EarthBound is a game about fear, about friendship, about wonderment and loneliness. It’s the psyche of every child, scared and brave, who grows up with darkness too early, but still holds onto magic. It’s quirky and strange and frightening. And its heart is its music.
In lieu of dialogue, detailed facial animations, or voice, EarthBound‘s soundtrack became the vehicle for conveying Ness’ identity and his emotional journey. You can distinctly feel the carefree glee of a naïve young boy, as yet unaware of the dangerous road before him, in the bike theme. You can sense the nostalgia, warmth, and fear in the score of every “coffee” plot-recap. And when he finally confronts Giygas, the discordant, unsettling theme conveys how terrifying and seemingly insurmountable this creature – a child’s greatest nightmare made real – would appear.
EarthBound‘s soundtrack isn’t just background music, and it isn’t even just ancillary support for a scene or moment. Often, it defines that moment. The gentle melody that accompanies each sound stone fully creates the space. It turns what would just be a lake into a sacred, mystic place – an environment of mystery and wonder, capturing both the excitement and the fear of the children that enter it.
Ultimately, it would be unfair, and inaccurate, to credit one aspect of the game as carrying the entirety of its emotional resonance. But compared to its contemporaries, EarthBound‘s soundtrack is unique in its ability to not only support, but create theme, convey emotion, and build character. It’s both subtle and pointed, an essential tool for connecting the player with a frightening, whimsical world, and the young boy that must save it. –Ashly Burch, Writer/Co-star, Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?