual tweak as the NES original did not feature this. It’s a small detail but goes a long way to add that extra punch.

DrQu26DrQu26b

 

 

 

 

 

These sultry ladies sure are friendly. This dialogue was removed from the US version of Dragon Warrior for obvious reasons.

DrQu27DrQu27b

 

 

 

 

 

Whoever this wise old man is, he sure gets around! Obviously, they just recycle the sprite. Hey, you had to use your imagination a bit back in the day.

Leveling up always perks me up
Leveling up always perks me up
Enemies get progressively tougher
Enemies get progressively tougher
Someone's been hustling in the streets
Someone’s been hustling in the streets
Check your status screen every so often
Check your status screen every so often
Um... uh... do we have to do this in front of your dad?
Um… uh… do we have to do this in front of your dad?
Crossing borders usually meant new enemies
Crossing borders usually meant new enemies
The final battle is nearly at hand
The final battle is nearly at hand
Feel my power, Dark Dragon!
My final stats
I get that a lot [ONLY in video games -Ed.]
I get that a lot [ONLY in video games -Ed.]

DRAGON QUEST II

[Dont even tell me. His name is... Steve -Ed.]
[Don’t even tell me. His name is… Steve -Ed.]
DrQu2-1DrQu2-1b

 

 

 

 

 

Together, this young man and his bride left on a journey and built several new countries. These countries were ruled by the children of that young couple, and were handed down to the following generation.

DrQu2-2DrQu2-2b

 

 

 

 

 

“DAMN that Hargon! We cannot surrender. Summon the soldiers at once!”

DrQu2-3DrQu2-3b

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, as the guard went to carry out the King’s order, a demon swooped in for the kill. Strickened with fear and panic, the King urged his daughter to take cover and not to worry about whatever may happen to him.

DrQu2-4DrQu2-4b

 

 

 

 

 

Courageous to the bitter end, the King gave the demons all he had. His daughter, Maria, stood by watching and praying for the best.

DrQu2-5DrQu2-5b

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the demons called for backup and swarmed the King. He stood no chance, and Princess Maria had no choice but to honor her father’s last request: HIDE. And so she did. What became of her is a mystery that will be solved later…

DrQu2-6DrQu2-6b

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, one brave soldier was able to escape the ruckus. He immediately limped all the way to the nearest castle to inform the King there before passing out. It was his valiant effort that set forth a tremendous domino effect. History honors his name.

DrQu2-7DrQu2-7b

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike the first Dragon Quest, this time two fellow allies will accompany you and assist in the great war. They also share the blood of Roto.

DrQu2-8DrQu2-8b

 

 

 

 

 

Another new aspect: now you square off with multiple enemies at a time rather than just one. Once in a while you’ll even land a lucky strike that hits with more power than your regular attack. It’s signaled by the words “Terrific move!”

DrQu2-9DrQu2-9b

 

 

 

 

 

However, this system had a slight flaw. Say you have two Big Slugs and they’re grouped together. Well, you can’t select which specific slug you want to hit. You just pick the group and the rest is up to the game. You can see how this affects strategy once the other two members join the party. Thankfully though, the game is pretty good with allocating your attacks properly. It’s not always perfect, but it gets it right most of the time. Still, I would have preferred being given the choice since that would leave no room for error.

DrQu2-10DrQu2-10b

 

 

 

 

 

Speak with all the villagers. Some will pass along pertinent information to aid you in your quest. Others, however, are used for comic relief. But nothing wrong with that! Seeing what random kooky thing some Regular Joe NPC might say is all part of the charm.

DrQu2-11DrQu2-11b

 

 

 

 

 

Rummage around — you never know what you might find. Although it is a pretty low thing to be stealing lottery tickets. But only in video games, right? Some of the locals, by the way, aren’t so friendly. You can already tell that girl is going to be the one wearing the pants in the relationship :P

Even if religion isn't your thing, it pays in video games
Even if religion isn’t your thing, it pays in video games
See?
See?

DrQu2-14DrQu2-14b

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the Prince, how about we go find him?

DrQu2-15DrQu2-15b

 

 

 

 

 

Where have I heard that name Kain before? No matter, the Spring of Bravery, you say? I’m so there! A nearby guard clues you in as to where this Spring is located.

DrQu2-16DrQu2-16b

 

 

 

 

 

Before taking off, a guard upstairs doesn’t hesitate to throw a little bit of shade at the Prince. Chuckling to yourself, you head off to find the Spring of Bravery.

DrQu2-17DrQu2-17b

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing a treasure chest lying in the open is always a great feeling. They just jump off the screen with their red and gold design. Once deep inside, you find a wise elder who soaks your body in the purifying water. Instant heals are the best in RPGs.

DrQu2-18DrQu2-18b

 

 

 

 

 

You’re joking, right? Oh you’re being serious. I see. Damnit. You know what, no biggie. It’s all good. After all, I got some exercise, fresh air and leveled up a bit. I’ll just go to Laurasia Castle now to find that little cheeky nomad.

DrQu2-19DrQu2-19b

 

 

 

 

 

*HALF A DAY’S JOURNEY LATER* WHAT?! Are you kidding me?! Alright, off to Sumaltria it is, then. Kain’s ass best be there.

DrQu2-20DrQu2-20b

 

 

 

 

 

Alright, THIS IS BULLSHIT. Where the hell are ya, Kain? You got me on some chicken egg hunt here. This ain’t scavenger hunt! *You even begin to wonder if this is some rib and that Kain is in another RPG…*

DrQu2-21DrQu2-21b

 

 

 

 

 

FINALLY. You’ve been searching for me? Oh boy, HAVE I BEEN SEARCHING FOR YOU.

DrQu2-22DrQu2-22b

 

 

 

 

 

Despite some, ahem, trouble meeting up, once you do you’re glad to have Kain along for the ride. He makes for some passable conversation and unlike you he can use magic on the bad guys. After coming to this strange strip of land tucked away in a far corner of the map, an old hermit tips you off to your next location.

DrQu2-23DrQu2-23b

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching the mouth of the enormous cave, a knot starts forming in the pit of your belly. You nervously joke with Kain about accepting his sister’s offer to help out. Kain reminds you she’s useless and you shake it of. Get a grip, you tell yourself quietly. You were born for this moment. “FREEEEEEDOM!!!” Hey, whatever it takes to psych yourself up.

DrQu2-24DrQu2-24b

 

 

 

 

 

Another feature added into the Super Famicom version was the inclusion of seeds (or acorns). This was not available in the NES original. When seeds are acquired, it’s best to use them right away. They randomly increase a certain skill level by 1-4 points. It sucks when you get a 1, but it’s a high when you land a 3 or a 4.

DrQu2-25DrQu2-25b

 

 

 

 

 

Prince Kain is definitely a welcomed addition to the team. While weak physically, his magic packs some potency.

DrQu2-26DrQu2-26b

 

 

 

 

 

Explore! Or else you may miss out on valuable treasure chests tucked away in obscure corners. Ah, the Silver Key! What was it again that the prisoner told you?

DrQu2-27DrQu2-27b

 

 

 

 

 

*FLASHBACK* Ohhhh yeah…

DrQu2-28DrQu2-28b

 

 

 

 

 

Travel back to all previous towns and start opening shit up! The Silver Key has unlimited usage so open without discretion.

DrQu2-29DrQu2-29b

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that lottery ticket you jacked earlier on? You felt bad at the time for doing so, but any feelings of remorse went straight out the window the second you scored the Prayer Ring…

DrQu2-29cDrQu2-29d

 

 

 

 

 

Scattered throughout the land is the lottery man. He’s even nice enough to give you a free ticket sometimes if you match two out of three.

DrQu2-30DrQu2-30b

 

 

 

 

 

Hmmm, I wonder where this leads…

DrQu2-31DrQu2-31b

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry, but I don’t care to hear what your safe word is. Freak.

DrQu2-32DrQu2-32b

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. But be careful, an attempt to flee from battle ISN’T always successful. And if it isn’t, the computer gets first crack. It’s definitely a roll of the dice…

DrQu2-33DrQu2-33b

 

 

 

 

 

Management of your health and magic points is key. Don’t enter a battle ill-equipped and most likely you won’t have to worry about fleeing. Of course, some luck never hurts as well (i.e. “terrific” strikes, catching the opposition dozing, etc.)

DrQu2-34DrQu2-34b

 

 

 

 

 

Moonbrook appears to be in shambles. You and Kain brave the pain of the hazardous moat to see if anyone is still alive, including Princess Maria…

DrQu2-35DrQu2-35b

 

 

 

 

 

Careful, the enemies start to get tough here and can come in waves of five. Make it to the flame at the end and try speaking to it. It turns out to be the spirit of the deceased King, who informs you that his daughter has been cursed and turned into a dog. Hey, wait a second here, where have I seen a dog before…

DrQu2-36DrQu2-36b

 

 

 

 

 

Having obtained the Mirror of Ra (thanks to the guard for the tip — may he now rest peacefully), you recall to yourself where you had seen that mutt before. OK, here goes nothing, you think to yourself as you raise the Mirror of Ra high above your head. You can’t help but feel a little silly in doing so, but when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, you’re willing to do just about anything…

DrQu2-37DrQu2-37b

 

 

 

 

 

HOLY SMOKES — it actually worked! I mean, I knew it would all along. Of course you did…

DrQu2-38DrQu2-38b

 

 

 

 

 

Avengers assemble! Not quite, but your rag tag group of three is now complete and ready to kick some demon ass. By the way, remember the Metal Slime? Of course you do. The bastard often runs away but if you manage to kill him, a HEAP of experience points is your reward.

DrQu2-39DrQu2-39b

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Maria isn’t much of a physical attacker, but her spells come in handy. Especially the sleep spell, which can subdue an entire group and save you from being pummeled.

DrQu2-40DrQu2-40b

 

 

 

 

 

Where will this adventure take you and your friends next? Many unusual lands lie ahead. Enjoy the journey!

DrQu2-41DrQu2-41b

 

 

 

 

 

Caught in the act! I KNEW THERE WERE TWO KAINS! One from Dragon Quest II and one from Final Fantasy II! I’ll be damned…

Really? Thank you for your very helpful assistance
Really? Now I see why they call you Wise Old Man…
You again? Let's see how wise you truly are...
You again? Let’s see how wise you truly are…
Yep, he's wise. Only a fool passes up on a Benjamin...
Yep, he’s wise. Only a fool passes up on a Benjamin…
Enemies get crazier as you go along
Enemies get crazier looking as you progress
And scarier looking
And scarier looking
See what I mean?
See what I mean?
Save as often as you can. Trust me...
Save at every opportunity you can. Trust me
Uhh.... excuse me?
Uhh… excuse me?
Search often! You could see some Seeds
Search often! You could find some Seeds
I always get a stupid grin whenever I level up
I always get a stupid grin whenever I level up
HALLELUJAH!
HALLELUJAH! This gives me a REALLY fat stupid grin
Like I said, search the f*ck everywhere
Like I said, search the f*ck everywhere
I'll take the '80s myself, but that's just me
I’ll take the late ’80s to mid ’90s myself but that’s just me
Adventure, redemption and friendship. What else ya need?
Adventure, redemption and friendship. What else ya need?
[Like I said before, ONLY in gawd damn video games -Ed.]
[Like I said before, ONLY in gawd damn video games -Ed.]

ALL ABOUT THAT GRIND

Credit to Did You Know Gaming
Credit to Did You Know Gaming
Yuji Horii explains why he's all about that grind life
Yuji Horii explains why he’s all about that grind life

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

SPARTA!
SPARTA!

Dragon Quest has earned an outstanding reputation within the gaming community and rightfully so. It gave birth to so many other great RPGs. It paved the way for future classics. As such, it will always be highly regarded. The first game has definitely aged. It features a single party member and you always fight only one enemy at a time. It’s super basic but what did you expect for 1986? You can’t really compare it to other RPGs at the time when this Super Famicom version came out in late 1993. You have to look at it through the proper lens to truly appreciate it. The sequel obviously ups the ante by including team allies as well as the number of monsters you fight at a time. Even then, you have to keep in mind Dragon Quest II originally came out on January 27, 1987. That’s more than 30 years ago. RPGs have come a long way since 1987, so it’d be foolish to go into it expecting a ton of bells and whistles. For what these games are, they get the job done.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Thank you Yuji Horii, Koichi Sugiyama and Akira Toriyama
The RPG series that more or less started it all!

Dragon Quest is a quintessential video game. If you consider yourself an RPG fan or even just a video game historian of sorts, Dragon Quest belongs on that list of games you must play through at least once before you die. It’s a time capsule — a look back in time when RPGs didn’t saturate the market. If you enter this with the right mindset, you’re sure to enjoy the experience. ChunSoft could have mailed it in, but they made some significant improvements over the NES original. Visuals, of course. But little things such as adding in seeds, extra shops, reduced grinding and the like speak to the care that they put into this lovely two for one package.

Adventure awaits! What are you waiting for?
Adventure awaits! What are you waiting for?

Dragon Quest II ups the ante by being bigger and better. It took me 11 hours to beat the first game while the second quest took me approximately 30 hours. It’s not that long but I took my sweet time. It plays a lot more like the RPGs we came to know and love in the ’90s by having a party of playable characters and whatnot. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the brilliance of the music. Each tune fits the moment to a tee, ranging from whimsical to foreboding. Both games were classics for their time and if you take them for what they were when they originally came out, then you’ll most likely appreciate and enjoy it. If you’re looking for something on a grand and epic scale along the lines of a Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III, however, you might end up being a little disappointed. Dragon Quest I & II is straight forward — what you see is what you get. It serves as an excellent history lesson as well. If you have been curious about these games but never got to try them, then this SNES remake is definitely the way to go. Playing Dragon Quest I & II lets you see more or less how JRPGs came to be. If nothing else, these games are worth going through at least once just for that reason alone.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Longevity: 7

AwardsOverall: 8.0
Silver Award

The Adventures of Hourai High (SNES)

Pub: J-Wing | Dev: Dynamite | April '96 | 8 MEGS
Pub: J-Wing | Dev: Dynamite | April ’96 | 8 MEGS

I fell in love with EarthBound after playing it for the first time back in November 2012. It was one of the best RPGs that I ever played. Wanting more, I searched online for similar titles. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered there was one on the SNES called The Adventures of Hourai High. It’s an obscure Japanese only RPG that can best be described as a mix of EarthBound and Final Fantasy V. Say no more. Take my money! Thankfully, the game’s dialogue has long since been fan translated from Japanese to English. Thanks to the effort of these good men, Westerners can now enjoy a visit to the wacky and nutty Hourai High School…

20 YEAR REUNION

Earthbound fans will appreciate Hourai High's humor
EarthBound fans will appreciate Hourai High‘s humor

Just yesterday the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 celebrated 20 years since both were first released in Japan. Dude, that just blows my mind. Where does the time go? Speaking of 20th Anniversaries, a couple months ago The Adventures of Hourai High turned 20 years old itself. I guess them crazy cats had their 20 year class reunion somewhere in Japan. Thinking about that makes me reminisce about my high school years. I just crossed the 15 year mark myself. Damn I’m getting old…

Its Final Fantasy V job system lets you join various clubs
Its Final Fantasy V job system lets you join many clubs

MEMORIES OF SENIOR YEAR

Ah, high school -- the formative years of our youth
Ah, high school — the formative years of our youth

Who doesn’t remember high school? From getting your driver’s license, your first job, or perhaps even your first girlfriend [or boyfriend -Ed.], those were the days of our youth. We formed friendships and learned life lessons. We also learned a little bit more about who we were going to be. Senior Prom, Grad Night, crappy group projects, the Senior Prank, cliques, clubs, crushes, awful school lunches, crappy teachers, cool teachers, and a whole lot of posturing to be cool and hip, especially with the “in-crowd.” High school now feels like ancient history to me, and while I feel college was a lot more important, it’s impossible to deny that high school has its place too. I was sort of a regular kid in high school. I wasn’t part of the “cool kids” group, but I wasn’t one of the dweebs that got bullied, either. I was good old Steve, the nice guy the girls liked (as their friend only, of course) and I hung out with other regular Joes who were right in the middle of the pecking order, so to speak. We had a good time, forged some good memories but when all was said and done, we sailed out into the sunset, never looking back sans the odd nostalgic moment here and there.

I'll never forget Judy -- my biggest high school crush
I’ll never forget Judy — my biggest high school crush

In terms of pecking order, I hit my peak during senior year. I started branching out from my friends, taking classes that interested me (such as creative writing and acting) which helped to develop my confidence. I also landed my first job at the local Blockbuster, and my employee perk of being able to get 5 free movies a week suddenly made little ole me a man in demand. Many nights I would see a lot of my cute senior classmates stroll in and I would take advantage of the opportunity by chatting with them as I rung them up. My biggest crush was easily Judy. She was the prom queen of our school. The girl was smoking hot. I always felt like we shared a great rapport. Somehow Lady Luck had it that we sat next to each other in a couple classes. I’d call Judy many nights to exchange class notes before talking about random topics for a little bit. This was back in the day when cell phones had yet to explode in popularity, so I had Judy’s house number. I wanted her email so I could directly connect with her — sometimes it felt a little awkward to have to talk to her mom or dad first. Unfortunately she was dating a jock at the time and so I was left daydreaming.

Steph was cool but jeez, I was quite the homework helper
Steph was cool. Hope she’s well wherever she is

Yearbooks were passed out the week of our Graduation. I remember that last week of my senior year fondly. Passing yearbooks around, signing them for your buddies and everyone feeling excited about the future. Many felt as though we had the world at the tip of our fingers. That youthful optimism that only comes when you’re 17 almost ready to graduate and head off to college. I had never told Judy how much I enjoyed our friendship. I decided to tell her in my yearbook signing. We exchanged yearbooks at lunch and I went to work. I hoped she’d somehow include her email in my yearbook. Finally, we exchanged again and I walked home anxious to read what she had wrote. I’ll never forget the feeling of butterflies soaring in the pit of my stomach when I cracked my yearbook open to read what Judy had written. Was she going to pour out her soul to me as well?

*fist pump*
*fist pump*

I never felt so high and light in my life before. My biggest high school crush read my mind. She not only gave me her email address but asked me to hang out with her as well. Life was good. Thanks for the memories, Judy.

TIMEWALK TRIBUTE

I was lucky to buy these two just months before Timewalk folded
Their work was high quality indeed

Timewalk was a famous little fan company within the retro gaming community. They once sold beautiful repro games and some of them even had gorgeous boxes and manuals. Before they closed shop in early 2014 I was fortunate enough to buy the boxes and manuals of Gunman’s Proof and The Adventures of Hourai High. Man I’m glad I did. I always meant to buy more of their SNES box/manual sets but sadly never got around to it before they unexpectedly closed. Timewalk boxes nowadays go for a pretty penny as they’re now officially a limited quantity.

This "diary" manual was a bit... creepy
This diary manual was a bit… creepy

Timewalk’s products are amazing but the manual to Adventures of Hourai High deserves a special shout-out. Designed by member JM, this 44-page booklet was written in composition notebook form. It’s written from the perspective of the female protagonist. Recall that you can play as either a male or female. It makes sense that they chose to write the manual from a female perspective since high school girls are more prone to journaling. There are no how-to instructions in this diary. Instead, it’s a full-blown account of her times at Hourai High from the moment she arrives, April 1st, to nearly a year later on March 25th. The entries are written from a 16 year old female’s point of view — all of the dairy entries are downright emo. It totally fits and I commend JM for the incredible effort. Even more impressive, JM used actual facts from the game that players will quickly pick up on. It sort of adds another layer to the whole experience.

That drawing reminds me of something...
That drawing reminds me of something…

Hourai11

As does this...
As does this…

Hourai13

There's even a touch of the occult at Hourai High. Heebie-jeebies!
There’s even a touch of the occult at Hourai High
Kinda gives one the heebie-jeebies!
Kinda gives one the heebie-jeebies!

THE WACKY STORY GOES…

Hourai16

Hourai17

Hourai18

Hourai19

Hourai20

Hourai21

Hourai22

Hourai23

Hourai24

Hourai25

Hourai26

Hourai27

Hourai28

Hourai29

Hourai30

Hourai31

Hourai32

Hourai33

Hourai34

Hourai35

Hourai36

Hourai37

Hourai38

Hourai39

Hourai40

Richard Vernon from the 1985 classic The Breakfast Club
Richard Vernon from The Breakfast Club (1985)

Hourai42

Hourai43

Best subtitle ever
Best subtitle ever
Choose between using a guy or girl
Choose between using a guy or girl
Here's a tip noob: Roku is the type to hold grudges
Here’s a tip: Roku is the type to hold grudges
[Hmm, I notice you do a lot of "research" -Ed.]
[Hmm, I notice you do a lot of “research” -Ed.]
The modern setting helps differentiate it from fantasy RPGs
The modern setting helps set it apart from most RPGs
What did I say about Roku eh?

Hourai51

Hourai52

He should be more upset about that stupid haircut!
He should be more upset about that stupid haircut!
It even apes EarthBound's font. A lovely touch indeed
It even apes EarthBound‘s font. A lovely touch indeed
Meet Daichi, your fellow comrade. At times a little TOO loyal
Meet your super loyal comrade, Daichi
High school urban legends? Check
High school urban legends? Check

Hourai57

Hourai58

Hourai59

And I shall call it... hmm, ah yes, WEIRD SCIENCE...
And I shall call it… hmm, ah yes, WEIRD SCIENCE

Hourai61

Hourai62

Hourai63

Hourai64

Hourai65

Hourai66

Hourai67

Hourai68

Dude, we just escaped an infested sewer!
Dude, we just barely escaped an infested sewer!
UM NO, nope... I h-haven't s-seen a-any gh-ghosts around here...
“Uh, I haven’t s-seen any gh-ghosts around here…”

[Lemme guess. Research again, right? -Ed.]
[Lemme guess. Research again, right? -Ed.]
Hourai72

Hourai73

Hourai74

Hourai75

You an carry guns and knives at Hourai High
You can carry guns and knives at Hourai High
I" said CRIPES. Jeez, just coz I'm black!"
“I said CRIPES. Jeez, just coz I’m black…”
Do NOT want to backtrack here. TRUST ME
Do NOT want to backtrack here. TRUST ME
Sure, why not. Robots at Hourai High too
Sure, why not. Robots at Hourai High too

Hourai80

Shin means new right? Good, coz you need a new haircut
Shin means new — good coz ya need a new haircut
The only SNES RPG to feature an African American
The only SNES RPG to feature an African American
[Chihaya, you're not the first lady to say that... -Ed.]
[You’re not the first lady to say that… -Ed.]
So girls can go to boys' dorm but not vice versa? Oh it's Hinako
Hinako is that girl you love to hate

Hourai85

Hourai86

OK, NOW I have officially seen it all
OK, NOW I have officially seen it all

Hourai88

"We're tryin' to attract 'em, not scare 'em away!"
“We’re tryin’ to attract ‘em, not scare ‘em away!”

Hourai90

Poor Hinako. She's such a good sport...
Poor Hinako. She’s such a good sport…
“Way to put me on the spot. Well, let’s see…”
Good call, Steve. Good call
Good call, Steve. Good call

What other SNES RPG celebrates your birthday eh?
What other SNES RPG celebrates your birthday eh?
Get a little BDAY boost!
Get a little BDAY boost!
"Stop coming into my room. It was only ONE night Hinako!"
“Quit barging in. It was only ONE night OK!”
Wait, is that same bitch who threw you out?
Wait, is that same bitch who threw you out?

Hourai99

Hourai100

Yeah, sometimes Daichi is TOO loyal...
Yeah, sometimes Daichi is TOO loyal…
Great idea! Let's split up. It always works in scary movies
Let’s split up. It always works in scary movies
[I need that tree -Ed.]
[I need that tree -Ed.]
Miss Adachi, your homeroom teacher, is quite the looker
Ms. Adachi, the homeroom teacher, is quite a looker
"Do you have a bridge I can buy too?"
“Do you have a bridge I can buy too?”
Whoa, some creepazoid be watching you sleep...
Whoa, some creepazoid watchin’ you sleep…
Well that escalated quickly
Well that escalated quickly

Hourai108

Save this unkempt savage and he'll join your team
Save this little savage and he’ll join the team
If you thought Mitsurin was odd, check out this guy!
Thought Mitsurin was odd? Check out this guy
He has a name and he also talks. OK...
He has a name and he also talks. OK…
There are no words to describe this
There are no words to describe this

Hourai113

Love the feeling of finding keys in an RPG
Love the feeling of finding keys in an RPG
What evil lies behind this door? Play it to find out
What evil lies beyond? Play it to find out…
Remember how satisfying it was gliding down these ropes?
The jungle chapter reminded me of this
A case of deja vu
Talk about a case of deja vu

The jungle is probably my favorite chapter in the game. I love how Hourai High uses a modern backdrop, but throws in more exotic locales such as this wild jungle. It’s similar to what EarthBound did to keep the journey fresh as well as exciting. Here in the jungle you’ll encounter all sorts of untamed savages ready to devour your party whole. I enjoyed all chapters of Hourai High but I like the jungle one most because it captures what the FIELD TRIP FROM HELL would be like. Good times. Or rather, bad times? Ah you get my drift.

Hourai118

Its sense of humor is sure to make you smile
Its sense of humor is sure to make you smile
New amusingly strict rules are declared every so often
New amusingly strict rules are posted every so often
I know we bonded on that Africa trip, but come on!
“I know we bonded on that Africa trip, but c’mon!”

Hourai122

Roku ain't letting it go
Roku ain’t letting it go

Hourai124

Hourai125

Hourai126
This robot reminds me of the one from Breath of Fire

Hourai127

Each new rule get crazier and crazier
Each new rule get crazier and crazier
Poor Daichi and his weak bladder. Kid is screwed
Poor Daichi and his weak bladder. Kid is screwed
"Ah sorry! Sometimes I take things literally..."
“Ah sorry! Sometimes I take things literally…”
In terms of oddness, only EarthBound can rival it
In terms of oddness, only EarthBound can rival it

Hourai132

Quit laughing! Don't you see this isn't funny. It's sick!
“Quit laughing! This isn’t funny — this is sick!”
Hell yeah, Hourai High shows that you can stick it to the man!
Hell yeah, stick it to the man!

Hourai135

Hourai136

Hourai137

Alright let's all calm down now
“Alright pal, let’s all calm down now…”
What the ...
What the …
Light-colored text reveals people's real thoughts
Light color text reveals people’s real thoughts
Ugh, you don't leave without getting an answer!
Ugh, you don’t leave without getting an answer!
Is that scotch I smell there, Santa?
Is that scotch I smell there, Santa?
There are many Santa workers; you have to suss out the right one
Imposters galore. But only one real Santa
I love how she loses her sanity more day by day, week by week...
Slowly losing her sanity day by day, week by week…

Hourai145

Secret of Mana (1993)
Secret of Mana (1993)
This is NOT how you treat a starfish! It is extremely unbecoming!
“NOT cool. It’s extremely unbecoming!”
What attending Hourai High for 6 months will do to ya
Yep, she’s lost it now
"BAH HUMBUG!"
“BAH HUMBUG!”
Ninjas... always ruining Christmas
Ninjas… always ruining Christmas
Click like, comment, subscribe, donate...
Click like, comment, subscribe, donate…
WHAT!?!  No, he doesn't. I mean, no, we've never.... YOU KNOW!
“WHAT!?! I have no recollection of this…”
Each month (chapter) ends with an interesting newspaper article
Each month ends with a newspaper article
On second thought, being with you kids... make that any second!
“Being with you kids… make that any second!”
Who knows what strange beasts dwell in these deadly caves?
What strange beasts dwell in these deadly caves?

Hourai156

That's just... wrong
That’s just… wrong

Looks serious. Could be a revolt!  [Or lunch -Ed.]
Looks serious. Could be a revolt! [Or lunch -Ed.]
Hourai159

"Uhhh guys... I have a bad feeling about this..."
“Uhhh guys… I have a bad feeling about this…”

Hourai161

Street Fighter II (1991)
Street Fighter II (1991)

Hourai163

Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)

Hourai165

Trilogy of Terror (1975)
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
The game's art style is loaded with character
The game’s art style is loaded with character
"There's a reason why we call you HIGH-nako..."
“There’s a reason we call you HIGH-nako…”

Hourai169

Hourai170

Hourai171

Hourai172

Hourai173
[Oops. But it’s OK, only like 6 people read this site -Ed.]
Hourai174

Hourai175

Hourai176

Hourai177

Hourai178

Hourai179

Hourai180

Hourai181

Hourai182

Hourai183

SIDEWAY STORIES AT HOURAI HIGH

Hourai184

Hourai185

A childhood classic
A childhood classic

One of the best things about elementary school was receiving the latest book order. Remember circling all the book titles you wanted and getting your parents to buy most of them? It was a much easier sales pitch than a video game on account of being far cheaper and educational. Best of all, that magical morning you come into the classroom and find a stack of brand new books sitting atop your desk! Sure, it might not have been as wondrous as getting a video game on Christmas morning, but then again, as a kid what was? Seeing new books on your desk was still pretty damn cool. And while my love for the Goosebumps series has been well documented, one of my absolute favorites was easily Sideway Stories From Wayside School. It told the wacky tales of a zany school that was constructed 30 stories high! Featuring an evil teacher, Mrs. Gorf, each chapter highlighted a different student. The stories were beyond bizarre. My favorite was the chapter “Stephen.” Because it had my name (well, close enough) AND it was based on my favorite holiday as a kid: Halloween. Stephen also gets the best of Mrs. Gorf. I remember living vicariously through him. It was a reminder that even a little brave kid could stand up to a big mean adult.

As a kid I believed that Louis Sachar wrote this chapter for me
Louis Sachar clearly wrote this chapter for me
Subsequent inferior sequels followed and uh, 'jumped the shark'
Inferior sequels followed and jumped the shark…

GLARING FLAWS

Far from a perfect 4.0 GPA...
Far from a perfect 4.0 GPA…

There’s no denying the game’s humor and charm. However, a few key flaws keep it from being great. The biggest flaw? Equipping better armor and weapons seem to make NO difference at all. How Dynamite missed this is baffling, but this was the only game they ever developed, so take that for what it’s worth. So then this game is super hard right? Wrong. It’s actually very easy, even with this flaw. Your characters do level up, so their strength does increase, and that helps. You just can’t increase your strength by equipping a stronger weapon, so it makes armor and weapon buying useless, which is a shame as that’s part of the fun. So even though you can earn a variety of cool skills from all the various clubs you’ll join, it really doesn’t make a dent in the gameplay much in the end, as battles are so easy the only strategy consists of spamming the attack button (or use auto battle). The next major flaw: there are some game crashing bugs. I’ll highlight some below. Fortunately, on my playthrough, I avoided the bugs and thus was able to see the game through. Finally, the enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high. Sometimes you can’t take 4 steps it seems without a random battle occurring. Thus, it can drag the game down a bit. Thank God for that auto battle option.

It's a shame that buying new weapons and armor is not necessary
No need to buy new weapons and armor
Use Hinako's GUST skill at your own discretion...
Don’t use Hinako’s GUST skill. Just don’t
If you leave here and come back, the game may crash
If you leave here and come back, the game crashes
You get ridiculously bombarded by bad guys constantly
The enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high
Hmmm, I got a Senior Prank in mind...
Hmmm, I got a Senior Prank in mind…
Love the Lego Duplo look of the characters
Love the Lego Duplo look of the characters

Like I said, there are some flaws that one just cannot overlook. Having said that, now let’s talk about the positives. Visually, it’s got a very clean and unique look. The characters look great. Enemies and the various locales have a good deal of detail. The music is surprisingly well done for a company who only made one game. Lots of catchy tunes that range from frenetic and upbeat to soothing and relaxing, like a cool summertime breeze. There are many friends to make, many playable characters to try and many different clubs you can join to earn a myriad of offensive and defensive skills. You can partake in up to 3 clubs at once and you are free to switch out whenever you like.

There are so many people you can recruit!
There are so many people you can recruit!
The "Friend Point" was a neat little system
The “Friend Point” was a neat little system

You also earn Friend Points after a fight. Distribute it as you wish. After maxing out one’s Friend Points, that character becomes your best bud. You then unlock certain special skills and moves. Pretty cool stuff.

If you love (zany) RPGs, Hourai High is worth a visit
If you love (zany) RPGs, Hourai High is worth a visit

FAST TIMES AT HOURAI HIGH

Hourai201

[Touché -Ed.]
[Touché -Ed.]
It took me 30 hours to beat this game. I will definitely play through it a second time at some point down the road, and use the female protagonist next time. I’d like to thank the translating crew over at Aeon Genesis, who made this fan translation possible. A job well done, AG!

EarthBound fans will likely enjoy this too
EarthBound fans will likely enjoy this game too

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Not exactly a welcome mat, is it?"
“Not exactly a welcome mat now, is it?”

Adventures of Hourai High will take you back to high school in some ways, but it’s also far beyond anything anyone ever experienced in high school. Yes, you’ll make buddies (even to varying degrees), join clubs and learn different skills, and even forge a few enemies but if it stopped there it’d be boring. Here, you’ll go on the adventure of a lifetime. Everywhere from rancid sewers to wild jungles to spooky demonic temples. Along the journey there’s plenty of charm thanks in large part to its amusing dialogue and all the wacky characters who inhabit its kooky world. It’s like high school, only taken to the very extreme, with a very peculiar Japanese touch that ONLY the Japanese can offer. If that sounds like a good time to you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — warts and all — like I have!

EarthBRe130

Adventures of Hourai High exudes charm and humor in spades. And that’s the best quality it has going for it. Where it falls short in execution, it excels in charming the pants off ya. All the strange characters that you meet, the diverse locales you’ll travel to and all the weird enemies you battle, not to mention the amusing dialogue, makes you press on in spite of its flaws. It’s one of the most endearing video games I’ve ever experienced. If you’re willing to look beyond the rough edges (high enemy encounter rate and broken weapon system), there’s a wonderful adventure lying underneath. This game made me smile constantly. It’s loaded with personality and heart. It’s too bad Dynamite didn’t iron out the kinks because this could have been a real gem. Still, it’s one of those rare games where in spite of its glaring flaws there’s something about it compels you forward. Who knew an RPG based around high school teenage life could be so addicting? If you can bear its missteps, this is one high school definitely worth visiting.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7
Longevity: 7

AwardOverall: 7.5
Bronze Award

EarthBound (SNES)

Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Ape | June '95 | 24 MEGS
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Ape | June ’95 | 24 MEGS

One of the most notorious games from the vast Super Nintendo library is without a doubt EarthBound. Released 21 years ago, it stood out in the crowd of RPGs by having a contemporary setting, a zany sense of humor, and a very unique style. And as the years passed, the game grew in demand, popularity and reverence. So much that some people would even tell you that the game has been overhyped beyond belief. In 2012, I finally got to play through EarthBound. It was an adventure the likes of which I’ll remember FOREVER.

WHEN PRICES WERE DOWN TO EARTH

The SNES market has skyrocketed in recent years
The SNES market has skyrocketed in recent years

When I got back into the Super Nintendo scene 10 years ago in early 2006, the games were still quite cheap. I picked up titles like Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, Castlevania: Dracula X, Aero Fighters, Mega Man X³, and EarthBound each for $40 or less. No such luck doing that today! It boggles the mind how crazy expensive these old games are now. Back in 2006, EarthBound didn’t carry the mainstream reputation it would later gain in recent years. It was just another game I’d never played back in the day but was now interested in doing so. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the game would become the monster that it is today. It makes me wonder how much these games will command 5 to 10 years from now. All I know for sure — I’m glad I got in when I did and got out before the market went sky high. Life is truly about timing, and a little lady luck never hurts too!

EarthBRe2

ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET

Ah, back when life was carefree and innocent
Nelly and I had our own version of Friday Night Lights

As a kid UFOs fascinated me. Alien beings that lived far above us in the outer reaches of space. The idea that intelligent (and possibly menacing) creatures living above us is mystifying. Growing up, I would scan the skies late at night with my binoculars hoping to see something, yet at the same time dreading the possibility that something might see me back. My best friend Nelson and I became obsessed; we even had the odd “sky stakeout” here and there. While it may sound a bit sad, there are worse ways to spend an evening than to hang out with your best friend shooting the breeze and scanning the skies while sharing a pepperoni pizza. We never saw anything, not even once, but I think Nelson and I both silently understood that we used it as an excuse to veg out on a Friday night after a long school week. About once a month we’d bust out the lawn chairs, set our piping hot Totino’s pizza on the little table outside, kick back and talk about our crushes on Jenny and Elaine, video games and anything monster-related while staring out at the beautiful early evening sky. Munching on cheesy carbs and sipping on fizzy soda, Nelly and I would gaze up at the sky talking the night away. We’d stay outside so late that his mom would flip the back porch light on. Those “stakeout” Friday evenings have stuck with me all these years later. Time marches on, but I still recall those lazy nights vividly.

They're out there...
They’re out there…

The best thing about UFOs for me was the idea that they could be anywhere. The Loch Ness Monster was confined to Scotland, Bigfoot could only lurk in the woods, but aliens could be anywhere. The idea that they could be watching you at any time was all part of the fun of believing in them as a kid. And the fact that aliens could be whatever you wanted them to be. Maybe friendly and precocious like E.T., or deadly and malicious, or just advanced and neutral. They were whatever you made them out to be. EarthBound is awesome for a myriad of reasons. One being they took a lot of my childhood interests and crammed them into one epic RPG. Nessie, Bigfoot, aliens, dinosaurs, zombies — EarthBound strikes a certain childhood chord with me no other video game ever has.

Goonies meets Peanuts meets The Wonder Years
GooniesPeanuts + The Wonder Years + Dragon Quest

OUR HEROES

EarthBRe6

An all-American kid living in an all-American town, Ness is proof that there lies a hero deep inside each one of us. He’s the kid next door, with a loving mom, a plucky sister and a workaholic but extremely generous dad. One minute Ness is living a basic ordinary life, but when the meteorite crashes, everything changes. An alien believes Ness to be the chosen one with the power to alter cosmic events. A nice all-around character with a good balance of speed, IQ, offensive power and psychic ability. His weapon of choice is a baseball bat. This journey will drain and test Ness at every step of the way. He enters it as a kid, but one way or another, he’s going to leave it a man.

EarthBRe7

Remember your Winnie Cooper growing up? You know, your biggest childhood crush? That’s kinda the role one might initially think Paula plays, but there’s so much more to her. Try incredible psychic powers and one mean frying pan. Paula loves to scramble eggs, if you get my drift. She doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty. Hailing from Twoson, her mother runs the Polestar Preschool. Paula’s the first one to join you on your epic quest, and you must rescue her from the clutches of an evil cult called the Happy Happy Village, led by Mr. Carpainter. Being one in touch with her spiritual side, Paula can pray in a pinch. I renamed her as Jenny, based on my own Winnie Cooper growing up.

EarthBRe8

No healthy childhood would be complete without the aid and presence of a best friend. While Jeff is not touted as Ness’ best pal, I like to think of him as such. The mechanical genius of the team, Jeff is son to a famous scientist. It shows, as he can use machines and gadgets that no one else on the team can. He also has a knack for repairing broken devices, which proves to be invaluable. While he doesn’t possess any psychic ability, Jeff makes up for it with his tremendous knowledge of being able to fashion great weapons out of broken items. He might be a little weak offensively, but his IQ is critical to the group’s success. I renamed him Nelly, in honor of my childhood best friend, Nelson.

EarthBRe9

The mysterious prince from the East (Dalaam to be precise) is the third and final friend to join you in your quest. Being the oldest member of the group, plus possessing that ever so mysterious charm of being from somewhere far, far away, Poo has great physical, mental and spiritual strength. One of his best talents is the magic ability to assume the shape of an enemy attacker (known as Mirror). Trained in ancient martial arts, this mystical fighter is a much welcomed addition when he finally enters the fray a decent way into the game. He is a bit of a ladies’ man, too, which gives his character an interesting layer to say the least. I renamed Poo to be Sushi-X, in honor of a family friend growing up who, much like Poo, was older than I was and had sort of a mythical aura about him. Everyone in my gaming group called him Sushi-X because he loved EGM and Street Fighter II.

THE REAL HERO

EarthBRe13

THE STORY GOES…

EarthBRe10

Sunday, 2 PM, the first day of summer
Sunday, 2 PM, the first day of summer

It’s another idyllic sunny day in the small, sleepy town of Onett. Turning off your Super Nintendo, you grab your bike and head off for your weekly paper route. You’ve been working hard to save up enough to buy that new Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound. Hell, you’re so ambitious you even ride out as far as Twoson. You certainly don’t mind it, as there’s nothing like riding your 10 speed bicycle, the wind whipping against your face, that open road ahead. For that small window of time, you’re a free man. Riding out to Twoson was always a bit of an adventure. You could almost feel the whiskers kicking in. Times have changed now. Kids aren’t allowed to go out alone anymore… but back then… this was our life. Besides, it was in Twoson where your crush, Jenny, resides. You’ve stalked, uhhh, I mean, seen her working around the preschool whenever you passed by. You never had any houses on that block of town, but that never did stop you from willingly and happily taking the scenic route.

EarthBRe21

Having hand-delivered the odd paper or two to Orange Kid, you’ve developed a bit of a relationship with him. He is Twoson’s infamous inventor, well, one of the two. The other is Apple Kid but no one likes him. Orange Kid on the other hand is a chick magnet. After all, ya can’t compare apples to oranges… [har har -Ed.]. Being that you’re Steve, and NOT such a ladies’ man, you decide to stop by today for a bit of advice on how to win hearts and be more than just another sappy shoulder to cry on. Normally busy, Orange Kid is in a very giving mood today — he spends the better part of an hour divulging some insider tips that’s sure to make even Steve a certified G and a bonafide stud. Rejuvenated, you spend the next couple hours over at the flea market in Burglin Park and Twoson’s pride, MACH PIZZA. Sure, Onett’s Burger Barn is 5-star quality according to their 275 Yelp reviews and counting, but Onett’s not exactly known for its pizza. It’s just another reason why you never complain when it’s time to ride over to Twoson. But you never share this with Orange Kid, fearing that he just might laugh at you if he ever knew the real reason.

Seven hours later...
Seven hours later…

BLINK BLINK. Your eyes open slowly as you realize you fell asleep in Burglin Park. The once inviting sunshine has withered, giving way to a cold, bleak darkness. Mom’s probably worried but this is the mid ’90s when kids could get away with such things. Your bicycle still safely beside you, you hop on and bound homeward.

A cool breeze flows through your hair
A cool breeze flows through your hair

Good old home. It’s your haven. Even though your dad isn’t around, you have almost everything you could want. Sure, you got annoying neighbors, but hey nothing’s perfect. As you head out of Twoson and back to Onett, you beam ear to ear having learned some of Orange Kid’s secrets of the trade. There’s no way Jenny can resist you now.

On THIS night, something incredible is about to happen...
On THIS night, something incredible is about to happen…

By now the sleepy town of Onett has been entirely devoured by darkness. An eerie stillness settles over the suburb, sending a chill up your spine. What once stood as an assuring sight during the day has turned into something sinister in the night. But crime has always been so low that no one really pays mind to anything bad happening in this quaint quiet town. Of course, we all know that’s how it usually starts out…

Jenny I got your number! 867-5309...
Jenny I got your number! 867-5309…

Being an invincible kid ripe off acquiring the fortified knowledge of the players’ handbook, you’ve got not a single care in the world as you come bounding down the all too familiar sight of the suburbs. Closing your eyes and dreaming of your beloved crush, Jenny, you have no idea that a terrible terror is about to overtake your quiet, sleepy town. And thrust you toward a hellacious voyage that will see you ultimately fulfilling your God-given destiny…

They're here...
They’re here…

Meanwhile, somewhere in Onett, a woman wakes up in a pool of her own sweat. A loud bang outside her bedroom sends shivers down her spine. It’s coming from the den. Frightened, she clutches the blanket to her chest while listening in the darkness… silence. Then suddenly, RAP RAP RAP. Someone or SOMETHING wants in. Cautiously tip-toeing her way to the bedroom door, a dark, shadowy and twisty figure appears from behind her…

EarthBRe11

EarthBRe12

EarthBRe27

EarthBRe29

EarthBRe30

EarthBRe31

EarthBRe32

EarthBRe33

Time to do some investigating...
Time to do some investigating…
"Yes sir, going home pronto..."
“Yes sir, going home pronto…”
"What the hell!"
“What the hell!”

After “going home pronto” (AKA sneaking about), you find your annoying neighbor, Pokey, poking around in police business. Whatever’s happening here tonight has to be huge, and you’re not gonna miss it for the world.

OPD is clearly top of the line
OPD — clearly top of the line officers

“Officer, sir, if you don’t mind just letting me slip through here. I have a friend I need to check up on.”

“Sorry kiddo, no can do. I’ve been given strict orders from the chief not to let anyone pass through, and that especially includes punk kids such as yourself.”

“Okaaaay… how about this nice glazed donut, then?”

“GAH! Alright kid, you’ve got five minutes but ONLY five, you hear?!”

"GET! ALL OF Y'ALL! GEEET!"
“GET! ALL OF Y’ALL! GEEET!”

“Hey, who let this punk kid through?”

“Steve! Boy am I glad to see you. Something strange is going on…”

“Alright, enough! You bastards get on out of here!”

Atop the hill, as the police drag you away like a rag doll, you catch a glimpse of a fallen meteor. Rubbing your eyes in disbelief, you wonder if it’s just a dream.

Stagger to bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night
Stagger to bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night

Mom knows best. One look at your kisser and nothing else needs to be said. Still shaking, you saunter to your bedroom. But before you can replay the night’s events in your mind, your head hits the soft, cool pillow and you fall into a deep sleep…

EarthBRe40

EarthBRe41

Well I'll be damned. Or rather, oh my land!
Well I’ll be damned. Or rather, oh my land!

EarthBRe44

EarthBRe45

EarthBRe46

EarthBRe47

EarthBRe48

EarthBRe49
The boys set off…

“There’s my bro, Picky! Quick, Steve, save him! Or else my parents are gonna let me have it!”

“Wait, why am I helping you again?”

“Because you’re Steve, an all around good guy!”

“Oh, of course. Damn, it’s a curse to be this kindhearted and good looking.”

Buddy: Master, I don’t think Pokey said good looking but whatever

EarthBRe50

Upon arriving at the top they come within 15 feet of the meteor. The air is hot and humid; you can still see steam coming from its core…

“Umm, you go on ahead and grab him, Steve.”

“What! He’s your brother. You go fetch him.”

“No, I think I’m good. I’m with Buddy. Right here is good for me.”

“Fine. You pansy.”

EarthBRe51

A mysterious and booming voice suddenly fills the hot night air
A mysterious voice suddenly fills the hot night air
EarthBRe53
It’s the voice! “If you build it, he will come”

On their trek home, the boys are stopped dead in their tracks when Star Man Jr., one of Giygas’ nefarious henchmen, appears out of nowhere to confront the 3 boys. Luckily, Buzz Buzz, the source of the voice, is by your side. Protecting the crew with his psychic shield, our hero is able to defeat Star Man Jr. After which, Buzz Buzz warns them the worst is yet to come but he has faith. Legend has it 3 boys and a girl are destined to save the universe. Buzz Buzz believes you are one of those 3 brave, young warriors.

EarthBRe54

EarthBRe55

EarthBRe56

EarthBRe57

In his dying breath, Buzz Buzz gives our hero the Sound Stone. “To defeat Giygas, your own power must unite with that of earth.” Our hero sets off to visit 8 sanctuaries to record the sound of each with the Sacred Stone. First stop? The infamous Giant Step!

During the pilgrimage you will run across many interesting cats
During the quest you’ll meet many interesting cats
Growing up and a loss of innocence is one of the central themes
Growing up and lost innocence is a central theme
With its unique look and zany humor, it's one of a kind
With its unique look and zany humor, it’s one of a kind

It truly is. Combining a modern setting with your typical suburban town in Anytown USA, any kid who ever grew up in a sleepy suburb in America can instantly relate. From the moment the game began, I knew right away I was in for one magical, epic journey.

There’s been some major hate dumped on the crude visuals of the game… but I personally love the look. They are INTENTIONALLY retro-fied. I like to think of it as 12-bit… it’s not quite 8-bit NES yet it’s not quite 16-bit. It’s just EarthBound.

Right?! Brings back a fond childhood memory or two
Right?! Brings back a fond childhood memory or two
Wait a second, I've seen this somewhere in a movie...
Wait a second, I’ve seen this somewhere in a movie…
The Purge. Here's Fat Frank after DDP Yoga
The Purge. Here’s Fat Frank after DDP Yoga
And his creepy robot. Purge makers EarthBound fans?
And his creepy robot. Purge makers EarthBound fans?

EarthBRe66

EarthBRe67

While whimsical, it also carries some dark mature themes
While whimsical, it also carries some mature themes
[It's FUZZY PICKLES, damnit -Ed.]
[It’s FUZZY PICKLES, damnit -Ed.]
NPCs made exploring the various towns plenty of fun
NPCs made exploring the various towns very fun
Alright, let's see if they got the latest Goosebumps...
OK let’s see if they got the latest Goosebumps

EarthBRe72

EarthBRe73

“I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!” -Bixby Snyder

EarthBound was meta before meta became chic
EarthBound was meta before meta became chic
[Someone say Street Sharks? JAWESOME -Ed.]
[Someone say Street Sharks? JAWESOME -Ed.]
It draws you in, like a good book or movie!
It draws you in, like a good book or movie!
You must beat TITANIC ANT to get the first Sound Stone
Beat Titantic Ant to get the first Sound Stone
Then record the first of 8 melodies with the Sound Stone
Then use it to record the first of 8 melodies

EarthBRe82

Breaking the 4th wall again :D
Breaking the 4th wall… again :-D
"Oh. did he have a mohawk?"  "Uh NO. But he wore a red hat"
“He had a mohawk?” “Uh NO. But he wore a red hat”

EarthBRe85

By the time I grab my books,
And I give myself a look,
I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by!
It’s alright ’cause I’m saved by the bell!
If the teacher pops a test,
I know I’m in a mess,
And my dog ate all my homework last night,
Ridin’ low in my chair,
She won’t know that I’m there,
If I can hand it in tomorrow, it’ll be all right!
It’s alright, ’cause I’m saved by the bell!

[MY OFFICE — RIGHT NOW -Ed.]

EarthBRe86

EarthBRe87

It's refreshing to play an RPG so bonkers
It’s refreshing to play an RPG so bonkers

[On my favorite RPGs list I rank this at... #2... -Ed.]
[On my favorite RPGs list I rank this at… #2… -Ed.]
EarthBRe90

EarthBRe91

Evokes memories of Peanuts...
“Damn Google put me out of business!”  *grumbles*

EarthBRe93

EarthBRe94
Wait, who is Mr. X?!
A badass prince (and ladies' man) from a mountain village
More on Mr. X in a bit…
If your humor is offbeat, you'll be right at home
If your humor is offbeat, you’ll be right at home
It made the surroundings feel more intimate
It made the surroundings feel more intimate

EarthBRe98

Aliens, ghosts, zombies, Nessie AND dinosaurs?!  Yes
It appeals to the 10-year-old inside each of us

EarthBRe100

EarthBRe101

The "Cat Sewer Eyes" haunted my childhood...
The “Cat Sewer Eyes” haunted my childhood…

When we were kids, my parents used to drive me and my bro to the Gaming Crew’s neck of the woods. About an hour into the drive we would pass by these sewers covered by giant “cat masks.” It was big enough that my bro and I could spot it clearly even from the freeway hundreds of feet away. I’d always wondered what the hell they were doing there. The cats became a trademark sight that my bro and I would always point to anytime our parents drove us by. This part of EarthBound brought back buried memories of those bizarre giant sewer cat masks…

EarthBRe103

EarthBRe104

EarthBRe105

EarthBRe106

From suburbia to the far east we go thanks to some Magic Cake!
Magic Cake takes ya from suburbia to the far east
Poo completes your party, adding a certain mystique to the group
Poo adds a certain mystique to the group

You are introduced to the 4th and final player of your party, Poo, or in this case, Mr. X. He’s a smooth cat prince living in the palatial mountain village of Dalaam. Take X on a life-altering quest to gain the power of wisdom, valor and patience as you karate chop and decimate all obstacles blocking you from enlightenment. After all, you simply can’t beat a hideous alien force without the pivotal aid of a badass martial artist who hails from a far away land, can you? Well, maybe, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

I love the aesthetics of Dalaam
I love the aesthetics of Dalaam
Sushi-X was, purportedly, a ladies' man. Key word is purportedly
Sushi-X was, purportedly, a ladies’ man. Purportedly

Sushi-X was a cat that ran in my gaming group back in the day. He was older than most of us and he always walked around with this certain aura of mystique. In many ways I looked up to him as a kid growing up. We affectionately nicknamed him Sushi-X for his affection of EGM and Street Fighter II, just like the infamous Sushi-X persona on the old EGM review crew. Unfortunately the game didn’t allow me to fit in “Sushi-X” so I went for the next best thing: “Mr. X.”

Remember how satisfying it was gliding down these ropes?
It felt so satisfying gliding down these ropes!

EarthBRe112

EarthBRe113

Read "Summer of Imports" for more on Nelly
Read “Summer of Imports” for more on Nelly
Story of my life...
Story of my life…
No '80s child can ever forget LITE-BRITE
No ’80s child could ever forget LITE-BRITE
"LITE BRITE, LITE BRITE. MAKE A FACE TO GLOW AT NIGHT!"
“LITE BRITE, LITE BRITE. Make a face to glow at night!”
All good things must come to a bittersweet end
All good things must come to a bittersweet end

JENNIFER — MY CHILDHOOD WINNIE COOPER

Oh, of course. Steve is a gentleman of great probity [Riiight -Ed.]
Of course. Steve, a man of great probity [Riiight -Ed.]
We all had one major childhood crush...
We all had one major childhood crush…

Jennifer and Elaine were the two hottest girls in the 5th grade. Nothing could beat being in the same class with your best friend as well as the two cutest girls in school. Nelson favored Elaine while I preferred Jennifer. Sadly, my family moved in the middle of 7th grade and that was the last I saw of Jennifer… until 7 years later. One day during my sophomore year in college I was walking down this long hallway when a young beautiful lady walked right by. Instantly I got a huge whiff of 1994 and was suddenly transported back to my childhood. Could it be, was it — yes, it was Jennifer. Too paralyzed to say anything, I could only watch in silence as we went in opposite directions until she disappeared around the corner. I kicked myself for not saying hi, hoping that we’d bump into each other again. As fate would have it, not long after that, we did. I asked her if she remembered me from elementary school. She smiled warmly and said “Of course. I remember you suddenly left one day in junior high and that was that.” I nodded, the both of us soaking in the moment. Life was different back in the ’90s. We didn’t have Facebook or email to stay in touch. 7 years is a long time not to see or speak to someone but she remembered me. It meant a lot.

A long time ago I used to wonder what might have happened between me and Jennifer had I never moved. My imagination wandered to an alternate future where we’re happily married with two kids, a dog and a white picket fence. She’s now married with a kid. The last time I saw her was about five years ago. I was acting in a musical and she came out to support me. We exchanged pleasantries and hugs after the show in the lobby. And that was the last I ever saw of Jennifer — my childhood Winnie Cooper.

EarthBRe121
Well, are you, Jenny?
Hey now! What the hell...
Hey now! What the hell…
Wish the game had a drive-in theatre
A drive-in is the only thing EarthBound is missing

KNOW YOUR MOTHER. TREAT HER RIGHT

Mr. T hates how Mother was disrespected
Mr. T hates how Mother was disrespected

As many of you know by now, EarthBound is the 16-bit sequel to the 8-bit Famicom game MotherMother was released in Japan July 1989, and was set to come out in the US September 1990. But with the impending launch of the SNES, Mother was never released. There’s a pretty fascinating history behind this, and you can find out all the sordid details by way of a quick Google search. There are also some great YouTube history videos on this subject matter. The game has since been fan translated, and is known now as EarthBound ZeroEarthBound on the SNES is known as Mother 2 over in Japan. There was also a Mother 3 released in 2006 for the GBA, but it never left the land of the rising sun. EarthBound is the only Mother game ever to see an official US release. A crime if you think about it.

What would Ness do? Call his mama!
Mother 3 on the Game Boy Advance (2006)

Mother 3 has since been fan translated. To date, this has been the final game in the beloved Mother series. It’s sad that two of the games never left Japan. It’s a bit sad also that many gamers know of Ness via Super Smash Bros and not EarthBound, although his Smash outings have definitely stirred interest from people who came in knowing nothing about the Mother series. I guess that’s not a bad thing at least.

FUN EARTHBOUND CLONES

I was lucky to buy these two just months before Timewalk folded
Wacky Japanese high school + the weird west…

There are 2 SNES games I would highly recommend to EarthBound fanatics. Both of them are Super Famicom exclusives with English fan translations available. The first title is called Gunman’s Proof which is actually an action RPG along the lines of a Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s got tons of charm and quirkiness and is simply a load of fun. Think Zelda meets the wild wild west with a dash of EarthBound thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the most criminally underrated SNES games out there. It’s on the short side but I can’t recommend it enough. The second is Adventures of Hourai High. Wacky and zany describes it best. It is like EarthBound meets Final Fantasy V. Taking place in a Japanese high school setting, you can join a wide variety of clubs — this is how you gain different skills. Its sense of offbeat humor is extremely reminiscent of EarthBound, and while it has its fair share of flaws, Hourai High is worth a visit.

Gunman's Proof is one of the best SNES titles that few talk about
One of the best SNES titles that few talk about

Gunman’s Proof is one of my personal favorites. I love the game’s humor, style, atmosphere and fun fast-paced gun slinging action. It’s too damn short (similar to The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang) but it’s a blast, pardon the pun, while it lasts. If you haven’t played it before, I highly suggest rectifying that.

It even apes Earthbound's font. A nice touch indeed
It even apes EarthBound‘s font. A nice touch indeed

Adventures of Hourai High is a unique RPG. You can play as a boy or girl. The dialogue is hilarious and almost as entertaining as EarthBound. Sadly, a few key flaws hamper Hourai High from being a notably nice game. The encounter rate is way too high, and there was a major screw-up: weapons and armor equipped do not change your stats. Somehow, the programmers botched this and so you only increase in stats by leveling up. In essence, you never have to buy new weapons or armor. I still recommend it to diehard EarthBound fans however, despite its glaring flaws.

Earthbound fans will appreciate Hourai High's humor
EarthBound fans will appreciate Hourai High‘s humor

EarthBRe130

"I am. Traded in my bat for a gun and my cap for a 10 gallon hat"
“I am. Traded in my bat and cap for a 10 gallon hat”

WHAT THE CRITICS (AND YOU) SAID

Super Play Magazine loved it
Super Play Magazine loved it

EarthBound is one of those interesting and fascinating cases of a game that got its fair share of love when it came out originally. But really it wasn’t until years later that it exploded in popularity. Curiously, EGM never did review it. GameFan did, however. They gave it scores of 85, 90 and 92%. Super Play Magazine scored it 88%. In a recent poll I asked the public to rate EarthBound on a scale of 1-10. One voter gave it a 1. Another gave it a 7. A few rated it an 8, but the majority of readers voted 9. Of course, there was a healthy smattering of fans who gave it the perfect 10 out of 10 score. Pretty much what I expected — lots of 9s and 10s with one vocal minority who gave it the lowest rating possible. Oh Earthbound, truly the polarizing RPG of our time.

Few RPGs divided gamers as much as this one
Few RPGs divided opinions as much as this one
Nintendo Power ranked it 60th best game of all time
Nintendo Power ranked it #60 on its top 100 list

 CLOSING THOUGHTS

EarthBound's awesome contemporary setting helps set it apart
I’ll always stop for pizza. Damn straight, son

I didn’t play EarthBound back in the day. When I started it up in November of 2012 it was an entirely fresh experience. Therefore, zero nostalgia goggles here. Two weeks and 30 hours later, I knew I’d just played one of the most engrossing and captivating games ever. From the refreshing and comforting sights of suburbia in the early stages of the game to the more exotic locales found later on, it took me on an incredible journey of youth, bravery, loyalty and adventure. I felt like I was playing an RPG that combined Goonies, The Wonder Years, Peanuts and Dragon Quest. Not a bad little recipe! If you love RPGs and you still haven’t played this, STOP whatever you’re doing. And go rectify this matter. Now.

It takes you back to your youth
It takes you back to your youth

EarthBound perfectly captures the sheer awe of childhood, combined with a longing desire to push one’s suburban limits to the very brink. Playing the game made me feel like a kid again. Like I was back in my old hometown haunts hanging out at the arcade, going around town to the local pizza joint and flipping through the latest Goosebumps book at the library. And that’s just the beginning of the game. Soon it all transforms into something much more, as you meet new friends and unlikely allies all in the name of stopping an implacable force known only as Giygas. The game opens with our hero in bed in his striped pajamas. It seems like any other ordinary night in the ol’ neighborhood of suburbia. You are then awoken — it’s great subtle symbolism because for the first time in your young prepubescent life, you’re truly awake. The many wacky, perilous and funny events to unfold all shape this tremendous coming-of-age adventure. You leave home and like any other epic story ever told, you embark on a journey that changes you from a boy to a young man. You’ll conquer many obstacles — both external and internal. Playing EarthBound was like being in a never-ending state of reverie, and I loved every damn second of it.

Few games have left such an memorable imprint
Few games left such an imprint

There’s a certain timeless, nostalgic quality about this game. It stirs the feeling of being a kid in Anytown USA who leaves home to voyage on the adventure of a lifetime. From your local 3-story mall to far away lands exotic, mysterious and menacing, EarthBound tugs on all the right notes to create an experience like no other. The music’s an eclectic mix that’s among the best you’ll hear on the SNES. The gameplay is fairly standard, but there are some nice ideas here like instant wins and a rolling health meter. But EarthBound is so much more than this. EarthBound is, quite simply, a quintessential tale of growing up and overcoming trials in a not so perfect world. It’s light-hearted yet serious when it needs to be. The many diverse locales are great and I find the visuals to be a bit underrated. Many like to dismiss it, but I love the style and can’t imagine the game any other way. There’s a reason why EarthBound has so many fervent fans. It was a work of art that resonated with our inner child, leaving us with a lasting and memorable impression. Indeed, the tale of Ness and his friends is one that has stood the test of time. And one that I believe will continue to do so for generations to come.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Overall: 10

FUZZY PICKLES!

PLATINUM AWARD