Earthbound, one of the greatest console RPGs ever made, has finally been re-released on the Wii U Virtual Console. If you own a Wii U, you should definitely pick the game up (god knows you don’t have anything else to play on it this month,) and while you’re at it, you might as well download Nintendo’s strategy guide for the game, which they’ve released online for free.
Despite not selling particularly well when it was originally released, Earthbound has since gone on to become a cult classic and one of gaming history’s most celebrated titles: the game has appeared on many publications’ “Best Games of All Time” lists, and copies of the original game for SNES fetch extremely inflated prices on eBay. Fans have been pestering Nintendo to re-release Earthbound ever since the launch of the Virtual Console service on the original Wii, and today Nintendo finally acquiesced.
You can download Earthbound off of the Wii U’s e-Shop for a mere $9.99 (I usually complain about the Virtual Console’s inflated prices, but in Earthbound’s case, the VC price is actually a small fraction of what the game would cost you used.) The original release of Earthbound came packaged with a strategy guide and some scratch and sniff cards; unfortunately, there’s no way to distribute scratch and sniff cards over the internet, but Nintendo has decided to kindly release the original strategy guide for free online. Nintendo says that the guide has been optimized for viewing on the Wii U pad’s screen.
I don’t mean to oversell it, but Earthbound really is as good as everybody says it is: as far as I’m concerned, it’s just as good as (perhaps even better than) fellow 16-bit RPG classics like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Phantasy Star IV (if you know how much I love PSIV, you’d know that I wouldn’t make that comparison lightly.) The game’s strange and frequently laugh-out-loud parody of modern culture still holds up, and its simple graphics and gameplay have aged fairly gracefully as well.