An RPG for the Super NES that flopped when it first arrived to the U.S., EarthBound grew in fan support and critical acclaim over the years, eventually becoming the All-Time Favorite Game of thousands, among them author Ken Baumann.
Featuring a heartfelt foreword from the game's North American localization director, Marcus Lindblom, Baumann's EarthBound is a joyful tornado of history, criticism, and memoir.
Baumann explores the game’s unlikely origins, its brilliant creator, its madcap plot, its marketing failure, its cult rise from the ashes, and its intersections with Japanese and American culture, all the while reflecting back on the author's own journey into the terrifying and hilarious world of adults.
I'm the author of the novels Solip, Say, Cut, Map, The Country, and The City. I've also written the nonfiction books EarthBound and Eat the Flowers. I'm currently publishing my novel A Task via Kickstarter in order to have an hourlong conversation with each of its first thousand readers. For a decade I published books through Sator Press, and for a decade I acted in film and television; now I help students at St. John's College. More: kenbaumann.com
I am a kickstarter backer for this project and was really excited on what could happen one of my favorite childhood games, EarthBound. Unfortunately, it ended in slight disappointment.
The book can be broken into 3 parts; synopsis or analysis of the game, childhood and adult memories from playing the game, and memoir of the author that at the best of times vaguely connects with the game. This story suffers from too little of the first and WAY too much of the last.
Much more could of been done. Critical sections of the plot are ignored that offered moments of analysis. Instead we are told about an acting career, a story on how the author's parents meet, and a major illness.
There is potential for the series. It is written well, just lacks in proper content.
Just finished this one, which is the last book I had left from season one of Boss Fight Books.
I thought what might be useful is to put down a short thing about each book and a reason to recommend each, or to list a type of reader that might enjoy each one. Because I enjoyed all of them, but in different ways.
Earthbound: Possibly my favorite. I think this book, more than the others, made me really want to play the game. It's a nice balance of explaining how weird the game is while also not spoiling the whole thing. Great example of the way in which "spoiling" a game is hard to do. The fun and surprise of it comes after you dive in and are immersed, not from the list of events. This is a great intro to the series, especially if you are familiar with video games and somewhat interested in them.
Chrono Trigger: I think the most interesting part of this book, for me, was the discussion of localization. How they take something that's distinctly Japanese and make it work in America. For culture nerds, a great read.
ZZT: This one has a lot to say about gender and identity, but I think this is also a great read for anyone who doubts the positive power of the internet and gaming. Or, maybe a good read for people who feel like the internet is a hellscape wasteland with nothing but negativity to offer.
Galaga: A great book by a fantastic writer. This is the one I'd recommend to anyone who is not particularly interested in video games. Galaga is pretty easy to understand, and you don't have to understand it to understand and appreciate what goes on in this book. Probably less game-oriented than the others, but a really great read.
Jagged Alliance 2: This one is heavily oriented towards the development side, though it's explained really clearly. Ultimately, the result is a book that kind of explains the limitations and limitlessness of games and gaming, and it makes for a really fascinating look at the way games are programmed and how, in some ways, the more sophisticated programming and business aspects of today can be a really limiting factor.
Super Mario Bros. 2: I think I was a little hard on this initially, but that's only because I already knew a lot of the Nintendo history contained here from reading other books on gaming. I learned a lot from Jeff Ryan's book, but if you are just a little curious, I think SMB2 presents a nice, bite-sized piece of video game history at a really pivotal point. It does contain one of the more interesting little stories in Nintendo history. If nothing else, you can read this book and people will be impressed when you reference Doki-Doki Panic.
The series, as a whole, is pretty great. It's hard to know what to expect when you've got different authors writing such different books. But there wasn't a book in here that left me displeased, and each one offered something unique.
These are must-reads for video game fans. I'd start with Jagged Alliance 2. For non-fans? I'd still pick one up, or possibly pick up the Continue anthology, or maybe even a book from season 2 (I just got Bible Adventures in the mail, and I'm super-pumped). Super Mario Bros. 2 and Galaga are, in my opinion, the most likely points to jump on for a non-gamer. SMB2 if you're a non-fiction person, if you like a good true story. Galaga for a book nerd who likes some experimentation and tight prose.
If you really want to know what the series is about and don't go in with a gamer/non-gamer mindset, then it's Earthbound all the way. This book does a great job with the game, and it does a fantastic job as an encapsulation of how this series works. If you like this one, you'll probably like all the others, and I would suspect you'd rank them differently than I did.
Keep up the great work, Boss Fight, and I can't wait to start in on Bible Adventures.
Whereas ZZT was an exploration of the community that grew up around a quirky ANSII game and the tools that let its fans build their own worlds, EarthBound is a much more focused text. It's primarily about Baumann's life: his relationship with his seven-years-older brother and how they played EarthBound together as children; his early acting career and the way that his family spent most of the year separated, like how Ness's father is only a voice on the phone and an improbably-large bank account in Ness's name; and learning that he had Crohn's Disease and facing the possibility that he might die, like Ness and his friends being placed in robot bodies and traveling into the past with no guarantee that they would ever return.
The problem I had is that I wanted to read a book about EarthBound, not a book about Ken Baumann, and I got way more of the latter than the former, often with a clumsy transition into the next story. Like the line "Summers is $49 gelato" before talking about moving to L.A. to look for acting work and living in an apartment building for aspiring actors full of people drunk on celebrity. Pages on acting, a page on Summers.
Maybe if I knew who Baumann was I'd be more drawn to it, but I'm the stereotypical Area Man who doesn't own a TV--well, I do, it's just for video games only--and so it was just reading about some stranger's life with a tenuous connection to the game that's ostensibly the title of the book. I mean, I'm happy that writing the book and replaying the game meant that he reconnected with his brother, but it's not what I came here for.
Then again, maybe I'm just biased against him because he mentions that played Demon's Souls for an hour and then gave up because it was too hard.
The parts that were actually about EarthBound I quite enjoyed. There's a lot here about the sense of childlike whimsy that the game almost palpably exudes. EarthBound is Shigesato Itoi's vision of America drawn from Leave It to Beaver and other early Americana and mixed with Dragon Quest, and it's that bizarre combination that makes the game work. How the adults are all condescending to Ness and his friends (memorable line from my own playthrough: "Kids like you should be at home playing Nintendo games!"), but the game is about how children can be heroic as well. How it starts out in a sleepy American suburb and gets stranger and stranger, until after Moonside normality goes topsy-turvy and Ness is raiding ancient pyramids and traveling to the Hollow Earth. How in the end, the most important thing that the heroes have is hope.
EarthBound even makes a zombie apocalypse whimsical, which is no mean feat.
And if there was more analysis that was deeper than that, or some way that this whimsy was tied in to Baumann's life on a deeper level, I probably would have liked EarthBound better. But as it is, it's a surface-level exploration of the events of EarthBound, some musings on their meaning, a big autobiographical chunk, and not much else. Part of ZZT's appeal was the book's focus on the community that sprung up around the game, and while EarthBound has a similar community in Starmen.net, it's not really drawn on other to mention the walkthroughs they have and the petition they sent to Nintendo to ask them to bring Mother III to America. Something about how playing EarthBound influenced them would have kept my interest a lot better.
Never have I come across a more fractured narrative. I thought EarthBound would be about the titular video game, the Super Nintendo RPG released in 1994. But the author can't stick to a single topic for more than a page. Within a single chapter, he ruminates on not only the game, but his relationship with his brother, the 2009 book Bluets by Maggie Nelson, kidnapped and murdered American girls, his choice of college, the encoding of digital information onto DNA, the kinds of purses popular in Abilene, Texas...
The game EarthBound is the loose connective tissue among all these aspects, but they are so thinly related, and the author changes topics so frequently, that I could never tell where he was going next. I kept hoping he was simply laying the foundation to engage in some of these matters more in-depth — but no, he just kept bouncing around to whatever shiny idea flittered across his mind in the next moment. After two chapters and 71 pages — about 38% of the book — I gave up.
I received this book through my backing of its Kickstarter. I hope the next five books I receive as my reward are more focused.
It's hard for me to get over how awful this is in execution.
I had high hopes for the series, but in retrospect, when you ask a bunch of people with no writing experience (e.g., a TV actor) and no experience in journalism, what you get is someone who says "Hmm, I don't know what to write about here so I'll just write some random things".
So if you're curious to know how many years and days are between him and his older brother, or how many hours it would take to play each copy of Earthbound, or what number the Greek letter mu represents (which has nothing to do with anything) or what his drunken binges were like (completely unrelated to Earthbound) then you might be interested. I was not.
What there is of the game is mostly a synopsis: a chapter by chapter description of what is going on. This is not interesting and you would be better served playing it, or watching someone else play it. There is precious little information about the game's history or influence. The vast majority is the author's reminiscing and worldly wisdom, which coming from a 24-year old, was just not that good.
I expected this book to be just a collection of self-important memories artificially strung together to capitalize on shared nostalgia to satisfy the author's ego. An “I'm so smart and my life so interesting that I can bring 200 pages of life to a single 16 bit cartridge” proclamation that would be hell to slog through. But that's not all all what I got.
Instead I get an articulate, poignant, and incredibly enjoyable homage to the cult classic Super Nintendo game Earthbound with plenty of factoids and nerdy stories of the game's development. In short, Ken Baumann's book about Earthbound is exactly what a game like Earthbound deserves: a respectful exploration of the game, stories of a personal connection with the game, and the literary chops to package it all together into something wholly remarkable.
And rather than write with a specific agenda in mind, Baumann's book is unapologetically explorative. In the early pages Baumann sets up that he hasn't spoken to his brother in years. It's never clear why, but the reader is lead to assume the siblings had a falling out. Baumann then sets up his hope that by he and his brother together playing and reminiscing about Earthbound dialog between them could reopen. Like the good novelist and actor that Baumann is, he leads with character and establishes the trajectory of a narrative. This isn’t a book full of interviews or a document of the game’s creation. It’s a personal story that, for better or worse, I feel could be about any video game. Earthbound just happens to be the catalyst. This is both a strength, and perhaps the book’s only weakness. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
As Baumann describes Earthbound and its insane cast of characters he pulls in seeming non-sequiturs about current events (current to the time, of course) to make associations that he himself acknowledges are surely not directly influential. The 1992 Los Angeles riots, the Rodney King beating in 1991, the kidnapping of a nine year old girl just 190 miles from the offices of Earthbound’s developers. All of this is part scene dressing and part simple attempts to contextualize and understand Earthbound...again, the book is self-aware of its explorative nature. Because the author is transparent with his own journey those seeming non-sequiturs are allowed to not be tangential to the narrative but integral to it.
At one point the author asks: “Does this game reflect my childhood, my relationship with my brother, the state of the world, the way I perceive pop culture?” and with that one question is revealed the one possible weakness of the book that I mentioned earlier. I feel like the author could have been given any artifact of his youth, not specifically Earthbound, and a similar book would have emerged. Now, this is very telling of the author’s ability to intellectualize his youth--and I respect the poop out of that-- but as a fan of Earthbound part of me wants access to the perfect author for the job, the perfect voice with the perfect insight into the game that no other person could have. But then, just as quickly, I realize 1) that’s impossible and 2) this book isn’t really about Earthbound, and that’s actually great. If I wanted to read about the development of Earthbound I could read the starman.net archives. In fact, Baumann references those archives constantly as if to give overt direction to people who may be looking for a more Earthbound-y Earthbound story. No one can say that Baumann hasn’t given the reader plenty of exit ramps.
This is a story more about Baumann than it is about Earthbound, and as bait-and-switchy (click) as that may sound, please know that it works really, really well. And don’t get me wrong, the book definitely isn’t devoid of Earthbound goodness. I learned a lot about the creator (I had no idea he was in advertising and hadn’t developed a game before the Mother/Earthbound series). I learned that the English localization was done in such a vacuum that much of the spastic charm of the game wasn’t intentional; the writers only had bits and pieces of the dialog to work with at any given time.
At one point Ken Baumann ponders of his analytical approach what the reader must certainly be pondering as well: “I hope this project won't exorcise my ability to enjoy Earthbound, but I suspect it will.”
I don’t know if it did do that for Baumann, but I can assure that reading this book only strengthened my love for the game. I’m sure it will do the same for you
*As a disclosure to all, I got this book from the Kickstarter*
An excellent book about the SNES game, Earthbound, plus the author's personal experience with the game as well as how certain parts of the game related to him. I thought the structure of the book was odd at first (it is normal chapters, but the paragraphs are broken up more than a standard book's) but it grew on me as I read the book. I learned a bit more about the game, plus the author himself as well. I would highly recommend checking this book out!
A great read -- the blend of gameplay and memoir and game-making history -- from the first few pages through to the end. I found myself jumping around Google searches for screenshots and would detour into fan art and wiki entries and so on. This is a kind of reading experience I have more and more -- especially with books centered around a piece of art or a cultural moment. I'm looking forward to what future Boss Fight books bring -- I'm looking forward to a diversity of approaches and subjects and points of view and purpose. Off to a great start.
Longer review coming soon, but basically I want to say that you shouldn't turn away from this because it's a book about a video game. It is so much more than that, and it does everything we want good nonfiction writing to do. I love how he takes a fictional story of the game and uses it to enhance his own, and more interestingly, how he uses personal experience to put this game on the life-changing level that it deserves to be.
With full disclosure that EarthBound is the first in a series of books of which I am an author, I offer you an incredibly self-interested but equally honest review of Ken Baumann's soon-to-be-published book.
Early in EarthBound (the book), Baumann reveals how he was spooked by the "tight synchronicity" of the resemblance of the logo of Halken, one of the game's development companies, to that of the ultramodern but now outmoded-for-retro-appeal's-sake Warner Bros. monogram. Moments like this underscore not only the expansiveness of Baumann's associative memory, but the potency of the great messy web of neuronic meaning-making connectivities to which we all have access, but often overlook in favor of neat cause-and-effect. Interweaving his synchronic life experiences great and small with a journey through EarthBound the game, Baumann demonstrates why this SNES classic—full of emotionally-charged but understated honesty, nightmarish cartoon absurdities, and offbeat humor that affirms the weirdness of a self-aware existence—deserves exactly that categorization.
Traveling through EarthBound—and here I'll conflate book and game—is a bit of a trip into a funhouse looking-glass world for me. Though my own life and family are parallels to neither Ness's nor Ken's, I can see them in me and myself in them, and feel a overwhelming sense of emotional synchronicity with their journeys. Like the video game which underpins its insights, Baumann's version of EarthBound is full of flashes of crystal-clear joysadness—there's gotta be a German word for this, right?—and nostalgia for an alternate present.
Sure to delight and piss off fans of EarthBound the game—"Man, he didn't even mention the Casey Bat!"—EarthBound the book is a curious intersection of game review, personal memoir, freeform essay, and pop culturalia that can inspire even the outdoor-kiddest of readers to pick up a game controller and experience the collective unconsciousness that players of EarthBound have tapped into for close to two decades.
What I most loved about this book was that it completely blew away any preconceptions I had of a book about a video game. I expected a very technical breakdown of the game's content, with a few metaphorical comparisons and inside humor sprinkled throughout. Instead, EarthBound is a beautiful interweaving of the author's life with the bizarre mark that the game left on the world.
EarthBound was an SNES game that was popular in Japan but never gained much traction in the US. For most, the game remains just a quirky memory of a game no one really understood. But what Baumann is able to show us is that the game was designed with HUMANS in mind, rather than straightforward gamers. Instead of combat, the situations in the game reflect social situations and relationships found in the real world. Rather than weapons or points, the game encouraged the value of friends, family, community and faith in others in order to be successful. The landscapes and situations can be ridiculous, humbling, and (more often than not) reflect the confusing world of a child navigating into adulthood. Like the best animes have done, EarthBound was an unapologetic and endlessly intriguing monument to the human spirit.
As he replays his own life path while replaying the game, the pain of estranged relationships, absent parents and even death start to appear and nearly parallel with each other. Although the game's marketing wanted you to believe it was immature, EarthBound may have been the most emotionally mature video game ever created. To every kid who played it, it taught that life is a strange, sad, wonderful thing that each one of us have a part to play in. No wonder, as he discovers, that it has such a fanatical community of former players sprung up in the wake of EarthBound. It taught strength, kindness, humor and fortitude to a segment of children - geeks, nerds, freaks, weirdos, all different in their own wonderful ways - who needed it the most.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, particularly if you don't think it's for you. For a game as weird, confusing, irreverent, hilarious and mysterious as EarthBound, this is the book it deserves.
This book is the first in a series that attempts to be the 33 1/3 equivalent for music. For those that are unfamiliar, this means that people write about a game that was deeply significant to them, discussing both its history and the author's relation to the book.
It's very likely that nostalgia is talking, but this book rekindled my love for Earthbound. My friends were playing Earthbound for the first time at a sleepover party, and I spent the entire night playing it after they went to sleep. In retrospect, it may have been my first exposure to homosexuality. Things like that are the sorts of anecdotes reiterated in the book by the author.
The author does a capsule summary of the game's plot and how it relates to his own life. There is some interesting side-information, things that could potentially have influenced the game's development, but other than the localization of the game into North American English, there wasn't much interaction with the principles so you won't get much scoop.
This being said, it's very easy to remember the power of Earthbound as a game, how different it was from games around it (and in many ways is different to games that exist now) and how it's shaped the kinds of games I enjoy, and the reason I tend to lean towards the games I currently do, independent works that touch upon society.
I'll probably break out an emulator now that I've finished writing this :)
Much as I went into it with a bit of random annoyance with the author simply acting in the show that he did, I still gave it a shot. And I really did want to like this.
Honestly, I enjoyed the opening and banter between author and brother. In general, I quite liked the writing itself, as Baumann has an excellent sense of pacing and structure. This was an extremely easy to read book.
However, as it progressed, it started to feel more and more scatter. Threads of ideas and deep philosophical musings started piling up, as new idea upon new idea was introduced rather than fully teased out, unraveled, and turned into something amazing. More often than not, I felt as if I'd been left hanging, wanting to further explore an idea only to have the author take me into another chapter of his life or yet another literary name drop to show how well-read he is--and this is definitely the case.
And that's what bugged me most about the book: I felt as if it could've been something so much more, that it was on the verge of this fine balance between game review and criticism and analysis and memoir. Baumann was so close to making them all come together, but for me, they never fully did.
Did I enjoy the book? Yes. But the biggest letdowns often stem from the things we can see greatness within. There's greatness here, but for me, it doesn't show like it should.
The majority of the book (about 4/5ths) is a sort of celebrity memoir, which fans of The Secret Life of the American Teenager may enjoy. Occasionally, Earthbound (or another video game the author once played) is name-checked, but only as a skipping stone to some tangential thought or impression.
For example, after briefly mentioning a two-hour conversation the author had with one of the creatives behind Earthbound, he suddenly diverts to how he didn't like the movie Cloud Atlas. I'd rather read about the conversation, but oh well. There's a word count-boosting origin of the word "nostalgia," and a couple pages detailing how much space the Earthbound file takes up on his computer, etc.
It gets better towards the end. A promising connection between the horror film House (another cult creation from a Japanese ad guru) and Earthbound is brought up, but mostly unexplored. Among many non sequiturs, the recent Foxconn suicides are mentioned, but who knows if there have ever been any allegations of abusive working conditions at Nintendo. The book is endlessly fascinated by its own author's musings (if you are too, you'll love it), but demonstrates very little curiosity about Earthbound.
I don't think any book on a particular video game experience will ever be THE defining book, and of course this book didn't claim to be.
It is an exploration of how the game and the author interact with each other, and the connections the author makes between his playthrough, his history and his view of the world. In this, it's a success. I found quite a few passages funny and it was a tight narrative overall.
Of the books that I've read in this genre it's the best so far. If you've played Earthbound and want to see someone else's view of what they got out of it, this book is relatively short and worth the time.
EarthBound is a game that literally requires you to insert yourself into the narrative, and in this book Ken Baumann has done exactly that. An honest and deeply personal recounting of a return to an honest and deeply personal game, this first release is a great sign of things to come from Boss Fight Books. To quote my 2nd's favorite RPG's most EarthBound-esque villain, Booster: "Mmmmmm... Delicious! It's so good it makes me want to cry!"
This is awesome. So much emotional weight given to a game that probably exists better through nostalgia anyway (watched a few youtubes of EarthBound play, and didn't see the appeal). I've always admired the lengths (sometimes heartbreaking) Baumann goes to divulge emotional honesty, even from a point of self-aware privilege. He's certainly a man using his power for good, and a lot of that comes through in this earnest book. Lovely.
I edited this book and am as far from objective as you can get. But it's moving and hilarious and its sharp observations have micro-changed the way I see the world. (Tiny example: I will never again look at a Super Nintendo without thinking, "Pallid tank.") I'm proud that EarthBound is the first book in our series.
So nostalgic! This book brought back so many fond memories of my all time favorite video game. It's cool to read about how EarthBound brought out such strong feelings in another fan of the game. Now I want to play it again...
A great book albeit random at times; the spontaneity of the writing added to the sense of nostalgia the author felt as he replayed the game. Needless to say after the read i dug up my copy of the game and found my own nostalgic experience sitting cross-legged on the floor.
Being the very first book from boss fight books, it’s understandable and forgivable that they’re trying to figure out their unique concept about books published about video games so they’re not like every other video game book.
However this book is rough. The author describes his experience with Earthbound and parallels it with his own experiences in his life as if the game is directly influencing it.
There is a lot of discussion about the book but very little on the deeper, more critically acclaimed aspects of the storyline.
There are also several long winded tangents about random parts of the authors life such as the symbol “Mu”, how many days between him and his brother, his abdominal surgery.
The worst part of this entire book is a sudden chapter about how humanity needs to consume less overall because we are about to (or as the author puts in brackets, maybe already have) cause irreversible damage to the earth and it will no longer sustain life in the future.
He goes from this, to a quote from a head analyst at Microsoft that alludes that humanity will not do anything about climate change and that it’s probably too late (Humanity IS doing something about it every day and it’s not too late).
From there, the next few paragraphs in the same chapter talk about how the act of making and using film uses a lot of chemicals which damage the earth (most film directors use digital recording devices and haven’t used old school film in YEARS).
Then the author talks (still the same chapter) about how we need to abandon triple AAA games like Call of Duty (not directly mentioned but alluded to) and blockbuster films and return to playing games like Earthbound or playing board games, or hide and go seek. From this point near the end of the book he launches from that doom and gloom declaration into a discussion of a weird 1970s Japanese movie called House.
So what was the entire point of this mindless rant? To make people who read it, become depressed? To appear as some sort of sly activist? Or to lash out at the film industry because the author couldn’t make it as an actor?
Unfortunately the early editions of the boss fight books are like this one, trying to sound complicated and sophisticated, and ultimately making their lives sound more important than they are, but coming off as inane and depressing.
The later books like Super Mario Bros 2, Spelunky, and others are much, much better.
I knew nothing about this video game before I read this book. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and my formative video game experience therefore is a bit more basic: Mattel’s Intellivision or Atari 2600 games, or even Commodore 64 games, rather than Nintendo. So why did I read this book about a game I had never played or even heard of? Because I enjoy discovery, and this book paid that back in spades. Not only does Baumann do a great job of explaining the impact of Earthbound on himself and his brother, and from that imparting how it affected a cult of followers, it also introduced me to Baumann himself, whom I had never heard of before this book. Hey, it’s impossible to keep up with every bit of entertainment being made, so forgive me if I didn’t even realize there had been a TV series called The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
Which, as Baumann notes, is an apt description of Earthbound, as it follows its main protagonist (whom you can name as you will, but is called Ness if you choose the default) and his attempt to save the world from a devouring evil name Gygas. The description of the game illustrates just how insane, and insanely hard, it is. I was able to pull up an emulation and played about 5 minutes of it, and decided it was better to read about than actually play. Baumann agrees at times, especially those points of the game where he had to repetitively kill things in a certain way to obtain a certain weapon, unsure why he’s doing so.
The point of the book is a rumination on childhood and being. What memories we keep from these things we obsess on when we were younger. And the theme of the game and Baumann’s life: how we are indebted to those we encounter along the way.
I enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to reading more in this Boss Fight Books series.
I’ve been on a quest to find books on video games and the people who play/develop them and this was the first of my foray into the Boss Fight series.
I think I agree with other reviews here. The author tends to mix and match personal life and game synopsis quite a bit, but while it’s all a little self-indulgent, I ultimately found this book quite enjoyable and mercifully short.
I’m someone who constantly analyzes the media they ingest, tying the stories and themes from games to events and ideas from my own life. Sure, maybe I’m one of those “when your whole personality is your hobby” people, but I think it’s valuable to thoughtfully critique things, not only for self-improvement but also for awareness.
To this point, Baumann DOES connect life to Earthbound. I too felt like Poo’s meditative episode of limb chopping on the hilltop was WAY BIGGER of a thing to process than my child mind could comprehend. I too remembered those hours contemplating life and friendships through Ness and friends.
Earthbound is a weird game that to this day (even as I just started a fresh replay) feels ahead of it’s time and still speaks to the human condition in deeply sensitive ways. Much deeper than you’d think a silly SNES game could do.
For us 30-year-old nerdbombers out there who like to process entertainment, I do recommend this book.
On a final note: there is some weird child actor stuff in here, episodes of debauchery, and just generally weird writing structure and layout. It’s a bit confusing at times, but if you can stomach the oddities, the nostalgia trip and reflection make it worthwhile.
Can I just say i loved Earthbound? The game, not the book.
I have vivid memories of unlocking the characters and spending at least a half hour in deep thought contemplating what to name them. My squad had Rudy, Pea, Earl, and Vice. And I loved them and their quirky adventure.
Enough about my personal experiences, let's talk this book
This book stays in line with The Overall Boss Fight Books, what I mean by that is its very bad.
The book should not be called Earthbound by Ken Baumann, but instead Ken Baumann's Earthbound Playing Experience by Ken Baumann.
Not enough Earthbound, and far too much Ken Baumann. I think adding your own personal experiences while discussing a video game is awesome and amazing - but can we keep those personal experiences related or relevant in some way to Earthbound.... the game your book is titled after?
Some quotes out of context
"I hope this project won't excorcise my ability to enjoy Earthbound, but I suspect it will."
"The more I write about Earthbound, the less I want to play it."
How did they choose the authors to write these books? Was there no editing process? Did the editor just not care?
So many constant thoughts of the relevancy to any of this book.
Do yourself a favor and just watch a YouTube retrospective, it'll be more entertaining, concise, and relevant to Earthbound.
Interesting book which combines the story of Earthbound with an autobiography of the author himself, Kenn Baumann. This is both a good and a bad thing; in all honesty, the life of this fairly unknown actor wasn't exactly thriving and interesting, but is definitely made interesting by referencing and comparing points in his life to happenings within Earthbound's story. It matches almost perfectly (although often in a different context), making it a very enjoyable read.
I do think that this book is for those who love and played Earthbound (like me) before, and should be avoided by people who either dislike (for boredom) or never played Earthbound (for confusement and spoilers).
Demystified View Of Earthbound Through The Author's Life's Experience
Earthbound and the author's memories and life's experience are intertwined. We are taken on a journey through the game's story in a generally linear way with connecting flashbacks into Ken Baumann's youth as he reflects on his relationships with family members, most notably his older half brother Scott. Through his success, love, and bout with illness, Earthbound becomes a force for reflection and catharsis. Touching and informative for anyone wanting to dig into the Myth of a game, and as a not so side effect, learn something of the man behind the words.
This was quite enjoyable to read, and I've never ever really played the game (I just played an hour or two when it was rereleased on Wii U), but I've always enjoyed the aesthetics and characters, and have owned quite a few Hobonichi agendas with Mother graphics. At first I wanted the focus of the book to be more on the game, and to read more development stories, but by the time I got to the end I quite liked how the author mixed in his personal experiences (and not always related to the game) with what he was writing about.