TOH Game Club 3 – Earthbound

First, there was Zelda II. Then there was StarTropics. Now it’s time to go 16-bit.

The success of the first two Tired Old Hack Game Clubs meant it was only a matter of time before we did it all over again. That time is now, though I suppose that should already be obvious by this point. I mean, you knew what you were clicking.

Um… let’s go.


The idea

In case you missed the first two, the Tired Old Hack Game Club is a new group in which, for a month at a time, like-minded gamers can play through retro games together.

Instead of trying to decipher a potentially troublesome retro game and figure out what makes it tick by wading your way through terrible online FAQs written by 13-year-old amateur comedians, you’ll instead be able to take comfort in the fact that a bunch of other folk are also playing through the same game as you, and you’ll be able to talk to them about it.

Stuck in a particular area? Struggling to get to grips with the game’s mechanics? Found a particularly cool trick and want to share it? Have you drawn your own map to help you get through a dungeon, and you want to proudly offer it to others to help them? This is for you.

Each month yer man Scullion will pick a retro game for everyone to play together. These will almost always be games that are easy to get hold of and affordable: I’m not going to ask you to buy an Atari Jaguar and drop £80 on Alien vs Predator or anything like that. Ideally, nothing in the Game Club will cost more than £10.

Anyone wishing to take part in the Game Club will be able to join the discussion on the Tired Old Hack Discord server. If you haven’t already joined or are new to Discord, it’s essentially just a chat room with various channels: the Tired Old Hack one has channels dedicated to the site itself, Nintendo games, Xbox games, PlayStation games, retro gaming, off-topic and the likes.

As of right this bloody moment, the Tired Old Hack Discord server now has a shiny new channel called #game-club – this is where all your Game Club discussions can take place.

If you’re interested, then, follow this link to sign up to the Tired Old Hack Discord server, and join in the conversation.

Throughout the month I’ll be jumping in to share little tidbits about the game, and post old magazine articles, be that reviews (so you can see what people thought of it at the time) or tips sections (so you can get help like we did back in the day).

The future of Game Club relies on your participation, really. If only a couple of people do it and there’s no real enthusiasm for it, then I’ll scrap it and chalk it up to experience. If, on the other hand, it results in a lovely wee community of like-minded gamers discovering classic games for the first time together, then it’ll continue for as long as possible.

That said, sign up to the Discord if you’re interested and let’s get cracking! This month’s game is:


Earthbound

SNES, 1994
Nintendo / HAL Laboratory, Ape Inc.

By the early ’90s, the vast majority of gamers associated RPGs with fantasy settings.

They were almost always about knights, mages, princesses, dungeons, dragons and all the stuff people still moan about these days any time HBO decides to make TV shows based on them.

Earthbound – written by Shigesato Itoi and programmed by the late Satoru Iwata – messed with this tradition by placing an RPG story in a modern day setting, and replacing the wizards and assassins with 9-year-old children.

Earthbound was only released in Japan (as Mother 2) and North America during the SNES era: European gamers didn’t get it until nearly two decades later, when it launched on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013.

How to get it

There are a few ways to get Earthbound if you fancy taking part in this month’s Game Club.

• It’s one of the 30 games on the SNES Classic mini console.

• You can get it on the Wii U eShop for £6.99 / $9.99.

• You can get it on the New 3DS eShop for £8.99 / $9.99 (only if you have a New 3DS model).

• Finally, if you’re dodgy, you can obviously also run it on an SNES emulator.

Starting out

Earthbound is a fairly typical example of a mid ’90s RPG, so if you aren’t familiar with that genre it may take you a little while to get used to its start-stop flow.

In fact, if that’s the case you’re going to have a more authentic experience: when Earthbound launched in the US, many gamers of that era were in the same boat because the RPG genre was still struggling to find the massive fanbase it had in Japan.

To make up for this and make sure players were able to get to grips with it, Nintendo actually included a huge 130-page strategy guide with the game, which players could consult any time they needed a hint.

Naturally, I’m the generous type, so here’s that entire guide in PDF form:

Earthbound Strategy Guide

Try not to rely on it too much, mind: that guide was designed for complete newcomers to the RPG genre and so it holds their hand through almost the entire game. By all means read the first few pages to get an idea of what’s going on, but reading any more will essentially be the equivalent of playing with a walkthrough. Instead, get involved with your fellow gamers: that’s what Game Club is for, after all.

What I do recommend, though, is the ‘Earthbound at a Glance’ section at the back of the book: this is a really useful guide that explains what every item in the game does.

You should now have enough to get started on your adventure. When you’re ready, hop into the Discord server to begin chatting about it with your new Game Club pals: how are you finding the game so far? Have you discovered any strategies to help you in the early stages? Are you stuck and not sure where to go next?

See you in the chat!

NOTE: One final request. If you’ve already beaten Earthbound and fancy yourself as a bit of an expert, by all means take part in the discussions but please don’t try to become some sort of oracle of knowledge. The point of Game Club is for people who haven’t beaten the game before to experience it together: having someone give them all the answers all the time ruins the fun a bit. Besides, nobody likes a smart-arse.

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