Your Name, Please

I think what’s really exciting about the naming process at the beginning of Earthbound is the music. They don’t just carry over the same tune from the file select screen.

Not only does the change in music signify a new relationship, a collaboration between the game and you, but it’s also the first really good song you hear in the game.

Not only is it a great song, it introduces you to the kind of sound you can look forward to for the rest of the game. It starts with sampling (pretty advanced for the Super Nintendo), accompanied by a sweet bass line, chirping and percussive parts that almost seem like sound effects, and a legendary hook (01:00).

The song teaches you that, although the graphics seem to be low-fi, the sound design is actually pretty advanced and varied. It lets you know that the aesthetics are not a result of technological limitation, but a specific choice.

Naming your characters at the beginning of the game is unlike what most other popular (Squaresoft) RPGs of the time did. Usually you would not name a player-character until they appeared in the story. Instead, Earthbound does what it will turn out to be extremely good at doing: setting up expectations.

You know right from the beginning that you will meet a girl who likes music and hops straight into the air when she’s surprised, a four-eyed preppy who doesn’t always know what to do with himself, and a dignified and stoic warrior from a classical version of “the Orient”. In meeting your party at the beginning of the game, you are given the means to measure your progress.

Many of those who worked on Earthbound would join Creatures, Inc. and create Pokemon, another game in which you name yourself and another character (your rival) at the start of the game, intertwining your fates indefinitely.

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