EarthBound Inspiration

earthbound

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that my love of storytelling didn’t come from literature, or even film. Not originally, anyhow. It came from video games.

It bothers me to no end that I have to defend games as a medium. Truthfully, I don’t even like to call them games. I’d sooner call them interactive media or the like, but that just makes me sound like I’m calling porn “adult entertainment.”

I could go on forever about the medium. But I’m here to talk about one game in particular, and how it influenced me growing up.

It was called EarthBound

earthbound screenshot
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14086391369/

A cult RPG on the Super Nintendo about a thirteen-year-old kid in contemporary America (called “Eagleland” in the game) alongside his best friends, saving the world from cosmic horrors. It’s one of the goofiest, trippiest games to come out of Japan at the time, and that’s saying something.

In a time when most RPGs were sword-and-sorcery fantasy, along comes this game where the hero uses yo-yos and baseball bats, orders pizza from payphones to heal, uses the ATM to get money, sleeps in hotels, travels via buses and bicycles, gets homesick, goes backstage of concerts, and fights hippies, taxicabs, pedophiles, ramblin’ mushrooms, wild ducks, possessed tents, and more. All done to a jazzy, ‘60s-’70s Western pop music inspired soundtrack. You can practically sing the Beatles lyrics along with some of the game’s soundtrack.

All this plus themes of courage and friendship and adventure. It was about leaving home and seeing the world–and not your usual fare of dark forests and magic castles, but of suburbia and big cities and wintery private schools and beachside vacation destinations. Ness, the hero, came from a small house in a suburb with his family. He had a baseball cap and a scruffy dog. He was me. And he had best friends that he saw the world with. This was my On the Road in the 1990s.

EarthBound was the first game that I’d played that was so chock-full of text that I might as well have been reading a pile of books

EarthboundScreen2
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14273041415/

It had a quirky, but heartfelt story that I fell in love with. And from then on, I needed my games to draw me in with the story and the setting and the characters–a fact that continues to this day. “Fun” is secondary to aesthetic and narrative. I want art and I want story. Games got me drawing and they got me reading and they inspired me to create my own stories.

When I was in grade, oh, four or five, I did one of those reading evaluation things that teachers give you. They told me I read on a college-grade level. I was a quiet kid who had little use for books, but I read more than most book-lovers. After all, the games I loved were filled with words, back before everything was voice-acted. My reading skills came from games.

And EarthBound was the start

Earthbound Screenshot 3
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14273039595/

It made me want to run away and have adventures. To write screenplays about psychics and mad scientists and aliens invading the suburbs. I wanted to build a house in the woods and listen to the Beatles on the radio all day long. I can think of so many beautiful, iconic moments in this goofy kids’ game that I could make this post go on and on and on.

Ultimately, EarthBound gave my mind a fictional wanderlust. Even though it was a game, it made me appreciate the beauty of the world outside my house. I look at the stars or smell the earth after it rains and I remember this dreamy feeling of wanting to put on my trusty baseball cap, leave home and save the world. Games like EarthBound provided this imaginary escape–the same kind books like Huckleberry Finn would do for readers. It was freedom. And that freedom is why I play games.

New Patch Brings Hearthstone to Japan, Nerfs Warsong Commander

Patch 3.2.0.10604 has just gone live for Hearthstone.  As usual, the patch has fixed various unlisted bugs in the game.  The biggest change is the addition of Japanese localization, opening the doors for countless new players to join in on the action.  It has also added the Highmaul card back into the game files and it will be given to any and all players who reach rank 20 or higher this month.  However, the change that has everyone talking is a highly-demanded balance change for Warsong Commander, changing her effect to buffing your charge minions rather than granting charge to minions with 3 or less attack.

Many players having been begging for a nerf of some kind ever since the Blackrock Mountain expansion released earlier this year.  The new Grim Patron card that it introduced proved to be extremely powerful in Warrior decks when paired with Warsong Commander, Frothing Berserker, and Whirlwind.  The resulting Patron Warrior deck quickly became one of the strongest combo decks in the game with only Handlock proving a formidable match-up against it.  Much like Miracle Rogue before it, the weakness of the deck comes more from your opponent not knowing the best plays and making a mistake rather than you outthinking them yourself.  Patron Warrior has been unavoidable on ladder and every tournament player has had the deck at the ready.  Removing Warsong Commander’s ability to grant charge makes sense as the effect has always been exploitable.  In the original version of the card, she simply gave all of your minions charge and getting out two Molten Giants with that effect was devastating.  Cutting out the stream of charge minions entirely not only disables Patron Warrior, but also future-proofs the card for future expansions and ensures that a similar deck won’t become dominate in the future.

Sadly, the nerf to Warsong Commander can be seen as excessive due to its stat line being kept the same.  Only buffing minions with charge is an incredibly situational effect that is unlikely to yield great results, even in a deck built around the effect.  In order to be worth playing, she would need a fair stat line to make up for her underwhelming effect, and a 2/3 for 3 mana is pretty bad.  Compared to cards like Dire Wolf Alpha and Raid Leader, cards that rarely see play themselves, Warsong Commander undoubtedly comes up short.  One last issue with the nerf is that Warsong is a basic card that all players receive for free, so those who went out of their way to build a Patron Warrior deck won’t be able to refund this one key card for arcane dust in the way most other nerfs are treated.  Fortunately, because Patron Warrior is a cheap deck to build and the rarer cards it can run will still be just as viable, it’s unlikely that this change will set anyone back.

What are your thoughts on the latest changes to Hearthstone?  Are you glad to see Patron Warrior go, or are you already reminiscing on the days where everyone would get in here?  Are you more interesting in the Japanese localization of the game, or are you really excited to get your hands on the Highmaul card back?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Nintendo and Universal Partner for Theme Park Attractions

Nintendo

It’s an exciting day for Nintendo fans as Nintendo and Universal have announced a deal to develop Nintendo-based attractions at Universal theme parks.  Sadly, details are scarce at the moment as to when these attractions will open, what locations will be receiving attractions, or what kinds of attractions we’ll be seeing.  Given that this was announced on the official Universal Orlando blog, it’s a given that the Orlando park will have plenty of attractions hosted.  Given that they’ve been needing to switch their Marvel section out with something that won’t benefit the competition at Disney, there is certainly plenty of room worth freeing up at the park for Nintendo attractions.  Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda are the most obvious choices for attractions, but the possibilities are endless.

It’s actually a fairly ironic partnership given that a large part of Nintendo’s ability to break out into the video game market was a legal battle they won against Universal over false claims that Donkey Kong infringed on their copyright for King Kong (which Universal didn’t even own in the first place).  What kinds of attractions are you hoping to see come out of this partnership?  Personally, I’m hoping to see Donkey Kong make an appearance at the King Kong ride and the finally have the giant simian smackdown thirty years in the making.