Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Biweekly Music Wednesday NO.3 ALL MY FEELS EDITION ~Twoson (Boy Meets Girl)~ (Earthbound)


Lately, I've been noticing the blessings of being tardy. Now, it's not like I necessarily condone it, but it's led to some awesome moments that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. For example, the other day I was procrastinating like crazy on an assignment and decided to take a break via recycling all the empty bottles in my dorm room. Along the way, I came across a friend who, after informing him of my mouth ulcer, earnestly said he'd praying for me. Despite attending a Christian college, I was touched that he'd keep me in his praying thoughts over something that was, at most, a minor nuisance.

Then we have my blog. I kept (unintentionally) putting off the next few installments, particularly Biweekly Music Wednesday since I already said it'd be coming back last week. I'd already had the song for it planned out, but I forgot that was the date for my root canal appointment and I couldn't focus on it during my recovery period. In any case, I was ready to commit to it today when the most joyous of news broke this morning...

After years and years of pleading....

Wave after wave of unsuccessful petitions and vigorous outcries that fell upon deaf ears...

The assault of the cruel despair that destroyed the hearts of untold amounts of fans that legal issues would prevent any hope of re-release...

Watching helplessly as Japan is able to once again enjoy our holy grail with no red tape blocking their way to salvation...

Periods of where the bitter realization sunk in that, indeed, we'd never see our beloved friend resurrected for a modern audience....

As of today, we were wrong.


For those not in the know, Earthbound is the second in a beloved trilogy of RPG (Role-playing games) known in Japan as MOTHER, a series of games featuring children in modern-era American-inspired settings embarking on soul-searching adventures to repel the advances of alien civilizations and soldiers garbed in pig-inspired outfits. The series bears an odd name, yes, but it all makes sense when you learn it's named after the John Lennon song (not really). Moving on, MOTHER 2 was released here in the Americas in the form of Earthbound back in 1995 on the beloved Super Nintendo, but a mismanaged marketing campaign rendered the game a sales dud, and was quickly swept under the rug by Nintendo's American division.

However, Earthbound was not without its cult fanbase, charmed with its quirky atmosphere and setting. The series accumulated a frenzied followed thanks to the wonderful website and character appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series of games. The latter was my introduction towards the series, as my seven-year old self held a strong fascination with the mysterious Ness, a young boy who stood out from the cast of familiar Nintendo mascots.

Not more than a month after Smash's Gamecube sequel arrived, I tracked down a copy of the elusive Earthbound. What I discovered that night was unlike any game experience I'd had up to that point; despite its old age, the game invited me in as if it'd known me its entire life, and I identified with its premise immediately. Resulting from this newfound piece of gaming bloomed an intense loyalty that, other than perhaps the neglected Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the Kirby series, I have yet to display for any other form of electronic entertainment. Despite my noobish demeanor, I posted on the forums and idolized the grown-up posters. I signed the petitions. I started countless files that were never finished. I defended the game numerous times from real-life naysayers and came across fellow fans. I participated in the PK Call'n. I've cosplayed as Ness. I fucking mourned when my cartridge fell victim to dust contamination. And yes, I threw a hissy fit when my parents wouldn't let me wear my Hatness apparel anymore (too nerdy, they say! I got it signed by freaking Tommy Tallarico!).

I shit you not, I felt tears welling up at the news. Over eleven years later, I still love Earthbound. Despite my preference for the Game Boy Advance sequel MOTHER 3, it is the game I point to as defining my video game career. Yes, Super Smash Bros. Melee may have permanently cemented my status as a Nintendo fanboy, but I can no longer summon its old magic no matter how hard I try. The Nintendo 64 may have  jumpstarted my interest in gaming, but I've found that the console doesn't resonate with me as much anymore.

And yet, I found that as I've grown older, Earthbound continues to grow with me in ways I've never envisioned. Back then, the beauty of the game's world was that anyone could identify themselves with the character of Ness, thanks to the modern-day setting and the staples of RPG mechanics (for example, being able to name your character). In my experience, it was a case of duality: Having an absurd sense of humor as a kid, all the weirdness going on in the form of battling evil hippies and aforementioned vomit (the existence of which the residents in the in-game towns seem to take for granted) was right up my alley, and the way Earthbound handed me all that like it was perfectly normal was kind of a godsend; I mean, it was basically saying "Hey, kid, it's perfectly okay to be weird. Go have a ball." And even with all that going on, the game is laced with childhood nostalgia. The presence of a secret tree fort is uncovered if one looks carefully. The thrill of a bicycle and the expanse of the big city is yours for the taking. You can head right into the fast food store and order a slice of pizza with your friends. And no matter how far you've traversed in your long journey, Mom is always waiting for you at home with your favorite snack, complete with a heavenly choir.

I've often discussed my perception of nostalgia on the blog before; in the case of Earthbound, it was always a perplexing issue. The way the folks on spoke of their memories with the game, whether it be shaking their heads at all the whimsical jokes or discussing the game's wonderful soundtrack left me with a spellbinding impact that I eventually applied to my experience with Earthbound. I wasn't just creating my own vision of childhood when playing the game; I was experiencing their childhood as well. I shook my head at the Beatles in-jokes even when I didn't fully understand them, and engaged in the euphoric rush of yesteryear when entering Playskool-esque households and getting to know my weird virtual neighbors.

Now that I'm older, I am that wisftul old coot. It's more than just appreciating the game's more subtle wisecracks and mature themes, it's that I'm remembering all this and enjoying it at the same time. The choirs of Ness's house still gives me chills. I can't get enough of the bicycle music. I still space out with the Coffee Break theme. I still smile through it all. To be fair, I feel the game's mostly lighthearted nature has a smoother connection with children, but that trademark musty scent of nostalgia that Earthbound so joyfully revels in is one I've always treasured, and it's why I still love the game today.

It's why that, instead of celebrating with just the game's ending themes or the famous final boss music, I'm finding myself drifting towards the Twoson town music. This is primarily what I'm talking about. As a child, I wasn't crazy about the actual theme, but I loved exploring the town's nooks and crannies. Who can forget, for example, the mysterious tiny home near the bus tunnel, or encountering an NPC who's obviously a nod to Mr.T? Today, I find myself laughing at the guy at the flea market who offers to sell me the "world's greatest ruler,"  yet the song sends me back to not just era of experiencing the 80's/90's suburban America I never experienced, but of a beloved piece of childhood entertainment I still find joy in. Seriously, I can't wait to get a car just so I can turn this on and drive away. Seems perfect for a drive.

Thank you, Nintendo of America, for no longer ignoring this classic. As not just a fan but as someone who's been through much of the fanbase's series of heartbreaks, I'll certainly be there day one to pick up the digital download.

As the whimsical camera man would always say....fuzzy pickles!!

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