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EarthBound

Nintendo re-releases quirky cult classic EarthBound for Wii U

By Matt Gerardi • July 18, 2013

Nintendo has finally released EarthBound, its 1995 Super Nintendo role-playing game, on its Virtual Console download service. The game will run you $10—a lot less than the average cost of cartridge-only copies, which is about $160—and is only available on the Wii U Virtual Console, not the crummy old Wii or 3DS. The game’s subversive take on the Dragon Quest-style RPG formula and strange setting—a surreal small-town America—make it a very unique work among Nintendo’s oeuvre. It’s also one of the defining examples of a “cult classic video game,” having spawned a rabid, vocal fanbase that has been clamoring for its release since the Virtual Console was launched in 2006.

Many in that community, however, recognized that a Virtual Console release was a longshot, if not impossible, thanks to the game’s (probably) copyright-infringing soundtrack, which contains elements of songs by The Beatles, The Who, Chuck Berry, and more. I have yet to see any reports about whether or not the soundtrack has been changed, but in April of this year, Bill Trinen, Nintendo’s director of product marketing, told Kotaku it would remain untouched. “Yeah, I mean, they’re taking the original game and putting it on Wii U,” he said. Cheers to that.

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40 Responses to “Nintendo re-releases quirky cult classic EarthBound for Wii U”

  1. rvb1023 says:

    Thanks Nintendo! A game I would certainly buy even at your slight price hike if it released for a system anyone owned.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I’m hoping this causes a precipitous drop in the price of SNES Earthbound carts on eBay. 

      • Knowing the kind of feverish obsession Earthbound creates in people after they play it for the first time, I wouldn’t shocked if the price of SNES carts on eBay actually goes UP as people fall in love with the game and want to own an original copy.

        But probably not.

    • Girard says:

      Finally! A 20-year-old game that has been readily accessible anyone with an internet connection for at least a decade has been released on a platform that not terribly many people own!

      Honestly, all snark aside, I know/teach some youngsters who grew up in a ‘post-piracy’ world (to the extent that they’ve grown up with things like the VC, Steam, and Netflix in the 00s, so downloading ROMs or  TV shows or whatever doesn’t hold enough allure/necessity to overcome wariness of getting in trouble or guilt about breaking copyright laws), but who have engaged with the fandom, talk of the game in hushed tones, and have been waiting with bated breath to play it. So, I’m happy that kids like that have the opportunity (providing they own a Wii U) to finally play the game.

      And hopefully once they’re a little older and a little more rebellious they’ll have fewer qualms about acquiring the unreleased, rather interesting, remainder of the series.

      • NakedSnake says:

        No way am I touching that ROM after reading that article on creative copy protection. No sir.

      • rvb1023 says:

         I know I could emulate this whenever, but I honestly have trouble getting into emulators. The atmosphere just feels all wrong. When I played the SNES as a kid I was on the floor with a controller in hand or laying back on the couch.

        As lame as it sounds it wouldn’t be the same to me, like playing Diablo on a console. And I kind of want Earthbound to make a return and the easiest way to do that is to let Nintendo know with my dollar. I often whine about Nintendo doing anything new but Earthbound/Mother Nintendo is some of the best, weirdest Nintendo.

  2. BOING!

    Would love this on 3DS.

  3. The_Misanthrope says:

    I would’ve figured that fair use would apply in this case.   I certainly can’t see some niche title with (often distorted) chiptune versions of copyrighted songs having a substantial effect on sales of the original works.

    • Dave Dalrymple says:

      Nintendo doesn’t want to litigate this kind of case, for fear of the long-term implications of a win. A solid court precedent would protect their right to parody/reference the IP of others, but it would also give others the authority to parody/reference their IP. They don’t want more Super Hornio Bros..

    • Girard says:

      The rumors were that the songs actually used a kind of really primitive sampling, which is why the issue was more serious than simply quoting musical passages or whatever. That sounds very urban-legendy, though, and not terribly likely.

  4. a_scintillating_comment says:

    Excellent news! Now a new generation can legally stumble upon this as I did and simply enjoy the experience.

    To those of you who have played it: your favourite moment?

    • Dave Dalrymple says:

      Drinking the coffee.

    • SPOILERS:

      When it remembers the real name you entered like 60 hours previously and you totally forgot you did.

      • zebbart says:

        I made the mistake of using my real name as Ness’s name so that moment didn’t happen for me.

    • Raging Bear says:

      I’ll go with the ending, as I think it still might be the most affecting I’ve ever seen.

      SPOILER

      It’s not just the absolute sweetness of all the people you’ve met along the way suddenly feeling the urge to pray for you, but the strange dialogue from Giygas. Despite the fact that, for the purported villain, Giygas really hasn’t been anything of a presence throughout the game, he/it’s revealed at the end as a bizarre, broken, tragic figure, and the tone and mystery of that battle has always stuck with me.

      • stepped_pyramids says:

        It’s kind of weirder when you’ve played Mother and you know more about what Giygas is. (It’s still bittersweet and fucked up, though.)

        • Raging Bear says:

          That is definitely motivation for me to finally get around to playing through Mother all the way through…

    • Girard says:

      The final battle! That sequence is what cemented the game in my mind as something not just kind of idiosyncratic and singular, but genuinely special.

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

      So many great moments. One of my favorite was the whole “What the fuck just happened and what’s going on here” experience of Moonside. Abstract art in Moonside was one of my favorite enemies.

    • a_scintillating_comment says:

      Yeah, the ending..

      For me it’s, ‘fuzzy’ pickles, the coffee, or eating the first hamburger you found in a garbage can outside the Onett library.

      Silly, but it made me feel like ‘Yeah, Ness has to really rough it now, he’s on his own!’

  5. PugsMalone says:

    Ugh, and I never got around to selling my original copy.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I don’t think this will really lower the value of the cart that mu.. I mean you can give it to me and I’ll dispose of it in a responsible manner!

  6. PhilWal0 says:

    I think this marks the first time this game has ever been officially released in Europe. Yay!

  7. LeGrandSigh says:

    Why is there no crossover between the WiiU store and the 3DS store, or the old Wii Virtual Console games and 3DS?  I would buy so many games available on Wii’s Virtual Console store if I could play them on the 3DS, even those that I already bought to play on Wii.  Seems like a lost opportunity to make money

    • Yeah, they are not at all leveraging their AMAZING catalog of games, there are precisely zero SNES era games available on 3DS on the eShop, which would be almost all instant-buys for me.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        Seriously. This is the generation I would lap up.

      • George_Liquor says:

        I thought Nintendo was purposefully restricting the 3DS’ VC to portable gaming (Game Boy, Game Gear, etc) releases but lately, NES titles have been popping up too. I wonder if Nintendo has yet to write a working SNES emulator for it.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

           That’s a good sign. Two years in and it’s still “in development.”

          If nothing else, I want my GBA games brought over. Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, etc. Bring it over, Ninty!

      • Girard says:

        I feel like Nintendo has some weird Leviticus-like set of rules determining where, when, and how certain titles are released. “Thou shalt not mingle the software cultivated for the set-top console with the hardware meant for the hand! Be not like the dissolute and unclean in Sonyland who without shame spread their software from screen to screen, from television to handheld, like beasts of the wild indiscriminately rutting!”

  8. Matt Koester says:

    I love the quote from Bill Trinen. He’s like, “What, do you think we’re gonna do work for this?”

  9. JokersNuts says:

    I own a WiiU and I will download this.

  10. Cloks says:

    Looks like Nintendo has made the player’s guide available to the public. It’s great to just look it as the illustrations and really, the whole package, are beautiful.

  11. Commish of hangin' says:

    I have an Earthbound cartridge and no Wii U, so I don’t feel the need to get a system just for this, but I’ve heard that it is, in fact, a perfect port. All the music is intact and they still have Porky’s name mistranslated as Pokey.

    • Citric says:

      I like Pokey better, it stops being a fat joke, makes him seem initially harmless, like the poky little puppy.

    • stepped_pyramids says:

      Good. I’m glad they didn’t give it the kind of joyless retranslation Square has inflicted on their SNES-era games.

  12. Dariusz G. Jagielski says:

    Now if they would release MOTHER (Earthbound Zero) and MOTHER 3 (Earthbound 2? I guess so) for VC…