Well here's a treat for New Nintendo 3DS owners: EarthBound! Back on the SNES, this second instalment of Shigesato Itoi's much-loved Mother series only received a western release in North America (where it sold poorly). Buying a second-hand copy for silly money was most people's only option until the Wii U came to the rescue, providing a worldwide release in 2013. It's now playable on the go and whilst Nintendo has sneakily bumped up the price compared to other SNES Virtual Console releases, it's certainly worthy of your time.
For anyone unfamiliar with the game, EarthBound sees you take control of Ness (or whatever you want to name him) as you travel the land searching for eight melodies to help defeat the universal cosmic destroyer Giygas (yikes!). It's an RPG but with a modern (well 199x) American-influenced setting, where vehicles are on the roads, department stores are visited, burgers restore health, cash is withdrawn from ATMs and should a member of your party fall in battle there are hospitals.
A large part of Earthbound's appeal is the story. Right from the start it entertains with your mother happy to let you wander off into the night to investigate a crashed meteor because, after all, you'd only sneak out if she said "no". Soon you encounter a bee-like creature from the future named Buzz Buzz and the adventure begins. Things get wackier as you progress whether talking to a dog "being possessed by the spirit of the game designer" or battling a group of Policemen so they'll remove the roadblock to allow you to pass from opening town Onett to Twoson ("we got this name because we weren't first"). Naturally there is a Threed and Fourside, although there are plenty of other locations too and you'll battle a range of characters and creatures along the way such as coil snakes, annoying old party men, mad ducks and a big pile of puke (no, really).
Also impressive to this day is the game's soundscape, with regular effects alongside otherworldly ones. The music has a range of instruments and sounds coming together to make a variety of different tracks; some fun, some mysterious and some surreal sounding ones too. There are some fantastic pieces here and you'll want to plug in year earphones when out and about so as to not miss out.
By comparison the visuals at first seem underwhelming. However there's a charming simplicity that suits the quirky storyline and the art style allows for a clean easy-to-follow look as events unfold on (the now smaller) screen. There are decent (somewhat hypnotic) background effects during battles and actually a lot of variety on display with good use of colours for the different times of day, and woodland, desert and cave areas alongside the towns. Buildings look different and whilst there's little scenic animation there's quite a range of characters, vehicles and objects around to keep things interesting. Lots of text on a small screen could cause trouble, but it remains legible throughout. A switch to the original resolution mode in the Virtual Console options makes things clearer, but even with the stretched distortion of the default setting a long play session will most likely end when you need to charge your battery rather than rest your eyes.
There's a lot of game here to keep you occupied, with events unfolding at a relaxed pace as you move from one event in search of the next. There are lengthy sections, not really suited for quick bursts of play, but the standard suspension/restore point functions are present, meaning you can tackle the game in whatever sized chunks you feel like.
Unavailable to most for many years, there was always the chance that EarthBound was over-hyped bobbins, but as Wii U owners previously found out it's genuinely brilliant. A lengthy experience that's humorous and fun from start to finish. It's incredibly engrossing and a recommended purchase for your New 3DS even at the higher price point. Now c'mon Nintendo, give us Mother 3!