Every video game genre has its fans, but Japanese role playing game enthusiasts have a knack for spreading the word about their favorite games. The right game can inspire a fan to share the experience with anyone willing to listen and consider giving the title in question a try. Over at Daily Girl Attack Panic Super HD Remix, Lauren Wainwright has assembled a small group of writers from the community to briefly explain why their favorite jRPGs are so special. You'll see thoughts on Persona 3, Star Ocean, Final Fantasy XII, Wild Arms, and many more. Hey, look, I'm included in this! I'm the one who spoke up in praise of, naturally, EarthBound.
Entire dissertations have been written about Nintendo’s masterpiece EarthBound, but one part of the game that I’ve always liked and never hear much about is the section in which Paula is kidnapped in Fourside and hidden away at the top of the local department store.
Ness and Jeff have to storm the darkened store and fight their way to rescue her. The trick here is that at this point in the game, Paula is the character with the most useful and powerful PSI powers. Ness still has some levelling up to do and Jeff’s weapons aren’t up to the task of fighting a small alien army. By removing Paula from the group, Ness and Jeff are left vulnerable in a way that I had not anticipated during my first play of the game all those years ago. I spent a few hours spread out over several days trying to complete this area, and even stocking up on the best items and buying a decoy teddy bear wasn’t quite enough at first. This section is the first real challenge in the game from my perspective, as it turns my usual battle strategies against me by teaching me not to over-rely on any one character in the group.
The game later pulls a similar trick by sending Poo away on his own mission, but by that point Ness and the others are powerful enough to stand alone for a while without much difficulty. EarthBound teaches teamwork, but also stresses the individual parts that make up the team. That’s admirable in an era where the star protagonist is generally unstoppable and the other members of the party are just window dressing.
Thanks to Lauren for including me in the group even though I kind of feel like the odd one out here. I'm not much of a jRPG fan overall, truth be told, but I do love my personal favorites. It's a short list, but in addition to EarthBound, I highly recommend that you experience Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG. I'm not one for the usual jRPG trappings, but there's something special about these games that have a certain crossover appeal. Even though I'm not into the mainstream jRPG scene, I'm glad I could dip my toe in the water here.