EarthBound is an RPG that was first published by Nintendo for the Super NES in 1994 in Japan and 1995 in North America. Created by Shigesato Itoi, it is also the second game in Itoi's Mother franchise (the game is known as Mother 2 in Japan), and the only entry in the series to see international release. The game was unusual for its day due to its setting; a quirky, modern world that stood in stark contrast to common fantasy genre worlds. It was eventually followed by Mother 3 on the Game Boy Advance and was re-released in a GBA compilation with the original Mother.
EarthBound was re-released for the first time on the Wii U Virtual Console on July 18, 2013 in North America and Europe. A digital version of the strategy guide originally packed with the North American SNES release was also made available on the Nintendo of America website. In Japan, Mother 2 was made available on Wii U earlier in 2013 as part of the Famicom's 30th Anniversary promotion for 30 yen ($0.30).
Before even plugging the game in the system, players were greeted by an amazingly large box for EarthBound. The reason for the large size was very simple: Nintendo included an official player's guide for the game inside every copy of the game. It was a full color and full length guide, with pages adorned by clay sculptures of many of the enemies in game. Similar clay sculptures were made for the official Mother 3 fanguide, created by the devoted fans at Starmen.net and Fangamer.
Also included in the guide were six scratch and sniff cards, with pictures of some of the grosser enemies of the game, Master Barf included. Also included was a mystery scratch and sniff card, where the purchaser could send in a guess to Nintendo about what they were smelling. The correct answer? Pizza. Players who correctly guessed the answer found a package from Nintendo weeks later, containing an Earthbound branded air freshener, which smelled like pizza as well and had an image of the Mach Pizza delivery man.
The story starts in Onett when a meteorite crashes in the hills behind Ness’ house. He leaves his house to investigate the meteor and when he approaches the meteor, a fly named Buzz Buzz appears and tells Ness that Giygas has taken over the world in the future, and that is destined to change history by stopping Giygas in the present. Buzz-Buzz gives Ness the Sound Stone and tells him that must visit all eight “My Sanctuary” locations in order to record melodies from each location.
The hometown of Ness and site of the meteor crash that jumpstarts the plot. The day after the meteor strike, Ness ventures into town to learn more, only to discover the animals have turned hostile and the Sharks, a gang of violent kids, have become more aggressive. Being a civic-minded and just young lad, Ness takes it into his hands to do a little light vigilantism and confronts the leader of the Sharks, the knife-wielding Frank. After being defeated, Frank immediately unveils the Frank N. Stein, the wooden juggernaut. After defeating this newest menace, Ness awakens in Frank a goodness he himself didn't know was there. From then on, he promises to watch out for Ness (and does this by offering free health and PSI refills). After this, the pathway to the cave to the north is opened and Ness must fight his way through swarms of insects and extremely hostile moles. After defeating the Gigantic Ant, he visits the first “My Sanctuary” location next to Onett, called Giant Step. As he leaves, Police Captain Strong approaches and tells to go to the Police Station. At the Police Station, is attacked by a group of police officers and Captain Strong. After beating them up, Captain Strong grants access to the second city, Twoson.
In Twoson, all the citizens are talking about the recent kidnapping of a child named Paula. Ness finds out from the criminal lord Everdred that Paula was taken to a place called Happy Happy Village for the purpose of some cult religion. Ness travels through to try to reach Happy Happy, but is blocked by a pencil shaped object. Returning to Twoson, Ness consults the inventor named Apple Kid, who gives his new invention called the Pencil Eraser. Ness is able to reach Happy Happy, and rescues Paula after confronting the leader of the cult religion, Carpainter. Ness also visits the second “My Sanctuary” location nearby Happy Happy.
He travels back to Twoson, and attempts to reach the next town, Threed. However, the bus is stopped by ghosts and is forced to turn back to Twoson. Ness visits Everdred again, who gives $10,000. He visits the Chaos Theater where the main attraction is a group called the Runaway Five. He finds out that they cannot leave Twoson because they are in debt exactly $10,000. Ness helps pay the debt, and the Runaway Five let ride in their tour van to Threed. They are able to avoid ghosts because their van is “too loud to be distracted by ghosts.”
Ness arrives in the dark town of Threed. He finds out that the town is being invaded by zombies, and that there is a secret passage in the graveyard. Ness goes to the graveyard but finds the secret passage to be blocked by zombies. Returning to a city, follows a peculiar woman into the hotel, where he and Paula are ambushed and knocked out by zombies. They wake up in a cave underneath the graveyard. Paula calls out to Jeff to help them escape.
Jeff is currently at school in Winters. He wakes up after being disturbed by Paula’s message. Jeff wakes up at night and leaves the school. At the drug store, he meets a monkey who likes bubble gum, called the bubble monkey. Heading south, Jeff finds a lake where a creature called Tessie is supposed to live. Tessie appears and takes Jeff and the Bubble Monkey across the lake. Jeff continues south, traveling through a dungeon designed by the Dungeon Man. Jeff also finds a lab run by his father. Jeff’s father gives Jeff the Sky Runner, which Jeff uses to travel to Threed and rescue and Paula. The Sky Runner breaks in the process.
He goes to the south of town where the zombies are. There, he battles and defeats the Boogey Tent, after which he receives the Jar of Fly Honey, Belch’s favorite food. He receives a call from Apple Kid, who gives him his new invention called Zombie Paper, which sticks Zombies. Ness spreads the Zombie Paper in the center of town, and in the morning the zombies are stuck to the ground.
Ness goes into the secret passage in the graveyard, and then heads into the grapefruit falls. Inside the falls, he finds, where all the inhabitants are Mr. Saturn. Mr. Saturns tells the secret to get into Belch’s base. Ness gets into the base and defeats Belch by distracting him with the Jar of Fly Honey. Ness is then able to discover the third "My Sanctuary" location.
Ness and company then hike across a desert to reach the city of Fourside. After helping the 'Runaway Five' out of debt, the party visits a department store, in which Paula is kidnapped. Ness and Jeff set off to find her, and their trip takes them to a mysterious world called "Moonside", by exploring a cafe. Moonside is an extremely chaotic and supernatural world that vaguely resembles Fourside. At the heart of Moonside is an evil relic called the "Evil Mani Mani Statue". Ness and Jeff defeat this statue, thus destroying Moonside, and end up back at the cafe.
Later, the two boys learn that Pokey and the Mayor were the ones behind Paula's kidnapping. The mayor ends up returning to normal, due to the destruction of the evil statue. The party rescues Paula, but Pokey manages to escape in the Mayor's helicopter.
The team returns to Threed, where Jeff repairs the Sky Runner. They then set flight for Winters to discover the fourth "My Sanctuary".
The Final Four Sanctuaries
Ness and friends cross the ocean and end up in the bright town of Summers, where Ness falls unconscious and dreams of a far-off land known as Dalaam. Poo, a prince of Dalaam, has completed his training and is told to join Ness on his journey. The group finally returns to Fourside and finds the fifth "My Sanctuary".
The team obtains a boat and uses it to travel to the desert of Scaraba, where they discover a pyramid. Inside, they learn the secret to defeating Giygas. Afterwards, Ness and the group travel to Poo's homeland of Dalaam, where they find the sixth "My Sanctuary".
Next, they acquire a submarine and use it to traverse into the Deep Darkness: a mysterious path that takes them underneath the Earth's crust. There, Ness and his party finds Tenda Village, which is a small town populated exclusively by extremely shy people. The team can only move forward after they obtain the "Book of Overcoming Shyness", which allows them to speak to the villagers. The villagers then allow Ness to enter the Lost Underworld, which contains the final two "My Sanctuaries".
The Final Battle
Once the final sanctuary has been activated, Ness is sent into Magicant, the land of dreams. In Magicant, Ness is confronted with his nightmares, which, once defeated, grant him considerable powers.
Upon returning to Saturn Valley, the team finds that Jeff's father, Dr. Andonuts, has finished the Phase Distorter, a device used for time travel. The party of Ness, Jeff, Paula, and Poo must now travel back in time to defeat Giygas. In order to ensure their survival, Dr. Andonuts removes all four of their souls and implants them into new robotic bodies.
Upon arriving in the past, the party encounters Pokey and Giygas, who is locked inside a machine in order to contain his massive power. The group battles and defeats Pokey, after which they open the machine and release Giygas. Giygas turns out to be far too powerful for the team to handle, and it quickly appears that the world is doomed. Paula soon begins to pray for help, and with the combined prayers of Earth's inhabitants, the party, and even the player themselves, Giygas disappears. All of the damage dealt to Earth is erased from history, and Ness and his friends journey back to the present to return home.
Late one night, Picky comes to Ness's house and gives him a letter from Pokey saying: "Come and get me loser. Spankety, spankety, spankety!", ending the game with the player wondering what has become of him.
Cast of Characters
Ness - The main protagonist of the game. A plucky, if a little quiet, boy with untapped psychic potential that began manifesting as early as when he was an infant. He lives at home with his supportive mother and (presumably) hard working father, who is never actually seen in the course of the game. When a meteor crashes near his house in the suburbs of Onett he goes to investigate with his selfish, rude neighbor, who thinks Ness is his best friend, and his life changes forever. After a visit from Buzz-Buzz, a bee from the future, he is called to arms against the intergalactic warlord Giygas. Ness' primary psychic attack takes the name of whatever is listed as the players favorite thing, the primary default name is "Rockin"
Paula - An extremely powerful psychic raised by her parents in the Polestar Preschool in the city of Twoson. She calls to Ness in his dreams, saying she's in danger, and trying to give him hints as to where she is, but she doesn't know exactly where that is. When Ness reaches Twoson, it turns out she's been abducted. Ness gives chase, leading him through a treacherous mountain to the other side of a large river. When Ness arrives, all he sees are cultists espousing Happy Happyism. Investigation later leads him to Paula, after which the cultists turn hostile. Ness defeats the Carpainter, using the Franklin badge provided by Paula to deflect his lightning, and she agrees to come with him afterward. She lends her powerful psychic attacks, as well as her unpredictable "prayer" action. She attacks using a frying pan, and can equip ribbons.
Jeff - A super-genius at a private school in Winters. After an unfortunate run-in with some zombies and other undead menaces in Threed, Paula uses her psychic powers to reach out and call Jeff. With his best friend's aid, he breaks out of the oddly secure school after looting several cookies and barely-working weapons. He makes his way to Threed, with the help of a gum addicted Bubble Monkey, the legendary Nessie, and his father, who fails to recognize him, Dr. Andonuts' spaceship, he crashes through the ground in Threed, and using a brilliant invention, liberates the trapped duo. There are items throughout the game that only he can use, most notably the super-powerful bottle-rockets, and he can even wield guns in battle.
Poo - A disciplined martial artist who is on the brink of completing his training when he is introduced to us. Unlike other party members, who are summoned psychically, Poo is brought into the dapper trio after Ness eats some suspect "magic cake" at the Stoic Club in the resort town of Summers. Poo lives in the mystical floating country of Dalaam, and as he goes to complete his "Mu training," the spirits of his ancestors arrive and destroy his body, taking away everything he has. His acceptance of the loss completes the training, and he uses his teleport skill to join Ness and company. Not only is he powerful unarmed combatant with his fists, but can find get special items that only he can use. He briefly leaves the party to learn the mighty Psi-Starstorm.
- Ness' Mom - A caring and sweet woman who supports Ness in all his heroic endeavors, and loves meeting his friends. Ness can return to her anytime to get some TLC, and a meal of his favorite food.
- Tracy - Ness' sister, who gets a part-time job shortly after Ness leaves home working for Escargot Express. She can store items and deliver them anytime anywhere.
- Ness' Dad - Represented by a telephone, Ness' dad, while being rather absent, supplies Ness with money and can save his game.
- King - Ness' dog, very brave when he first joins the party, becomes sick and tired of the battles by the time Ness reaches the meteor and races home, there to remain for the rest of the game.
- Buzz-Buzz - A sentient bee from the future who comes back to give Ness a warning and a gift. Just before his untimely death, he passes on the Soundstone, which will give Ness the power to defeat Giygas.
- Dr. Andonuts - The largely negligent father of Jeff, who doesn't even recognize the boy immediately, but does provide several useful inventions throughout the game.
- Dungeon Man - A man obsessed with the cliches of RPGs and has constructed a series of dungeons to play to those cliches. He's very friendly though, seeming like he doesn't want anyone hurt in the dungeons, giving the player places to rest and helpful items, as well as signs along the way to guide him. He eventually finds himself wedged between two trees in Scaraba Desert.
- Picky Minch - The younger brother to Pokey, he is just a little more adventurous than Pokey and not quite the coward. His supporting role is extremely brief, but he is rather helpful on the way back from the meteor that crash lands nearby Ness' house.
- Mr.Saturn - Strange creatures that inhabits Saturn Valley, The Mr.Saturns help Ness and friends with the final battle after Ness help deal with the disappearing of some of the creatures
Giygas - An interstellar warlord who's set his sights squarely on Earth, and sadly, he succeeds in his war. He is the embodiment of pure evil, and an impossibly powerful psychic. He began as an alien life-form cared for and raised by a human woman. When he had to return to his race, the fact that they wanted him to turn against his adopted family tore him up inside, but he went through with the plan anyway. He was stopped by Maria's great grandson Ninten (protagonist of the "first" Earthbound game, entitled "Mother") and his friends. He was destroyed by his emotions for a childhood song, so he promised to seek out evil power so strong that it hardened him against such things. It would seem he succeeded, becoming a nebulous mass of pure evil. Buzz-Buzz, a freedom fighting bee, finds a way back in time to try and avert the crisis.
Pokey Minch - At first Ness' neighbor and seeming friend, Pokey quickly joins what he calls "the winning side" and abducts Paula in the name of Giygas. He is extremely selfish and often pretends to reform, only to quickly turn against Ness again.
Frank - The leader of the Sharks gang that's overrun Onett and Ness' first major boss fight. He uses a pair of knives to attack, as well as lowering Ness' guts with nasty remarks. After he's overcome, he immediately summons Frankystein Mk II to fight Ness. Once overcome, Frank immediately reforms and will restore Ness' HP and PP whenever he's talked to.
Mani-Mani Statue - This strange, gold, horned statue will seemingly stalk Ness and company throughout much the game. Wherever they go, it seems the statue is close behind and always emitting a disturbing aura. Not until the land of Moonside is it revealed for what it truly is: a symbol of evil.
Lord Belch - A hideous blue blob utterly dedicated to Giygas and responsible for the zombies that overrun the town of Threed. He possesses a literally crippling addiction to fly honey and has kidnapped several Mr. Saturn to aid him in the manufacture of the stuff. He later reappears in the Deep Darkness as the differently colored Master Barf.
Since EarthBound is a role-playing game, the game is played as most other role-playing games are played. Combat is initiated when Ness touches an enemy in the field. Unlike many other RPGs, EarthBound's combat system is in a pseudo-first person point of view, instead of third person. Ness and his friends attack enemies relying on speed, accuracy, strength, and psychic powers. If an enemy is faster than one of the team members, that monster will attack its target before Ness and his crew can attack it.
Ness and friends attack with a variety of weapons including baseball bats and yo-yos. Each character has a certain amount of hit points which determine exactly how much damage they can take. If a character takes too much damage, then he/she will be declared unconscious and will no longer be able to participate in the battle until they are revived in battle or at a hospital. The HP and PP is displayed using a roulette system.
Ness and his friends also have psychic powers that they can use and are regulated by PP (or Psychic Points). When a player's PP is drained, psychic powers can no longer be used their PP is recovered by resting or item use. Throughout the journey, Ness and his team gain experience by defeating enemies and winning battles. Once a certain amount of XP is gained, players will gain a level increasing their characters abilities and sometimes unlocking new ones. Earthbound is strung together through progressive battles, dialogue sequences, exploration, and events.
Ness and his teammates have psychic powers that they can use. Here are the available powers and their respective users that are found in the game:
- BrainShock [Poo Only] - Causes enemies to feel strange (confusion).
- Defense Down [Paula Only] - Cause enemies defense to decrease, or go down by number.
- Healing [Ness/Poo Only] - Removes harmful effects from allies. As the Power gets stronger, it will cure more harmful effects and even revive an unconscious character.
- Hypnosis [Ness Only] - Puts most enemies to sleep. Smarter enemies have stronger resistances to this power.
- Lifeup [Ness and Poo Only] - Restores a character's hit points. Higher ranks restore more hit points.
- Offense Up [Paula Only] - Increases a character's offense for a short period which depends on rank.
- Paralysis [Ness Only] - Causes enemies to stop moving and makes them unable to attack until they are healed.
- Shield [Ness/Poo Only] - Reduces damage or reflects damage based on rank.
- Telepathy [Ness/Paula Only] - Passive ability that allows Paula and Ness to interact and even talk with animals.
- Teleport [Ness/Poo Only] - Returns player to a previously visited location. Requires a running start.
- PSI Farewell [Poo Only] - Used during a cinematic, not available for player use.
- PSI Fire [Paula Only] - Deals fire damage and can sometimes reduce enemies' special shields.
- PSI Flash [Ness Only] - Can cause enemies to feel numb, feel strange, cry, or be completely destroyed at higher ranks.
- PSI Freeze [Paula/Poo Only] - Causes damage and has a change to freeze enemies.
- PSI Magnet [Ness/Paula/Poo] - Absorbs a variable amount of PP from all enemies on screen, amount depends on rank.
- PSI Rockin [Ness Only] - Powerful Psychic ability that causes non-elemental damage to all enemies on screen regardless of rank.
- Ness' name is an anagram for SNES, or just a reference to Nintendo's first system, the NES.
- The character name Lier X. Agerate is wordplay of Liar Exaggerate.
- The towns of Earthbound have numbers in their name according to the order Ness travels to. ONEtt, TWOson, THREEd, FOURside. These places may also mean that their sum is ten. Like in SUMmers and TENda Village.
- According to Mother franchise creator Shigesato Itoi, Jeff's friend Tony is gay.
- The invention called the Sky Runner was originally called the Sky Walker, but it was changed to avoid copyright issues with Star Wars, which features characters with the surname Skywalker.
- Itoi claims much of the game is based on his personal experiences. For instance, the final boss's dialogue is based on a recollection from his childhood of accidentally wandering into an exploitation movie and witnessing an onscreen rape. The movie The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty (an obscure Japanese mystery film) is said to influence Giygas.
- The game contains several Beatles references. For example, there is a yellow submarine whose color is "purely coincidental" and an non-player character who gives the player a pop quiz "A Beatles song, XXXterday. Can you fill in the blanks?" with the choices being 'Yes' or 'No'. There are several alleged samples from Beatles songs in some of the game's music.
- Internal code was written to check for genuine Super Nintendo devices, by detecting the total RAM count. Upon failing these checksum tests, the game is modified to show an anti-piracy message at start-up. While playing the game in this state, the world is populated with exponentially more enemy encounters than normal. Should the player make it all the way to the final boss, the game intentionally freezes before the fight begins, and upon restarting the game, all save data is erased. These effects can be replicated using a cheat code device.
- There is a girl in Magicant who, in the English localization, introduces herself as Nico before inviting Ness to sing, dance, and play with her. This character is not named in the original Japanese text. Localization editor Marcus Lindblom was given permission to insert his newborn daughter's name in the game.
EarthBound's soundtrack was produced by Hiroshi Kanazu, Keiichi Suzuki, and Hirokazu Tanaka and released only in Japan by Sony Records. It doesn't contain all of the tracks from Earthbound but only most of the best ones. The last 3 songs are not in the game at all but they are interesting remixes (shown as "PSI Mixes") of other songs in the game. Due to popular demand in Japan this album was re-released with Mother 1+2 in 2004