UPDATE, July 18, 8AM PT
Right on cue, Nintendo's released a new Nintendo Direct video that includes, among other things, mention of Earthbound's release.
Here it is, also featuring Shin Megami Tensei IV, Animal Crossing, Mario and Luigi, Pikmin 3 and numerous others.
Fans of the original may also wish to note that the Earthbound rerelease comes with a digital version of the original game's strategy guide, which is pretty neat. You can view it either online or on the Wii U Gamepad screen.
Earthbound is out on Wii U's Virtual Console today. That's probably all I really need to write here, right?
Actually, this bears a little further discussion, because Nintendo appears to have snuck it out without making much noise about it at the time of writing. Granted, it's still somewhat early in the morning in the States as I type this, so it's possible there'll be a blast of press materials going out later, but for now, it seems like it's just hit the Virtual Console without anyone really saying anything.
It costs $9.99, if you were wondering. This is a little more than past Super NES titles on the Virtual Console service, but given that original cartridges for Earthbound regularly sell for in excess of $200, this is quite a saving on the usual price. It also gives people who have never encountered the series before the opportunity to try it for the first time without having to dig out a yellowing Super NES.
Earthbound is probably one of the most-requested, most-anticipated Virtual Console rereleases of all time, so it's surprising that Nintendo isn't making a bigger deal about this. It's also a little surprising that it appears to be Wii U exclusive at present -- there's no real reason why this shouldn't be on 3DS' Virtual Console as well, though playing on a TV does give the authentic old-school experience.
In case you, like me, have never actually played Earthbound (I have an excuse; I'm British, and it never came out in Europe!), here's what it's all about: it's a role-playing game set in a fictional take on 1990s Americana. It originally came out in Japan in 1994 and North America in 1995, and it possesses a rather self-aware sense of humor that parodies both American culture and the role-playing genre as a whole.
It's become something of a cult classic since its original release despite not selling all that well back in the '90s, and is also noteworthy for breaking from a lot of RPG traditions of the time. There's no random encounters, for example, and rather than unfolding from the usual top-down perspective, it instead uses the quasi-3D oblique projection perspective. It also has a seamless world to explore (a la Zelda) rather than the more common divide between the large-scale "world map" and local "field maps" that other role-playing games of the period used.
Here's a page of further information about it on Nintendo's site.
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